I was intrigued by Walter Nicklin’s editorial column in last week’s Rappahannock News. His focus, as with the majority of the country, was on the dysfunctional drama playing out in Washington, D.C. But this dissatisfaction with party politics extends even deeper within our Commonwealth and is palpable in the run up to statewide elections on Nov. 5.
It is a sad state of affairs when most Virginia voters say they are choosing their next governor based on who they dislike less, rather than who they prefer more. How did we get here? There are many reasons, but consider that once again we are limited to candidates of the two major political parties and their dogmatic agendas. Yes, there is a third party Libertarian on the ballot, but will 2013 be remembered as the lost opportunity for a true independent candidate?
We can only wonder what this race would look like if an independent was on the ballot. It would have been a meaningful litmus test to gauge whether Virginians are beginning to truly tire of party politics rife with partisan rhetoric, attack ads and big money. Unfortunately, without party machine support and funding from “agenda groups” outside the Commonwealth, most people think that an independent effort is not viable. Too bad. I think there may have been a wellspring of grassroots support.
Fortunately, the political winds of change are already beginning to blow as it becomes more apparent during this government shutdown that voters want less extremist posturing in exchange for balance, compromise and independent thought leadership. Already, this independent climate exists in many local elections. Here in Rappahannock, local candidates for the board of supervisors, the school board and other constitutional offices are non-partisan. People are elected based on their ideas and qualifications rather than by their red or blue affiliation. Money is not a factor.
Many of the best ideas start locally. How refreshing would it be to see statewide or General Assembly elections mimic this local election pattern? In our time of political brinksmanship for the benefit of the Democratic or Republican parties I believe many citizens would appreciate another choice on election day. Candidates independent of party platforms and tangled private interests could bring a much needed spirit of compromise and a fresh bipartisan perspective to our toxic political environment.
The gubernatorial contest of 2013 will be remembered as another negative campaign between entrenched parties with deep pockets. Unfortunately, it may also be remembered as a lost opportunity for a grand experiment by an independent candidate. Too bad, as many Virginians still tell pollsters they wish they had another choice on Nov. 5.