Knowing the importance of capturing independents in an election, a good friend of mine (a loyal Democrat) is troubled by the polls showing President Obama’s weakening support among independents, so he asked me to write a post on this topic. I may take a take a beating on this one, but such is life in publishing.
Before starting, not only are most independents not aligned with a party, independents also position themselves in their own right-to-left spectrum. Since I lean left on some issues and right on others, I view myself as a pragmatic centrist – or a mirror of what many say that the US is a center-right nation that has many fiscally conservative, socially liberal voters.
I realize that both the right and the left want our votes and money, but not our views. In the spirit of objectivity and not partisan talking points, below are 10 shorts points (in no particular order) about why independent support for President Obama has weakened.
1) Independents are hungry for one who unites, and felt President Obama would fill that task. He spent a lot of political capital on two early legislative bills: the stimulus and health care. Whether or not the Democrats shutout the Republicans or the GOP was unwilling to play, independents were not happy with the process and outcome because of the appearance of party dominance, thus business as usual.
2) The Stimulus Bill had several issues tied to it: too much pork and failure to sell it for what it was – aid to state and local governments. President Obama passed on this good opportunity for a veto to set a tone of expected political cooperation. Meanwhile, the public remains misinformed about this act because leadership did not clearly explain it.
3) Regarding health care, if one is going to have a nationalized statue whose due process leads it directly to federal court, tort reform was a common sense addition that did not make it into the bill. Besides, the bill is too cumbersome, thus could have been accomplished with much fewer pages.
4) Many independents are socially liberal, but fiscally conservative. In other words, through efficient, prudent fiscal management, social programs are viable. Although efficient and prudent are not good adjectives of the government, this oxymoron remains a noble aim and one that this administration yet to embrace.
5) Independents see the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 as an inept attempt to regulate financial activity that was not permissible a short time ago. Instead of adding more regulations, why not return to the Glass-Steagall Act of 1932 that controlled the financial industry for more than a half of century. Nope, the administration followed their health care legislation model of something bigger than it needs to be.
6) No matter the president or their party affiliation, independents want a president to challenge his own party by throwing down a challenge or embracing an idea from the other party. Although the Democratic left currently has a feeling of abandonment, independents have not seen the political gauntlet.
7) Independents realize that the previous administration left this administration many situations that were out of their control. On the other hand, a time comes when it when one must accept a degree of ownership and responsibility – and that is simply a fault for most, if not all, of Washington continues to elude.
8] The federal budget, including its deficit, debt, and related items, is an important national issue – not a special-interest play toy fronted by politics. Address the issues requires difficult decisions, and independents seek meaningful solutions beyond short-term tinkering based on political dogma and aspirations. This creates an opportunity for President Obama to regain the confidence of independents.
9) Yes, President Obama has much on his plate. As he now claims to pivot to focus on the economy, that statement in itself identities a problem – he lost sight of the economy as the top issue. Nonetheless, given a global economy with many US companies continuing to place jobs outside of here, this is a monumental task for anyone.
10) Independents want to see a vision with a plan and action toward that vision for solving important national problems. Unfortunately, independents see President Obama as more reactive than proactive – more pondering than deciding, continued blame shifting, and following the Washington pattern of business as usual.
However, there is also good news. Weak support by independents for President Obama does not directly translate into a positive vote for the GOP candidate. The craziness factor among the current GOP field actually works in President Obama’s favor. Even as we hear about Republicans not being happy with their field, independents are even less enamored.
President Obama also has several personal intangibles that are positive that can translate into votes – he is bright, honorable, likeable, and unlike Republicans, independents want to see him succeed. Other positives exist, but this post aims to give a friend something to think about for when we get together.
Bottom line is simple: Although independents may be seeking an alternative to President Obama, much can happen between today and November 2012. Support may be weakened, but it is not broken. On the other hand, independents would rather have their support for President Obama strengthened by his actions instead of the Republican Party and candidate that we cannot support pushing us toward President Obama. Keep in mind that a sensible GOP nominee could shift the playing field – but the question remains, does one exist?