ON THE FRONT LINES: We should value independent candidates

As 2020 approaches, many different leaders and politicians are announcing their run for presidency. One of those is Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks, who is running as an independent candidate.

In the wake of Schultz's announcement, countless op-eds and feature pieces were written criticizing his decision. Many claimed that it is absolutely irresponsible for Schultz to even consider running independently. Schultz, running as a centrist, claims to be socially liberal and economically conservative. He separates himself from bipartisanship. And this, many assert, would split the potential votes of the Democratic Party and cause current President Donald J. Trump to be re-elected, a nightmare in many eyes.

What people do not realize is that Schultz’s goal is not only to defeat Trump, but to voice his own opinions. 

While so many of us preach about the repulsive nature of our bipartisan politics, why do we refuse to accept anyone who dares to step outside the Democratic vs. Republican zone? If we want to create a change and destroy the two-party system that America has nurtured for centuries, we must support individual opinions. 

And yes, Schultz’s candidacy might destroy any chance that Democrats have in the election against Trump. But, if a large enough population is supporting Schultz in 2020 to split the Democratic vote, then that is because they actually agree with him. Why crucify voters for voicing their genuine opinions? 

Voters should not be encouraged to simply side with either Democrats or Republicans, rather, they should cast a vote for the candidate who most closely represents their views. That is what democracy is. Criticizing voters for voting who they align with is ridiculous and undemocratic. 

While I do not necessarily agree with everything Schultz stands for, this trend is seen universally through a variety of independent candidates. The most recent criticism of independent candidates was seen during the midterm elections. New Jersey’s 2018 midterm elections brought then-incumbent Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) against Republican candidate Robert Hugin. 

Menendez won at just 54 percent, but not all those who voted for Menendez fully supported him. Many independent voters were encouraged to sway Left or Right for the sake of partisanship and “not splitting the votes.” Many supporters of independent candidate Madelyn Hoffman, for example, swayed Left, giving support to Menendez. But what would happen if all voters were to show support for who they genuinely supported? 

The same ideology was carried with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) when he ran for president in 2016. Many Sanders supporters considered it a “waste of a vote” to actively vote for him. So, they voted for Hillary Clinton. This caused the Left-leaning votes to be split, giving Trump the victory and leading many anti-Trump Americans to blame independent voters for this result. But in reality, this is no fault of the Sanders voters. It is no surprise that the Democratic Party has a range of wildly differing opinions. Three hundred million people cannot be represented in two parties. If anything is to blame for this, it is the cycle of repeatedly sticking to bipartisan politics.

Change in the divisive and harmful bipartisan structure of our nation cannot happen if we discourage anyone from voting for who they truly believe in. Voting based on the projected popular vote just to uplift a certain party and its members is not representative of a democracy. Change in the bipartisan structure of our nation needs to begin, now more than ever. That road to change might have bumps and it may lead to harmful candidates to be elected, such as Trump, but in the long-run, it is beneficial for America.

The alternative is a perpetual two-party system, a system in which Trump was able to be elected. Many voters today cast their decisions based on party loyalty. “Virtually all of the partisan groups voted more than 85 percent of the time for their own party’s candidate,” according to Oxford University Press's Academic Insights for the Thinking World. Destroying this mindset and encouraging independent minds is the first step in creating a more representative America.

Whether you align with Schultz or Sanders, it is important not to discourage individual opinion and proper democracy.


Editor's Note: A previous version of this article stated, "Three million people cannot be represented in two parties." It has been updated to reflect the United States population of approximately three hundred million.

Priyanka Bansal is a Rutgers Business School junior double majoring in business and journalism and media studies. She is the managing editor at The Daily Targum.

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*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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