And Why Is Everybody Chasing Their Votes?
If you follow the political punditry you know that all the talking heads are constantly pontificating about how the various candidates and their policy proposals are going to be received by the bloc of the electorate variously described as “independents”, “moderates”, and variations on that theme.
Democrat and Republican operatives alike seem to think that these “independents” are a left-leaning group who want “progressive” social policy coupled with a modicum of fiscal restraint. For the Democrats, this means constant surprise when their policy proposals are rejected by the majority of the electorate. For the GOP this means that the Establishment hacks, in their constant search for winning nominees, repeatedly back the least conservative candidates – commonly labeled RINOs (Republican In Name Only) – in the apparent hope that they’ll be able to lasso in some votes from liberals.
I have no idea where either party gets their ideas of what comprise the “independents”. And I think they’re both dead wrong, other than in the idea that winning over “independents” can be key to winning elections.
The most obvious and recent indication is the rise in popularity and influence of the Tea Party, an amorphous group that rallies around traditional conservative principles of fiscal restraint, small government, individual responsibility, and an Originalist interpretation of the Constitution. These are hardly “progressive” positions. We also saw the rise and fall of the “Occupy movement”, and how they failed to resonate significantly with the populace, and in fact wore out their welcome without really having any effect whatsoever.
Polling data consistently show that the people in this country consider themselves to be “right of center” politically. Further, the data show that over the years, while the percentage of the electorate that’s registered as Democrat has stayed pretty stable in the mid-30s percentile, the GOP has lost about 18% of its registered voters to the “independents”. In other words, where in the past the electorate was split pretty evenly among the three options, the Democrats are unchanged while the GOP’s share has shrunk to the upper-20s percentile with the loss going to the uncommitted.
That’s important to note. The Republicans’ loss did NOT translate into the Democrats’ gain. It translated into an increase in the size of the uncommitted.
The question then becomes: why?
I think it’s instructive to look at the clear lessons of history to find our answers. Traditional American conservatism almost always does extremely well in the voting booth. Look at Reagan’s two landslide victories, followed by Bush the Elder’s landslide as Reagan III and his defeat as his more real and more liberal self. As a matter of fact, whenever the GOP runs their Establishment RINO-type candidates, they don’t do well at all: Dole, McCain; even Bush the Younger didn’t do very well against two rabidly leftist opponents, both of whom ran incredibly inept campaigns.
Contrast that with Bobby Jindal’s sweeping success in Louisiana, running on true conservative principles in a Democrat stronghold; or Sarah Palin’s success (whatever you may think of her now) doing the same thing in Alaska. Even Scott Brown’s success in winning “Teddy Kennedy’s Senate seat” in that most liberal of states, Massachusetts, was based on his opposition to Obama’s landmark socialist healthcare legislation. In Massachusetts, that’s what passes for conservative.
More history: as Daddy Bush became more and more “compassionate”, his support left him in droves and coalesced around Ross Perot, giving Clinton the win. But a mere two years of Clinton’s unchecked leftism swung control of Congress to the GOP and its 1994 Contract With America, a clear statement of conservative ideals, forcing Clinton to “triangulate” into a less-leftist “moderate”.
We saw the pattern repeated with the last Bush. His support kept dwindling as his policies swung more and more leftward, costing his party the control of Congress in 2006 and the loss of the presidency to Obama in 2008 when the GOP ran a candidate – McCain – who was almost indistinguishable from Obama on policy positions. But again, a mere two years of Democrat control of the entire apparatus was enough for the electorate to rebel in 2010, giving the House to the GOP and winnowing the Democrat majority in the Senate to a razor-thin margin. Yet another repudiation of leftism.
I can understand why the hard-core leftists who inhabit and control the Democrat party want to ignore all this. To acknowledge it would mean they’d have to abandon their goal to fundamentally transform this country into yet another “social democracy” such as those in Europe.
But why the GOP keeps clinging to this idea, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, defies all reason and logic. Are they really stuck on stupid?