The 2022 election cycle is nearly in the rear-view mirror and none too soon for most people.
We saw the Democrats outperform expectations driven largely by the abortion issue and their articulation for the need for bodily autonomy. But we also saw the Democratic Party finance far right candidates in Republican primaries to create weaker opponents, some of whom still won in the general election this week.
Although the Republicans underperformed in many parts of the country, they still enthused enough voters to show up at the polls and voice their displeasure with the Biden administration and the perceived mishandling of the economy. But we also saw many Republican candidates run on the debunked myth that elections in this country are inherently flawed and rigged.
It was not a Blue Wave or a Red Wave, it was a faint wave of a hand in resignation for many voters, both independents and those registered with a party. There is pure cynicism when one party supports another party's nominee to throw the race and more cynicism when one party targets election officials and structure in the name of election integrity, but only in areas where it helps their candidates.
Politics could be likened to an ice cream parlor where the consumer walks in to be confronted with only two flavors. Maybe we don't need 31 flavors like some European countries, but we should have choices at the polls that at least equal the choices at the corner ice cream place. Voters don’t seem fond of the two flavors we have.
There are now more registered independents in most states than registered Democrats or Republicans. Independents decide most elections since party members don’t crossover vote anymore. The two major parties and their nominees have grown so far apart on all issues that the few voters who show up to vote don’t pick and choose between parties anymore because there are no nuanced political positions-only black and white or red and blue. Yet, most American values do not reside in the extremes.
To go back to the ice cream analogy, it's like if the only two flavors were pistachio and bubble gum and the ice cream industry blamed consumers for not buying enough ice cream! Voter registration is low and turnout horrible because most elections are not competitive with candidates who generally represent only a sliver of American thought. We need more political flavors represented where diverse candidates have an honest chance to win an election.
Michigan is a good example of a state that elected and reelected many strong female candidates with a strong party structure, an impressive economic base and a diverse population. Guess what? They also have open primaries like 40 states and non-partisan voter registration like 20 states.
Alaska is another great example of a rural state with a large indigenous population that has adopted an election system that provides more choices, more options and more competitive elections. This is the second election where nonpartisan primaries were used with the top four vote getters going to the general and then ranked choice voting was used in the general to determine the winner. And, Nevada voters just passed the same election reform with all candidates running together in a unified primary and the top five vote getters advance to the general election where ranked choice voting is used.
I think that is what independents want: choice, consensus and an effective government that represents most people most of the time. In fact, that is what most voters want. Period.
Bob Perls, a registered independent is a former New Mexico state representative and founder/president of New Mexico Open Elections
This article originally appeared on Las Cruces Sun-News: Perls: What do independent voters think of this election?