Longtime politician Dick Celeste, a former governor of Ohio and ambassador to India who now resides in Colorado, recently asked me to guess which is the biggest and most powerful political party in the country right now. current.
His surprising answer: unaffiliated voters.
Gallup has found in poll after poll in recent years that more Americans consider themselves independents than Republicans or Democrats.
In March 2022, 40% of Americans identified as independent; 28% as Republicans and 30% as Democrats.
Colorado is one of 10 states where unaffiliated voters outnumber Democrats and Republicans.
In August, there were 1,038,817 registered Democrats in Colorado, 932,520 registered Republicans and 1,689,102 unaffiliated voters.
In Celeste’s home state of Ohio, the rough tally is 920,000 Democrats, 870,000 Republicans and 6 million unaffiliated, Celeste said.
In North Carolina, the number of registered voters who are unaffiliated has more than doubled since 2008. They made up the largest bloc of voters in the spring primaries.
During World War II, 80% of voters identified with Democrats or Republicans. What happened?
“Because of the gerrymandering, the voices of the parties have become higher,” Celeste explains. Social media and cable TV have helped amplify and compartmentalize these strident voices.
“If you’re competing in safe districts, whether it’s for state legislatures or for Congress, you’re usually competing in a primary, and so you tend to go to the extreme,” Celeste says. “And I think more and more people think the party label doesn’t represent them. They look at the people, they look at the candidates’ positions on the issues and make their decision based on that.”
“And they will go” from one part to another and vice versa to be heard, adds Céleste. “You become unaffiliated because you want the freedom to choose.”
Speaking of moving, more than 231,000 unaffiliated voters voted in the Republican primaries this summer in Colorado, 100,000 more than in the Republican primary in 2020. In some counties, unaffiliated voters voted more than half votes in the Republican primary.
In El Paso County, generally considered the state’s conservative stronghold, there are nearly as many unaffiliated voters — 213,238 in August — as Democrats (85,209) and Republicans (147,918) combined. , observed Celeste.
Many people are just fed up with the animosity between parties, the demonization of each side and the stalemate that has resulted from hyperpartisan politics.
“A lot of politics tends to emphasize high-pitched voices speaking for red and blue, rather than thoughtful voices speaking for people who are looking for something different,” Celeste adds.
I feel like Americans are now looking for something different, politicians who can do something about it and reinvigorate our institutions and our ideals, in which most Americans still have a deep and unshakeable faith. Most Americans are worn out by show politics and would just as quickly see a return to the boring old incremental politics if it could slowly, steadily improve their lives, not make them worse.
“I think voters lean towards pro-democratic institutions (small d). They want to feel like the institutions we cherish in this country are safe,” Celeste said.
The tendency to think in terms of red and blue sometimes leads politicians to oversimplify and underestimate the pragmatic independence of the real electorate.
Americans, I bet, want politicians who care more about solving the problem than winning the argument. I hear a yearning for savvy candidates rather than fire-eaters. More than anything, I think people want their citizenship to be more civil. They want to regain a cohesive sense of community in their country. At the community level, people solve problems all the time without ever wondering which party they belong to. I feel like most people would love to go back to that time.
Sure, most non-affiliates lean one way or the other on Election Day, but I’d say that’s because they have to for their vote to count.
So what does this bloated bloc of unaffiliates mean for the fall elections? Traditionally, midterms have been difficult for the new president, and the Senate or House, or both, tend to turn around during midterms. But this new wave of unaffiliated voters may alter the usual patterns of history.
The recent abortion decision could push this unaffiliated bloc further toward Democrats this fall. According to a recent Wall Street Journal poll, Democrats have a 35% to 38% advantage among independents, a change from March, before the abortion decision, when the central electoral bloc backed Republicans by 12% .
In the same WSJ poll, 60% of those polled believed that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
Although our parties demand of us an eternal bipolarism, it turns out that most Americans are fiscal conservatives and social liberals.
“I think in 2022 this big middle party will tend to support the Democrats because they lean towards choice and have the strongest candidates,” Celeste speculates.
But that doesn’t mean unaffiliated voters will turn Democratic even if they vote more Democratic this fall.
“They will continue to make judgments based on the quality of the candidates and on the feeling that these candidates will work on subjects that are close to their hearts”, observes Celeste.
Most predictors see the trend of non-affiliation becoming even stronger in the coming years, especially among younger voters who profess less and less allegiance to one political party or another.
In the not-too-distant future, then, strident partisans beware: Unaffiliated America might be coming for you.