The Independent Illusion

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

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37 Responses

  1. Patrick Cahalan says:

    I think a good chunk of this is structural, though, Elias.

    At the end of the day, you’re stuck between A or B (or, “throwing your vote away”). The fact that A is pretty far from your actual preferences doesn’t matter if B is always farther away.

    That doesn’t make you a “true” or “untrue” independent, though.Report

  2. Kimmi says:

    I vote republican when I can. But I don’t bother with the sophistry that I’m an independent. It’s nothing to apologize for, being a yellow dog Democrat. It’s not saying that you aren’t independent — it’s just a more understandable, less wishy-washy way of saying where you stand.Report

  3. Ethan Gach says:

    I agree. This is why the actual independents who will sway aren election are often independent because they actually just don’t know who to vote for. And that small sliver that’s actually up for grabs, well who even knows what will eventually push them into on side of the river or the other, so might as well spend billions throwing the whole kitchen sink at them.

    On another note, this is why I don’t care for “actual reporting” in most cases. Investigative journalism is one thing, because there is a specific story, and you’re trying to find out what it is, but when talking about trends or aggregate phenomenon (e.g. the economy, the war, the election) reporting is almost always meaningless, or at least uninterpretable, since it’s never representative and 100% anecdotal.Report

  4. Jaybird says:

    Obama is capable of moving independents through little more than releasing oil from the strategic reserve. (By the way: look for Obama to release oil from the strategic reserve.)Report

  5. Patrick Cahalan says:

    Swaying independents is largely a factor of getting them to care enough to go to the polls.Report

  6. Ryan Noonan says:

    Hey, me too! I’m not independent because I’m persuadable by either side. I’m independent because I don’t like the Democratic Party and don’t want to be a part of it. There are virtually no circumstances under which I would ever vote for a Republican, so the real upshot of my independence is a difference between “vote for the Democrat” or “vote for a third party/stay home”.Report

  7. Burt Likko says:

    I doubt that these voters will be persuaded by the “Obama is a devil!” sort of appeal being made by the GOP and its stand-ins because they clearly have no fear or malice directed to Obama. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t be persuaded with a softer sort of appeal, like “Romney is more likely to balance the budget — or at least shrink the deficit — than Obama,” or “My house is more likely to increase in resale value if Romney is in charge of how banks are regulated.”Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Indeedy. That’s what I thought Romney would to when he picked Ryan: focus on the nuts and bolts of GOP policies and conservative values and all that, sell them to the public as a Better Alternative, ridicule Obama’s insistence on defending the indefensible. But instead, he’s got Ryan awkwardly renouncing his own Plan, which was the GOP Road to Prosperity, which was the cornerstone of the conservative Party Platform…

      I don’t think Romney can persuade people that his policies will lead to better outcomes while simultaneously carving off and rejecting the very heart of the GOP’s economic policy.Report

  8. Kolohe says:

    Tangentially related, what I don’t get is the mini-boomlet in the meme that ‘Biden is so awful, Obama is thinking of replacing him with Hillary’. I fail to see how that either fires up the base or persuades ‘independents’ of either persuasion.

    (I sort of see of how that helps Ed Klein sells books, but I don’t see how that helps, for example, Hannity, who did almost an hour on this today with Klein, either push his agenda or pad his bottom line ratings)Report

  9. Michael Drew says:

    Doesn’t independent strictly just mean that you haven’t actually signed up as a member of a political party? I’m an independent. It means absolutely nothing about my voting patterns.

    I’m not sure if it’s people in the MSM who use the term when talking about polls or people who read them doing so who freight the term with so much more meaning, but we ought to just stop. Swing voters is what we mean here, that and ticket-splitters (and I imagine the overlap is pretty strong, though I’m sure some people vote straight-party on election and the straight-party the other way the next, and others always vote for the same party for the same offices every year, and those are different for different offices, but I don’t think that’s a very big slice of the electorate, and anyway we can just through them all together under ‘swing voters,’ I think, cuz I think the latter category – nonswinging ticket-splitters is pertty rare indeed).

    Given the normative importance given to the votes of “Independents” by elite political analysts with agendas, it’s legitimate to be frustrated by the fact that the term ends up representing a bunch of people who aren’t recognizably different from party members in ther voting pattern. But that’s not those people’s problem – they’re still (really!) independents if they’re not party members! (Really!) The prblem is our inflated understanding of the importance of that fact. The important question is what swing voters and, just as much occasional voters do. Many people call themselves independents (legitimately!) who in fact vote almost always for one party. My intuition is that many fewer go so far as to call themselves wing voters, because it puts such a fine point on whether you do, in fact, swi-iiing, baby!

    So an (actually) modest proposal for League discussion of the election: when we mean to be talking about swing voters, or persuadables, or legitimately potential but not necessarily certain-to-be voters, let’s call them that, and let the reliably party-loyal independents be what they quite legitimately and fairly are: reliably party-loyal independents.Report