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In an age of algorithms and automation, nothing is more insightful than numbers, and the conclusions derived from them. Yet, in an era when every movement in our economy is calculated and analyzed, the brightest economists still can’t pull us out of a rut. As we chart the skies and weather patterns, sudden catastrophe still surprises us.
More voters now self-identify as independent than with any party. Yet, even with the lack of enthusiasm from the general electorate over the Democratic-dominated outcome of the election, the political commentators still analyze the landscape in binary code.
Lois Romano of Politico wrote today about “The Disappearing Independent” voter. She argues that the independent no longer decides elections because “Romney became the first presidential candidate in recent history to decisively win the independent voter,” and still lose.
Even in the two-sided statistical world that Romano embraces, her conclusion is suspect. If Romney, as a representative of the GOP, received an overwhelming number of independent voters, and still lost, does this mean that independent voters are disappearing? Doesn’t it more logically mean that the Republican brand is disappearing?
In reality, the independent voter is not a party affiliation. It is a mindset. Independent voters can be found in the Democratic Party, Republican Party, Greens, Libertarians, and so on. Independent voters are the one’s who believe that party affiliation alone doesn’t make you right; doesn’t make you wrong. They are the ones that ask for an explanation. They are tired of empty talking points. They believe in the shades of gray between the aisles of red and blue solutions. They want authenticity, sincerity, and humility.
Republican and Democratic consultants and commentators, despite their massive data and advances in technology, can’t figure out the independent voter. This is because they aren’t a variable on their data print out. On their score sheets, some of the most ardent ideologues, proud of their perfect belief system, are independent voters simply because they have an “independent” registration.
The truth is, if anything is “disappearing,” it’s the Republican brand. They have become a party of panderers. They are a mechanical party that says what the reactionaries within want to hear; what the polls say will work; what their leadership says is ok. No authenticity. No sincerity. No humility. Even when they get a majority of the registered independent voters, they still can’t win.
Within the two-party institutional infrastructure, the only place for voters who used to find comfort in the GOP’s big tent, is to “the other guy.” Just when the Democrats think that means they “won” the game that both parties are playing with our system of government, our economy, and our lives, there should be concern for those itching for a more ideological left.
Young voters voted overwhelmingly for Obama. Yet, there was nowhere near the enthusiasm for “hope and change” that there was four years prior. Young voters have grown up in a more integrated world, where the constructs of a rigid philosophy, whether religious or political, are not conducive to getting along with the spectrum of society. As a result, the fear of the Republican brand, which has associated itself with exclusivity, rigidity, and the fear of others, drove them to the polls.
As the left becomes more dogmatic in their ideological pursuits, they will distance independents as well. If the Republican brand stops listening to consultants and pollsters and starts showing a glimmer of humanity, the brand might just reappear again.