On Election Day 2016, the two major party presidential candidates had combined negative approval ratings of over 110 percentage points in multiple polls, the highest in recorded history. Many Americans felt like they were being forced to choose between the lesser of two evils. For others, showering twice a day was a requirement as we hit new lows for our republic on a regular basis.
The two major parties are, no doubt, dissecting the last election for clues on how to win the next one. How do they turn out their voters and suppress their opponent’s? What’s the best way to operate on Facebook? Can we create our own fake news sites to circumvent traditional media gatekeepers?
All that analysis ignores the central lesson of the last election: The status quo isn’t working for the American people, and they are looking for alternatives who put their country ahead of party politics.
Can anyone blame them? During the 17 years from 1999 to 2016, median household income has been stagnant on an inflation-adjusted basis. In other words, the average American household hasn’t seen a pay increase in the amount of time that it takes a newborn baby to make it through high school. At the same time, the costs for everything from childcare to prescription drugs to higher education have been skyrocketing.
The technological forces that have dislocated so many American workers don’t seem to be slowing down. With the advent of artificial intelligence, they may actually be accelerating. These issues, and dozens of other problems that have only multiplied with Washington’s neglect, are leaving Americans very unsettled.
The two major parties that run our country don’t seem to care. They are running their own version of professional wrestling: There’s lots of fighting, name calling, and posturing, but nothing is really happening.
As a result, they can’t win elections by focusing on accomplishments, but rather use fear and hate to maintain their perks and privileges.
This has led to a phenomenon that would be troubling to our ruling duopoly if they’d wake up long enough to acknowledge it. They have created an electorate that is deeply mistrustful of the other side, with 58 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Democrats viewing the other party “very unfavorably.” This makes compromise an incredibly risky endeavor for a politician running for re-election. Yet, compromise is the only way to solve the problems that have led to such an alienated electorate.
The American people are also sending the major parties another message: Your time is running out. According to Gallup, over 40 percent of Americans self-identify as politically independent, 10 points more than either party. What’s more compelling, 49 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of Democrats actually think we need a third party. While partisans don’t like the other party at all, they aren’t particularly fond of their own party either, and they’re looking for alternatives.
Genuine independents, citizen servants who put their country ahead of a political party, think for themselves and don’t cling to ideologically driven policies even when they are failing, and aren’t controlled by party bosses and special interests are the alternative the American people want.
Businessman Greg Orman is the author of “A Declaration of Independents” and ran as an independent candidate in Kansas’ 2014 U.S. Senate race.