How ‘Independents’ Distort Our Politics

If you’re the kind of person who boasts about being a political independent, this may be hard to hear: You’re part of the problem.

This no doubt will come as a shock, in part because independents get such fantastic press. That in itself is odd, given that independents have no party, no official PR machine and no clear leader. They don’t even have a coherent ideological platform.

In recent decades, the most prominent independent politicians have been all over the map. Illinois Rep. John Anderson, once a liberal Republican, and Texas billionaire Ross Perot ran for president as independents in 1980 and 1992, respectively. They were hardly on the same page. In October 1999, Donald Trump, who has flipped parties again and again, changed his registration from Republican to the Reform Party for his initial 2000 presidential campaign (contrary to his own mythmaking about winning the presidency the first time he tried). Avowed socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders is an independent, even though he caucuses with Democrats and runs for president in their primaries. Former wrestler, Minnesota governor, and now professional crackpot Jesse Ventura has identified as an independent, too. Ditto Ralph Nader. Libertarians have also claimed the independent mantle.

Maybe you can find the theme in that pudding, but I can’t.

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