Political party labels are not only losing their relevance—but soon they may have little meaning at all.

In Donald Trump’s case it has become an albatross with the vast majority of those in his professed party unwilling to even associate with him.

The political novice has switched party affiliations “at least five times since the ‘80s” based on his voting records. The Smoking Gun.

He is currently running as a Republican—sort of—an identity he abandoned in 1999 when according to the New York City Board of Elections he joined the Independent Party. 

That lasted all of two years when he opted to join the Democratic Party. But seven years later he became a thrice born-again Republican only to be short lived when he opted for “decline to state” status in 2001.

In 2012, looking ahead to his quest for the GOP nomination, Trump reverted once again to Republican, which for the moment he has remained.

Trump may be the first person in U.S. history to run without allegiance to any party.  He may as will be running as a Neanderthal and it would not matter to the millions who continue to flock to his banner.

Bernie Sanders styles himself as a Socialist –Democrat. He could have Martians campaigning for him and it would not discourage the impressive throngs of adoring supporters. Technically he is an Independent—the longest serving one in Congressional history—who votes with the Democratic caucus.

However, Sanders also has a confusing pedigree.

He was the candidate of the anti-war Liberty Union Party of Vermont in two Senate and gubernatorial races in that state in the early ‘70s losing all four. After a brief flirtation with that party, in 1981 he ran as a Socialist for Mayor of Burlington nudging out the Democratic incumbent by 10 votes.

Both Sanders and Trump are further proof that the old-fashioned labels are losing cachet and could eventually become just quaint anachronisms.

Democrats may have a tougher time divesting themselves of their label, being the nation’s oldest political party and arguably the oldest active voter-based political party in the world, founded in 1828 by the then future President, Andrew Jackson.

Interestingly, one historian, makes a compelling argument that Jackson, seen as a champion of liberal thinking, held to a world view, which upon further inspection, was much more closely aligned with some of the central tenets of today’s most conservative GOP voices.

The modern Republican Party was not formed until 1854 made up of a colorful potpourri of former Whigs, Free Soilers and anti-slavery activists. Years earlier it was founded and led by Jackson’s nemesis, the sixth U.S. President, John Quincy Adams, and called the Democrat-Republican Party.

Conversely, the Republicans of Adam’s day would feel a lot more comfortable with the anti-government, plutocracy-bashing rhetoric shared by many in both the Trump and Sander’s camps.

This cross-over appeal by Trump and Sanders, worlds apart in their bedrock views and personalities with little more in common than their New York roots, gives some indication of how far we have strayed from party orthodoxy.

The fact that in 2016 major presidential candidates in both parties are unrecognizable if we are simply applying outdated labels and have helped to generate a populist uprising on the far Right and far Left suggests that the elephants and donkeys with which our grandparents were well acquainted may be nearing extinction!

Incoming generations of voters who are already exerting major impacts are looking behind the increasingly confusing party monikers that have traditionally served as quick guides for voters who have not done their homework. New age voters are insisting that candidates take off their political masks.

While both Trump and Sanders effuse a rough-hewn sincerity, many of the views both espouse have little to connect them with the mainstream thinking of either major party.

Hillary Clinton is certainly not lacking in conviction, but she appears more comfortable wearing the traditional Democratic mantle and seems less concerned about a blurred imagery in adopting centrist approaches that are not fully in sync with her party’s strong center-Left tilt.

Trump has invented his own political vocabulary, which defies partisan categorization and reduces complex issues to pithy aphorisms with little substance, often unintelligible or preposterous, that no respectable world leader would ever dare invoke:

A few of my favorites:

“I think apologizing’s a great thing, but you have to be wrong. I will absolutely apologize, sometime in the hopefully distant future, if I’m ever wrong.” — The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, September 2015

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”— ta rally in Charleston, S.C., December 2015

“He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” — discussing John McCain at a Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, July 2015

“No more massive injections. Tiny children are not horses—one vaccine at a time, over time.”— via Twitter in September 2014

What’s becoming apparent is that strict party loyalty is no longer the glue that can bind a voter’s heart. Some of the sentimental value perhaps lingers when making appeals for campaign donations and for rallying the faithful at election time—but not much else.

The historic function of the parties, aside from getting out voters, was to raise lots of money and offer campaign guidance. This has been largely supplanted by individual mega-donors and their Super PACS turned loose by the Citizen’s United decision.

They are not only the principal contributors to many campaigns but are telling candidates how to run them. Trump views his party’s apparatus as an obstacle, which he chose to ignore.

This has no doubt made the voters highly skeptical of what exactly the party can accomplish which Trump is not already doing himself.

Similarly, Sanders has shown no particular allegiance to his fellow Senate Democrats and was mainly tolerated as one who could be counted upon to vote with them as it suited his purposes.

Staging conventions—another historic party function—have become humdrum affairs in recent years when the nominees have been typically crowned well in advance. This year is shaping up to be the same with each party’s nominees needing only to be crowned.

Despite the near certainty of defeat, Sanders appears determined to soldier on with another big win in West Virginia and visions of an upset in California next month where lack of enthusiasm for Clinton is still evident.

Nevertheless, as the ability of parties to dictate voters’ choices continues to wane, either they must go through radical transformation or maverick candidacies such as that of Trump and Sanders’ may become the norm.

The numbers tell the story:

A 2015 Gallup Poll indicates a record high 43% of Americans listing themselves as Independents whereas those who identify as Republicans fell to 26% with Democrats at 30%.

In California, recent findings by the Public Policy Institute show that of the 17.2 million voters in the state nearly 23.6% claim to be independent (which includes “decline to state” or “no party preference). That percentage has been steadily rising.

The same survey shows that of those considered most likely to vote, 43%–much higher than the national average—are Democrats and 32% are Republicans.

The downward slide in party significance is likely to continue with congressional intransigence, partisan bitterness, and voter ambivalence showing no signs of abating.

With the nation’s demographic makeup in rapid flux as first time voters and the younger generation with few attachments to the past multiply along with record numbers of aging Baby Boomers, Hispanics and legalized immigrants attaining voting status, both parties are faced with the need for major structural realignments if they want to remain relevant.

Regardless of whom the nominees are, the parties must begin listening more carefully to those exiting in mounting numbers or in their present incarnations they may wither away.