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Campaign 2012: Pining for an independent is a waste of your time

August 10, 2011 |  3:16 pm

Capitol Hill

There’s a certain stomach-churning quality to watching our elected officials approach serious issues as though they’re on rival football teams. Yeah, the spectator-sport quality of their debate makes for good TV. But you know what? So does watching an actual football game.

When it comes to politics, the American people deserve better. We should be able to count on our lawmakers to care about its people above the sponsors who’re funding their campaigns. We should expect them to want to strengthen our country, not their media appearances.  

In recent days, several people have spoken up about our political process including Gov. Jerry Brown and columnist Jim Newton, who wrote that today’s politicians could learn from the calm and reasonable Dwight Eisenhower. It’s not that easy to call for an end to the political show, especially now that the 2012 campaign is underway. Campaigning is all about putting on a show and telling a good story.  

Some suggest the answer to ending partisan politics is as black-and-white as electing an Independent candidate into office. "The desire for an independent candidacy is easy enough to understand," write Seth Masket and Hans Noel in Wednesday’s Opinion pages. "Why wouldn't the solution to our nation's problems be a moderate president, without ties to the usual suspects, who is free to simply do what is right?" To read their Op-Ed, though, is to be convinced of an even better option. An excerpt:

Let's say an independent were to be elected president; he would be a disaster. The president is not a dictator. If he wants to cut or raise taxes, rein in or expand entitlements, enhance or remove environmental regulations, or do just about anything else, he has to work with Congress. A president wishing to hire people for his senior staff and seeking to appoint Cabinet members and judges needs congressional approval. A president with no party ties has no automatic allies — each one of these decisions would require a fight with Congress and a cobbled-together coalition to pass the president's priorities.

Without a party in his corner, the president would be in a constant struggle to perform even the most basic tasks of governing. Imagine if Obama had had no allies in Congress during the debt ceiling battle, instead of a majority of the Senate and a significant, organized minority in the House. […]

If you're not content with the way this country is being governed, one of the best ways to change it is to get involved with one of the existing parties and work to nominate and elect candidates at all levels of government who will fight for the things you care about. Odds are, one of the parties will want much of what you want. Pining for an independent, third-party dictator is not only a waste of your time, but if you somehow got what you wanted, you'd quickly find it wasn't what you wanted at all.


In U.S. politics, the independents have it

'Tea party' influence: Good, bad or overblown?

Americans Elect: Third-party politics, with a twist  

Obama: If he's reelected, how would you advise him?

Why is Newt Gingrich running for the GOP presidential nomination? 

-- Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: Capitol Hill. Credit: Joshua Roberts / Reuters

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