Commentary

No welcome wagon, no planks, no problem

August 9, 2022 3:00 am
Nebraska State Capitol Building

The Nebraska State Capitol Building on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, in Lincoln. (Rebecca S. Gratz for the Nebraska Examiner)

Registered Nebraska independent voters know the litany of slurs about their political (un)affiliation: wishy-washy, fence-sitting, unprincipled, dithering, shilly-shallying, dilly-dallying or just plain weak. The list is longer. Ill spare you further lowlights.

To be clear, one must be a registered voter to qualify for the index of insults above. Blowing off your civic duty is a different story requiring a different vernacular.

Some refer to us independents as nonpartisans.” As political parties move further toward the political fringes, however, non-extreme partisan” seems more accurate.

The recent machinations and melodrama at the Republican Party’s state convention in Kearney reconfirmed an observation Ive made during 50 years of participating in the political process: Political parties move away from the moderate center more often than they move toward it. And then they go further away. I say that as a lifelong wishy-washy, fence-sitting independent.

Not that the moderate center is the goal of independents because, well, were independent. We dilly-dalliers can be social liberals and fiscal conservatives simultaneously. Or vice versa. Or whatever — without fear of being voted off the island. We can also support candidates and ideas from either party, an act of heresy for many current party loyalists.

Full disclosure: I am not against political parties. The two Big Guys, for example, serve positive functions such as representing large, like-minded groups, making the choice easy for some voters, contributing to public policy through platforms and providing financial and political support that can expand the candidate pool beyond the wealthy … or the unrepentantly wacky.

That said, when an R or D next to a name on a ballot is the only information a Nebraska voter uses, citizen watchfulness” is merely an abstract idea chiseled into our Capitols edifice — not the states salvation.

Political and social salvation, it seems, rejects submission to a party, embracing rather solutions that may run contrary to the party line. Of course, in the privacy of a voting booth or at the kitchen table when filling out a mail-in ballot, the hope is that more political cross pollination goes on than we might think.

I decided five decades ago against aligning myself with a group with which I may have only one thing in common. Or worse, nothing in common, aside from a similar voter registration form.

As reported in the Nebraska Examiner and other news outlets, leadership changes at the state GOP convention will move the party further from the center in hopes of electing more, more-conservative candidates. How this improves the lives of Nebraskans was not indicated.

Before you OK Boomer” me, consider this: I have company. Lots of it.

In nine of the 30 states that require voters to declare a party when they register, independents are the largest voting bloc, according to research by the Open Primaries Education Fund. Its report predicts that nonpartisan” will become the largest registration choice in four more states in the next 15 years.

According to Gallup, as of a month ago, Republicans and Democrats nationally each represented 27%  of registered voters, while independents checked in at 43%. Twenty years ago, those percentages were each about 33%.

The people who study such things are also curious about which way we indies lean, as in lean Republican” or lean Democratic.Gallups current leaning numbers are about even at about 48%. This independent, however, wishes he could substitute the party choices with lean sanity,” “lean honesty,” lean intelligence,” “lean compassion,” “lean integrity” or most important lean committed to democracy.”

Some take comfort in bothsidesism, citing Antifa and Defund the Police as seeds planted and nurtured on the far left and voter disenfranchisement and a tilt toward authoritarianism on the far right. But belief in the bouillabaisse of baloney weve come to know as the Big Lie dispels any notion that the march away from the center is shared equally by the Democrats and Republicans.  As has been widely reported, the GOPs move away from the middle — not just in Nebraska — is a clear winner.

The growth of independents means the politically disenchanted, disheartened, and just plain dissed are leaving their parties. They arrive in Indy Land to no welcome wagon or even a welcome. Thats our jam. No leaders. No planks. No blind loyalty.

I know, I know … a bunch of weaklings.

Some, too, leave and become nonpartisans because they believe political parties are not extreme enough. To which this unprincipled shilly-shallying independent wonders if there goes the neighborhood.”

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George Ayoub
George Ayoub

George Ayoub filed nearly 5,000 columns, editorials and features in 21 years as a journalist for the Grand Island Independent. His columns also appeared in the Omaha World-Herald and Kearney Hub. His work has been recognized by the Nebraska Press Association and the Associated Press. He was awarded a national prize by Gatehouse Media for a 34-part series focusing on the impact of cancer on families of victims and survivors. He is a member of the adjunct faculty and Academic Support Staff at Hastings College. Ayoub has published two short novels, “Warm, for Christmas” and “Dust in Grissom.” In 2019 he published “Confluence,” the biography of former Omaha World-Herald publisher and CEO John Gottschalk.

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