From the date of the announcement of Sen. Jim Jeffords' decision to declare himself an "Independent," I have been troubled by the whole issue, and the (printed version) public perceptions about what this means to the American political scene, let alone the American public.
When I reached voting age, and was required to register in order to do so, I chose to register as an "Independent" because our country was founded on "Independence" and I thought of myself as a capable independent thinker (Thanks Mom-R., and Dad-D!). The straight party line did not cut it with me. My convictions have not changed.
Sen. Jeffords' decision is his own, and if he intends to do his best as an independent thinker without obligation to any party platform other than his own sense of what is right and good for the people of his jurisdiction, based on broad-based feedback from them, then he has my best regards and encouragement.
If on the other hand, as has been indicated in the press, Sen. Jeffords has chosen to become an Independent "aligned" with Democrats, then he is simply playing a high stakes game, and he tarnishes the meaning of independence.