What happens when people start fleeing the major political parties? Well, that's what's happening. Gallup polling from the end of 2013 found 42 percent of Americans identified themselves as politically independent — that's the highest figure in the 25 years they have been tracking the question. Meanwhile, GOP membership has been dropping, now sitting at 25 percent; only the 31 percent self-identify as Democrats.

The parties haven't seemed to notice, as they continue riling up whatever's left of their base. But voters are looking for new belief systems, and if this election cycle is any indication, we might be seeing what you could call the rise of THE EDUCATION PARTY. In Idaho, the race for governor has been fought over the classrooms — if Butch Otter loses, it will be because of his failings in education. In Washington, we have an initiative to hire more teachers to reduce classroom sizes. Out in Kansas, where Gov. Sam Brownback has been putting GOP talking points into action, he's in trouble mostly for the devastating impact his policies have had on K-12 education there. Education voters don't care whether you're a Republican or a Democrat — they just want better schools.

Here are two more surprising numbers: 14 and 90. What's the current percentage of Americans who think Congress is doing a good job? Yep, just 14 percent — the lowest since the Watergate era of 1974. Yet those members of Congress get re-elected 90 percent of the time.

If you want to know how 14-percenter Cathy McMorris Rodgers makes up the difference, check out her TV ads. She counts on VOTER AMNESIA — and lots of money from donors who prefer the status quo — to play her Jedi mind tricks on us. In one ad, she goes way out on a limb to endorse — wait for it — hydropower. In another, we are told how much she does to improve the economy here in Spokane. Wow, really? Is that referring to when she voted to shut down the government (cost: $24 billion), flirting with another U.S. credit downgrade? Or is she talking about two weeks later when she voted to reopen it? Or maybe it's about her opposition to ending offshore tax havens for American corporations. Or opposing the Consumer Protection Act that was designed to prevent another 2008 meltdown. Or maybe it's referring to her obsession with killing Obamacare and its $180 billion in deficit reduction expected by the CBO by 2019?

All that stuff is too complicated for a nice TV ad. All you need to know is that this is not the failing member of Congress you are looking to fire. ♦

Numerica Credit Union Virtual Tree Lighting @ Riverfront Park

Fri., Nov. 27, 4:30 p.m.
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About The Author

Ted S. McGregor Jr.

Ted S. McGregor, Jr. grew up in Spokane and attended Gonzaga Prep high school and the University of the Washington. While studying for his Master's in journalism at the University of Missouri, he completed a professional project on starting a weekly newspaper in Spokane. In 1993, he turned that project into reality...