Orman, despite the attractiveness of his personal determination, simply undermines his own cause when he writes that being an Independent doesn’t mean “belonging to a third party or sharing a particular political ideology. Independence is really a state of mind” (p. 258). Why do state governments enlist nominally private organizations like the Republican and Democratic parties to organize elections to public office? Because as mass democracy slowly emerged as the aim of the American experiment from the early 1800s on, the necessity of creating some kind of structure to bind together voters, and translate their individual preferences into majorities that could actually wield the levers of our representative system, became undeniable. Parties, which were essentially unheard of at the time the Constitution was written, became central to its effective operation by the time of John Adams’s administration, and within a generation after him they were not only central–they were essential. Under a different form of government, with a different electoral arrangement, parties (especially what Orman routinely condemns as the “two party duopoly”) would play a very different role–and if that’s what Orman really would like to achieve, then his criticisms and ideas need to move away from simply praising the brave Independent candidates out there, and instead be radically re-focused on the structures of our constitutional system as it was written and as it has evolved. Until then, a “state of mind” is exactly the wrong approach. Ultimately, those who wish to bring “independent” thinking into government need to either commit themselves to one of the major parties and work to build support and coalitions within them, with the aim of using them as a vehicle for introducing real system reforms….or, if that is not a tolerable option, they need to go about building an alternative party to challenge the duopoly, and that means discovering a set of motivating ideas (which, yes, may well mean an “ideology”) which fall outside the intellectual space where the logically, structurally inevitable two dominant parties of our country currently reside, and starting attracting voters to that party, from the ground up. That is, after all, how the Populist and Progressive parties ended up profoundly changing the direction of the dominant parties a century ago: by stealing their voters, and thus obliging them to change.
–Russell Arben Fox, Greg Orman’s Declaration of Independents