According to this article from the National Journal, political independence from political parties seems to be greatly waning
But as a purely political calculation, trying to demonstrate independence by breaking from the party on key votes doesn’t appear to be as effective an electoral strategy for House members as it once was. Today’s increasingly parliamentary politics is producing more wave elections in which voters shift between the parties en masse, almost regardless of a member’s individual record. Democrats last fall, for instance, lost 11 of the 17 seats held by McCain district representatives who opposed both the health care and climate-regulation bills. In that environment, it may make more sense for even vulnerable members to help build a party-wide record of accomplishment than to strategically dissent. “Increasingly, I think members see their fate as being tied to that of their party and less about their own individual relationship with their districts,” notes political scientist Alan Abramowitz of Emory
This development does not bode well for our Republic. The health of the Republic greatly relies upon the moral legitimacy of our institutions. If people believe things are controlled by anything other than the vote and activism such as corporations, or money, or parties, the foundation will be greatly compromised. In the words of the Psalmist: ” if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do.”
The watchword for all the founders was not “the people” but “the public,” which they understood to mean the collective interest of the citizenry, more enduring than the popular opinion of fleeting majorities. The great evil, they all agreed, was “faction,” which meant narrow-minded interest groups that abandoned the public in favor of their own sectarian agendas, or played demagogue politics with issues in order to confuse the electorate.
Take, for example, two of the classic texts of the founding era. Here is how Madison begins Federalist No. 10: “Among the numerous advantages promised by a well-constructed union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control faction,” which he goes on to describe as “this dangerous vice.”
And here is how Washington put it in his Farewell Address: The spirit of party “agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection.” Sound familiar?
Jefferson is somewhat tricky on this score, because he, along with Madison, did create the first political party, known initially as Republicans but — this is tricky too — soon to morph into Democrats. But Jefferson could never admit, even to himself, that he was a political partisan because it violated the core definition of republicanism (i.e. res publica, public things) and the central political legacy of the American founding.
In fact, Jefferson made two of the most eloquent statements against party politics. “If I must go to heaven in a party,” he claimed, “I prefer not to go at all.” And in his first inaugural address, he stunned his partisan supporters by observing that “we are all Federalists, we are all Republicans.”
We need Republicans and Democrats alike to break their utter allegiance to party and vote principle over partisanship.