AUSTIN, TEXAS — MARILYN TIGHE, a member of Ross Perot's United We Stand America, says the choice between the two major political parties is just ``fiddledee or fiddledum when you vote Republican or Democrat.''
Most of Ross Perot's troops, one of the largest blocks of independent voters, apparently favored the ``fiddledees'' in this month's elections - adding their force to the Republican landslide in Congress.
Yet Connie Smith, a United We Stand America (UWSA) member in Washington state, warns that the current romance with the GOP could be short-lived. It will all depend on what House Speaker-to-be Newt Gingrich of Georgia, Senate majority leader-to-be Bob Dole of Kansas, and their fellow Republicans do during the next 24 months.
``The Republicans have tried to look like they favor our issues. So we're giving them a chance,'' says Ms. Smith, UWSA's director in the state, where members of the Perot group helped to sweep House Speaker Tom Foley (D) out of office.
The next, Republican-controlled Congress ``had better not mess it up,'' Ms. Smith adds, ``or we'll be out there in '96 saying, `You can't keep lying to us.'''
Perot supporters, who cast nearly one-in-five votes in the 1992 presidential election, are among a growing independent wing of American politics. Their support is becoming more and more critical for the two major political parties.
Stephen Wayne, professor of government at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., says independent voters are insisting on a smaller, more effective government. The GOP must deliver, he says.
``The Republicans and Democrats are at rough parity in voter identification now,'' Dr. Wayne says. The 25-to-35 percent of the electorate that considers itself independent will hold the balance of power in 1996.
Mr. Perot has warned that he will form a third party if the GOP stumbles. Polls show wide support for a new party, and some members of Perot's group like Ms. Tighe say the major parties are forcing voters to seek a third option, though reluctantly. She recently attended an organizing meeting for the Patriot Party in California.
``The center has nowhere to go,'' explains Dennis Weyl, UWSA's Colorado chairman, because the Democratic Party is controlled by the multicultural left and the Republican Party by the religious right, he claims.
This time they went to the GOP. Perot made headlines when he told a national television audience that voters ought to give Republicans ``a turn at bat.''
Sharon Holman, the UWSA national spokeswoman, says: ``People heard `vote Republican.' '' In fact, Perot spread his personal endorsements among the two major parties and independents, and not always with good effect. Ann Richards, the Democratic governor of Texas, lost despite high praise from the Dallas billionaire.
An analysis of UWSA preferences in 35 states covering three-quarters of House and Senate races shows striking consistency. UWSA members opposed Democratic incumbents in 87 percent of those contests and favored GOP incumbents in 98 percent.
Little wonder, says Pat Baker, a UWSA member in San Diego. ``Most of that stuff in the [Republican] Contract with America was in the Perot platform in 1992,'' she says.
In Washington's 9th district, ``we absolutely had a lot to do'' with Republican Randy Tate's victory, Smith says. UWSA has three chapters in the 9th district, one of which by itself has more members than Mr. Tate's 920-vote margin.