Revolutions are built on a simple idea. Mine is for all Americans, one by one, to leave the two-party system and become independent voters. We might not all agree on which politician is best for any given office, but we can all agree that every politician is made worse by the two-party system. So let's at least get rid of that.
The power of the two major political parties is derived from their memberships. If they have no members then they no longer exist. Everyone currently registered as a Democrat or a Republican -- about 70% of the electorate -- collectively controls the fate of the two-party system. You can dismantle it at anytime simply by becoming an independent voter.
Regardless of political leanings, all Americans like freedom: in our professional lives, our political lives, and our personal lives. The historical record consistently demonstrates that we have rarely settled for less; standing vigilant time and time again against any and all violations of freedom.
On the surface, the two-party system looks like an elegant protector of the freedom we cherish, a balanced structure where Democrats and Republicans trade power about equally. Dig a little deeper and you find that the two-party system itself has become more powerful than its component parts. By cozying up to big business and passing laws that effectively close the political process to outsiders, the Democrats and Republicans dampen the influence of individual voters while ensuring the collective power of their two-party system, no matter which one of the parties is ruling.
The United States government has three primary tasks: make laws, enforce laws, and spend tax dollars; and three branches with which to accomplish these tasks: the legislative, the judicial, and the executive. Thanks to the system of checks and balances all three branches participate in all three tasks; but roughly speaking the legislative branch makes the laws and spends the taxes, the executive branch enforces the laws and blesses the tax-spending ideas, and the judicial branch decides what to do when someone breaks one (or more) of the laws. This whole apparatus, as elegantly outlined in The United States Constitution, works pretty well.
The modern two-party political system was an afterthought, a mutation affixed to our nation more than a half century after The Constitution was signed. For the first fifty years of its life, America essentially had one political group, ironically named the Democratic Republicans. Led by Thomas Jefferson, the Democratic Republicans dominated the political landscape well into the early 1800's. Jefferson co-authored The Declaration of Independence and once famously said, "If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all."
In the 1820's, despite Jefferson's sentiments, the Democratic Republican party began to split over the issue of whether the United States should have a national bank or an independent treasury, evidently a white-hot issue at the time. Proponents of the national bank called themselves National Republicans and proponents of the independent treasury took the name Democrat. Andrew Jackson, the first leader of the Democrats and the father of the modern Democratic Party, was elected President in 1828 and again in 1832. In 1836, the National Republicans changed their name to the Whigs (a clear branding error) and ran William Henry Harrison against Martin Van Buren. Van Buren won the election and the Democrats remained in control for another four years.
Harrison finally won for the Whigs in 1840. James Polk won for the Democrats in 1844, and then Zachary Taylor wrested control back for the Whigs in 1848. The Whig party began to split in 1852 over the issue of slavery. During the next few years most southern Whigs joined the pro-slavery Democrats while most Northern Whigs joined the anti-slavery Democrats to form a new party, which took the name Republican. Lead by Abraham Lincoln, the Republicans won the election in 1860. And so goes the rough history of how we ended up where we are.
Since the end of the American Civil War the two modern political parties -- Democrats and Republicans -- have waged a war on the influence of the individual voter by instituting election processes and regulations -- the primary system, the winner-take-all philosophy of the Electoral College, and campaign finance regulation -- that build the power of the two-party system at the expense of the individual voter. We don't need a nation of strict Constitutionalists, but it's good to know what the original plan was. The two-party system was not part of the original plan.
Both Democrats and Republicans are pretty bad, particularly right now. But it's the two-party system that is failing us more than either party. We need to re-shape the basic legislative environment to make all politicians more effective. A good start is dismantling the two-party system.
All it takes to accomplish this is one simple act that carries little risk and no expense: become an independent voter. Without the baggage of a party affiliation, you will be free to think independently. And without any members, the Democratic and Republican parties won't exist; and the two-party system will be dismantled.
If one-by-one we all become independent voters, the Democratic and Republican parties will lose their monolithic structures and take on different roles, perhaps alongside the many other legislative think tanks that populate the political landscape, all of which would then be contributing to a more rich and healthy political dialogue. Once the clear majority of us are independent voters, most politicians and candidates will abandon their party affiliation and become independent themselves. Becoming independent voters is one simple step we can all take back toward the independent thinking on which our country was founded and with which it has flourished for so long.
Below are some links to help you take action right now and switch your voter registration to independent.
Click here for a voter registration form. This is the same form you would use to register as a new voter. It's also used to switch your registration status to independent.
Click here for your state's specific instructions for filling out this form.
Here is a PDF of the whole package if you'd like to make it available from your blog, Facebook page, etc.