This campaign has opened my eyes to the many and varied opinions that voters across Nebraska think about when they are deciding on their votes. Since I am working on an Independent candidate’s campaign, I have been exposed to the hesitation that many voters show when faced with the alternative option of voting for an independent candidate.
Here are three opinions that regularly surface in comments and conversation on independent candidates, so I thought I’d start some discussion on why these three widely held opinions are “myths” that should be reconsidered before you throw out the decision to vote for independent candidates, whether they are running in Nebraska, Kansas, or elsewhere.
- Independent candidates have strong positions on every major issue. Their decision to come to a consensus with people who don’t hold their same positions doesn’t make them “pushovers”.
I am starting to grow weary of this particular comment and conversation point, usually made by people who have shown themselves to be champions of the highly partisan political system we find our country encumbered with today. I have heard people call independent candidates “pushovers”, “wishy-washy”, and “weak”, just to name a few of the labels I’ve recently heard. One gentlemen went so far as to say, “I believe that so called independents and moderates stand for nothing. They have no principles and no values and so are able to compromise on everything. If you don’t have a fundamental position on how to fix things, then you are the problem.”
First of all I can tell you that Jim Jenkins, the independent candidate in Nebraska, has some of the strongest principles and values that I have ever seen in a person. Ask anyone who personally knows him. To people who hold the particular view that compromising makes an independent candidate ineffective: Imagine your husband or wife, your boyfriend or girlfriend, who refused to compromise on anything. You would probably get divorced or break up. Imagine a friendship without a little give and take from either person. You wouldn’t have very many friends. What about children forced to follow a strict set of rules by overbearing parents? I can assure you that they are sneaking out. What do you think Monday morning meetings are about at work? So everyone can be on the same page.
Every successful project, agenda, or relationship is a result of open communication and the ability to come to a consensus that everyone can live with. This is how things go in our personal and business lives, why shouldn’t it also work for our political system?
Agreeing to work together, despite our different opinions about what is best for our country should not equate to “a lack of principles”. In fact, I believe it is just the opposite. The candidate who is truly willing to work with the other side and come to a consensus through thoughtful and logical debate– that is where true courage is found. It takes more guts to do this than a candidate who votes along the same party lines because he is too scared to do anything else.
Jim Jenkins will tell you exactly how he stands on most major issues and his ideas on how to fix those issues. Quite the contrary to having no “fundamental position on how to fix things”, he is humble enough to realize that he does not have all the right answers, nor does any party, but that the “two heads are better than one” mentality should apply to the biggest issues that we face in this country. Jim Jenkins is running as an independent because he is educated and thoughtful about every issue, but even more importantly, he boldly believes that it is certainly not “his way or the highway”.
- Being Independent does not necessarily mean you want to create a third party. In fact, the party system is exactly where these candidates find fault.
As an independent candidate, Jim is not recommending that we create another party. The reason he is running is because of his disagreement with the party system. We know he’s not the only one who disagrees with the system. 81% of Nebraska Republicans and 68% of Nebraska Democrats disapprove of the U.S. Senate. If this statistic is accurate, who are these voters now supporting?
Regardless of your current or previous party affiliation, we must work together as responsible citizens of the United States to re-build a political system in serious need of rehabilitation. It’s like expecting your sink to stop leaking without going underneath to replace the pipes. You might be able to slap a little putty on it, but it will start to leak again after a while. We need to first fix the political system that currently caters to partisan politics and self-interested officials before we can expect solutions.
But how do we do that? Instead of aligning yourself with a party, educate yourself on the candidate. Instead of Republicans and Democrats, let’s choose People to represent us. I realize that this will take more effort on the part of the voters. You will be required to research each of the candidates, instead of following the party you’ve always followed like a herd of sheep. Sheep can’t fix a system, but the citizens of America can.
The notion that people must run under a party label to be considered a viable candidate is a mentality that American voters should seriously reconsider. As Congress becomes more partisan, voters become more centrist. People are starting to understand that it won’t matter which party they side with if each party is more concerned with keeping in power than passing legislation that progresses our nation.
- Independents are not Democrats or Republicans in disguise.
People are so skeptical and distrustful of the system that they believe there is no possible way someone might actually be trying to run as a true independent and not for one of the parties.
I ask these skeptics this: Why would someone who wants to run for office turn down millions of dollars and thousands of supporting party members, just to run in disguise? Not only do independent candidates not have the donor and volunteer support that party candidates do, they are forced to go out and collect thousands of signatures just to get on the ballot and are kept from running in primary elections.
Believe me, after working on the hodge-podge endeavor known as an independent campaign, the costs of running as an independent candidate far outweigh any benefits you might get for trying to disguise a “secret party agenda”.
Jim is so adamant about his Nebraska platform (running for the people, not the party) that he has even refused to caucus with either party. If there was a time to come forward with a secret party agenda, caucusing with that party would be the time. Even well-known and respected politicians like Independent Maine Senator Angus King caucused with the Democratic Party.
Finally, running as an Independent means that the candidate has the majority voter mentality working against him. Time and time again people have shared their concerns that if they vote for Jim, their vote will not really count. If they vote for Jim, this will take a vote away from the election that truly matters.
We have such a deeply entrenched system of party politics, even the centrist voters are scared to break away. Don’t let our corrupt system strangle the liberties you have as an American voter. Think twice about the responsibility you have to the future of this nation, and be the vote that makes a change.