One of the most important features of a democratic form of government is that there is a process of negotiation, compromise, and agreement among the lawmakers. Nothing is a foregone conclusion; there are always areas of conflict that must be resolved.
But the American political landscape has seen a drastic shift away from that philosophy in the last couple of decades. The only real suspense generated from Congress and the White House comes on election nights; the shift of power from left to right in the House, Senate, and presidency determines the fate of almost every piece of legislation to be brought up. Votes are strictly along party lines, and a president from the ruling party will most certainly sign whatever is sent from the Hill.
The whole mess is preceded by days or weeks of posturing, filibustering, and sound bites. The deception and twisting of facts never end. Talk radio prattles on about it before and after, social media goes wild with exaggerations, and the voting public feels magnetically drawn to the extreme of their party without any hope of basing their views on their personal beliefs.
And where has it gotten us? Deep into debt, with soaring taxes, a stagnant economy, and a hopelessly gridlocked government.
In short, this isn’t working.
It’s the kind of mess that Scott Smith is trying to break through with his independent campaign for president, and his ideas have gained some attention.
It’s widely understood that it is nearly impossible to get elected to any state or national office without the backing of a party. It takes too much money, too many connections, and too much experience. Knowledge of the issues and a persuasive manner aren’t enough.
For that reason, any serious candidate knows that the only way to have a realistic chance at winning is to do two things: First, the candidate must be aligned with one of the two major political parties, and two, the candidate must essentially take the party’s platform lock, stock, and barrel.
Smith instead advocates for a more widespread incidence of legislators breaking party lines. It’s a philosophy reminiscent of the 1980s. In both 1980 and 1984, Ronald Reagan won the office of President largely with the help of voters known as Reagan Democrats–registered Democrats who nevertheless voted for the Republican candidate.
The concept of a heavy defection from a straight-party vote sounds completely foreign now, but Reagan’s ideas were viewed positively by midstream voters. He was seen as a common-sense fiscal manager and a tough player on the world stage. This image resonated with voters, and he won both elections easily.
Smith is appealing to the same group with a common-sense approach to economics, explained fully in his book. In it, he argues that the material economy–the movement of money in exchange for actual goods and services–differs from the monetary economy–the trading of futures, stocks, and other financial tools.
His belief is that the former should be taxed minimally and the latter more heavily, freeing up money for spending by working Americans. This spending will stimulate further economic growth by the people in the material economy, who far outnumber those in the monetary economy.
There is no question that Smith’s ideas about taxation, along with the aggressive payoff of the national debt and abolition of the deficit, will carry a lot of weight with voters. What remains to be seen is whether enough voters will break ranks with their registrations and support the candidate in this run for office.
Will there be Trump Independents and Clinton (or maybe Sanders) Independents to carry Smith to the White House, or will the draw of decades of like-minded voting be too powerful for the rising tide of discontent to overcome? November will tell whether the time is right for a seismic shift in party politics and thinking in America.