George Graham

What’s an Independent Anyway?

Reading my blogs, you might suspect I’m a registered Democrat. Wrong. I am an Independent. Does that mean my political instincts are somewhere between the two major parties? Of course not. Neither major party is as far left as I am. My “party” is the same as Bernie Sanders’, the feisty senator from Vermont, who is often described as a “socialist.”

Yet, when I read news reports about American politics, the assumption seems to be that Independents are the wishy-washy Charlie Browns who can’t decide what party to join. I get the impression that both parties tend to pander to this fuzzy middle of the political spectrum, terrified of being branded “extreme” by the media.

A writer named Anthea Mitchell observes, in an article I just read in Yahoo News, that the past year has produced a record number of registered Independents in America, and she notes that most of the increase is coming from Republican defections. Ms. Mitchell suggests the cause has something to do with widespread dissatisfaction over the GOP shutdown of the government a few months ago.

She could be right. I certainly would be ashamed to identify myself as a Republican after that display of arrant irresponsibility. But I would be ashamed to be thought a Republican anyway, so I guess I’m not typical of those Independents who are abandoning the GOP.

I wonder, though, whether some of the voters who quit the Republican Party are Tea Party types who favor an even more drastic right-wing agenda. From what I read, I don’t think America is drifting toward the center in politics; I think the electorate is becoming more polarized.

As the Tea Party pulls the GOP farther to the right, Progressives are becoming more critical of the Democratic Party’s (and President Obama’s)  policies – drone strikes, Big Brother spying, persistent pursuit of foreign wars,  proffered concessions on the social safety net, that secret Trans Pacific treaty that would give global corporations unfettered power over America environmental policies and undermine the American labor force, and so on.

I am amazed that the Tea Party is still allied with the GOP. And I cannot see how the Libertarians can live with the GOP’s bomb-everybody philosophy. I expected the Republican Party to break up long ago.

And I wouldn’t be surprised if the Progressives go their own way eventually. Big Money rules in both parties, and Big Money has an agenda of its own.

I am convinced that the only logical way to keep Big Money from ravaging the country and devouring its resources is to have a Big Government with the muscle to match the corporate giants. But if Big Money is allowed to buy the people who run the government, there can be no hope for fairness or justice.

History has shown that government takeover of private industry – socialism – is not always a good idea. But that doesn’t mean government should let the corporations do whatever they want. My preference is for government to operate alternative services to those offered by the private sector – especially in such essential industries as health care. I don’t think the government should “take over” parts of the economy but it would be nice to have a non-profit alternative to the highway robbery we’re often subjected to.

Of course, there are inherent dangers in Big Government, and I’m not talking about the deficit. I’m talking about the danger to personal freedoms.

These freedoms are in the United States Constitution, and are to be protected by the Supreme Court. But with the parties appointing the justices, what we get on the court is a pack of political hacks who vote predictably along party lines.

Collective organizations like trade unions and cooperatives could provide a countervailing political force, but these institutions are floundering in a hostile climate in America today. Public attitudes will have to change or there will be no chance of reform.

I fully expect some reader to call me a communist. I’ve heard that one before. But I am not now and never have been a member of the Communist Party, Senator McCarthy. I am just a guy who believes in fairness and decency, who wants to see everybody get a chance to make a good living and every kid get a shot at a good education. I would like to think that nobody is dying in the street because they lack the money for health care and that no codger like myself is languishing in poverty.

I hope no family is freezing because they can’t buy oil for the heater and no mother is weeping because she can’t afford formula for her baby.

I don’t want my country sending drones to kill foreigners’ families or sending troops to intervene in foreign governments’ disputes.

And if that makes you think I’m a dangerous commie, then so be it. I think that in today’s America it makes me an Independent.

Click for Ms. Mitchell’s article.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for