Measured by self-identification, partisanship is actually declining — growing numbers of Americans describe themselves as “independent” rather than loyal to one of the parties. But measured by actual voting behavior, the opposite is happening: Straight ticket voting continues to grow. This matches what operatives like Dan Pfeiffer have seen, and what Karl Rove saw a decade before — the swing voter had nearly vanished.
One common explanation is that it has become increasingly vogue, especially among college-educated voters, to describe yourself as independent, which implies that you form educated judgments about politics rather than blindly following the dictates of a party. [emphasis added]
I have a much, much better explanation than this guy. Many Americans fucking hate both parties, but they think one will destroy the world and everything in it while the other will just make everything stay generally miserable or not get that much worse. So of course they don’t identify with a party, but they’ll vote for the one that isn’t going to burn everything down tomorrow. Those independents might be libertarians or socialists or anarchists or a thousand other political persuasions. I’d bet that an awful lot of them believe that no one who actually represents them or their ideals gets anywhere near the ballot.