This article is the third in a three-part series covering what it means to be a Republican, Democrat and Independent at Westmont and why people have aligned themselves with each party.
What does it mean to be an Independent?
Independents — you’ve heard of them, but not in the same way you’ve heard about Democrats and Republicans. Independents have been praised because they offer a unique choice to voters who don’t want to choose between two “evils.” Independents have also been scorned due to accusations of spoiling more than one presidential election. Whether you consider Independents a party separate from other third parties, like the Libertarians or the Green Party, Independents have trotted their own path in the political arena.
At Westmont, Independents are represented by the diverse perspectives of Ebun Kalejaiye, Kat Marquez and Evan Tsuei. They each come from different backgrounds and present different reasons for why they consider themselves Independents. However, they all identify as Independent because they believe the two-party system has not served America well.
According to Kalejaiye, “I’m an Independent because neither one of the main parties, in their current stages, accurately reflect my economic and social beliefs. I wouldn’t be able to choose one major party over the other without sacrificing some political beliefs, especially with both parties moving more towards the extremes. Right now, being an Independent is the best fit for me.”
Marquez added, “I identify as Independent because I recognize how various special interests and big businesses heavily influence and finance the Democratic and Republican parties.”
Tsuei is a registered Democrat who considers himself an Independent. He registered as a Democrat only to vote in the primary since being an Independent within California’s closed primary system would restrict him from voting. A closed primary means that only those registered with a certain party can vote for that party’s presidential nominees. “I foresee myself re-registering as an Independent after the 2020 election cycle due to the fact I have procedural concerns about the two-party system and I also believe myself to be out of step with either party.”
While each interviewee resides on the West Coast, they all had unique upbringings that shaped their identities as Independents. Kalejaiye is from Palos Verdes, California. “For most of my life, I’ve lived in a city where the parents were Republican or right-leaning while the kids were on one extreme or the other. I hate being told what to do or how to think so I tend to do my own research to make up my mind rather than just following the flow of others.”
Marquez is from Fresno, California. “Living in the Central Valley has competing interests between those who are in the working class, those who participate in environmental justice communities, the wealthy farmers and developers, and the middle-class families who live in the suburbs. In my conversations with my dad, we have discussed how there are a few politicians that represent the middle class; the majority either represent big developers and farmers or have special interests.”
Meanwhile, Tsuei has spent most of his life in Portland. “I’ve lived in Portland, Oregon for as long as I can remember. Living in a fairly liberal area has definitely exposed me to more liberal ideals, which is why I would consider myself a liberal Independent. But my religious upbringing, despite my residence, has prevented me from fully aligning with the current liberal ideology represented in the Democratic party.”
Each has developed a strong understanding of politics and has strong views on why they identify as Independent. Whether it be a clash of cultural upbringings or a distrust in special interests, each student’s background informs why they are Independents.
Should we have a third party?
The fact is, we live in a two-party country. Whether or not a third party will emerge as a result of the 2020 presidential race is uncertain. However, the Independents interviewed had strong opinions concerning whether or not there should be a third party.
Kalejaiye commented, “I definitely think there should be a third party. The idea that third party votes are throw-away votes is really unfortunate. That kind of thinking is perpetuated and makes it impossible for a better candidate to beat out the other two. I feel like we get stuck in this two-party system because we are too scared to let another party rise to power, but if we take a chance, we don’t have to settle for a ‘lesser of two evils.’”
Tsuei, while agreeing with Kalejaiye, provided a different perspective. “I expect that the third party that arises would be a more moderate party that I would probably align with better than either of the two parties. [However,] I don’t expect all the Independents in America would unify around a singular party.”
Meanwhile, Marquez argued that some issues shouldn’t be up for debate: “The two-party system either affirms oppression or becomes performative when seeking ‘change.’ We can see this with cases such as the BLM movement, the anti-Asian rhetoric during the pandemic, the separation of Latinx families at our southern border, and Indigenous stolen land. These are not abstract thoughts; these are concrete pieces of evidence as to why the American government needs to change.”
As of now, having a third party is hypothetical, but Tsuei says it best: “Compromise would be necessitated by the existence of a third party.” Maybe it’s time to actually have three parties to heal our politically polarized nation.