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Beware: Most political independents are anything but (Opinion)

By Lee Cleveland - January 26, 2023

People who consider themselves political independents and can assess issues and candidates impartially are few and far between.

In politics, the term “independent” has become a misnomer. To be independent is to be free from outside control or influence, but the reality is that independents are not truly independent and their opinions are not really their own.

Most so-called independents lean in one direction or the other and may or may not know it themselves. And when supporting issues and candidates, most are primarily OPPOSING something they dislike more than favoring a candidate or concept they genuinely support.

I know someone who insists he’s a full-on independent but bashes Democrats more than any self-described Republican I’ve ever met. But, this so-called independent, like Democrats, supports universal healthcare, policies to mitigate global warming, and an assault weapons ban.

So, why does he blast the Democratic Party’s platform with every opportunity he gets?

He’s a strong pro-lifer and, well, isn’t the biggest fan of political correctness or social justice, and angrily laughs when the topic of civil rights is mentioned.

Given he sides with Democrats on some issues and Republicans on others, it would make sense he’s a “genuine” political independent, right?

Not so fast.

Like most political independents, he aligns with a party based on the one or two issues that mean everything to him.

In his case, making abortion illegal nationwide, removing Critical Race Theory from schools, and eliminating political correctness is FAR more important than the issues he veers left on, such as providing universal healthcare, creating policies to mitigate global warming, and banning assault weapons.

People like that probably tend to consider themselves independent because a) they’re ashamed to be affiliated with a party they are at odds with on many if not most issues or b) they fear they’ll be scrutinized by their family or friends who predominately lean right or left. These days, if you disagree with most of the folks in your social circles, life is easier as an independent.

There are also “bandwagon” independents. They are like sports fans who’ll support a team only when that franchise is winning. After 6 years of setbacks, the Dallas Cowboys became champs again in 1992 and all these fans, many of whom had never been to Dallas or had any connection with the area, came out of the woodwork claiming to be die-hards.

Bandwagon independents are like fair-weather fans. They’ll get behind a candidate simply because she/he is trending at the time or bucks the norm.

Perhaps that explains all those folks who supported Sen. Bernie Sanders, an ultra-liberal, in the 2016 Democratic primary yet subsequently voted for Donald Trump, an extremist conservative, in that year’s presidential election.

Although bandwagon independents have no real political lean, they aren’t independent thinkers in the political sense. They are the ones who are most influenced by political ads, catchy campaign slogans, misinformation, or even a certain look.

When someone tells you they’re independent, take it with a grain of salt unless that person is highly informed, can well-explain their stance on the issues, and considers more than just one or two issues when deciding to support a candidate.