Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be talking about partisanship. We want to start by stating clearly that Common Ground Arkansas isn’t anti-party. We recognize that political parties play an important role and work in many ways to strengthen our democracy. But when voters and lawmakers cede their critical thinking skills to a party to do the thinking for them, that’s a problem.
We’ll start with the false binary choice that permeates our political narrative. Voters are lumped into two boxes: Democrat or Republican. But the reality is, more people belong to neither party than belong to either party.
According to the latest Gallup Poll, 41% of Americans are Independents, 32% are Democrats, and 25% are Republicans. (Gallup, March 1-15)
Here in Arkansas, the numbers are pretty even between Republicans and Independents, with Democrats trailing by around 20 percentage points. (39% Independent, 40% Republican, 21% Democratic, according to the 2020 Arkansas Poll). Arkansans have a history of being self-reliant and enterprising. That way of thinking has led to an entrepreneurial spirit that permeates our Land of Opportunity and a long line of moderate and Independent-minded governors.
But increasingly, partisan politics tries to push us into neat boxes labeled R or D. It asks us to ignore a candidate’s experience, abilities, or ideas and only consider the letter beside their name in the voting booth. It asks us to give over our self-determination to the choices of party activists who are often unrepresentative of the mainstream.
So how do we break this pattern?
- To start, we can throw away the false narrative of D or R by independently considering candidates regardless of whether they’re a Democrat, a Republican, or an Independent.
- Examine their ideas and their records as if every race were nonpartisan.
- Allow yourself to have complex political beliefs that may not fit conveniently into a box labeled D or R.
- When you find yourself outside of the box, know that you’re not alone – even though it may feel like it. You’re part of a very quiet but very large group of Americans that dwarfs those who fit in either box.
Common Ground Arkansas will be here to help, providing nonpartisan information on candidates and issues. We don’t care about boxes. We don’t care about letters. We care about ideas. And we care about Arkansas.