Michael J. Totten is weird.

Some people really are just, well, independent.

For me it’s real simple. In some ways I like the Democrats. And in other ways I like the Republicans. If that makes me weird, then I guess I’m just weird.


The 21st Century is the most complicated time in the known history of the world. We have the same eternal problems, plus a host of brand new ones. Globalization and technology are making the world one place. Riyadh is in New York̢۪s backyard. And vice versa. New technologies present new dilemmas unthinkable in the past. Revolutions in media and publishing encourage more diversity of information and opinion than was ever possible before. Our binary political system can̢۪t possibly accommodate every view of the world. A third party could hardly do any better. Even our two major parties are riven by factions.

The Democrats are a testy coalition of greens, labor unions, welfare statists, neoliberals, academics, secular humanists, racial and ethnic minority advocates, technocrats, and left-libertarians. The Republicans try to staple together right-libertarians, traditionalists, religious fundamentalists, neoconservative interventionists, and paleoconservative isolationists. Party-mindedness is often awkward or even fraudulent because each party can be split into several. If the US had a parliamentary system, that̢۪s exactly what would happen. Many independents could then find a home.

If we had a proportional representation system, that’s true. Most parliamentary systems that run out a first-past-the-post system have much more party discipline that we have in the U.S. (see the United Kingdom, for example). But the downside of an “every man has his home” party structure with PR is that, usually, the tail wags the dog. The most extreme elements have disproportionate power because they can threaten to take their ball and go home–leave the coalition–if they don’t get their way. See Israel. Or Italy.

Our system is, frankly, comparatively dull. They’re both, on the main, centrist parties. They’ve been less so rhetorically over the last 20 years or so because gerrymandered congressional districts have given us a fewer candidates that have to appeal to a broad base. But as parties the Democrats have been shifting right since roughly 1992 and the Republicans have been shifting left since, well, 1932.

Did I mention that Michael J. Totten was weird?

I like Hillary Clinton and John McCain in equal measure for different reasons.

I dislike both for different reasons. I admire Clinton’s brains and political savvy but not a lot else. I respect McCain’s heroism as a POW and his patriotism, but have long since tired of his, well, independent schtick.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Moe Lane says:

    “Our system is, frankly, comparatively dull.”

    Dull has its points, although I would like to see the current gerrymandering that we suffer from go away.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Yep–dull is largely good. It doesn’t get people too excited, which means most people don’t pay much attention let alone vote, but party switches aren’t catastrophic, either.

  3. melvin toast says:

    Dull means we’re not worried about hearing a knock on our door in the middle of night.

    Bush “stole” the election and 4 years later he may “win” the election. Usually when people are accused of stealing elections it doesn’t turn out so good. Jeffords backstabbing switch resulted in people ignoring him. Dems don’t trust traitors either. We may not be safe from terrorists but I think we’re fairly safe from ourselves.