Gubernatorial Election Result Spin And The Mythical Independent Voter

by on Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 11:20 am in Politics

In virtually every election where the Republican Party under-performs, the beltway pundits always attribute their defeats to an unenergized base.  In contrast, anytime Democrats under-perform, those same pundits tend to assert that Democrats have moved too far to the left to appease the middle — the Independents.

Here’s neo-clown Michael Gerson’s spin on the Gubernatorial election results, with some advice to Obama:

Last night, a message was sent. Now a question remains: Is Barack Obama capable of listening? All his amazing talent and skill come packaged with arrogance. Shifting his approach in a more centrist direction on health care or any other issue will not come easily. But it needs to come.

Here’s Joel Achenbach of the Post’s take:

Elections are won in the middle. Yeah, it helps to motivate the base. It’s important to get out new voters. But the numbers are clear, year after year: You go over the top when you win the middle. And that means that party leaders have to govern in the middle, or at least within screaming distance of the middle.

Michael Barone seems to believe this Democratic defeat is somehow related to what he calls the Democrats’ “controversial and unpopular” health care reform:

what will be the impact of these elections on forthcoming votes in Congress on the Democratic leadership’s controversial and unpopular health legislation? … The 2009 election results are certainly not going to make it easy for Speaker Nancy Pelosi to round up the needed 218 votes for Democrats’ health care bills.

In other words, many in the Beltway punditry interpret these election results as a voter repudiation of the federal government’s move to the left, and in particular on health care reform.   Well, as far as health care reform is concerned, the polls say something entirely different.  Here’s the latest Washington Post / ABC News Poll on the “Oh so controversial” public option:

57 percent of all Americans now favor a public insurance option, while 40 percent oppose it. Support has risen since mid-August, when a bare majority, 52 percent, said they favored it. (In a June Post-ABC poll, support was 62 percent.)

Now consider the fact that the VA Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate R. Creigh Deeds stated that, if elected Governor, he would seriously consider opting out of the public option for his state.  He added, “I’m not afraid of going against my fellow Democrats when they’re wrong.  A public option isn’t required in my view.”  So, considering that Deeds sided with the Republicans on obstructing real health care reform, then how the hell can anyone make the point that the Democratic Party’s “controversial” health care reform legislation — the reform which a majority of Americans favor — led to their defeat?

As far as moving too far to the left: when the hell did Obama make any movement, whatsoever, to the left?  They must be referring to all the Communist Czars, or student marxist indoctrination fantasies that the Fox News clowns keep spewing on about.  The reality of the last nine months is that Obama has done nothing to move this country to the left.  He’s pretty much kept all the Bush initiatives and wars and illegal detentions and lack of oversight and the cover-ups of past illegalities and the deregulated financial industry right in place.  Before health care negotiations even began he cut back-room deals to water down health care reform to the point that it’s nothing, but a gift to the health industry.  Where’s the leftward movement?

The Gubernatorial upset in Virginia was due to a weak Democratic candidate who was on the wrong side of health care — the Republican side — which likely contributed to the no-show from a progressive base.   Huffington Post reported, “More than 3 million voters who cast ballots in the 2008 presidential election – many of them minorities – failed to show up at the polls in either [VA or NJ].”  Many of the no-shows, it revealed, were young voters.  Many progressives have just become disenchanted with the Democratic Party for not delivering on any of their key promises they made during the 2008 elections.

One thing you hear over and over is how the Independents bailed out on the Democratic candidates last night.  First of all the Independents are not this homogeneous “conservative middle” as the media punditry loves to portray them.  They are nothing more than progressives and conservatives who don’t affiliate with one of the two parties.  That’s it, nothing more.  The beltway pundits would have you believe they are these perpetually confused people — so malleable, so scatterbrained — that they could swing between George W. Bush and Barack Obama on a sheer whim.

The Beltway punditry seems so intent on keeping American politicians legislating to the right of center, that this false narrative on the ever-growing Independent voter has become their new gospel.  And they conveniently position this caricatured voter slightly to the right of all Democratic initiatives.

However, if you actually look at the evidence from the polls, they show the Independent Voter to be something entirely different:

The latest Washington Post / ABC News Poll found that 42% of all Americans consider themselves to be Independent — of which 48% lean Democratic versus 45% who lean Republican.  That means MORE Independents (including myself, incidentally) consider themselves to be Progressive, than those who consider themselves to be Conservative.

The fact of the matter is MANY Independents were former Democrats, who became disenchanted with the party’s steady movement to the right, and their complicity in and cover-up of the crimes committed by the Bush Administration.  Some are just turned off by party politics, so they won’t carry a party’s card.  But that doesn’t change their core ideological beliefs.  They certainly aren’t devoid of ideological leanings.  In many cases their beliefs are to the right of the Republican Party or to the left of the Democratic Party.

Most likely, a majority of Independent votes were cast for Republicans during the Gubernatorial races, because the 45% conservative Independents who tend to vote Republican were energized, whereas the 48% of the progressive Independents who tend to vote Democratic were unenergized, and stayed home.  But you can certainly see how the Beltway punditry would try and push this ‘mythical middle’ storyline as they’re always inclined to push Democrats to the middle — where the status-quo exists.  Not to mention, it makes better copy.

Dan Balz from The Post falls back on the ‘mythical’ Independent voter portrayal and how their homogeneous priorities contributed to the democratic defeats:

For months, polls have shown that independents were increasingly disaffected with some of Obama’s domestic policies. They have expressed reservations about the president’s health-care efforts and have shown concerns about the growth in government spending and the federal deficit under his leadership.

From this we’re lead to believe Independents have reservations about health care reform, and are worried about government spending, so the reader would naturally construe that Independents are fearful of government intervention in health care — again, the insinuation that things have moved too far to the left.

First, as I mentioned before, the VA Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate was against the public option, and stated he would likely opt out if it were passed.  Second, NOTHING could be further from the truth as far as the Independent ‘reservations’ on health care reform.  As Dan Balz himself, reported just over a week ago, a majority of Independents FAVOR a public option:

Obama’s approval ratings on health-care reform are slipping among his fellow Democrats even as they are solidifying among independents and seniors. [...]

Republicans and Democrats are on opposite sides of this question, while independents prefer a bill that includes a public option but does not have Republican support, by 52 percent to 35 percent.

Let’s hope The President and our representatives in Congress don’t fall for this beltway media spin, and use it as an excuse to abandon real change, once and for all.

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