Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Dance of the Headless Independents

Doesn't it seem like American elections have just become the dance of the independents?  Democrats and Republicans have their interests, but whomever the independents tend to be leaning towards becomes the defining narrative.  This was true in '08, and likely true today.

But the problem with these folks, as far as I can tell, is that they seem to have a very bizarre reading of politics.  Some are torn between principles, but many seem to be plain ignorant fence-sitters, subject to whichever way the current wind is blowing.  These are the folks who voted for Obama, but now realize he isn't what they thought he was.  This despite the fact that he's governed exactly how he said he was going to.  He's been very moderate, and very bipartisan in his selection of policy.  Not knowing much about politics to begin with, they had been caught up in a fad.

They seem to have no clear principles, motivated mostly by instinct and superficiality.  Almost like a Ouija electorate.  I suppose there is some sort of meaning in their momentum, in that it reflects a popular opinion of some sort.  But I worry that this popular opinion is shallow and hysterical: fads tend to feed on themselves, mistaking their own reflection for substance.

Of course, this is where opinion-makers take the reins; the principled and informed members of the electorate, those of us who do the work of actually understanding why we believe what we believe, jockey for control of the carriage.  This time it appears the right will have won the day.  But next time, surely the headless independents will be on to something else.

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