The Independent Majority vs. the Assumption of Duopoly

The growing number of registered independents among US voters is likely a cause of great concern for partisans of the duopoly parties. Recent polls show that self-described independents now outnumber those who affiliate with the Democrats or Republicans. The national trend is apparent, and modulated at both state and local levels across the Union. The latest voter registration numbers from Utah provide a case in point. Ballot Access News reports:
The Utah state elections office has released a registration tally . . . The percentages are: Republican 39.30%; Democratic 8.80%; Libertarian .21%; Constitution .15%; independent and other 51.54%. [Emphasis added.]
Needless to say, Utah's state government is dominated by the GOP. It's State Senate has 21 Republicans and 8 Democrats while its State House has 53 Republicans and 22 Democrats. Such a lop-sided majority in government, coupled with the fact that an absolute majority of the state's citizens affiliate with neither of the major parties suggests that Utah could be fertile ground for growth among parties not beholden to the duopoly machine. Groups like the Constitution Party of Utah may make significant strides in the Beehive State in the near future. (The Christian News Wire recently dubbed the group "the fastest growing third party in America.")

At the local level, the prevalence of independents is causing a ruckus in Washington, Connecticut. Ann Compton at Voices News has the story:
The Republican Town Committee has asked the Board of Finance to rescind its appointment of Anthony Bedini to the board in favor of a Republican candidate. Mr. Bedini was appointed as an alternate to the board in April, replacing former Board of Finance member John Allen, a Republican, who passed away last year. Mr. Bedini is not affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic party.
This case is especially noteworthy because it highlights the set of unwritten rules and laws that regulate and maintain the duopoly system of government. The Republican Town Committee wrote the Board of Finance a letter urging them to rescind Mr. Bedini's nomination, in which these implicit practices and assumptions are explicitly articulated:
In a letter to the board dated May 30, RTC Chairman Joan Lodsin expressed the committee's "disappointment and disapproval" of the way in which Mr. Bedini's appointment was made."You asked for and we submitted to you a name of a possible candidate to fill this position, namely Ann Burton," states the letter, adding that Ms. Burton is well-qualified and expressed her willingness to serve."We, apparently naively, thought you would at least give Ann the courtesy of an interview to give her and you the opportunity to see if this would be a good match," the letter continues. "It is our understanding that Ann was never invited to a meeting to discuss the possibility of being an alternate on this board . . . We do realize this is not required but it has been the practice in the past and it is regrettable that you did not follow this procedure this time." The letter notes that the board chose in Mr. Bedini "a well-qualified person to fill the position," but adds, "this person is not a member of a political party but is an unaffiliated voter . . . We trusted that you would fill a vacancy previously held by a Republican with a Republican." [Emphasis added.]
In other words, the Republican Town Committee objects to the appointment not because the gentleman in question is unqualified, but rather on the grounds that he is an independent and that the conventional manner of such appointments maintains the strict duopoly of Republican and Democratic Party representatives over the board. While third party activists often focus on explicit laws and regulations that reproduce the two-party system and hobble minor party and independent campaigns, the implicit assumptions and unwritten rules that undergird the Democratic-Republican bipoligarchy are no less worthy of our attention precisely because they silently structure our political discourse and determine such "spontaneous" political practices.

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