Democrat and Republican consultants and media mouths have settled on a few generalizations to define the independent voter: “low information,” “moderate,” or “undecided.” But the generalized terms forget the more personal reality of an independent voter. An independent is, by definition, not bound by the traditional political indicators that have painted our political maps red and blue.
These same political consultants have stopped running campaigns of persuasion, in favor of a divide and conquer strategy: run negative ads and push out the people who don’t see the difference in one evil over another. Once the non-partisans have been disenfranchised, the side that pushes out more of its base on Election Day wins. And third parties and independent candidates are largely irrelevant in an electoral system designed and crafted by a team of two.
Now, Republican consultants and pollsters have been called to the thrown for being so wrong this election. But they’ve been wrong for a lot longer than that. The Karl Rove’s of the world are brilliant short-term strategists; they understand the emotion and human reaction to carefully crafted rhetoric; they see voters as statistics; they measure success by the number of seats they win. The Republican Party, its consultants, and its pollsters, seek ideological uniformity within a party that has traditionally prided itself on its big-tent.
As a result, the Republicans end up with a bunch of “I agree with you” candidates who refuse to take a stand in opposition the ideological purists in the tent. As a consequence, women, gays, minorities, and the young voters who have grown up in a more interconnected and socially accepting world have walked out of the tent. A large number of these voters voted for Obama, or nobody at all. But in any case, they are not Democrats. They are independent voters.
These are the independents that the politicians and moving mouths say are “really Republicans,” in part because of their voting history and in part because of their traditional political tendencies. In the short-term, the “ignore them and they’ll end up with us anyway” strategy has worked for the Republicans. But not anymore.
There is a civil war in the Republican Party more complex than polling data alone can show. You can’t determine just how many voters finally had enough when John Huntsman had any presidential hopes erased by conceding that he believed in scientific evidence. You can’t measure the number of independent-minded Republicans that supported Ron Paul, in all his earnest honesty, only to see him marginalized at every turn like an unwanted stepchild by the party-brokers. You can’t deny that his “tea party” son and Senator Rand Paul has little in common with the “tea party” Congresswoman Michelle Bachman. There is no saying how many votes Romney lost, not because Obama met with Governor Christy after the storm devastated his State, but because the Republicans failed to give the president and their own credit when it was the right thing to do.
And you can’t put a number on the number of voters who have heard one too many attacks on the other party, made one too many campaign promises that they don’t really mean, and too few new ideas from a party that used to pride itself on its intellectualism.
These are not Democratic voters. And they aren’t Republican voters anymore. They are independent-minded voters. They don’t believe the Republican is always right and the Democrat is always wrong. Often, they don’t think either one is right. And even more often, they just want authenticity; someone who is honest in their beliefs, humble enough to admit when they are wrong, and mature enough to run a campaign of persuasion. In short, they are looking for the characteristics of true leaders
The Republican Party brand is tarnished. It’s like a company that has produced one too many widgets that just don’t work like advertised. The only difference is, there are plenty of good Republicans within the Republican Party. And the Republican Party will win back independents, repair its brand, and be stronger for it, when the pollsters and consultants that got us where we are today get out of the way and let them lead.
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This is absurd on its face. Independent voters like me (since 1972) THINK. Try that out in your silly prognostications. I'll be there at the other end waiting. And still ahead of you.
John Huntsman was an interesting candidate, I was a little sad when he was put aside so quickly. I think that your sentence: As a result, the Republicans end up with a bunch of “I agree with you” candidates who refuse to take a stand in opposition the ideological purists in the tent.
Is an astounding summary of the state of current American politics that is perpetuated by partisan politics. By doing this, the mainstream parties can lay claim to large demographics of people without committing to representation.
Sheldon Adelson backed eight republican candidates with millions and millions of dollars and didn't score a single win. I agree, a select few who are wealthy and power hungry took over the party brand. The same thing could have happened to Democrats, but it just so happened that Reps are on the losing end this time around and spent so much money. The republican message might need tweaking, but the way they presented their message this election cycle flat-out did not work.
It's unfortunate that the extremes within both the Democratic and Republican parties have tarnished the original, defining ideologies with hysteric rhetoric. I'm a fan of both liberalism and conservatism, depending on the circumstance, but the contemporary major parties have defaced the meaning of those words.
"As a result, the Republicans end up with a bunch of “I agree with you” candidates who refuse to take a stand in opposition the ideological purists in the tent."
-- And those candidates & leaders who did take a stand in opposition to the establishment, are isolated from the party and quickly lost the primary race (think back to Jon Huntsman). This is a problem we see in BOTH parties: leaders who take a stance that is not directly in line with the political agenda of their "party platform" get criticized and ostracized from their own party, subtly requiring conformity in the place of financial support and party endorsements.
I think this election proves how wrong that strategy is. Mitt Romney embarrassingly failed to reach out and communicate a resonating message to minority groups, women, basically anyone who isn't white. And that's because he listened to his consultants, who for years, have been wrong and did not deviate from the scripted messages fed to him by his party. Voters increasingly vote on issue, not party platform now. Republicans and Democrats alike will have to adapt if they want to survive as the dominant parties in the US.
I'm not sure if you are referring to me (the author of the article) or the consultants/pollsters (the objects of the article). Either case, not sure how to respond, but appreciate you independent thought. For the record, I am not a Republican [or a Democrat]; should you take that away from my prognostication.
aside from the demographics shift, i think americans are starting to see through the shallow fear tactics and emotional appeals
Another example of how wrong they were was the failure of the Karl Rove super pac despite all the money spent ! Great article.
The two-party system is not going to survive in the United States because it is so inept at government, and it is so expensive. The best efforts of the two-party system to stop independent voter registration have only increased it. Within a few years there will be more independent voters in the United States than party members, and political parties will no longer be able to deny independent voters the right to be candidates for public office. As soon as independent voters get ballot access, the two major parties are done.
After fear mongering under the Bush admin, and this recent Romney loss, Republicans should rethink their tendency towards such extreme conservatism. There is perhaps a stigma associated with the entire party, though of course not all are so conservative.