News Headlines for Independent Voters 8/27/09

News Headlines for Independent Voters 8/27/09


Independent Voters
Independents are playing a key role in the debate on health care. Centrist commentator John Avlon says indies are social liberals/fiscal conservatives; James A. Morone, seeming to speak for the Demo-(We-Are-Not-Socialists)-Crats says indies are moderate, fence-sitting, frightened and don’t vote in midterm elections… Independent strategist and public philosopher Fred Newman, PhD says “the most right wing voices are saying in their appeal to a base: We don’t want to have any or more or all of our money spent on poor people. It’s not more complicated than that.” What do you think??

  • Commentary: Obama losing independent voters (By John Avlon, Special to CNN) All this is evidence that Obama’s election did not represent a liberal ideological mandate, as House Democrats and their partisan cheerleaders might wish. More than 70 percent of independents now disapprove of Congress.
  • Why the Health Care Debate Is So Explosive (James A. Morone, Washington Post/Short Stack) Many Democrats are moving to whittle back health reform in order to win over moderate, fence-sitting, frightened independents. Big mistake…
  • The Ant and the Grasshopper Revisited (Fred Newman and Jackie Salit, I’ve always felt that the long term debate over health care is the societal form of the “socialism or capitalism” debate. That’s what it’s meant. That’s writ large in the current circumstance and Obama is bearing the brunt of that debate right now, while trying to lead the way forward, without using the language of socialism, and almost certainly overworking the language of capitalism. That’s what the raw emotions are about. The right wing is aghast, not by how much money we’re spending. I think that’s ludicrous. Nobody worries about how much money we’re spending, as long as it’s not their money.
  • Polling shows uncertainties about ‘public option’ insurance in health reform (Portland Business Journal – by Neil Westergaard) Couple that with diminishing support for Obama from independent voters who were key to his election last year, and Cook said, “I don’t know that there’s an ending that the president is going to like.”
  • Reasoned arguments win more debates (Tim Hadachek, Kansas State Collegian) Actually, there’s a reason Obama has made only the feeblest of efforts to debunk these crazy claims. Independent voters are the kingmakers of American politics. Roughly the same number of Democrats and Republicans will vote and cancel each other out. But the candidate that can capture the most people in the middle of the political spectrum usually wins.

Open Primaries
Open primaries is probably the most democratic reform that could be implemented right now, one that would allow 40% of the electorate to have a voice

  • Change the two-party political system? Yes we can! (By Chris Ward, Arizona Daily Wildcat/University of Arizona) I’m a registered Independent, as are another unfortunate 898,000 voters in Arizona; we are unfortunate because in Arizona, as in 17 other states, independent voters cannot vote in primary elections or caucuses. Verily, nearly 40 percent of Americans identify themselves as Independents, and that number is even greater among college students, a demographic that could carry a candidate to victory.
  • Another take on legislators moving into state jobs (Posted by Jeff Mapes, The Oregonian) ” I also am not on a partisan crusade; in fact, I’m a registered Democrat, and would be an Independent if Oregon ever created an open primary….”
  • GOP Sen. Abel Maldonado: CA Reps are “suicidal” to bar indy primary voters (Carla Marinucci, San Francisco Chronicle/Politics blog)
  • Our Views: Leave state’s top-two primary system alone (The Olympian – WA)

For more news for independents, see The Hankster

  • mw

    “Independent voters are the kingmakers of American politics. Roughly the same number of Democrats and Republicans will vote and cancel each other out”. hankster Tim Hadachek*

    To the degree that this is true, it is true for the last two elections and may be the exception to the rule. First, as pointed out in your prior post, self-identified “Independents” are less independent than they seem, with most voting exactly like partisans for the party they lean toward. The remaining “true” independents (being independent), are more likely to be the ones that cancel themselves out and irrelevant in a national election. The success of the Rove electoral strategy was based on the understanding that a more effective GOV campaign targeting your partisans (and faux independent partisans) will swamp the effect of swinging true independent voters.

    For the small sliver of true independents to have a critical or determinative effect on an election, they actually have to vote mostly the same way, they have to be a voting “block” as opposed to a self-canceling voting segment, – that means they have to be organized around something. For ’06 and ’08, their organizing principle was essentially loathing of the Bush administration. They voted as a block against Bush and had a major impact.

    That organizing principle is now gone. In 2010 and 2012, if there is no similarly effective organizing principle to herd these cats, they will again cancel each other out and be an irrelevant factor in the election.

    I know what I would hope that organizing principle to be for these “social liberals, fiscal conservatives” (which is how I self-identify BTW) in ’10 and ’12 – a vote for divided government. If the independent vote organizes around that principle, they will again shape the outcome of the election. This is, or course, aspirational and not a prediction.

    *edited to fix incorrect attribution of this quote

  • kranky kritter

    I agree that Obama’s election was not the liberal mandate that progressives declared. They are just cluing in to that now, I think. Avlon is on target there.

    MW, I am not sure how much is achieved via various argument typecasting likely voter behavior in the way you do, speculating about who cancels out who, and so on. But then I have to admit that your enthusiasm for a mechanistic approach (to simply vote to achieve a divided government, apparently to be prioritized over regard for the positions of the candidates) rubs me the wrong way. IOW, while I thnk there’s some virtue in divided government, it’s not IMO magical enough to be raised to a fetish.

    Every election has its own unique dynamics, and things are always ion flux, so we’re always at risk when we bet our money on whatever trends can be divined from the last couple elections. I say beware of most or even all “kingmaker” arguments. They’re usually all spin.

    But I will say that I really like that there are efforts underway to open more primaries, and in general to revise various states’ systems to be more responsive to modern political perspectives. Namely, those that see past various established political schticks, and that consider that partisanship may be part of the problem. I hope that this trend continues, and that the coming years bring us more congressfolk whose loyalty favors the people and not the parties. Time will tell.

  • Nick Benjamin

    The thing you really have to keep inb mind for ’10 is it’s a midterm electionm. Most voters are under the impression those don’t matter — the Daily Show has a cartoon they air about it every time a midterm comes up — but they are fairly important. Which means turnout is in the mid 30s.

    When turnout is that low the folks who show up are disproportionately die-hard partisans who have an ideological reason to vote. That means independants are a much smaller chunk of the electorate than usual.

    That’s why the Dems have to get something done on health care. They need to be able to tell their partisans that the work of ’08 got something important done, otherwise they won’t show up. The GOP needs to kill health care so they can give their partisans they have a reason to vote.

  • Nancy Hanks

    mw, thanks so much for your comment! Being a “newcomer” here on Donklephant, your response is greatly appreciated!

    That said, I don’t agree that voters cancel each other out. Is our system corrupt? Yes. But we are still a democracy, and we do still have a one-“-man”-one-vote process where we get to choose among various candidates. The reason that independents are demanding open primaries is that, being the pragmatists that we are, we prefer to vote for the candidate, not the party.

    In terms of independents voting as a bloc, if you are looking for an independent ideological bloc that speaks for the left, center or right, I don’t think that’s in the hopper! Independents, almost by definition, are “all over the place” — as you say, how do we herd these cats?!

    However, there is an increasingly self-conscious movement towards a non-ideological, anti-partisan, self-defining political grouping that is process-oriented. thinks we need political reform, and thinks we need to put the interests of the country and the people ahead of the interests of the parties and the special interests.

    As a grassroots independent political activist who has been involved in door-knocking, phone-calling and blogging for 30 years, I feel greatly encouraged by the progress we have made over the recent past.

    Whether this “bloc” is a grouping of “true independents”, I don’t know. But I do know that this grouping is increasingly organized and is having a profound impact on national and local politics.

    I also want to make note that my News Headlines for Independent Voters is a compilation of articles relevant to folks interested in independent politics, and NOT my personal viewpoint. I present to you the various MSM and other posts that might be helpful in moving us forward to a nonpartisan political era…

    Don’t hesitate to reach me personally at [email protected] dot com

    Looking forward to much more open dialog!

  • Nancy Hanks

    kranky kritter — thanks again for a thoughtful and independent viewpoint. I agree that time will tell whether we are able to produce more independently minded “congressfolk”. History has been known to move very quickly as ordinary people hit the proverbial wall. In the meantime, there are many activists on the ground doing small (and large) things to move this along. Here’s to the trend continuing! – NH

  • Nancy Hanks

    Nick — Thanks for keeping the dialog going! Re: the midterms, let’s remember the 2006 elections when independent voters let the way in the changeover in Congress, essentially over the issue of the war in Iraq. It was independent voters, given that independents are not as vulnerable to the partisan pulls as are straight-line Dems and Repubs, who were able to break out of the fold and put an end to an immoral and unpopular foreign policy. Personally I feel very encouraged by this, and think we should not forget that shift. Let’s keep on keepin’ on! – NH

  • mw

    First, apologies for mislabeling the quote in my comment. I see now you were quoting/paraphrasing Hadachek. I thought on my first read that you were commenting on his piece, but from your comment see that you actually disagree with his statement. Sorry. I think I can still edit my comment, and will correct that label.

    A lot to chew in in your comment, so I’ll just wade in.

    I do consider myself an independent, although I have been registered Republican for the last two years, after being registered Dem for the the 23 years before that (and looking forward to registering Dem again in 2012). As an independent voter, I’ve been a big fan of your blog for a while, although I have not contributed much in the way of comments. As is probably obvious to you by now, the commentariat here are more in need of my help (you know – to each according to their needs).

    I’m in complete agreement with the effort of Independents to promote open primaries, and institute the kind of reform that would open the electoral process more to third parties. I think these are the kind of efforts where an “independent movement” can have meaning and impact.

    However, in the area of national policy as opposed to electoral process, I just don’t see how you can hold both that “Independents, almost by definition, are all over the place”’ and also that “this grouping is increasingly organized and is having a profound impact”. It just seems to me that it is practically a tautology that independents (or any grouping) that cannot speak with predominantly one voice on any given issue or candidate, cannot ever have any meaningful impact on that issue or candidate. It is only to the degree that independents (or any grouping) are organized and advocating a specific policy preference that they are relevant. As I was trying to say in my comment, independents were relevant in ’06 and ’08, precisely because they did align to a large degree against the policies of the Bush administration. That organizing principle is gone. I’m not sure what takes its place in 2010, if anything. If there is nothing that “herds these cats” in 2010, they are simply not going to be a relevant factor in the election.

    I look forward to “rubbing you the wrong way” with increasing frequency over the next 14 months. As I’ve explained before, voting for divided government does not involve belief in a magic talisman (although it may indeed be a fetish).

    It is a practical voting heuristic that has been shown as a historical fact to achieve certailn policy objectives that I support. I find it to be much more reliable and dependable than voting based on what a candidate tells you they are going to do. Believing in what candidates or politicians say as opposed to what they do, is what I consider to be magical and faith based thinking.

  • Nancy Hanks

    mw — yes, I usually use a quote from the article so that you get the gist of the article and at least what draws my attention to it, and I’m trying to include a little more personal viewpoint in a sentence or 2 about the section… maybe I should put a note to that effect on the post for a few weeks or so…

    As for “It is only to the degree that independents (or any grouping) are organized and advocating a specific policy preference that they are relevant,” — this is exactly the crux of the matter. On this issue of being organized — no quarrel there! However, while it’s true that independents came out of the woodwork in 2006 to oppose the war in Iraq, and then in the primaries to support both anti-machine candidates and in the general election in support of the progressive change candidate Barack Obama, what makes independents relevant to this moment is that we are the folks who haven’t bought into the political status quo. We (as a people, as a nation) I believe are moving toward a nonpartisan political culture. Independents are leading that shift, and increasing numbers of Americans see that shift as critical to moving forward as a country, and even to “re-gaining” (whatever that means) our stature as a world leader.

    The issues that are on the table right now are process issues — who gets to participate? Why do entrenched special interests have more voice than voters? — and that is exactly what “herds these cats”. That’s why there’s such an uproar about open primaries right now. With 40% of voters self-identifying as independents, and 99% of legislators towing the party line, something has to give!

    I’ll give you that 2010 may not be a watershed year. It will be on-the-ground mundane tedious organizing that will increase the power of the independent voice. And watch out 2012!