Sunday, May 11, 2008

The power of the independents

Now that Barack is the "presumptive nominee" and people focus more on the match-up between him and McCain, the role of independents becomes a central focus. For the record, I am an independent, but "we" come in all colors and stripes and flavors across the entire political spectrum. There has been plenty of discussion of the role of independents in Barack's camapign, but they have been more of a left-wing liberal form of independence (aversion to a centrist Democratic party) that does not have any appeal for or to me. Nonetheless, "we" independents are going to get a lot of attention over the next six months. An article in the New York Times by Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny entitled "Already, Obama and McCain Map Fall Strategies" offers some perspective on the role of independents in the upcoming race. The two parties will be stumbling over each other to paint themselves as more accommodating of the aspirations of independents and painting their opponents as less accommodating of independent aspirations. The Times tells us that:

Historically, independent voters have responded to specific issues and concerns, in particular an emphasis on government reform and an aversion to overly bitter partisan wrangling. Accordingly, Mr. McCain's advisers said they would present him as a senator who frequently stepped across the aisle, while portraying Mr. Obama as a down-the-line Democratic voter who is ideologically out of touch with much of the country.


Mr. Obama's advisers, meanwhile, intend to present Mr. McCain as a product of Washington who moved closer to the Bush administration to win the Republican nomination.

The Times is accurately reporting the facts here, but I can tell you that neither approach appeals to me. I am not as offended by "Washington" as so many of Barack's "cult" member profess to be, nor do I believe that Barack himself is as far-left wing as so many of his "independent" supporters are and as McCain will be trying to paint him as being. I think that both politicians have been forced to paint themselves as further from center than they really are simply to capture their respective nominations. I am disheartened by the extent to which McCain has only renewed and sharpened his right-wing credentials in recent weeks despite the fact that he is effectively the Republican nominee, but he still has to deal with holding his party toegther through the convention, and then maybe he can focus on broadening his appeal for the general election. If he fails to broaden his appeal after the convention, then he will be in trouble. Barack has similar, parallel issues but on the left rather than the right. I really do think that Barack has the potential to be even more centrist than Hillary, but so far he has not done so. We we have to see if he shifts after his convention. Whoever shifts more is more likely to win in November.

Both candidates have a lot of potential for broad appeal, but they are both susceptible to the "need" to appeal to and coddle their party's "faithful." Appealing to independents who happen to be aligned with the party faithful will only take a candidate so far. It is the ability to appeal to independents who are not aligned with the party faithful that is the central issue for both parties and both candidates.

-- Jack Krupansky


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