Jacob Garber: In defense of independents

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Jacob Garber

The first time I felt politically inadequate was during my second week of GW.

While talking to other freshmen – who were also worried about the nervous introductions that accompany the first few weeks of college life – I told them my major: English. And then they asked about my political stance.

I explained that I was a moderate.

“Moderates are bullshit,” one student said. “You gotta choose one.”

Now that election season is underway, I’m reminded of that freshman year instance and how alienating political conversations here can be. In a single instant, the other student had completely written off my thoughts.

In the upcoming weeks, as red and blue signs plaster corridors around campus, we independents will put in our headphones and walk through November like any other month.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m planning to vote in the presidential election this November. I just don’t plan to wear my political persuasions on my sleeve. I may not rally in front of the White House or refresh Politico every 10 minutes for updates, but that doesn’t mean that my opinion is any less relevant.

Political involvement is not necessarily an indicator of social awareness. A Democratic or Republican candidate may stick to the party line, but when it comes to the issues, he or she may still be utterly disconnected from the concerns of followers and supporters. Independents, looking in from the sidelines, can offer unique and unbiased insight by voting based on issues instead of along party lines.

Above all else, I am bothered by the emptiness of political speeches. Politicians spit evasive answers to scripted questions. Mitt Romney refuses to release his tax returns. His reasoning?

“Our church doesn’t publish how much people have given,” he told Parade Magazine.

Political speeches are full of promises and crowd-pleasing gimmicks, but they are often devoid of any real information.

“What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply,” Barack Obama said in his inaugural address.

Call me a cynic, but I do not believe the state of political arguments will ever change. As long as there are political parties, there will be a constant tug-of-war that hinders progress.

But by rejecting opaque and meaningless political rhetoric, independents are able to judge the news objectively. We provide a balance in society. We are the bystanders who try to make sense of the tension between both sides. In a world of bias, we are the ones who maintain level heads and listen to all sides of an argument – not just the jargon of speechwriters.

Jacob Garber, a sophomore majoring in English, is a Hatchet columnist.

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