Open letter to independent voters

Note: For clarity, I am addressing voters who are “independent” in the sense of not affiliated with any party. In certain states (Oregon included), independents are registered as “Non-affiliated,” because a party exists that includes “Independent” in the name.

Dear fellow independents:

We constitute over 40 percent of the American electorate, thus outnumbering both Republicans and Democrats. We have an awesome power to steer the future of our country. Will we use it wisely? And what does “wisely” even mean for independents?

By definition, we don’t all think alike. We don’t have collective discipline. We don’t speak with one voice. But we have in common not fully identifying with the existing parties, and in particular with the two parties that have historically alternated in power.

My hope is that we can agree to seek a return to civility, social justice and freedom of expression as the cornerstones of a caring, democratic, substantive America. If we do argue, the path is arduous but clear.

The first step is to reverse the rampant decline of civility that we are experiencing. No party being exempt, the lion’s share of responsibility for that decline falls squarely on the present president and his enabling Republican-led Congress. This November, it is essential to terminate the Republican majorities in both chambers. Coming November 2020, we should ensure that this unfit president is replaced.

The second step will be to reform our political system, to once again empower and serve all Americans. No trivial task, which will require a visionary president, and a courageous Congress. We should start forging the latter now.

For November, names are already on the ballot, and in most districts and states the realistic choice is between Democrats and Republicans. If your district is like that, I hope that the vast majority of you vote Democrat, if he or she is competitive, rather than spending your vote on a non-competitive third-party candidate. This will get us to step 1 (reverse the decline), even if in most cases it will not get us to step 2 (reform the system).

Occasionally, we have a real chance of already working towards step 2. My district, Oregon’s Second Congressional District, is among those. The choice is still only red or blue. But Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner, facing 20-year veteran Greg Walden (R-OR2), is not a typical party candidate.

She is running on a platform that transcends partisanship, rather than defending cast-in-stone Democratic positions. The Independent Party of Oregon endorses her, not its discredited nominee. She is crisscrossing the District, listening to people across the political spectrum. She has a natural understanding of, and empathy for, our mostly rural communities who have traditionally been Republican. She is advocating for common sense strategies, which balance economic development with environmental responsibility and the caring for one’s neighbor that characterizes our communities.

In OR2, “Non-affiliated” voters can elect Jamie. At 33 percent, we rank a close second to Republicans (34 percent) and ahead of Democrats (26 percent). Neither Walden nor Jamie can win if most of us vote for their opponent.

If you vote in OR2, please join me in voting McLeod-Skinner. If elected, she will be a breath of fresh air in Congress. She will reach across the aisles, seeking compromise, valuing moderation, and making well-informed decisions. She will not hesitate to tackle the tough, complex issues that need solution. And one of those issues is to reform our political system, as advocated by a fast growing number of Americans.

If you are in another district, perhaps you don’t have a candidate like Jamie. Still, carefully consider your options, and vote. And please vote for who (Democrat, independent, or third-party candidate) has the realistic chance to reverse the decline of civility, giving us hope towards an ultimate reform of our political system.

Antonio Baptista

Mount Hood Parkdale


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