Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

It’s Independent’s day in Arizona

Americans and Arizonans are abandoning political parties in droves. The latest voter registration numbers for Arizona show that about one in three Arizonans don’t want to be associated with either of the dominant political parties. That’s up from about one in four six years ago.

Slightly more than one in three Arizonans consider themselves Republicans and one in three Arizonans consider themselves a Democrat. Or put another way, two thirds of Arizonans don’t agree with the Republican party platform and two thirds of Arizonans don’t agree with the Democratic party platform.

In only three of 15 counties does one political party represent a majority of voters, though there are few voters in each – Peoria has more registered voters than all three combined – Apache, Santa Cruz and Greenlee.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans represent a majority of voters in any of the state’s Congressional or Legislative districts. In fact, in six of eight Congressional districts and 23 of 30 Legislative districts, Independents outnumber at least one of the two major parties.

Yet both parties act like they represent the majority of Arizonans. They haven’t gotten the message that most voters disagree with them.

In the 1990s, Arizonans fed up with the shenanigans of the political parties, career politicians and the influence of monied special interests set about reforming Arizona’s political process through voter ballot initiative and Legislative proposition.

Among the reforms were term limits, public campaign financing and an independent redistricting commission. But state politics have not improved. In fact, they’re worse. Party puritanism has driven all the moderate candidates out of office, which has only helped speed the flight of moderate voters from both parties.

The result is rump parties made up of coarse ideologues and demagogues who consider “compromise” and “bipartisan” dirty words. They want their parties to rule, not govern.

The balance of power lies with Independents. Yet “independent” is a status, not a party. Independents have little ability to moderate the state’s politics because the candidates they get to choose from are selected by the parties through the primary system. (The argument that Independents can have more influence by voting in primaries is a canard.  Independents must surrender their independence and choose a party ticket  to vote in the primary, that only serves the interest of the party, not  the voter.)

And because the two parties are devoid of moderates, the candidates left to choose from in the general tend to be extremely liberal or extremely conservative.

Arizona’s disaffected voters one-by-one have begun dismantling the archaic political party system through their voter registrations.

Perhaps it’s time for one more round of election reforms to complete the process – stripping the parties of their power to select who gets elected to office by making Arizona’s elections nonpartisan.

Let candidates run on the merits of their message and biography, not slavish adherence to a party platform.

Maybe then we’ll return governance to our government.

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