Thursday, January 28, 2010

Winning the independents

I liked this Newsweek article by Howard Fineman. It was an offering of advice, prior to President Obama's State of the Union Speech, in how The President could win back independent voters. I think Mr. Fineman had a lot of things pegged. I especially liked his discussion of the recent Supreme Court decision which gave corporations a constitutional right to contribute unlimited amounts of money to political advertising campaigns.

Says Mr. Fineman:
"The president also may be able to score points with independents by vowing to somehow dam up the flow of corporate spending in campaigns, a flow that could grow to a flood as a result of the Supreme Court's recent ruling in the matter. But, according to some Democrats outside the White House, Obama's problem is his frame of reference: the South Side of Chicago, the liberal wing of the party that holds sway there, and his roots in Democrat-dominated Hawaii and the Ivy League."

I also thought that he succinctly summed up the independent voter better than I've probably ever seen them/us described:
"An academic cottage industry exists to debate the identity of independents (or even if they exist) and what they care about. The academic discussions are way too technical for me. What I can tell you is based on having covered lots of elections, and self-described independents such as Ross Perot. It's enough to know that "independents" are weakly attached to the apparatus or agendas of the parties, that they tend to be younger and more male than hard-core party types, and that they are, for want of a better term, "process-oriented."

"They yearn for "good government"—government that is open, fair, efficient, free of special interests' domination, and nonpartisan or bipartisan in spirit. They find no glory in ideological combat; they see it as destructive. They search for leaders who exhibit a sense of good will. They tend to fret about deficits and debt, but not in a reflexively antigovernmental way. They are not against social programs, but want them administered with old-school thrift. They are not "centrists" in the sense that they exist in some mathematical middle ground between "left" and "right." Nor are they necessarily angry "populists," eternally resenting and distrusting anyone with any power. They are outsiders who wish Washington were a better place."

"The health-care crusade has cost him among independents. Not that they didn't want heath-care reform; they did. But the massive bill now stuck in Congress has seemed to grow less sensible and more confusing in its substance, even as the process of enacting it has become more arcane, secretive, viciously partisan, and corrupt."

Bingo! Hell yes, people want health-care reform. Those don't have it — and this number is growing daily — are very concerned about it. Those who are concerned about possibly losing their job, and especially those who currently have medical conditions and know full-well that if they had to get a new job and new insurance plan, it would be unlikely their pre-existing conditions would be covered are very worried about healthcare reform. And anyone with any common sense knows that if the spiraling costs of healthcare are not contained they are going to bankrupt the country.

But what Congress has proposed, much of which was added to and over-extended just to get opportunists to vote for it, is in the minds of most folks too cumbersome, too complicated, too expensive, too corrupt, too demanding, and won't address enough of the cost issues to be worth it.

I hope President Obama turns things around soon. Some of the blame he is getting is undeserved. And some of it is well-earned. In particular, I think The President left entirely too much for the Democrats in Congress to just go their own way — pushing their pet agendas. He needs to be more assertive. I think this could win over more independents. They want results, they want progression not radicalism. They want fiscal restraint, but they also want the genuine needs of common people around this country and the economy itself to be met.

As for the Republicans... That seems to be a hopeless situation. They have driven most moderates out of their party, the political system is so polarizing that the base of the GOP and this new radical conservative/pseudo-libertarian Tea Party movement demands obstructionism, moreover, the President has been vilified to such an extent that for a Republican to support him or one of his agendas could be political suicide.

While it's bad for the country, it's good for politics for Republicans to just keep standing in his way, demanding super-majorities to get anything passed, and then gloat in the upcoming elections how the Democrats can't get anything done.

An important question then is, Will independent voters be naive enough to fall for that line?

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