One of the great big lies of modern American politics has been the idea of the package deal--if you want social freedom you have to accept the regulatory state, high taxes and crony capitalism OR, if you want economic freedom you have to trample on people's private lives, control their thinking, impose religion on them, and teach them to pray in school before you send them off to war.
Those are the package deals offered voters by Democrats and Republicans. Sadly, many Americans haven't questioned it. At each election they reluctantly decided whether they are more worried about social freedom or economic freedom. As we seesawed between Republicans and Democrats both freedoms suffered.
Faced with such choices the number of Americans who identified with either of the duopolistic parties shrank. More and more voters said they were independents. Today, self-identified independents outnumber Democrats and Republicans. These modern Mugwumps tend firmly toward in the moderate middle--they aren't keen on intolerant Religious Right campaigns, nor are they fond of the tax and spend policies of Democrats.
The problem has been, as these moderates drop out, they leave the "activism" to the worst elements in each party. Fundamentalists Know-nothings have come to control Republican primaries and the Democrats are strongly influenced by those who most directly benefit from excessive government--the public sector unions.
The detrimental impact of intolerant religious fanaticism is obvious. Less obvious is the impact of the public sector unions. We face a crisis over the seemingly constant incidents of police brutality and witness horrific killings, where the officers get a paid vacation--called administrative leave. In the end, there are little to no consequences for the officers involved and incidents follow incidents.
Why is nothing done? The Chicago Tribune's description of Chicago politics could apply in most big cities. "From the moment Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police started negotiating its first contract with City Hall 35 years ago, the union identified an issue that would prove key to its members: ensuring officers had robust protections when they were investigated for misconduct." The result of this "has been a flawed system in which officers are rarely held accountable for misconduct."
These unions throw most of their cash at Democrats. So, the very people many on the Left expect to protect them from police misconduct are beholden to the unions that demand, and get, contracts protecting cops when they decide a black life doesn't matter. As The Atlantic noted:
"There are, of course, police officers who are fired for egregious misbehavior by commanding officers who decide that a given abuse makes them unfit for a badge and gun. Yet all over the U.S., police unions help many of those cops to get their jobs back, often via secretive appeals geared to protect labor rights rather than public safety. Cops deemed unqualified by their own bosses are put back on the streets. Their colleagues get the message that police are all but impervious to termination."
Similarly, anyone expecting the Republicans to actually shrink the size of government is deluded. The GOP has become God's Own Party and theocracy is expensive.
These are problems of the package deal. Most moderate independents are not advocates of crony capitalism, high taxes and foreign interventionism. They embrace the libertarian middle.
That's why the ticket of Gary Johnson and William Weld is doing so well--for a third party. Regardless of whether or not one likes them--I do--they have done something important, something with long term consequences. These two ex-governors have been hammering on a central them--you can have BOTH social freedom and economic freedom. You don't have to give up the one, to have the other.
You can support depoliticized markets, a woman's right to choose, small government, free trade and still be willing to embrace immigrants looking for a better life, while celebrating the joy of the gay couple next door when they marry. You can take the best undelivered promises the Democrats and Republican offer without embracing the rest of their platform. If enough people realize this, it will be a major paradigm shift in American politics.