As the year started off, we got this report from Gallup that the number of people who consider themselves as Independents is at an all time high of 40%. To me, it shows that people are finally awakening from a long slumber to understand that the ties that have held them to a party have broken. If 40% of the U.S. voters can't identify with one party or another or are pissed off with both sides, I see this as a very positive sign. The Independents are refugees from both parties and are Independent for alot of reasons. But the main reason is that the rhetoric coming from both parties has produced very little of what was promised, and people are tired of being corralled by the same empty verbiage year after year after year. When I was a Congressional candidate in the 90's, we were taught continually that the voter must be treated with respect because the voters are not stupid. It seems that that advice is now very old fashioned and out of favor because the politicians keep treating us as a bunch of rubes, promising the moon and handing out crumbles of green cheese at best. Why do they keep doing it-----making those promises? Well, it's probably because we fall for the same old empty reassurances every single time.
But it appears that more of the American electorate than ever is seeing that what once worked in getting their votes isn't going to work again. I guess I'm not the only one who can't be bought off by describing the other side as bogeymen who will take your rights away from you and leave us with some kind of monstrosity that can't be tolerated. That kind of fear motivation is a lame tactic. We are taught in sales that fear motivation is the lowest, last tool to use to persuade someone. Why do the politicians think that it is any different for them?
I have come to the conclusion that the people who continue to adhere to the parties without question, that is the remaining 27% who call themselves Republican and the 31% who call themselves Democrat, fall into two categories.
First you have the "party hack" or "professional party member" for lack of a better term. These people make their living as party and political people. These folks have staked out careers at all levels from local party employees all the way up to the president of the United States. You have the people who work as bureaucrats, the political consultants, the elected officials, the lobbyists. For better or worse, these people MUST preach the party religion at all times in order to preserve their livelihoods. You can add their family members on to this roll call for obvious reasons. Also included in this group are people who must use government to make their businesses run smoothly. And then there are the academic theorists that provide the grist for message development. All of the above need a political structure in order to survive.
The second group are people who adhere to the party for almost religious reasons. They adhere to the party because they believe that the philosophies espoused by the parties line up with how they want to live their lives. There is a certain amount of idealism that must be present for the people who belong in this group. That idealism after a period of time can also be turned into an intellectual laziness. We humans are creatures of habit and once we form habits, they often become the foundation upon which we build our lives. The problem with that idea is that if we buy what is being sold and we build on top of it, it can be very difficult to change from those ideas even in the face of overwhelming evidence that what we had assumed was working really isn't. I call it intellectual laziness because it is much easier to just keep on doing what we have always done than it is to stay focused on why we decided to adhere to that philosophy in the first place.
And that is where we find ourselves in the evolution of procuring women's rights and women's parity. We have just stuck with one party or another even though the time has long passed when either party is paying much attention to what women really require to be equal players, a desire women have long had.
New evidence continues to pile up about the institutional sexism in both parties. First we have this report from U.S. News that two studies have confirmed that media sexism sunk Hillary Clinton's campaign. And one of the reasons that the media is so sexist is that they too have few women in their presidential press corps. Now you might argue that it was the media not the parties bearing responsibility for this problem. And that would be correct. HOWEVER, a party REALLY representing women's interests would have used its bully pulpit and been been extremely vocal about how shameful and wrong this sexism was. Very little of that was done because that sexism was used by the parties for their own benefit. That this approach has backfired is confirmed by another academic report as referenced in this article that 20% of Hillary's voters left the Democratic Party and became Independents mostly. By my calculations, 20% of 18 million is 3.6 million voters, not a small number, and certainly a number contributing to that 40% of the population that considers themselves Independents.
The evidence of sexism on the Republican side is just as bad. This article is a post mortem on the Michele Bachmann campaign, and reason number five out of nine as to why her campaign failed was sexism, pure and simple. It's a high bar that continues to befuddle women in getting to the top. Legitimate questions have been raised as to whether a woman could ever win in Iowa or states with similar demographics. And although many like to smirk about how Sarah Palin sunk McCain's ship, the opposite of that is actually true. Palin energized a section of the electorate that would have stayed home and not voted in 2008. I remember going to Palin events here in Ohio and they were jam-packed with people---------lots of women, and families, and fathers holding their little girls aloft to show them that they could dream of being president, just like with Hillary's crowds. I even remember the time I spoke at one of these events as a former Hillary supporter, and when I left to drive home, my pink Cadillac had nails in the tires. I always wondered if that was coincidental or not------but thank goodness for AAA!!!! At least the Republicans have never claimed that they are the party of women.
All this to say that if people are leaving their parties and declaring themselves Independents, we women can use this opportunity to exact some promises from the parties about appointing and promoting women. After all we still have to vote for someone, and we are continually told that we Independents will decide this election. Let's make them work for our votes and not take us for granted. Let's get vocal and demand a 50% female cabinet and a female VP running mate. So what if we asked for it before and were rebuffed. Some people have thick heads and need to hear these ideas a whole lot more before they sink in. I still believe in the power of ideas and female parity is an idea whose time has arrived!!!! Let's go!!!!