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5 Ways Independent Candidates Contribute to Bipartisanship

3 min read
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Good Party Politics Team · Dec 1, 2023

Since 1988, national support for independent candidates has risen exponentially while the number of voters who say they’re willing to back establishment candidates from either party continues to decline. Unfortunately, these numbers don’t always correlate to votes in terms of election results, at least not at the national level.

However, that dynamic is slowly changing as voters learn more about the impact of independent candidates on the political process and become further disenchanted with the status quo. 

One area where they’re making a big difference is in loosening the legislative gridlock caused by extreme partisanship and tribalism. In an era where political polarization seems to dominate the news, the role of independent candidates in fostering cooperation is increasingly important.

Bipartisanship, which is the collaboration between parties with different ideologies, is essential for a healthy, functional government. It helps provide more diverse perspectives and prevents any single ideology from dominating the political landscape. 

This leads to more balanced and effective governance. 

Join us as we explore the rising significance of the independent movement and learn how independent candidates can help break through the stagnation that’s crippling our government. 

Understanding How Bipartisanship Works

Bipartisanship occurs when political parties with opposing viewpoints find common ground and work together. Bipartisanship is key in a democracy because it encourages cooperation and prevents any single ideology from dominating the political landscape. 

Unlike the brand of extreme partisanship we’re experiencing now, bipartisanship leads to more comprehensive and inclusive policies that reflect a broader range of perspectives.

The Impact of Partisanship

Differing ideologies and points of view aren’t surprising, especially in a country as large and demographically diverse as the United States. However, we’re mostly on the same page in matters like public safety, jobs, and the economy. 

Where we disagree is on cause, effect, and solutions. We’re supposed to be able to look to our political leaders for that.

But, what happens when those leaders can’t — or won’t — deliver?

Our legislators were elected on the promise of addressing our pain points and getting things done on behalf of the people, but they’ve been failing us. Over the past 40 years or so, our representatives have seemed more interested in scoring points off the opposition while keeping the public distracted and divided. 

The consequences of such extreme partisanship include:

  • Legislative Gridlock: When political parties are unwilling to compromise, it often leads to legislative stalemates.

  • Political Polarization: Extreme partisanship divides societies, creating an “Us vs Them” mentality.

  • Short-Sighted Policies: Partisan politics often prioritize party agendas over long-term national interests.

The media also plays a part in fostering division and tribalism, both by feeding into the sensationalism and drama that occur on Capitol Hill and by being highly partisan themselves in many ways. 


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Mediators in a Divided Landscape: The Role of Independent Candidates

Independents can act as bridges between parties, fostering dialogue and understanding. They encourage a focus on issues, not parties, by avoiding alignment with a specific platform or ideology. 

This leads to a greater emphasis on problem-solving rather than party politics. Independents often represent a wider range of voices as well, bringing diverse opinions to the table that aren’t being heard by those in the major parties.

Through their influence, independents can reduce the level of mistrust and voter apathy that occurs when we feel that our leaders no longer represent our interests. 

Independent candidates can significantly contribute to bipartisanship in several specific ways. For example, they help keep the government running smoothly for the people by:

  1. Acting as a bridge toward dialogue and compromise: Independent candidates often serve as mediators between the two major political parties. Since they aren’t tied to a specific party agenda, independent politicians can facilitate dialogue and encourage compromise where partisan politicians might not. This role is particularly crucial in closely divided legislatures, where an independent's vote can be pivotal.

  2. Introducing non-partisan perspectives: By nature, independent candidates are more likely to focus on issues rather than party ideology. This approach can help introduce non-partisan or cross-partisan perspectives into legislative debates, encouraging lawmakers to consider solutions based on their merits rather than toeing party lines.

  3. Representing underrepresented voices: Independents often represent viewpoints that are not fully captured by the major parties. By bringing these perspectives into the political arena, they can help ensure that a broader range of citizen concerns are addressed. This leads to more inclusive policy making.

  4. Encouraging policy over politics: Because they're not bound by party platforms or the pressures of party leadership, independent candidates can prioritize policy effectiveness over political gain. This approach could inspire other legislators to focus more on the substance of policies and the needs of their constituents rather than party loyalty.

  5. Setting examples for cross-party collaboration: By working collaboratively with members of various parties, independents set an example of bipartisan cooperation. Their willingness to collaborate can inspire other lawmakers to engage in similar cross-party efforts, fostering a more cooperative and less adversarial political environment.

These contributions by independent candidates are vital for promoting a more cooperative, effective, and representative political process. Their unique position outside the traditional party system allows them to play a distinctive and often constructive role in fostering bipartisanship.

Real-World Examples of Independent Political Influence

Independent and third-party candidates have made significant impacts at various levels of government. Here are some examples that illustrate their influence:

Local Level

  • Mayoral Elections: In many cities, independent candidates have been elected as mayors. A notable example is Michael Bloomberg, who was elected as the Mayor of New York City as an independent. His tenure demonstrated the potential for independents to manage major urban centers effectively.

  • City Councils and Local Boards: Independent candidates often play crucial roles in city councils or on local school boards, where party affiliation is less critical than at higher levels of government. Their presence can bring diverse perspectives to local governance. For example, an independent candidate for a city council position could focus on hyper-local issues like community policing or neighborhood development, garnering support from a diverse range of constituents who feel overlooked by major party agendas.

State Level

  • Governorships: Jesse Ventura, who was elected as Governor of Minnesota in 1998, is a notable example of a third-party candidate (from the Reform Party) winning a significant state-level position. His victory showed that with a strong campaign, third-party candidates could break the two-party dominance at the state level.

  • State Legislatures: Independent and third-party members in state legislatures can hold swing votes in closely divided chambers, influencing legislation and policy decisions. For instance, a third-party candidate could run for a state legislative seat on a platform focused on environmental issues or education reform. Their presence in the legislature could push these issues to the forefront, influencing the policy priorities of the major parties.

National Level

  • U.S. Senate: Senators Bernie Sanders (Vermont) and Angus King (Maine) are independents who caucus with the Democrats. Their positions as independents allow them to exert significant influence, especially in a closely divided Senate.

  • Presidential Elections: While no independent or third-party candidate has won the presidency, candidates like Ross Perot in 1992 significantly impacted the national political conversation, highlighting issues that may be overlooked by the major parties. An independent presidential candidate with a centrist platform could potentially draw votes from both major parties, forcing them to address broader concerns more directly. Even if they don't win, their influence shapes the national policy debate.

Broader Implications

The presence of strong independent or third-party candidates can lead the establishment parties to adopt policies that have broad public support, such as pro-choice legislation and sensible gun control measures. This could result in more consensus-driven policymaking.

These examples demonstrate the varied impact that independent and third-party candidates can have on the political landscape. Independents often bring new ideas and perspectives to the table, challenging the status quo and sometimes leading to significant policy changes.

The Role of Independents in Government

It’s illuminating to look back at historical instances where independent politicians played key roles in passing significant legislation through bipartisan efforts. For example, independents in the United States have been pivotal in breaking Senate deadlocks as far back as 1888

Even in our current duopoly, independents can influence policy and get things done for the people they serve. They also hold significant sway in forming coalitions and shaping policy.

In fact, a 2005 Rolling Stone article named Senator Bernie Sanders the “Amendment King” for his ability to caucus with Democrats and successfully pass roll call legislation in a Republican controlled legislature.

Independents’ Impact on Local vs. National Politics

The influence of independent candidates on bipartisanship at the local level can be quite distinct. In local politics, independents often have more influence over enacting change due to the smaller scale and more direct impact of their actions. Nationally, their role is more about influencing political discourse and acting as a balance or tie-breaker in closely divided legislatures.

Final Thoughts

Independent candidates play a pivotal role in fostering bipartisanship, which is vital for a healthy democracy. By acting as mediators, focusing on real issues, and representing diverse viewpoints, they can help bridge the divide created by political partisanship. 

Their contribution is crucial for creating balanced, inclusive, and effective governance. 

The rise of independents reflects a change on the political horizon, one where the value of bipartisanship and the desire for a more collaborative and less polarized political process is increasingly recognized.

Support Functional, Cooperative Government

As public disillusionment with traditional party politics grows, independents become more appealing to voters seeking pragmatic, issue-focused representatives. This aligns with Good Party’s mission of breaking the nation’s two-party stagnation and creating a government that works for all of us. 

We’re building a network of independent candidates and volunteers who believe in democracy, and we’re inviting like-minded individuals like you to join our movement today.


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Political Polarization
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By Good Party Politics Team
The politics team is focused on transforming the political landscape by promoting transparency, accountability, and positive change. They aim to engage citizens in the political process, encourage informed decision-making, and support candidates who prioritize the common good. Their mission revolves around creating a more fair and just political system, fostering collaboration, and breaking down traditional barriers of partisanship.