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Can an independent politician who is elected into power then join a political party and choose to represent them - if the party accepts?

Can an independent politician who is elected into power then join a political party and choose to represent them - if the party accepts?

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JudgeWhoOverrules

American political parties have no legal say in who joins the party. They don't have the ability to kick anyone out either. The most they can do is not offer support and publicly condemn a person. Politicians can, and have recently even, switched political parties while in office.


hajdean

This is the correct answer OP. Nothing could stop an independent rep or senator from deciding to vote with the Republicans or Democrats. They are allowed to vote as they chose, and membership in either party is more a matter of self identification rather than an application/acceptance process


wowowow864921

Indeed. However, for the sake of completeness. A party's caucus in the House or Senate can choose to exclude someone, if they wish. So while no one could stop our theoretical congress person here from joining whatever political party they wish, they can be stopped from getting a committee slot and staffing support. (The main admistrative perks of being part of a party caucus.)


hajdean

Very true. The party can't stop you from supporting/identifying with the party. But you also cannot force the party to support you.


WestFast

Most likely they would be on an island. They’re former party would strip them of all committees and official responsibilities. No more campaign funding support. The new party wouldn’t trust a “traitor” and while they would court votes, would largely keep them at arms length. It’s worse than coming in as an independent because neither side trusts you.


FoxOnTheRocks

However, American elections, even at the local level, are so resource intensive that a politician without party support and the money that comes with it is unlikely to win.


Mitchell_54

I find this interesting as an Australian where a party can expel someone's party membership.


haydonpitch

Though it’s worth mentioning that the elected party leadership are able to force and push certain votes that can strip members of their committee assignments. This is not a strictly intraparty process, but is frequently used as such.


DrunkenBriefcases

Sure. We watched Bernie Sanders do just that a few years ago. In 2015 Sanders - who had chosen to run for the Democratic Party's nomination for POTUS - joined the Party to stave off criticism that he wasn't a member. He even went as far as to promise he'd remain with the party whether or not he won the nomination and his campaign referred to him as a "Democrat for life". Shortly after being honored at the 2016 Convention and being given a prime speaking slot, he quietly went back on that promise and returned to being an Independent. He then claimed it wasn't fair to his constituents that had voted for him as an Independent, and that they needed to know beforehand. But then ran for re-election in 2018 as an Independent again, passing up the chance to join the party "honestly" in front of the voters. Of course he ran in the VT Dem primary to keep anyone from running against him... but then refused the nomination. The following year Sanders once again filed to run for the nomination as a Democrat and signed a pledge swearing loyalty to the party and to serve as a Dem if nominated. But he continued to call himself an Independent in the Senate... that caucuses with Dems and has earned committee assignments as if he were in the party. The moral of that story is you can call yourself anything you want, as long as the people around you are willing to let you get away with it.


BidenWon

Lisa Murkowski is a Republican senator. She lost a primary election in 2010, so she ran as an independent, won, and continued serving in the Senate as a Republican.


Darkfriend337

Sure - Jeff Van Drew (NJ-2) changed from D to R recently. An independent could do the exact same thing. Now, whether they'd win reelection, or whether the Party would accept them and support them is another matter.


dstang67

100% yes, but it usually goes the other way, where they get elected as a, in most cases, but has also happened the other, but usually run as a Democrat, and then switch to an independent. I think they do this because of the funds they get from the party for their campaign. They would not get it as an independent candidate.


Anaptyso

The answer to this is going to depend a lot on what country it happens in. In some countries which use proportional systems seats are assigned by parties, and there can be limitations on elected politicians switching between parties. In other systems where the politician is elected as an individual, it's up to them which party they belong to. For example, in the UK almost all MPs belong to parties, but they are elected as individuals - their seat isn't tied to them being a member of a party. They are free to quit one party and join another party if they and the new party agree to it. This is known as "crossing the floor". Winston Churchill is a famous example of someone doing it, but there's been loads of others: [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List\_of\_elected\_British\_politicians\_who\_have\_changed\_party\_affiliation#Members\_of\_Parliament\_who\_have\_changed\_party\_affiliation](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_elected_British_politicians_who_have_changed_party_affiliation#Members_of_Parliament_who_have_changed_party_affiliation)


scarr3g

The thing is... A politician's party doesn't actually mean they represent the party, nor thr people in the party. They just decided that want to be referred to as a Democrat/republican/libertarian/etc. Parties don't really mean, or represent, anything in the usa. They are just a way to get people to vote for you, without actually having a real reason.


mormagils

Sure, someone can join a party any time. We see this sometime where folks will leave one party to join another mid-term. Jeff Van Drew left the Dems to join the Reps during the first impeachment, and Justin Amash joined the Libs after the Reps kicked him out. The specific situation--going Ind to Dem or Ind to Rep--happens pretty rare because there aren't a lot of high-quality Ind candidates that effectively win office to begin with. Usually, if they appeal that much to mostly one party, it makes more sense for them to run under that party to begin with because being part of a bigger party means you'll get more voters. If you're successfully an Ind, part of that usually has to do with rejecting the two big parties an appealing in a very cross-cutting way, which means there's usually not much benefit to joining that party. Probably the only exception I can think of is Bernie Sanders, who was a big time Ind for a while but after a few decades the Dems shifted a bit closer to him, enough that he could run as a "weird Dem" type candidate.


apatheticviews

Bernie Sanders would be an exception to your claim. He’s an independent who caucuses with the Dems.


apatheticviews

Bernie Sanders is an independent who ran under the Democratic umbrella while in the primaries for president.


Healthy-Escape-5158

You elect a person. Not a party. If you vote just by party line without knowing who you are voting for you are part of the problem with politics in America. If a representative has issues you agree with and some you don't. Make sure they know that!