My Turn: The Independent Party

For the Monitor
Published: 1/22/2022 6:01:24 AM
Modified: 1/22/2022 6:00:08 AM

It is no secret that the majority of Americans are displeased with our government. More so, they are displeased with the two-party system which has, in recent years, added to the polarization of our country.

This us and them dynamic has left us with choices that smack of determining the lesser of two evils, never a good scenario when our, and our children’s, future is at stake. It is no wonder then that such a large number of New Hampshire voters are independents, or in the unique parlance of our election system, Undeclared.

In 2022 this amounts to just over 38% of us, more than either Republicans (30%) or Democrats (31.8%). Nationally, the independent number swells to 41%. By being independent of doctrines, or so-called party platforms, we instead wish for and get to choose the person and what they stand for. This makes sense instead of blindly adhering to a “one size fits all” plan and thus a flawed roadmap for the future. Good for all of us.

It wasn’t always so. As a kid, there was a bumper sticker that read “Courage is Being a Carroll Country Democrat.” A clearly Democratic friend who once ran unsuccessfully for governor did so as a Republican because he believed that no one took the Democrats seriously. Looking back, the operative word is likely moderation, in that extremes here in New Hampshire were just that, extremes. And, except for our winter weather, of course, New Hampshire was really never an extreme place to live.

I can think of two respected Republicans who embodied more of this “we’re all in this together” approach, and there may be others, too. The late Wesley Powell, our 70th governor serving when I was a child from 1959 to 1963, was widely known as a moderate, which I think means fiscally conservative while being more socially middle of the road. I’ve often heard the phrase “Wesley Powell Republican” as a way to differentiate desirable candidates then from now. He called himself “pragmatic.” Imagine taking that stance today?

Our own revered and longtime executive councilor, the late Ray Burton, who even as a Republican was truly a man of the people (and parades) and who didn’t ask you what your party was, only that would you please vote for him. People over party — what a concept. That doesn’t mean he didn’t get along with his Republican allies, it simply meant that in a mostly independent state he knew that every person, and therefore every vote, counts.

Party affiliations also change over time, morphing from one certitude to another, arguably following the will of the people as well as the opportunities of the times. For instance, Abe Lincoln, one of our greatest leaders, was a Republican, and yet what he stood for would today seem more like he was a Democrat.

Through most of my six decades, the real and visible differences between the parties were often not that great. Massachusetts to our south, so deeply Democratic that it was the only state to support George McGovern over Nixon in 1972, has elected Republican governors more often than Democrats over the past 40 years. Even they were smart enough to elect who they felt was the right person for the job, rather than what color flag they bore. People over party, indeed.

So what of this polarization that has so caught our nation in its net? I think it is safe to say that it is hurting us more than we know. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it is one small world and in the end, we all need to get along.

I think New Hampshire voters are on the right track and party leaders might be wise to drift back toward the middle. After all, in the end, we all want the best for our nation, and the best, in policy or weather, is rarely found in the extremes. Our independence may ultimately mean that we are still free.

(Tim Scott lives in Jackson.)


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