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No matter how you voted on Election Day and no matter what your party affiliation, one thing is clear: The independent revolution has begun.
Newly registered voters with no partisan affiliation now outnumber Democrats and Republicans combined. We officially comprise more than 20 percent of the electorate. And unofficially, nearly half of all Americans consider themselves independent regardless of party labels. Unless the two major parties make some fundamental changes, at this rate they will both end up in the minority.
As an independent congressional candidate, I received support from across the political spectrum. I want to thank the 57,836 citizens (as of this writing) who voted for me. That's the largest number ever cast for a challenger here. Those voters demonstrated the courage to follow their conscience, not just follow the crowd.
I am also grateful for the hard work of so many dedicated volunteers and the generosity of individual donors. Without them, there would have been no campaign. Rather than raising millions of dollars from big corporations, they knocked on doors, made phone calls, wrote online messages and even sent good old-fashioned postcards. This was grass-roots democracy at its best.
I thoroughly enjoyed running for Congress. This experience allowed me to meet a lot of terrific people, hear their concerns, and visit many parts of our district that I might not otherwise have seen. I am proud that we offered our fellow Americans a real choice for a change.
We mounted an effective and creative campaign, bringing together people with diverse ideas and common interests. We showed that it is possible for an independent candidacy to challenge the entrenched machine by running on issues rather than engaging in personal attacks.
Despite our best efforts, Kevin McCarthy is going back to the U.S. House of Representatives along with most other incumbents. In the coming weeks and months, those politicians will have to deal with the very issues we discussed during the campaign.
Without some miraculous reconciliation between the warring sides, our government will either make drastic cuts in social services and national security, or raise taxes, or both. No matter what they do in Washington, we will all have to live with the consequences of that mess.
The message I got from people throughout the district was clear: Everyone is fed up with the bickering. While this might not have been a referendum on our two-party system, neither side received a mandate. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have vowed to continue blocking each other's efforts. In my view, that deliberate disunity will not help our country.
Another thing that will not help is the ongoing attempt by those in power to divide us against each other. We are not enemies. We are not left or right, red or blue. Most of us want the same things. Abraham Lincoln's warning words ring as true today as they did 154 years ago.
To succeed in politics, one must learn how to put aside differences and work well with others. On that basis, members of the 112th Congress deserve an "F" grade. "Cooperation" and "compromise" have become dirty words in their vocabulary. It's no wonder that so many voters are feeling frustrated.
If you are not satisfied with the job that our representatives are doing, then I would encourage you to do your job as a citizen. Communicate with your elected public officials. Tell them what you want. If they don't respond, throw the bums out next time.
Better yet, join us. Our numbers are growing.
It used to be that party registration was required to participate in primary elections. But under California's new law, that is no longer true. Except for president of the United States and county central committee offices, all voters may select any candidate regardless of party. Since our state usually has limited say in deciding who will be the presidential nominees, affiliation is of little consequence.
Besides, why should the Democratic and Republican parties control the electoral process? I say, it's time to take our democracy back. Let's send a loud and clear message: The party's over!
And what are my future political plans? Watch this spot.
Terry Phillips of Bakersfield is an independent journalist who ran for California's new 23rd Congressional District seat. Reach him at www.TerryPhillips.org. Community Voices is an expanded commentary of 650 to 700 words. The Californian reserves the right to edit all submissions for length and clarity.