On the Weakening Independent Votes

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?

10 thoughts on “On the Weakening Independent Votes

  1. To me, the last point is the most important. The Administration has been very weak in a leadership role lately. The farce over the debt ceiling increase virtually sidelined Obama, he has shown only token support for the military despite 2 1/2 wars (Libya = 1/2), “Obamacare” is flailing along in the legal system, and NASA has been thrown under the financial bus. Even education is sinking, with nary a plan nor peep from the White House. While it’s a good idea politically to let the GOP cast of idiots babble on endlessly and hang themselves with their own ropes, it’s not good to let the GOP lead the debate in Congress.
    The President needs to get off the bus tour, which looks like it’s distracting him from leading, and get on Congress. The GOP has proven to be the party of stall. Obama needs to make the Dems the party of GO.


    • John,
      Good points. It’s interesting how different people latch onto different points. In terms of health care in the legal system, I think it is in four district courts of appeal … I believe one has ruled against it to date. In the lower courts it was 2-2. Thanks for your thoughts!


  2. i think the main problem with the obama administration is that they never controlled the national conversation. i agree with some of your points and disagree with others, but it’s after 5 in the morning, and i’m too tired to type too much. i’ll just make one point. while there are some true independents, i think the majority of them are dems or repubs who just want some extra attention. that said, i wish there were 2 or 3 additional political parties in this country. having only 2 viable parties does not allow for enough ideas. while there might be plenty of ideas out there, politicians are so afraid of their party leaders that we never hear about them.


    • Nonnie,
      Totally agree with your point about the independents who are actually a party loyalist. After all, being an independent is in style. Glad it was late when you saw this, thus taking it easy on me. 😉 Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


  3. Frank – we are on the same track – I did today’s Beaglez before I saw your post. I love it when that happens.

    Independents won’t make any real decisions until they see who the Repub. nominee really is. Right now they are just floating like jellyfish in the sea of ideas. But if the candidate slate continues the way it has – I think they will probably float back Obama’s direction long before the Nov. 2012.


    • Beagz.
      Congrats as you are my first monole response. 🙂 Good jellyfish analogy b/c centrist are wait and see- thus wait for the dust to settle. Will stop by soon to read later today. Thanks for visiting.


    • Spinny,
      Thanks for the kind words. Then again, others look at the same situation differently. Like Beagz says, there is a long way to go before independents make up their mind. I’m in definite wait-and-see mode. By the way, interesting how this post corresponded to the Beaglez on the same day … and not planned! Thanks for commenting.


  4. Excellent blog post! You addressed most of the questions I’ve had about where Obama presently stands with Independents. I particularly noted your second point, that the Stimulus Bill was actually an aid to state and local governments and should have been sold to the public as such. My question is: “Isn’t that what the GOP has long advocated – sending federal money back to the states and local governments, thereupon freeing up state and local taxes for major regional concerns?”


    • Tim,
      Glad you appreciated this post, and thanks for inspiring it. Remember one thing, when President Obama grabs a GOP idea, they turn against it because he is for it. Thanks for commenting.


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