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Sunday, October 18, 2009

WARNING: INDEPENDENTS MAY GO REPUBLICAN IN 2010!


I received this which I post below from Nancy Hanks, creator of THE premier progressive independent website The Hankster , which can be found at http://grassrootsindependent.blogspot.com/. For those of us who may mistakenly think President Obama won the last election simply because of strong support by Democrats, that just isn't so. He won by capturing a large bloc of independent voters.

As Nancy points out in her current blog post, there is a very real danger that the Republican right may lie their way into siphoning off a number of independent votes next year. Coupled with the namby-pampy support we've seen the President get so far from "Blue Dog" Democrats during his term, large conservative gains could prove disastrous toward passing and implementing the progressive agenda this country so desperately needs. We cannot allow Republican gains to push the moderate/conservative "Blue Dogs" further to the right. Read and learn here in Nancy's informative post. With Nancy's blessing, please feel free to share her post with all the liberals and progressives you know. We cannot allow ourselves to become complacent and thus enable the far-right Cheneyesque factions to strengthen their hand or even regain control of Congress!
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Independents are vulnerable to being peeled away by the Republican right. The Pew Research Center reports that were the 2010 midterms to be held today, independents would lean towards Republicans by a 43 to 38 percent margin. But, the evolution of a 21st century independent movement is not that simple. First, the movement is very fluid and very new. Historical movements develop through twists and turns, not in a straight line. The far right has attempted to take over the independent movement before. In 1994, Newt Gingrich crafted the “Contract with America” to woo Perotistas back into the Republican tent. And in 2000, social conservative Pat Buchanan hijacked the Reform Party presidential nomination, though he was roundly repudiated by independents in the general election. [FULL PIECE BELOW]


SERIOUS AS A HEART ATTACK: THE INDEPENDENTS’ STORY
By: Jackie Salit

When we finally get far enough down the road on health care reform, it will become clear that a driving force in the intensity of the fight was a heart attack. Not the medical kind. The political kind.

Independents swung decisively to Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election. And it is this shift by independents – who repositioned themselves from center-right to center-left – that gave the Republican right the political equivalent of cardiac arrest.

In 1992, 19 million independents voted for Ross Perot. In 2008, 19 million independents voted for Barack Obama. Over the span of 15 years, the largely white, center-right independent movement re-aligned itself with Black America and progressive-minded voters.

This did not happen out of the blue. It did not happen by magic. It happened because the progressive wing of the independent movement did the painstaking and often controversial work of bringing the Perot movement and the Fulani movement together at the grassroots. The Fulani movement refers to the country’s leading African American independent, Dr. Lenora Fulani, who exposed the black community to independent politics and introduced the independent movement to an alliance with Black America.

No doubt the dramatics that the right wing brought to the Town Hall meetings this summer were intended for the television cameras. But the organizers, strategists and radio personalities who orchestrated the theatrics had a particular audience in mind: Independents. If they could tarnish Obama’s image with indies, they could damage the black and independent alliance and re-establish the Republican Party as an influential force amongst independents. Some of that could be accomplished, they felt, by claiming Obama’s health plan would drive up the national debt – a concern that animated the early Perot movement. Some Republican strategists felt that if they simply branded Obama a socialist, it would scare independents away – not from the health care plan (everyone recognizes a plan of some kind will get passed) but away from the center-left coalition that elected him.

If indies are feeling somewhat disillusioned with President Obama over the health care reform fight, it has more to do with fears that he is being overly influenced by the partisans in Congress. Since independents voted for him to be a more independent president, it’s easy to see how some felt disappointed by his handling of the Republican onslaught. Obama’s independent appeal was based on his challenge to the prevailing culture of Clintonian opportunism in the Democratic Party and partisanship inside the Beltway. Put another way, the independent vote for Obama was an effort to define a new kind of progressivism, one that was not synonymous with Democratic Party control.

After years of hard work and organizing, independents have become a sought-after partner in American politics. They elected President Obama and New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, arguably the country’s two most independent and pragmatically progressive elected officials. No wonder the Republican Party right wants a clawback.

Independents are vulnerable to being peeled away by the Republican right. The Pew Research Center reports that were the 2010 midterms to be held today, independents would lean towards Republicans by a 43 to 38 percent margin. But, the evolution of a 21st century independent movement is not that simple. First, the movement is very fluid and very new. Historical movements develop through twists and turns, not in a straight line. The far right has attempted to take over the independent movement before. In 1994, Newt Gingrich crafted the “Contract with America” to woo Perotistas back into the Republican tent. And in 2000, social conservative Pat Buchanan hijacked the Reform Party presidential nomination, though he was roundly repudiated by independents in the general election.

If Republicans are increasing their influence among independents, it’s also because the Democratic Party Left has not been a friend to the independent movement. Sure, Democrats were happy that indies broke for Obama. But they were disappointed that we didn’t become Democrats. They equate progressivism with being in the Democratic Party. But they’re wrong.

Neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party has been enthusiastic about the development of indies as a third force. For different reasons, surely. But they share a common goal: to maintain the primacy of two-value logic (where there is only one or the other, never neither) and make sure independents are passive companions. That’s one reason that the fight for open primaries – which allow independents to cast ballots in every round of voting – and the campaign to appoint independents to the Federal Election Commission are so important. Those fights are about our right to participate and our right to represent our interests in changing the political culture.

The independent movement went left in 2008, after many years of grassroots organizing to link it to progressive leadership. Now the right wants to peel it back. Obama, presumably, wants to hold on to the partnership, but must also privilege his own party, which turns independents off and makes them more susceptible to Republican attacks. Meanwhile, independents are working hard at the grassroots to hold our own.


Jackie Salit is the president of IndependentVoting.org and the campaign coordinator for Mike Bloomberg’s mayoral campaign on the Independence Party line.

23 comments:

Oso said...

Jack,
I just don't get it.I'm sure she's right,but-being disillusioned with Obama causing the independents to vote Republican just doesn't make sense.To cause them to not vote,or to vote for a third party candidate sounds reasonable.But to vote to make things worse?

To vote for more tax cuts for the wealthy,to vote for slashing govt spending with no private sector aggregate demand-that's voting for a depression !

Why would they want to make things worse?
They can't all be stupid,that's too easy.To blame a massive lack of intelligence.But what the hell else could it be ?

I Just...don't....get it.

Anonymous said...

"Why would they want to make things worse? They can't all be stupid,that's too easy.To blame a massive lack of intelligence.But what the hell else could it be?"

I don't think it comes down to intelligence or stupidity. Actually, independents' recognition that partisan politics prevails is an astute one. The fact that the progressive independent movement which Salit describes is young and that the right wing has been able to capitalize off of peoples' distrust of politics (not mention, as Salit points out, the complete failure of left wing Democrats to oppose this) is enough to give the media and the right fuel for diversion. However, I think it makes more sense to focus on Salit's positive message in her op ed: There is an independent to participate in and develop. If you're interested in learning more about it, please sign up at www.independentvoting.org or email me at gmandell@cuip.org. Salit hosts a national conference call for independents across the country and the next one is Sunday, November 8. Please contact me if you're interested.

Gwen Mandell
www.independentvoting.org

Oso said...

Gwen,
I am going to check that site right now.
Thank you !

Richard said...

I think independents are most upset with democrats for looking clueless. People want decisiveness and action.

The individual mandate for insurance was adopted to garner republican support, yet when the republicans abandon it the democrats stick with it. Health care in general seems like a mess where the democrats can't decide what they should do.

Tort reform for health care is refused because it doesn't save enough money, but on no grounds that it actually is a bad idea. Right now we need to save everything we can, so democrats need to come up with a better reason.

A few more areas of indecision and lack of action: Afghanistan, too big to fail, global warming, gay rights.

People like to think those in charge of protecting the country actually know what they are doing. Democrats would be wise to act with conviction, but most importantly to just act.

rbwinn said...

Any time independent voters vote for a party candidate, they are voting for European political philosophy, i.e., the people exist to serve the state. The parties just disagree on how it should happen.
Until independent voters begin to register as candidates for office, they will just be bouncing back and forth between two different extremes of European politics, nationalism and socialism, as represented here in the United States by the two major parties.

Infidel753 said...

It would help if the Democrats actually gave people something to vote for. It's hard to point to an obvious major accomplishment. (Revoking the ban on stem-cell research funding will bring very major benefits in the long term, but it's not a high-visibility issue to most people.)

Health-care reform would do it, if it's real, if it really provides coverage for all citizens, ends the nightmare of job loss also meaning loss of insurance, and stops atrocities like recission.

By November 2010, any legislation will be judged by its effects, not by the political spin which this or that spokesman put on it back when it was passed.

If the Democrats want independents to vote for them, they need to show that having Democrats in power brings the country, including independents, tangible benefits. It's not enough to say that the Democrats won't be able to enact their agenda if they lose their majorities. By November 2010 they'll have been in power almost two years. Let's get some of that agenda actually enacted, now.

Jack Jodell said...

I don't get it either, but I think we need to keep in mind that not all independents are as politically aware as Ms. Hanks, Ms. Salit, or you or I are. Many are simply tired of promises not being delivered, as in Obama's case, or of outright lies, as in his predecessor's case, or of constant two-party bickering. Not following, or not wishing to follow, complex political situations develop and unfold, some of this bloc is susceptible to following the biggest lie or the loudest voice. There was a good reason Hitler staged many of his great speeches and rallies toward day's end: his people were tired physically and mentally after a very hard day's work. Our electorate is tired today too: of working two and three jobs; constant financial pressure and stress; and constantly rising drug and medical costs. They are vulnerable to charlatans offering a quick or simple fix, no matter how foolish or unrealistic that fix may be...

The great paradox of our time is how ANY conservative Republican can be elected ANYWHERE, since all they want to do is take from the poor and middle class and give to the rich through regressive taxation and constant military involvement all across the globe. That these officials can repeatedly fool voters into cutting their own economic throats is a real mystery, but it can and does happen. So it's up to us to keep fighting the gigantic conservative Republican lie.

Jack Jodell said...

Thank you for your comment, Gwen. I would add, unintelligent liars can often trump honest and intelligent people, depending on the size and nature of the lie they tell. I sincerely hope progressive-minded independents will continue to exert a loud presence to be picked up by the ears of Republicans and Democrats (especially Blue Dog Democrats) alike! Thanks for visiting today, Gwen.

Jack Jodell said...

Richard, thanks for stopping by. You raise very valid points, and I think your opening 2 lines sums up the situation quite accurately. But, as Oso points out, the solution is hardly to put back in status-quo-favoring conservative Republicans!

Jack Jodell said...

Interesting point, rbwinn. Thanks for stopping by.

Jack Jodell said...

I think you nailed it, Infidel753. The Democrats have indeed hurt themselves and their agenda by not providing a unified front. It's hard to mount an offense when some of the front line is kneeling, others are rolling or stumbling, and only a few are trying to advance the ball. Of course, the Republicans have been of absolutely no help at all. They have just been an immovable wall. Voters rejected them overwhelmingly last year, with very good reason. The Democrats have been fools to allow them into the same huddle. The fans want touchdowns, not razzle dazzle!

Infidel753 said...

The great paradox of our time is how ANY conservative Republican can be elected ANYWHERE, since all they want to do is take from the poor and middle class and give to the rich through regressive taxation and constant military involvement all across the globe.

It's because the driving force of the right wing since at least the late 1990s has been religion, not economic issues. The Christian Right has become the dominant element. Why is the Republican party still popular in the South while rating in single digits everywhere else? Because that's where the fundamentalist population is concentrated. Those people will put up with a lot from Republican polticians if the latter keep promising to attack gays, abortion, secularism, and so forth.

This is why I like to emphasize the seemingly-endless scandals involving Republican polticians' adultery, homosexuality, etc. The best way to combat a force based on claimes of piety is to expose its hypocrisy.

Richard said...

The great paradox of our time is how ANY conservative Republican can be elected ANYWHERE, since all they want to do is take from the poor and middle class and give to the rich through regressive taxation and constant military involvement all across the globe.

When Bush was elected after Clinton did such incredible work on reducing poverty and such, I would agree with what you said. Unfortunately we must vote according to where we are now.

The Wall St. bail outs are certainly robbing from future generations to give to the incredibly rich.

Health care reform will require insurance (hitting the poor hardest), and drastically increase costs on the young and healthy (by capping the difference an insurer can charge due to age). This is incredibly regressive.

I think we need to keep in mind that not all independents are as politically aware

This also highlights a reason so many people do not like the democratic party. Often democrats imply people are inferior in some way if they do not agree with the democratic point of view. This is unlikely to ever win supporters.

For health care, I think the democrats sold the country out. Why not just head to the table saying we're going to have a socialized medical option (doing away with the middle man has been proven by the world to reduce costs)? In that situation, maybe you win Republicans with a generous tax deduction for those who choose to self-insure. Maybe you don't and have to use reconciliation. Who cares? Like I said before, act with conviction for your beliefs!

Jack Jodell said...

Great point, Infidel753! The Republican religious right (I call them the religious "wrong" because they have long misinterpreted Christianity and have put their own spin on that, too) has long been a bastion of double standard and hypocrisy. But I think we on the left have made a big mistake by automatically shunning most Christian groups over the past 3 decades. Many (most) are NOT far-right kooks, and many have highly developed senses of social consciousness. Advances in civil rights and workers' rights, for example, would never have occurred with support and pressure from the more liberal elements of the Christian community, and this type of coalition and cooperation should be encouraged rather than discouraged, I think...

Jack Jodell said...

Richard,
No inference was intended about independents having lesser intelligence than Democrats, but there ARE those elitist "limousine liberals" who turn EVERYBODY off, I agree. I think the Obama administration made a number of big mistakes on health care: 1). Putting it all into the lap of Congress. Doing so has bogged it down and allowed for lobbyist/special influence money to play far too big a role. 2). Trying to elicit GOP support for a major governmental program sponsored by Democrats. Ever since Gingrich's 1994 "Contract ON America", the GOP has had no time at all for any Democratic-sponsored initiatives. 3). Rather than attempting to force the insurance industry to end exclusion and recission outright, the Democrats played cozy with the industry in the god-awful Baucus bill which was indeed regressive to force insurance and fines on everyone. We should just break those insurance "trusts" up as Teddy Roosevelt did the big banks 100 years ago. They are harming the public and polluting our very government with their greed.

rbwinn said...

Jack,
Take another look at George Washington's assessment of political parties, the one Nancy Hanks quotes in her blog, taken from his farewell address. I say the first President was dead on. The fact is the United States succeeded the way it did because there were no organized parties in the United States from 1776 until the election of 1800. What we independent voters need to do is to say, We are registered to vote the same way all Americans were registered in the beginning. Political party members are registered as members of self-created societies which claim to have what Washington called "artificial authority" in government.
Since independents now outnumber Democrats, I say the best course is to just say, we are going to take over the government. That is not an easy task. Political parties have been passing laws since 1800 to keep independents from becoming candidates for office. The weakness of political parties is voter registration. They never could register voters because of their incompetence in government. Independent voters are going to control the government because they are registered to vote the correct way. So let's say that you and I come from different ends of the political spectrum, which is probably true, (I come from what would be called a conservative Republican background), I would absolutely encourage you to become an independent candidate for office and probably vote for you because you are an independent voter, and, as such, could probably represent my interests in government better than most conservative Republicans because you would not be engaging in the kind of actions against free and open elections that most conservative Republicans engage in to exclude independents from participation in the government. Their latest action here in Arizona was removal of the option to register independent from the voter registration form, decreasing independent voter registration from 80,000 per year to 13,000 per year. I say that we independent voters need to unite in opposition to party-controlled elections, regardless of whatever differences in political philosophy we may have because of our different backgrounds and say that free and open elections are our number one concern. Until independent voters can get on the ballot against party candidates, we do not have free and open elections. I am not talking about eccentric billionaires running as independents. I am talking about ordinary American citizens.

Jack Jodell said...

The scenario you describe is perhaps ideal from one standpoint, but the only way to take control of government is through mass national organization coalescing around one candidate or slate of candidates. Without money, this is a pipe dream. National and even local campaigns take a lot of money, and, unfortunately, that money is currently channeled into two main political parties. Until mindsets and established practices can be revolutionized around what you describe, I see no way anyone can be elected President as an independent, nor can I see more than one or two Congresspersons being elected at a time as independents. Don't get me wrong: I would very much love to see our entire political system overhauled, but I don't even begin to pretend to have an answer as to how this can be achieved, and what you have written here does not present a real alternative to overcoming the entrenched methodology either. As far independents outnumbering Democrats, that may very well be true. But today's independents are even less united than are today's Democrats. We must simply keep working at finding a better way all around...

Stimpson said...

FYI, Politico has just started a 2-part series on the Obama White House strategy for marginalizing the GOP. Totally different perspective from what's in this post.

Lately, my attempts at creating hyperlinks have failed. So here's the URL for copy and paste: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1009/28532.html

MadMike said...

I think it quite normal to develop the Chicken Little "sky is falling syndrome" anytime a popular politician is being attacked by extremists, as is Obama from the Dumbers and assorted Tea Baggers. At present he is working through some tough issues, i.e. health care, Afghanistan, and etc.

I do not, under any normal circumstances, see Independents moving to the Right and voting for the likes of The Palin, Mitt Romeny, or silly Huckabee in 2012.

The fact is we have a president who is almost too good to be true. Part of this, of course, is because we had a president for 8 years previous who was too bad to be true. Obama is like a gift that no one wants to lose, so the fear of that loss often often manifests itself in a worse case scenario.

Infidel753 said...

Stimpson -- encouraging if true, but then why are they playing such a different game with health reform and DADT and stuff like that which is actually part of the agenda?

If they're playing hardball with Limbaugh and Fox but pattycake on the public option, their priorities are screwed up.

Staying in power shouldn't be an end in itself. The point of having power is to use it to get things done.

Stimpson said...

Yeah, you're right, Infidel -- it doesn't make sense to go after Fox the way they have yet basically stand aside on the public option. Seeing that everyone can get access to health care should be the top priority, and lately Team Obama hasn't been acting like it is.

Jack Jodell said...

@Stimpson:
Thanks for the url. I have a helluva time with hyperlinks too, and I don't know why.
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@MadMike:
Yes, I don't see the possible dropoff in independent support as a threat to Obama in 2012, but I am more concerned that the GOP may pick up seats in 2010. Midterm elections are tough for the party in power anyway, and I'd hate like hell to see the GOP pick up even one Senate seat!
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@Infidel753:
Great point about playing pattycake on public option. My only hope is that, once again, Obama will amaze us and confound everybody else and prove that his strategy has been correct all along. I see little tiny signs of hope brightening up the horizon. Public Option, for example, seemed all but dead 2-3 weeks ago, but it seems to be making a modest but sustained comeback. These are heady, turbulent times and it seems all we can do is keep exerting pressure and see how this all develops...

TomCat said...

Jack, I'm not too worried. 20% of the people who identified themselves as Republicans just two months ago have now left the party.