OPINION: The conundrum of Independents

(Illustration by Audrey Hockersmith)

It seems with the presidential race of Republicans versus Democrats, there is a larger-than-usual amount of independent voters these days.

According to a Gallup poll, 26 percent of those sampled identified as Republican, 32 percent as Democrat and 38 percent as Independent.

Given these numbers, why do Independent voters outnumber those that identify with either party?

Independents can break off from the Republican or Democratic parties for any number of reasons, but I feel that the problem of factions within both parties have driven scores of people away from them.

These cracks are more apparent in the Republican Party. The evangelicals and neocons have rallied around Ted Cruz, the disaffected and “nostalgic” Republicans have come to Donald Trump’s side, and the moderate and centrist elements of the party have coalesced around John Kasich.

On the Democrats’ side it’s more evenly split. The traditional and establishment Democrats have sided with Hillary Clinton while the more progressive and the anti-big business sects of the Democrats throw their support behind Bernie Sanders.

In my opinion, this political fighting in the main parties is a primary reason for why Independents are on the rise, especially in this election cycle.

Independents are “turned off by the partisan wars in Washington,” according to the NPR segment “Sick of political parties, unaffiliated voters are changing politics.”

Frankly, I do not blame them. As someone who leans more toward the moderate side of conservative beliefs, it surprises me with how little either side is willing to listen to what the other has to say.

Nowadays, it seems like one side cannot concede an argument that the other side makes without being branded a traitor to their respective party.

So what is the answer to this dilemma?

Now more than ever, it is more difficult for parties to unite their constituents due to the conflicting interpretations of what their parties should do. With people being so entrenched in what they believe to be the best course of action for government, there is not a single candidate still in the field that can please every faction of the party they represent.

If neither party can answer for everything their constituents want, should the parties split?

It can be argued that a split in both political parties would most benefit all the groups within them. That way, everyone can have a party to support and not have to walk away from a party if it’s not meeting what some people want it to do.

“How nice it would be if they found the courage collectively to walk away from a party that is flirting with the most ghastly forms of intolerance,” according to Sasha Abramsky in her New Statesman article “Why the Republican Party should split.”

Abramsky said that although the parties probably won’t switch, “as the party of Abraham Lincoln devolves into the dark, paranoid world of Trumpism, it should.”

“The Democratic party is facing a real fight about what kind of candidate it will put forth as standard bearer for the November election: the idealist or the pragmatist,” according to Peter Weber in his article from The Week, “Are Democrats really sharply split between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton?”

In my opinion, the conundrum of high Independent-voter counts rests on the inability of either party to focus on more than one faction’s concerns.

What needs to happen for both parties to retain their constituents is that there needs to be less emphasis on one faction or the other.

Is it a perfect idea? I don’t think there is a perfect solution for holding the Republican and Democratic parties together this election without a few voters slipping into the Independent camp. A realignment of party interests, however, seems like the best option in terms of keeping both parties from bleeding more voters.