Hide Techdirt is off for the long weekend! We'll be back with our regular posts tomorrow.

Sergey Brin To All Elected Politicians: Withdraw From Your Parties And Go Independent

from the end-bipartisanship-now dept

As I’ve noted before, when I was first eligible to vote, the voter registration card required you to check off party affiliation. Along with the various parties, it had an option for “Independent.” I actually found even that term to have certain connotations, and so I just left that section blank, and wondered what would happen. Eventually the state sent me confirmation of my voting status, and in the space for party affiliation it had typed out, in all capital letters: “BLANK.” I thought that was great. Since then I’ve generally considered that to be my party affiliation: BLANK.

I tend to think that partisan politics is a big problem, and am always interested in truly independent politicians — a few of whom always pop up every election season. This year, for example, we’ve got Angus King in Maine, who ran (and won) as an independent for the US Senate (as he had formerly done in winning governor of the state). I got to meet King earlier this year, and without being beholden to partisan lines on things, he seemed a lot more reasonable than many politicians on key issues. Plenty of other politicians I’ve met seem reasonable on certain issues, but also are often pressured to toe the party line on certain issues, even if they’re apologetic about it.

In the end, the horse race “us vs. them” becomes more important than good governance, and that’s a problem.

Google founder Sergey Brin seems similarly concerned about the state of partisan politics these days, noting that his “dread” about the latest election round had more to do with partisan politics, rather than any particular candidate. As such, he’s urging politicians to drop out of their parties:

…no matter what the outcome, our government will still be a giant bonfire of partisanship. It is ironic since whenever I have met with our elected officials they are invariably thoughtful, well-meaning people. And yet collectively 90% of their effort seems to be focused on how to stick it to the other party.

So my plea to the victors — whoever they might be: please withdraw from your respective parties and govern as independents in name and in spirit. It is probably the biggest contribution you can make to the country.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had politicians governing based on principles rather than on what will harm the other guys?

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Sergey Brin To All Elected Politicians: Withdraw From Your Parties And Go Independent”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Jay (profile) says:

Won't work

James Madison stated in Federalist Paper 10 the horrors of our electoral system. He warned the US not to form factions when he did so for his own run for the presidency. I wish it weren’t so, but people join in groups and form communities of like minded individuals. That’s what it means to be a social creature. We enjoy learning the best news about the interests we like. Factions will happen. What the US has desperately needed is a recognition of those factions in the political system. Sadly, Duverger wasn’t born in the time of the Revolution. He learned from it when he created proportional representation.

Brin should point out how gerrymandering leads to “safe” elections for some candidates. He should point out that our electoral college is a horrible system for electing a president from a time long outdated. He should point out how hard it is to get fair representation without a media that tries to call everything down the middle.

He has a number of valid arguments to make. He doesn’t have to read in the footsteps of James Madison in regards to reforming the system. We just need a new one that better represents the populace.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Won't work

Madison wasn’t alone. Many of the other founders were of the same opinion. Ironically, these same founders started the party system. Jefferson explained this as an inevitable consequence of the nature of man.

In other words, political parties aren’t desirable, but inevitable because people who believe similarly will inevitably form coalitions with each other.

I’m not against people forming coalitions, but I do think that the institutionalization of political parties was a grave mistake. If people want to congregate and pool resources, I’m fine with that, but these political groups should have no institutional power or privilege that individuals don’t have.

PRMan (profile) says:

Re: Won't work

Of course people form into groups. The way you mitigate it is like in Europe where they have parliaments consisting of 5-7 parties. The parties can’t stick it to the only other guy. They constantly have to make deals to get things done and that way, each percentage of the country gets some of what they want.

Here we get no new legislation, which…

Actually, nevermind. Our system is better…

Anonymous Coward says:

Wouldn't it be nice...

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had politicians governing based on principles

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had an educated, literate population of voters?

Then, the big problem you’d have to solve is that no single voter has the time or energy to become expert in all the issues. And even to gain a decent familiarity with the political issues of the day, you have to rely on others to summarize for you.

But some of those others have axes to grind, and will invariably mislead and deceive. So who do you trust?

From earliest times, human affiliations have been based on kinship?extending into tribes.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Choosing a party makes it easier to vote. You don’t have to know anything about the candidate except D or R, and when things go wrong, you can always just blame D or R.

We believe every D thinks exactly alike and every R thinks exactly alike, and candidates get called to the carpet if they don’t fit the mold. Whatever we call ourselves, we believe every D or R thinks exactly like us.

We also believe D and R are diametrically opposed on everything, and everything is can be solved with the choice of D or R.

D or R makes the world simple, makes politics easy to comprehend, and easy for media to cover.

I mean really, imagine if you went to a football game, and there were three teams playing at once. How can you have a winner and a loser when there are more than two options?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If politicians didn’t have a party to tell them how to vote, then they’d have to do their jobs (and actually read/learn about what they are voting on)

The job is impossible: No human, not even a genius employed full time on the matter, has the time or energy to ompetently address all the issues which we expect the Congress to handle these days.

The persistent phenomenon of legislation written by lobbyists highlights one problem: The Congressional delegates require a much, much larger staff.

The executive branch grew enormously during the 20th century. Congress did not keep up. Instead, Congress outsourced detailed regulation to the executive agencies.

Increasing staff resources allocated to Congress poses some political problem?in a climate where people knee-jerk to accusations of goverment waste. But each representative represents better than half-a-million people these days, and is expected to help oversee a federal budget amounting to almost $4 trillion. The staffs are ludicrously undersized for the job.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Politicians centralize power, which always result in an overload of the central authority and a massive bureaucracy to try and deal with this overload. When too many people are employed by a government the economy suffers because the parasitic load of government is too much. Further people become over reliant on the government to fix their problems, rather than finding their own local solutions.
What is required is to decentralize decision making, but this is an unnatural act for most politicians.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The took that power upon themselves.

Not quite. They asked for it with the 17th amendment and we the people gave it to them by ratifying it. The 17th amendment was the beginning of concentrated federal power. Prior to that, the Senate, representing the individual stat governments, had the prerogative to keep as much power in the hands of the states.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I am against it because it undermines the entire idea that we are not a pure democracy (which is mob rule in a suit) but a federation of independent states. If you want to argue which of a pure democracy or a constitutional federation is a better system of government then we can have that conversation. But as it relates to the US, we were formed as a constitutional federation and I firmly believe that we have strayed far from that path.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

We are more than a constitutional federation of states. We had that battle during the Civil War. We ate a public commonwealth which means we do what the people decide, not the states. Something to allow more people to have access to democracy is not a bad thing and I find that to be a questionable view to hold.

The Founding Fathers were not perfect and thought the Constitution to be a living document for all to change as need be to ensure a better union. Taking away the rights of the people to hold their Senators accountable through direct democracy will just make them more readily available to state special interests and that would be a horrible solution for all.

Mr. Applegate says:

Re: Re: Re:

“The job is impossible: No human, not even a genius employed full time on the matter, has the time or energy to ompetently address all the issues which we expect the Congress to handle these days.”

Hell, I’m not even directly involved in politics, but a rather routinely make the time to read and understand (at least at a basic level) many of the bills I think may affect me. Yes, they are hundreds of pages, but if I intend to write my representatives about an issue (which I also do several times a year) then I need to take the time to read and understand what is in a bill.

Frankly if they can’t be bothered to take the time to read what they are voting on, and then ask questions then they shouldn’t take the job!

They have numerous resources at their disposal to have help understanding things that they aren’t experts in. The name of the department evades me at the moment, but any congressman can utilize them to get a non-partisan answer on any issue. They can fall back on state government for information on how the bill might affect the state…

They don’t have time is a cop out answer! They took the job do the F’ing work.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Just to add to the above thought, If they actually had to read and research what they were voting on they might not have enough time to vote so much CRAP into law.

I would rather have one good piece of legislation than five or ten crappy ones that weren’t written by, or even read by the people that are supposed to represent the interests of the people who elected them to office. (Not the ones who bought them off)

Anonymous Coward says:

I think a big part of the partisan politics is the fact we only have 2 true parties. That makes it very easy to do the us vs. them routine. You only have 2 voting blocks in a majority rules system so the bigger block has zero interest in comprimise since they can ram through whatever they want.

With a true multi-party system (or no parties), you must work together to get things done. If no single party has a majority, comprimise is required and the pure block voting wont’ get you anywhere. I think you’d get much more moderate, thought out policies and more things through on merit rather than ideology.

out_of_the_blue says:

Political parties are gangs organized to gain gov't power.

Nothing more, not even a meme for “positions” on this item or that. The charade is that they’re actually all in the same racket, and against public interests.

Now, everyone has a right to “free association”, but does anyone have a right to pool money for the explicit purpose of seizing control of gov’t? — No. — With obvious reservations for what one might do in a democracy, but we ain’t got one a those, nor a republic, we’ve a unified plutocracy that puts on a show of offering up “choices”.

Obvious simple solution is to outlaw political parties as such. You could still vote for any particular candidate, but current “political parties” and its ease to “vote” a straight ticket is only for convenience of the plutocracy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Political parties are gangs organized to gain gov't power.

Outlawing political parties would make me very uncomfortable. People should be free to share information and group themselves according to political goals.

I would agree with the idea of removing straight ticket voting and even removing the denoting of party affiliation from ballots though. If you can’t be bothered to find out which candidates you support why should you vote for them. It wouldn’t affect the presidency much, but I bet it would affect nearly every other race pretty significantly.

The eejit (profile) says:

Re: Re: Political parties are gangs organized to gain gov't power.

I disagree, but largely because the political parties in the US have grown “Too big to fail”. It is an antiquated construct that needs nuking. The Dems are the Republicans from 20 years ago and the Republican line needs shooting in the face repeaqtedly until it falls over.

Get rid of those two, Keep the collegiate FPTP system for now and move to AV+ or STV for the Senate and Congress. Revise the former ove the next two or three election cycles and fully outlaw Corporate Donations both direct and indirect.

Publicize all donations over $1,000 on an official, nonpartisan website (oh, look – Open Secrets is around!) and that should solve a number of electoral problems.

Oh! And get of those fraud enablers they call Diebold/Permier Election Systems and their ridiculous “e-voting” machines.

Anonymous Coward says:


Wouldn’t it be nice if we had politicians governing based on principles rather than on what will harm the other guys?

Theocracies, communists and the like are based on principles, at least in theory. A principled politician is one who will not compromise, and this only works in one party states where the politicians have to agree with the party to gain power. Politics then becomes too much like a religeon, ruled by a theocracy which does not treat its heretics well.

Superman says:

This is what we do: After an election, each issue that hits the floor of the Senate or House needs to be looked at and something happen right? If issues are not handled in a timely manner (6 months), then we as a people need to vote on the issue at hand and the popular vote (every 2 years) wins and it is signed into law.

Oh, I forgot, because the idiots didn’t want to get shit done they are ALL fired and new reps must be elected in the next cycle. Maybe the new people will get it right.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Thought this article was accurate, but was pleasantly surprised at the election results

Given the nastiness of this year’s campaign, I thought we were going to see people dividing into sides without regard to issues. However, I was pleasantly surprised at election results. If people are still doing bloc voting, then those blocs are evolving: gay marriage, legalized marijuana, new faces in government.

America’s Increasingly Tribal Electorate –

fogbugzd (profile) says:

I think there is a plausible solution to at least part of the problem. It might even happen. The term “Moderate Republican” is almost an oxymoron. In fact, Rush Limbaugh or one of the other right-wing demigods coined a term for them — Republican In Name Only or “Rino.” There are still quite a few Rinos in Congress.

We’ll have to see what happens over the next few weeks. If the Tea Party is still asserting itself and claiming that Romney lost because he wasn’t conservative enough it might make life even more uncomfortable for the remaining Rinos. The following scenario is then possible.

The Rinos form their own caucus. This outrages the Tea Party wing, and eventually the Rino caucus members decide to bolt the party. The form the core of a centrist “Blue Dog” party that is fiscally conservative, leaves questions of sexual orientation and abortion to the individual (or maybe the states), and takes a pragmatic stance on welfare issues. Such a party would be likely to draw at least a few Democrats. So you would have a third party in Congress. It would not be the majority party, but it would sit in a very powerful position because neither of the traditional parties could pass anything without support from the moderates. Sitting in the middle would give even a small group of moderates an inordinate amount of bargaining power to force compromise.

One thing that would probably be required of the moderates in congress is that they would have to give up any aspirations of running for President for at least a decade. The public might support them, but they would simply not have the organizational structure that the traditional parties have developed over the last 150 years. Almost every member of Congress has fantasies about running for President, so it would be a big sacrifice. On the other hand, if the Republican party continues its drift to the right the chances are small that a Rino could ever get the party nomination.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The Rinos form their own caucus… The form the core of a centrist “Blue Dog” party that is fiscally conservative, leaves questions of sexual orientation and abortion to the individual (or maybe the states), and takes a pragmatic stance on welfare issues.

Interesting idea. That platform sounds kind of like a libertarian philosophy.

Michael (profile) says:

Replace Parties - Have PACs endorse Candidates - Matrix evaluate results

Replacement for Political Parties

1) Have PACs endorse candidates in a standard format (standard format on a website they control)
2) Voters subscribe to PACs they agree with
3) Voters subscribe to voting areas they are part of
4) Software (of the consumer’s choosing) computes which candidate best reflects the voter’s expressed interests (IE vote with PAC, heavily avoid endorsement form PAC).
5) Voter’s double-check candidates on their short list to see if they are a good match.

trinsic says:

this is a great idea, something i had been thinking about myself. I think the author is right having to vote along party lines even though you dont agree with it is just another manipulation tactic to me.

This reminds me of a George McGovern who ran for president in 1972 against Richard Nixon after Nixon renigged on getting us out of Vietnam. He ran soley on the platform of ending us involvement in that war. His party ended up with their drawing support because of that position and he lost. Party politics in this regard seemed like it did more harm than good.

Prokofy Neva (profile) says:

The Singularity

No. It wouldn’t be nice. Because people like you who are really technocommunists in your beliefs (liberating property, enabling secretive geek governments like the Obama For America Big Data gang) would pretend that you are “independent,” and would not be subjected to even the minimal accountability that a party affiliation and endorsement would compel you to have.

Sergei Brin just wants the Soviet Academy of Sciences to run everything on the basis of “science”. And his geek friends are happy to code up a Google-based platform where everyone would just ‘like’ (yes votes only!) the “principles” that people like you would put up for ballot.

No thanks! Go away!

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...