In 1980, I signed a petition to add John Anderson to the North Carolina Presidential ballot. Anderson, elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1961 from Illinois and re-elected nine times as a Republican, ran as an independent.
My friend Dennis Wicker, a Democrat who was running for a first term to the N.C. House of Representatives, heard about my support (though I was and am a registered Democrat) for Anderson was furious. “I believe in a strong two-party system,” said Dennis, who went on to serve seven terms in the House and two as Lt. Governor. “You should too.”
Since John Anderson ran, a lot has changed, with Republicans serving three terms as Governor, and gaining full control of the General Assembly. Democrat Roy Cooper unseated incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory after one term last fall. North Carolina has two parties with a strong grip on the state’s political infrastructure.
But, a closer look tells you the “unaffiliated” registered voters are in charge, but without governing power. As of Jan. 1 of this year, nearly 30 percent of registered voters do not want to be either Democratic or Republican, votes the two major parties must have in large numbers to win elections.
In general, credit goes to the unaffiliated voters for the successes here of Trump, Cooper and Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr. Up and down the North Carolina ballot, unaffiliated voters should be acknowledged by the winners. But, with the elections long gone, the unaffiliated voters are getting little to no respect. Discussions are about Democrats and Republicans without regard to the more than 2 million unaffiliated registered voters in North Carolina. In the General Assembly, no one speaks of or for or directly represents that large block. It’s Republicans vs. Democrats with no attention to those not registered as either.
Unfortunately, there is no “unaffiliated” party to place candidates on the ballots and get the same attention as the two major political parties. There’s no post-election “unaffiliated” thought from government, the public, or the media. One day in the near future, the unaffiliated voter registration in North Carolina will be larger than either of the two major parties.
With all due respect to my friend Dennis Wicker, it’s time to walk away from the strict two-party system. It’s time for the unaffiliated voters to be on equal footing with the Democrats and Republicans by forming the Unaffiliated Party, not just in North Carolina but across the United States. The unaffiliated voters are determining our elected leaders, and that will happen for many more elections to come. It’s time to sign another petition.
Jim Pomeranz is a Cary writer and blogger.