The Democrats Declare War on Independents

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:RobertF._Kennedy_Jr.(33367302432).jpg

“So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can only submit to the edict of others.”

— Martin Luther King Jr., “Give Us The Ballot”

The Democratic Party declared war on independents last week by establishing a team dedicated to kicking independents and third-party candidates off the ballot.

It is already harder to run for office as an independent than it is as a member of the two main parties. In Alabama, for instance, independents must gather more than 5,000 signatures to appear on the ballot, while Republicans and Democrats only need 500 signatures.

There’s a principle of democracy that often goes unconsidered. It’s called the right of active suffrage. Whereas passive suffrage is the right to cast a vote, active suffrage is the right to run for office. The right of suffrage that women, African Americans, and others fought so long to possess includes both passive and active suffrage. When they fought for the right to vote, they simultaneously fought for the right to vote for people who were like themselves.

Independents often do not get to vote for people who are like themselves. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an independent, has been successful amongst independents in polling. Now, rather than working to promote their own candidate, Democrats have their hearts set on removing him — and all other independent candidates — from the ballot.

The new effort will be a setback for Kennedy and other independents. The bar was already much higher for them to make it onto the ballot than for Democrats and Republicans. Even with millions of dollars to spend on collecting signatures, Kennedy may not make it onto many states’ ballots at all.

But what will happen now that the Democrats are working specifically to make sure Kennedy isn’t even a choice?

Kennedy could use some screen time in the debates to bolster his position. However, it’s more challenging being an independent there too: independent candidates must poll 15% to appear in the debates, whereas Republicans and Democrats only need to poll 1%. Moreover, Kennedy and his fellow independents have repeatedly been denied Secret Service protection by the Secretary of Homeland Security (a Democrat) while Biden and Trump receive around-the-clock protection, paid for by the American taxpayer. Kennedy’s father was publicly assassinated in 1968.

In short, the states — controlled by Democrats and Republicans — have effectively added a new qualification to run for office: that a candidate be a Democrat or a Republican. Independent candidates face more legal challenges and a greater threat to their personal safety than two-party candidates.

Active and passive suffrage are inextricably linked. The right to vote for a candidate is connected to the right of that candidate to run for office. By oppressing independent candidates, the Democratic Party is oppressing independent voters.

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