Kyrsten Sinema, Evan McMullin, and the Emergence of an Independent Caucus

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema Is Now an Independent

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona, formerly a Democrat, announced recently that she is now an independent. She has vowed not to caucus with the Republican Party and expects to retain her committee assignments. I suspect she has an arrangement with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D), the Senate Majority Leader, that will allow her to retain her committee assignments in return for her support in giving the Democrats full control over the Senate. Even as a Democrat, she did not regularly attend the Democratic Caucus meetings to discuss party strategy. Whether one could say that she now “caucuses” with the Democratic Party is a matter of how one defines the term.

She has supported the Biden administration legislatively about 93% of the time. However, she broke with the Democratic Party on a number of key issues. As a self-described social liberal and fiscal conservative, she voted against the $3.5 trillion “Build Back Better” bill. She opposed dispensing with the filibuster rule and believes it should be re-instituted for judicial appointments and approval of presidential nominees for other positions. She voted against a minimum wage bill, although she is on record supporting increasing the minimum wage. I suspect her opposition was about the magnitude of the increase in the minimum wage being proposed. She is also opposed to packing the Supreme Court. Sinema voted against the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett and for Ketanji Brown Jackson. She is a strong supporter of abortion rights.

Her motivation for becoming an independent may be nothing more than the fact that the Democratic Party is now incapable of accepting her, sometimes, moderate views and she therefore expects to have a well-funded, far left opponent in the 2024 primary. The Democrats are irate. Twitter is awash with snarky criticism of Sen. Sinema from the progressive left. The progressives fear that their candidate will have to split the Democratic votes with Sinema and that a Republican will win the Senate seat from Arizona. The solution for the Democrats ought to be the one that Democrats in Utah adopted: don’t run a candidate and endorse the independent. Surely a Senator who votes with you 93% of the time is better than a Republican one, who will rarely side with Democrats.

Given the kind of candidates the Republican Party has offered up lately in Arizona, I have little doubt that the Centrist Independent Voter would endorse Sen. Kyrsten Sinema for another term in the U.S. Senate.

Evan McMullin’s Failed Bid as an Independent in Utah

The Centrist Independent Voter did endorse Evan McMullin in the U.S. Senate race in Utah in 2022. The Democratic Party in Utah also endorsed his candidacy rather than offer one of their own. McMullin is a conservative but he would count as a moderate in the current Republican Party. Mike Lee, who is an election denier and Trump supporter, defeated McMullin by casting doubt on McMullin’s ability to effectively represent Utah given McMullin’s pledge that he would not caucus with either party.

I thought that McMullin’s pledge not to caucus with either party was a mistake. Maybe it was a quid pro quo for the endorsement of the Democratic Party in Utah. I think he would have been better served by a more nuanced approach like the one Sinema is taking: agree to support the majority party on establishing control in the Senate, in return for getting your desired committee assignments, but otherwise remaining independent. I don’t think this is the strategy adopted by the other two independent Senators, Bernie Sanders and Angus King, who appear to actively participate in the strategy discussions within the Democratic Caucus.

The Emergence of an Independent Caucus

If McMullin had won, it would have been easy to imagine he and Sinema forming an Independent Caucus. There would have been 50 Democratic votes (including Sanders and King), 48 Republican votes, and 2 Independents. If the Democrats wanted full control of the Senate they would have to negotiate with the Independent Caucus on committee assignments. If the Republicans wanted to keep control of the Senate split, they, too, would have been forced to negotiate with the Independent Caucus. Perhaps Sinema and McMullin could have persuaded Angus King, the moderate independent from Maine to join them. In that case they would be the key to passing any legislation in the Senate. Sadly, McMullin’s failure to win in Utah precludes this scenario for the time being.

A Potential Role for Georgia in the Creation of a True Independent Caucus

Georgia played a dramatic role in this year’s Senate race. Perhaps it could be even more important. Georgia is unusual in that it requires that candidates in the general election receive a true majority in order to win. If no candidate gets a majority, the top two candidates participate in a runoff. This happened in 2020 and 2022 for the U.S. Senate seat now occupied by Raphael Warnock. During one of the debates in Georgia in 2022, the Libertarian Candidate noted that this means that voting for your true preference in the general election, in Georgia, never means wasting your vote. If some other candidate gets 50+% your vote would not have made a difference anyway. If your candidate fails to get 50+% you will have a chance to vote for one of the other, “lesser of two evils” candidates, in the run off. If your candidate makes it into the top two, you will have a chance to put them over the top in the run off. A serious, well-funded moderate, independent candidate could win in Georgia. This is particularly true if the Republican Party continues to listen to Trump and nominates another flawed candidate. While Herschel Walker garnered a significant number of votes, he did so only because so many Georgia Republicans cannot abide being represented by a progressive Democrat in the U.S. Senate.

You might say that they had that choice with the Libertarian candidate. While there are some appealing aspects to libertarianism, their embrace of isolationism in international affairs, opposition to progressive taxation, Social Security, and Medicare keep them out of the ideological mainstream in American politics. A moderate, socially liberal and fiscally conservative, independent candidate, unburdened by Libertarian ideology, could win in Georgia. Combine that candidate with Sinema and King and you have a powerful Independent Caucus. You also have a better alternative for Evan McMullin to offer the voters in Utah, if he choses to run again.

An Ideal Outcome

My personal wish list would be an Independent Caucus comprised of Sinema, King, McMullin and a moderate, center-right candidate from Georgia. Two moderate, left-of-center Senators matched with two moderate, right-of-center Senators sitting astride a 48-48 split between the Democrats and Republicans might rescue American politics from polarization.

Centrist Independent Voter Endorsement in Georgia Senate Runoff

Georgia U.S. Senate Runoff Endorsement

The Centrist Independent Voter endorsed Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) in the general election. I have been asked whether that endorsement applies to the runoff election. It is not a trivial question. The situation has changed. The Republicans have secured a slim majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Democrats have secured at least 50 votes in the U.S. Senate. Nevertheless, the outcome of today’s runoff election in Georgia matters. With 51 votes in the U.S. Senate, the Democrats will have complete control of committee assignments and a majority vote on those committees. The Democrats will also have the ability to appoint judicial nominees without Republican consent. Those things matter. If the Republican Party was a center-right party and if Herschel Walker was a reasonable candidate, we might endorse the Republican candidate in the runoff in order to force the Senate to operate in the most bi-partisan way possible. Sadly, neither of those things is true.

The inability of Republicans, generally, to speak out and condemn Donald Trump for his threats to the U.S. Constitution and his association with a white-nationalist, anti-semite suggests that the Republican Party needs to experience another major setback to give them a little spine. The power of the “Freedom” Caucus in the U.S. House also illustrates that the Republican Party is far to the right of center-right and needs to step back before they can step forward again.

If the Republicans in Georgia had nominated a reasonable center-right candidate with a background and temperament that suggested he would be able to fulfill the responsibilities of a U.S. Senator competently and speak out against the far right elements of the Republican Party including Donald Trump, we might reconsider. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Herschel Walker is the handpicked candidate of Donald Trump. But for Trump, Walker would not be on the ballot. That alone is sufficient reason to oppose his election to the U.S. Senate. Beyond that, he is totally unqualified. His rambling incoherent answers to questions about the issues should give anyone pause in imagining him in the Senate.

What About Warnock and the Democrats?

You might respond by saying: yes, all of that is true, but do you really want to increase the power of the far-left by handing the Democrats a majority in the U.S. Senate. There are two major things to fear from the far left: first, eliminating the filibuster rule in the Senate and second, packing the Supreme Court. The first concern is unlikely since the Democrats would not be able to pass any legislation without consent of the Republican controlled House. Eliminating the filibuster rule creates an enormous downside for Democrats, should they lose control of the legislature and the Presidency in 2024, without any upside. The second concern, packing the court, is impossible with a Republican controlled House.

It is true that we can expect a Democratically controlled Senate to add some left-of-center federal judges. With the U.S. Supreme Court now solidly right of center, there seems little to fear from a leftward tilt in the lower courts.

And what about Sen. Raphael Warnock? Warnock is no centrist. He is a solidly left-of-center Democrat, but he represents a purple state. If he wants to remain in the Senate, he knows he cannot drift too far to the left. Brian Kemp’s solid defeat of Stacy Abrams illustrates the point. Whatever you think of Warnock’s policy positions, he is intellectually and temperamentally suited for the U.S. Senate. Sadly, that cannot be said of his opponent, Herschel Walker.

A New Group for the Rogues Gallery of Candidates

The Washington Post just published a story about 30 members of the Progressive Caucus of the Democratic Party who have urged Biden to bypass Ukraine and negotiate directly with Putin to end the war against Ukraine. This plays directly into Putin’s narrative about the war and has no chance of accomplishing a lasting peace.

Anyone who does not realize that lasting peace in Ukraine, and Eastern Europe generally, requires Russia’s defeat and Ukraine’s admission to NATO has not been paying attention.

Russia’s word on any peace agreement is meaningless. They previously agreed to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity, including Crimea, in return for Ukraine handing over Soviet era nuclear weapons to Russia. The U.S. and the U.K. were co-signatories to that agreement. If America fails to support Ukraine, our word will also be meaningless.

If Russia is able to carve up Ukraine because it has nuclear weapons and Ukraine does not, we can expect all independent countries to acquire nuclear weapons in short order.

It is common for the far left and the far right to both be wrong. It is ironic that they are both wrong on this issue and are both taking, more or less, the same position. In this case both the extreme left and the extreme right have decided to play the role of “useful idiots” for the Kremlin.

Rep. Ruben Gallego, along with many other members of the Progressive Caucus, did have the wisdom to part company with the group of 30 on this issue. For that reason we are not including the entire Progressive Caucus in the Rogues Gallery. For a list of those who did sign, they can be found at the end of the letter they sent to Biden (link in Washington Post article). Or you can go to our Rogues Gallery for the the complete list of Rogues.

What Outcome Should Centrists Hope for in the 2022 Mid-Term Elections?

Definition of Success for Centrist in 2022 Mid Terms.

What Outcome Should Centrists Hope for in 2022?

Here is what I’d like to see happen at the end of the 2022 mid-terms. The Senate would remain split 50-50. The Democrats would remain in control of the House by just 1 vote.

If this happens it will probably be because Trump-endorsed Republicans will have lost in contests that a more moderate Republican could easily have won. This outcome will also make it clear to Democrats that they have no mandate. Their success was the result of the other side’s foolishness (or their own hypocrisy in promoting Trump-endorsed candidates in the primaries), not because America hungers for a progressive agenda.

This outcome should make it clear to both sides that success in 2024 requires moving toward the center. Republicans should abandon Trump, as political poison. Democrats should find and promote centrist candidates within their ranks and do their best to hush up the far left. Both parties should accept that rallying your base at the expense of alienating the center is bad campaign strategy.

If you have a different vision of centrist success, please comment below.

Guidelines for Centrists Voting in the 2022 Mid-Term Elections.

Vote to Move the Politics to the Center

What Should Centrists Do in the 2022 General Election?

The Centrist Independent Voter is a new organization. We have a very small, all volunteer staff. With the limited time and resources available to us this year, we have tried to identify some high profile, mostly U.S. Senate, races and endorsed candidates in the primaries and the general election in those races.

Beyond those specific endorsements, I have some general advice about how to promote a more sane and centrist approach to politics during the general election in 2022.

First, vote against any candidate that owes their position on the ballot to Donald Trump. This does not mean voting for every Democrat. It does not even mean voting against every Republican that Donald Trump endorses. Trump has endorsed many candidates who would have won easily without his support and did not go out of their way to ask for it. It does mean voting against any candidate that would not be on the ballot in the general election were it not for Donald Trump’s endorsement. Mehmet Oz and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania, J.D. Vance in Ohio, and Herschal Walker in Georgia come to mind. Many of these candidates show up in our Rogues Gallery of Candidates.

Second, where the first rule does not dominate, vote against Democratic candidates that are endorsed by the “Working Families Party.” This far-left organization includes Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren along with the so-called Squad in the House of Representatives. Many of these candidates, also, show up in our Rogues Gallery of Candidates.

Third, vote for those Republicans who crossed party lines to support bi-partisan infrastructure, gun control, and aid to Ukraine legislation or to vote for Trump’s impeachment/conviction. This rule is rarely in conflict with the first rule, as far as I know.

Fourth, vote for fiscally conservative Democrats who broke party ranks to oppose excessive government spending and who oppose packing the Supreme Court and ending the filibuster rule in the Senate. This rule is never in conflict with the second rule, as far as I know.

Unfortunately, there may be races where these rules conflict with each other. In those cases, I would recommend that you start with the first and work your way down.

Utah U.S. Senate Race

Vote in the U.S. Senate Race in Utah.

There is nothing normal about the 2022 race for the U.S. Senate seat from Utah.

Mike Lee (R) is the incumbent and was initially a heavy favorite. The race is now too close to call. Mike Lee is a full throated Trump supporter. Lee’s opponent, Evan McMullen is a conservative who has been endorsed by the Democratic Party in Utah.

While there is no true centrist running in Utah, you would not expect to see one in what is certainly among the most conservative states.

McMullen has promised not to caucus with either party in the Senate. That may be a mistake since it would limit his access to committee appointments. In our view, if he wins, he should caucus with the majority party. This is especially valuable if he gives that party a majority, in which case he should demand key committee assignments as a quid pro quo. He should then feel free to break party ranks and vote truly independently on legislation.

For the Centrist Independent Voter this is not a difficult call. The Centrist Independent Voter enthusiastically endorses Evan McMullen for the U.S. Senate seat from Utah.

Florida U.S. Senate Race

Our Board of Governors is still wrestling with whether to endorse Sen. Marco Rubio (R), the incumbent, or Rep. Val Demings (D) in the Florida U.S. Senate race.

Some oppose Rubio because he has Trump’s endorsement and because he co-sponsored Lindsay Graham’s national ban on abortions after 15 weeks. Some are also put off by Rubio’s dismissal of a bi-partisan effort to protect same sex marriage rights, legislatively, at the federal level as a “waste of time.”

Some oppose Val Demings because she consistently voted along party lines in the House and was therefore likely to be a rubber stamp for Majority Leader Chuck Shumer (D) in the U.S. Senate. This later fear is made all the more important by the fact that President Biden recently announced that if he gets two more votes in the Senate and keeps control of the House, he will support overturning the filibuster rule. Rep. Demings has referred to the filibuster rule as a “procedural game,” so we know where she stands.

Faced with the inability to find a majority in support of either of the two major party candidates, I decided to examine the issue positions of the other candidates in the U.S. Senate race in Florida.

The Libertarian candidate was far too isolationist for us. Many of the others were either too right wing or too vague to be worth considering.

One candidate had a surprisingly thoughtful, albeit short, set of policy positions that struck me as remarkably centrist and reasonable: Tuan Nguyen. To see his platform, click here: Platform.

I realize that Nguyen has little to no chance to win the election. However, if a centrist candidate were able to capture enough votes to prevent either major party candidate from having a majority, that could be important. If the votes for a centrist, non-affiliated candidate would have provided the margin of victory to the major party candidate that loses, we will have made an important point.

If either of the major party candidates were notably more centrist than the other, the opportunity cost of casting a vote for Nguyen might be considered too high. That does not appear to be the case.

If you were considering not voting because you cannot abide either of the major party candidates, please consider voting for Tuan Nguyen. There is no downside.

It is very easy to imagine that a centrist candidate could win if Florida adopts Ranked Choice Voting. Until then, it is important to do everything possible to demonstrate that extremism of the right and the left are not good campaign strategies.

At this point our Board of Governors is still trying to decided who, if anyone, to endorse in this race. I suspect that the fact that Nguyen’s platform does not address the issues of abortion, the filibuster, and court packing may make it difficult for the Board to endorse him. Nevertheless , Tuan Nguyen has my personal endorsement in the U.S. Senate race in Florida.

North Carolina General Election for U.S. Senate

North Carolina U.S. Senate Election

As Donald Trump’s problems mount, many Republican Senate candidates are now trying to distance themselves from him. Ted Budd, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate for North Carolina, is an exception to that trend. He has doubled down on his association to Trump while also emphasizing his support for national legislation to restrict abortion after 15 weeks.

To see Budd’s positions on a number of issues, visit his website.

His Democratic opponent Cheri Beasley is the former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. She is no centrist but counts as a moderate among Democrats, although her willingness to consider expanding the U.S. Supreme Court seems less than moderate.

To see Beasley’s positions on a number of issues, visit her website.

Those familiar with the Centrist Independent Voter’s Policy Positions will know that we don’t align well with either of these candidates.

Nevertheless, the Centrist Independent Voter endorses Cheri Beasley for the U.S. Senate seat from North Carolina. We do so because of Budd’s close association with Trump and because Beasley is more moderate than most of the Democratic Party.

Alaska General Election for the U.S. Senate

The Alaska U.S. Senate Election.

Alaska is Using Ranked Choice Voting

Alaska now uses a non-partisan, primary voting system in which the top four candidates advance to the general election regardless of party. The general election is then decided by ranked choice voting. In ranked choice voting the candidate with the lowest number of first place votes will be eliminated. For example, if you voted for the eliminated candidate in first place, your second place candidate will receive a first place vote and your third place candidate will receive a second place vote and so on. The votes are then recalculated until someone receives an outright majority of first place votes. The Centrist Independent Voter fully supports this approach to elections as the best way to move American politics toward the center and away from extremism of both the right and the left.

The Results of the Alaskan Non-Partisan Primary

The top four candidates in the Alaskan non-partisan U.S. Senate primary are in order of the number of votes: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), the incumbent; Kelly Tshibaka, a Trump-backed Republican challenger; Patricia Chesbro, a progressive Democrat; and Buzz Kelly (R). Kelley, the fourth place finisher in the Alaskan primary, has chosen not to run in the general election, so the election should only require a maximum of two rounds of calculations.

If you favor the Democrat you can safely vote for her and make Murkowski your second choice without risking the possibility that your vote will help the Trump-backed candidate win. If you despise the Democrats, you can vote for Murkowski and let the other Republican be your second choice and there is no chance that your vote will help the Democrat win.

The beauty of the system is that you can vote how you feel without fearing that you will be wasting your vote on a losing candidate or enabling the success of your least liked candidate.

Our Endorsement

Sen. Murkowski is not a centrist, but she is among the most moderate Republican senators. We therefore endorse her over her Republican, Trump-backed, opponent and over the progressive Democrat.

Endorsement In the New Hampshire U.S. Senate Race

New Hampshire U.S. Senate Race

The New Hampshire Senate Race Should be Closer than It Is

Normally, the New Hampshire Senate race would be in play since the the incumbent Democrat, Maggie Hassan, only defeated her Republican opponent by 0.1% when she took office six years ago. But despite the fact that mid-term elections generally turn against the party in power and the fact that President Biden still suffers from low approval ratings, Hassan appears to be about 11% ahead of her Republican opponent, Don Bolduc, a Trump endorsed extremist.

The reason Bolduc won in the primary is two-fold. The first is poor judgment on the part of Republicans in nominating him. The second is cynical hypocrisy on the part of some Democrats in promoting the election of Bolduc during the Republican primary.

It is difficult to understand how Democrats can think that their claims that MAGA Republicans are a threat to the nation will be taken seriously when they promote the election of MAGA Republicans in the primaries. All it leaves one with is the feeling that these Democrats are every bit as power hungry and indifferent to the fate of the nation as the Republicans they decry for sticking with Donald Trump.

The Centrist Independent Endorsement (with a caveat)

Sen. Maggie Hassan is a moderate Democrat. We might well have endorsed her even if the Trump endorsed candidate had not won the Republican primary. At this point, we have to move forward and endorse the more moderate candidate, while noting our disgust at the craven cynicism of Democrats who promote the election of the very candidates they believe constitute an existential threat to the nation.

With that caveat noted, the Centrist Independent Voter endorses Sen. Maggie Hassan for the U.S. Senate seat from New Hampshire.