On the Independent Voter

Emanuel Leutze (American, Schwäbisch Gmünd 1816–1868 Washington, D.C.) - Washington Crossing the Delaware - Google Art Project.jpg

Washington Crossing the Delaware” – which he managed to do without “rocking the boat…”

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In the last post, I noted that I was about to take a 10-day “family trip north:”

Three cars, carrying five adults and seven younger folk, ranging in age from 10 to 22.  Among other places, we’ll be visiting Valley Forge, the Liberty Bell and Philadelphia in general…  Last but not least we’ll see Hershey PA … “The Sweetest Place On Earth.”

I’m now writing two days after that family vacation ended, on Sunday, July 3d.

CB Terminology and Trucker SlangWhich means we all managed to get home – in our three-car convoy – on the eve of July 4th.

(It also meant that we had to drive home through FOJ-Weekend traffic, thought without the use of CB lingo, as shown at left.  We used cell phones…)

The three-car convoy lasted until Sunday, the 3d, when one of our three cars “peeled off” after a stop for gas – and fresh peaches – in Spartanburg SC.  The remaining two cars split up near Commerce GA, at Exit 149 on I-85.  (After dropping off a niece and her two kids.)

That left me alone, in my car, for the first time in 10 days.  But by the time I got back on the road – after getting some iced coffee – there was yet another traffic jam, further down I-85, closer to Atlanta.  (Thank you ATL.)  So I ended up getting home about 8:30 Sunday night.  And as noted, this was after a grueling two-day, thousand-mile-plus drive from Doylestown PA.

(A lot of those “grueling traffic jams” had to do with the fact that – in the America psyche – It’s Not Just Your Car, It’s Your Freedom.  But “too many dang cars” is a whole ‘nother topic entirely…)

Getting back to the grueling drive home:  Saturday we left our family reunion about 1:30, then got to drive down through Independence-Day-Weekend traffic.  (Especially heavy around Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore, Washington D.C., and Richmond VA.)

That left us with 550 miles left to drive on Sunday.  (Two days ago.)  But the good news is that – even after all that “quality time” together – we’re all still speaking to each other.  (Mostly.)

graves-imgTurning to more pleasant topics:  On Friday afternoon – July 1 –  we visited the Washington Crossing Historic Park. (The one on the Pennsylvania side, as seen at right.)  

Which of course makes this a perfect time and place to bring up Independence Day in the U.S.:

Independence Day is a day of family celebrations [with] a great deal of emphasis on the American tradition of political freedom…  Independence Day is a patriotic holiday for celebrating the positive aspects of the United States…  Above all, people in the United States express and give thanks for the freedom and liberties fought by the first generation of many of today’s Americans. (E.A.)

Which brings up the fact that – somewhere along the line – I intended to make this post more about the recent road trip than about Independence Day itself.

For example, I was going to mention what John Steinbeck wrote, about how “We don’t take a trip.  A trip takes us.”  (See also Quote by John Steinbeck.)  I also planned to cite a year-ago post – A Mid-summer Travelog – from my companion blog, along with “I pity the fool!”

The latter post was on Ralph Waldo Emerson – at left – and his saying, “Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.”

Which raises two timely topics for this July 4th.

One topic is Independence Day itself.  The other is the growing number of Independent Voters in this country.  And according to Wikipedia, Independents are those voters who don’t align with either major political party, Republican or Democrat:

An independent is variously defined as a voter who votes for candidates and issues rather than on the basis of a political ideology or partisanship;  a voter who does not have long-standing loyalty to, or identification with, a political party;  a voter who does not usually vote for the same political party from election to election;  or a voter who self-describes as an independent.

And their numbers seem to be growing, which could be either good or bad.

For example, Wikipedia noted first that the definition itself is “controversial and fraught with implications.”  And that according to one theory, the growth of Independent Voters is a bad sign for the country.  (For reasons including but not limited to:  “independents may be more susceptible to the appeals of third-party candidates,” and that “the more independent voters, the more volatile elections and the political system will be.” Which could explain our present political situation…)

But personally I have my own theory.

My theory is that the American political system was designed to keep “moving back toward the middle.”  That is, once a party becomes dominant – for the moment – it tends to pay too much attention to what we might call its lunatic fringe.  Put another way, if one party dominates too long, it tends to move too far away from the middle.  (Left or right, as the case may be.)


And so – traditionally – In response to being out of power, the other party has – generally speaking – tended to move back toward the middle of the spectrum.  It does so primarily to reach out to those voters in the middle.  (Those voters who decide elections.)

But that hasn’t happened lately.

One or both parties – it seems – have refused to compromise, and compromise is the keystone of a American democracy.  (See The Spirit of Compromise: Why Governing Demands It and Campaigning Undermines It, and/or The Spirit of Compromise.)

In other words, one or both parties have moved toward black and white thinking.  Psychologists call that splitting, or “the failure in a person’s thinking to bring together the dichotomy of both positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a cohesive, realistic whole:”

It is a common defense mechanism used by many people.  The individual tends to think in extremes (i.e., an individual’s actions and motivations are all good or all bad with no middle ground)…  Splitting creates instability in relationships because one person can be viewed as either personified virtue or personified vice…  [This] leads to chaotic and unstable relationship patterns, identity diffusion, and mood swings.

So one solution to today’s political-party black-and-white thinking – it seems to me – is the growth in the number of voters who identify themselves as Independents.  The problem there is that Independent or Moderate Voters are losing power in the process of one or both parties deciding on a particular candidate.  (As for President of the United States.)

Which brings up the biggest problem of being an Independent Voter.  That problem is:

“One must always choose the lesser of two weevils!”


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The upper image is courtesy of Washington Crossing the Delaware – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Washington Crossing the Delaware is an 1851 oil-on-canvas painting by the German American artist Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze.  It commemorates General George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River on the night of December 25–26, 1776, during the American Revolutionary War.  That action was the first move in a surprise attack against the Hessianforces at Trenton, New Jersey, in the Battle of Trenton.

I also used the image and related information in my companion blog.  (See On Independence Day, 2016.)  There I noted that “Wikipedia listed inaccuracies” in the painting – by Leutze, working in Germany in 1850 – which included:  The American flag in the boat “did not exist at the time of Washington’s crossing;”  The boat was the wrong model, and much too small;  The painting showed “phantom light sources besides the upcoming sun,” while the crossing itself “took place in the dead of night;”  and finally: “Washington’s stance … would have been very hard to maintain in the stormy conditions of the crossing[, and] would have risked capsizing the boat.”  (See also artistic licence.)

“And speaking of rocking the boat, Washington and his fellow Founding Fathers did in fact rock the boat, according to the British during the Revolutionary War.  (In the sense of causing “trouble where none is welcome;  to disturb a situation that is otherwise stable and satisfactory.”)  See also John Paul Jones’ CLOSEST call, in my companion blog.  It included a British caricature of the man they called “the pirate Paul Jones.”  (To us of course he’s the Father of the American Navy.)”


Re:  Cars representing freedom.  For a different take, see The Car Once Symbolized Freedom… ← The Urban Country, which noted in part:  “Things have changed. We took it too far.”

The image of flags on gravestones is courtesy of Washington Crossing Historic Park – Official Site.  The caption and original image can be found under the “Soldier’s Graves” link:

From the parking area at the Thompson-Neely House, it’s a short walk across the Delaware Canal to the memorial cemetery where an unknown number of Continental soldiers who died during the December 1776 encampment in Bucks County are buried.

The article noted that no American soldiers were killed during the crossing or the First Battle of Trenton, but that “others did succumb to exposure, disease or previous injuries.”  The article also noted a second battle, on or about January 2, 1777, involving Lord Cornwallis:

General Lord Charles Cornwallis of the British Army had been looking forward to a trip home to England…  In fact, on December 27 he had sent his baggage aboard the HMS Bristol.  But after the disaster at Trenton, his leave was promptly cancelled and he was ordered to Princeton.  A very unhappy Cornwallis took command of the British forces there on January 1, 1777.  He had one clear mission: to find the American army and destroy it.

In this second Battle of Trenton, Washington held off the attacking British forces until the evening of January 2, then withdrew north from Trenton, which led to his victory in the Battle of Princeton, on January 3, 1777:  “Washington’s timely withdrawal set the stage for a successful engagement with the enemy at Princeton the following day.”

The full Quote by John Steinbeck on the uniqueness of individual journeys:

Once a journey is designed, equipped, and put in process, a new factor enters and takes over. A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys.  It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness.  A journey is a person in itself;  no two are alike.  And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless.  We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip;  a trip takes us.  Tour masters, schedules, reservations, brass-bound and inevitable, dash themselves to wreckage on the personality of the trip.  Only when this is recognized can the blown-in-the glass bum relax and go along with it.  Only then do the frustrations fall away.  In this a journey is like marriage.  The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.  (E.A.)

Re:  “Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist… I freely translated that to:  ““I pity the fool who doesn’t do pilgrimages and otherwise push the envelope, even at the advance stage of his life.”

I used the “lunatic fringe” cartoon in Is this “deja vu all over again?”  The cartoon itself is courtesy of Peanuts Comic Strip, April 26, 1961 on GoComics.com.  Wikipedia said the term was “popularized by Theodore Roosevelt, who wrote in 1913 that, ‘Every reform movement has a lunatic fringe.’”

The lower image is courtesy of pinterest.com.  See also Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World – YouTubeLesser of Two Evils – TV TropesReader Opinion: Clinton v Trump and “the lesser of two weevils, Master and Commander: A Movie Review – Maccabee Society, and/or Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World – Wikipedia.

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