Friday, November 06, 2009

"Independents"


David Brooks offers his own special insight into what independents want, coincidentally what Brooks himself wants:
If I were a politician trying to win back independents, I’d say something like this: When I was a kid, I had a jigsaw puzzle of the U.S. Each state was a piece, and on it there was a drawing showing what people made there. California might have movies; Washington State, apples; New York, fashion or publishing. That puzzle represented an economy that was diverse and deeply rooted.

We’ve lost that. First Wall Street got disproportionately big, then Washington. It’s time to return to fundamentals. No short-term fixes. Government should do what it’s supposed to do: schools, roads, basic research. It should not be picking C.E.O.’s or setting pay or fizzing up the economy with more debt. It should give people the tools to compete, not rig the competition. Lines of restraint have dissolved, and they need to be restored.
But here's the thing: independents aren't a monolith. Like the supporters of the major political parties, you'll find independents who self-describe as liberal, conservative and moderate. You'll find people who choose a libertarian candidate, a Conservative Party candidate, vote Green, or fervently pray that Pat Buchanan will make another run for President. It's inaccurate to assume that independents hover between the two major political parties and that either could score their votes. Among other factions you have:
  • People who for a variety of reasons don't want to associate themselves with a specific political party, but nonetheless always (or almost always) vote for a specific political party;

  • People who either don't have the time or inclination to follow politics - the type of people who argued with sincerity back in 2000 that there was "no difference between Gore and Bush".

  • People who want the Republican Party to move further to the right, or the Democratic Party to move sharply to the left.

  • People who think both parties are corrupt and/or incompetent, even if they have slightly different approaches to paving the road to hell.

But let's play Brooks' game, and assume that independents are looking for... an authoritative parent?
Independents support the party that seems most likely to establish a frame of stability and order, within which they can lead their lives. They can’t always articulate what they want, but they withdraw from any party that threatens turmoil and risk. As always, they’re looking for a safe pair of hands.
That does help explain the level of hysteria that the Republican Parties have been trying to whip up over everything President Obama does. "OMG - he sneezed; he wants everybody to catch Swine Flu! While he takes away your health insurance! That's proof that he supports death panels!" Less sarcastically, as Dan Larison points out in the context of Obama's absence from ceremonies commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall, the attack machine is nothing more than that:
If people are tired of hearing from Obama and tired of him inserting himself into so many things, as we hear so often from the GOP, his absence from Berlin this week should be a welcome sign that Obama is learning that he needs to have priorities in how he uses his time. Just a few weeks ago, we were hearing how outrageous it was for Obama to shirk his duties and go to Copenhagen, and now it is supposed to be outrageous that he is not going on yet another foreign trip.
If Brooks sees the future of the Republican Party as making platitudinous statements about childhood jigsaw puzzles - a cute image, but essentially a false argument that we can somehow return to the simple days before globalization - and the notion that the government shouldn't exercise oversight even over the companies it bails out, and shouldn't be concerned about the executives of the industry that almost brought down the world economy even as regular, hard-working Americans can't find work - or do, but at a fraction of what they previously earned - all the more power to him. Seriously, "Wall Street got too big, so let's bail it out at taxpayer expense but not regulate it or its pay structure"? Not that the Republican Party has done badly in the past by following the Brooks/Barnum approach of never overestimating the intelligence of the American People.

Whether it's the latest party memo, or the inevitable post-election spin, there are any number of editorials about "the center" and how the only way for Obama to win the next election is to stop governing as a centrist and to start running as a Republican. Brooks' entry may not be particularly impressive, but compared to, say, Krauthammer's latest screed or Gerson's drooling on his keyboard.... But still, aren't we really just revisiting Brooks' "lunch period poli sci",
The only real shift between school and adult politics is that the jocks realize they need conservative intellectuals, who are geeks who have decided their fellow intellectuals should never be allowed to run anything and have learned to speak slowly so the jocks will understand them.
With "conservative intellectuals" still meaning "David Brooks, but with the term "independent voters" substituted for "jocks"?

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