As the people of Iowa head to their caucus locations this evening to cast their vote for a Republican or Democratic candidate, it still isn’t clear even a few hours before caucusing begins which candidate will emerge victorious on the path to New Hampshire.
What is crystal clear, however, is that Iowans and people across the nation are sick and tired of politics as usual and a system many deem as corrupt and unfair to most Americans. The rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump can be directly drawn to this phenomenon, two unique and radically populist figures who have seized on the anger of Americans and mistrust of typical politicians. While many Americans have cast their support for one of the aforementioned in a sign of protest that gives them an outlet for their anger, the reality is that our lack of stable power centers that people can look to and trust has weakened our political discourse.
David Brooks of the New York Times recently did a masterful job in his column, “The Anxieties of Impotence”, of describing how the lack of functional parties and the outsized influence of dark money spent in candidate elections has severely damaged our election system:
“Parties have been rendered weak by both campaign finance laws and the Citizens United decision, which have cut off their funding stream and given power to polarized super-donors who work outside the party system. Congress has been weakened by polarization and disruptive members who don’t believe in legislating.”
“If we’re to have any hope of addressing big systematic problems we’ll have to repair big institutions and have functioning parties and a functioning Congress. We have to discard the anti-political, anti-institutional mood that is prevalent and rebuild effective democratic power centers.”
“This requires less atomization and more collective action, fewer strongmen but greater citizenship. It requires the craft of political architecture, not the demagoguery of destruction.”
We’ve seen a strongman like Donald Trump use the demagoguery of destruction to his advantage, but it is time for leaders to stand together and create the political architecture that Arizonans want to be an engaged part of.
In our current system, over 1.2 million registered voters have chosen to not identify as a Republican or Democrat, many of them registering as Independents. This groups of 1.2 million is now the biggest voting bloc in the state, outpacing both Republican and Democrat totals. From this, we can draw two major conclusions: first, voters are completely unsatisfied with what our state’s parties are offering. This trend has also shown up nationally in a recent Gallup poll.
Secondly, because of the barriers that have been constructed to depress Independent voters in primaries, we know it is much harder for these 1.2 million voters to participate in primary elections. With the setup of our legislative districts, nearly 80% of our races are decided in the primary election, not the general election. This is simply unacceptable.
And that doesn’t even begin to consider the Presidential Preference Primary, where Independents are completely barred from participating. In Maricopa County, during the 2012 PPP, over 50,000 ballots were disallowed because they were not from registered Republicans or Democrats. In a vote that is funded by taxpayers of every party affiliation, 1.2 million are not allowed to participate. This is simply unacceptable and it is time we do something about it.
We encourage you to join our coalition of Republicans, Democrats and Independents in our efforts to revolutionize our current political structure by visiting the Open and Honest Coalition website at www.OpenandHonestAZ.com and adding your email to receive updates on our efforts. Arizonans have a right to equal access in voting, equal access to getting on the ballot and knowing who is funding our candidate elections.
While there will be much heated rhetoric over what this evening’s results mean for the rest of the presidential race, it would be wise to take a deep breath and remember the makeup of Iowa caucus goers is much differently demographically than the far majority of states. Based on past results, New Hampshire has a better track record of predicting future winners and there’s reason to think this is due to the allowed participation of independents.
We can’t speak for the citizens of Iowa and what decision they’ll make tonight, but we can make a difference in Arizona by putting our initiatives on the November 2016 ballot.