Governor Bill Walker was elected a year-and-half-ago with a unique campaign strategy. He was a longtime registered Republican who cast aside his party, made a deal with then Democratic candidate for governor Byron Mallott to add him as his lite gov. running mate , and in so doing locked up support from Alaska Democrats. He then waged a campaign free of traditional party labels and won with a coalition of Democrats, Independents, and just enough Republicans breaking their party loyalty to deliver him a win.
Is it possible that this kind of “to hell with party labels!” campaign will become more the norm in American and Alaska politics as we go forward? New numbers from Gallup suggest that might be the case.
“In 2015, for the fifth consecutive year, at least four in 10 U.S. adults identified as political independents. The 42% identifying as independents in 2015 was down slightly from the record 43% in 2014.”
“Americans’ attachment to the two major political parties in recent years is arguably the weakest Gallup has recorded since the advent of its polls. The percentage of U.S. adults identifying as political independents has recently reached levels never seen before. As a result, a new low of 29% of Americans identify as Democrats, and the percentage of Republican identifiers is on the low end of what Gallup has measured historically.”
According to Gallup this historically weak political brand identification for political parties could have interesting implications as the Presidential race rolls around:
“Even if the parties win back some support, they still will probably be competing among an electorate that has a historically high percentage of voters who do not identify with either major party. And the lack of strong attachment to the parties could make candidate-specific factors, as opposed to party loyalty, a greater consideration for voters in choosing a president in this year’s election than they have been in past elections.”
That trend appears to extend to the Last Frontier as well, and arguably may well have aided Walker in his gubernatorial run. According to the Alaska Division of Elections the percentage of Alaskans registering affiliations with the two major political parties in Alaska has dropped over the last three years:
So with party loyalty falling and a strong anti-institutional wind blowing across the country don’t be surprised if the Walker strategy becomes more and more common.