Over at The New Republic, Georgetown University history professor Michael Kazin writes:
No group in American politics gets more respect than independent voters. Pundits and reporters probe what these allegedly moderate citizens think about this issue and that candidate, major party strategists seek the golden mean of messaging that will attract independents to their camp and/or alienate them from the opposing one. Presidential nominees and aides struggle to come up with phrases and settings that will soothe or excite them. But what if millions of independents are really just a confused and clueless horde, whose interest in politics veers between the episodic and the non-existent?
Care to guess the answer to that last question?
The results are mildly hilarious. By a margin of over 20 points, voters agree with these GOP lines: “Both Democrats and Republicans have run up deficits, but now they are out of control under President Obama and threatening our economy”; Paul Ryan’s plan “changes the reckless path of over-spending and borrowing”; and, “Over-regulation and high taxes punish companies for success.” At the same time, by slightly higher percentages, they also agree with the Democrats that Ryan’s budget would “eliminate guaranteed Medicare and Medicaid coverage”; “force seniors to negotiate with private insurance companies, which are free to raise rates and deny coverage”; and “decrease taxes for CEOs and big corporations, giving millionaires another huge tax break.”
Since avowed Republicans and Democrats line up consistently behind whichever arguments come from their side, it is the independents who are responsible for the contradictory results: Almost 50 percent agreed first with the GOP positions, and then, with those of the other party. As the pollsters observed, “[I]ndependents … move in response to the messages and attacks tested in this survey.”
I would note that each of the Democratic talking points is just a simple statement of fact.
The standard euphemism for the sorts of people Kazin is discussing is “low-information voters.&rdquo. To judge from the poll results reported in the essay it would seem to be an apt moniker. These are the folks towards whom all political campaigning is directed, since anyone who pays the tiniest bit of attention to politics surely knows long before election day which candidate best represents his interests. Republicans can only get elected by conning a lot of middle-class voters into voting against their interests. That they are routinely successful in doing just that should definitely give us pause. Or, as Kazin puts it:
But then, there are independents, many of whom, according to the Democracy Corps poll on some of the most pressing matters facing the country, seem to be more myopic than moderate. Either they believe, in their ignorance, that slashing the budget and cutting taxes can be accomplished without touching any entitlement program they favor. Or they care little about politics and so are willing to consent to whatever messages get thrown their way, however contradictory they may be. As former Rep. Richard Gephardt once put it, only half-jokingly, “We have surveys that prove that a good portion of the American public neither consumes nor wishes to consume politics.”