Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Politics and whatnot

So this morning I did something kind of unusual: I actually read the paper. Usually I get it off the porch, scan the front page, scan the front of the sports section, then head for the comics and crossword puzzle. This morning, though, something came over me and I actually started flipping through the front section, and this story caught my eye.

The gist of the story, which was a re-print from the San Francisco Chronicle, is that the "Independent" voters - those who have registered with "decline-to-state" listed as their party - are growing in size rapidly and are playing more of a role in elections. It points to the election of President Obama, as well as the more recent election of Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy's former Senate seat.

What I especially liked about the article was that it highlighted one of the problems we have with the two-party system in the US: The Democrats and the Republicans take any victory as a mandate without looking closely at the why behind the win. To quote from the article:

"Say there is a big defeat for Democrats in November," [Stanford University political scientist Morris Fiorina] said. "The Democrats will say, 'It's because we didn't motivate our base.' Republicans will say, 'We have a conservative mandate.' They're both wrong."

The motivation behind the Independent voters, the article suggests, isn't either party's dogma but more an adherence to a basic set of values, generally fiscal conservatism and social liberalism. In other words, don't spend a lot of money on a big government and leave me alone. Another quote:

So who are these voters and what do they want?

"Independent voters have been deficit hawks since the days of Ross Perot, and they like divided government," said John Avlon, author of the forthcoming book, "Wing Nuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America." Culturally they are "socially liberal to libertarian. They're alienated by the extremes of both parties."

Independents are turned off by the religious right and the ideological left, even as GOP partisans rampage against "RINOs," (Republicans-in-name-only) and the left's "net-roots" mount their own "DINO" hunts against Blue Dog Democrats.

I was raised a Democrat, and I've mainly voted that party line because there haven't been any decent alternatives (or when there were alternatives I stayed with the Dems because the races were close enough that my vote might actually count for more than in a blow-out election). I've found myself leaning closer to the Libertarian world in the last 10 years or so, but some of their stands (the whole "close the borders and disconnect the phones to the outside world" thing, for instance) and the fact that beyond the local races they tend to nominate whack jobs kept me from formalizing that shift. So maybe I should figure out how to amend my registration and head for the world of "decline-to-state."

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