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Love this article--think it is right on target!


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Finally!  Someone who is beginning to get a clue!  I am certain, more so than ever, that I and people like me are the present and future of media and political leadership.  I/we are just waiting, waiting for the rest of the world to catch up....I/we have been waiting--preparing--for 20 years.....

Voter Disgust Isn’t About the Issues

Published: October 6, 2010

aKEANSBURG, N.J. — If you tune in to any of this week’s candidate debates around the country, or watch any of the ads that are beginning to dominate the airwaves, you will hear that next month’s midterm elections are about all the things you probably thought they were about: job losses and federal spending, the health care law and the Obama agenda.

And yet, if Democrats lose their grip on Congress in November, President Obama would become the third consecutive president to see his party tossed from power on his watch — a sequence that has never happened before in the country’s tumultuous political history. This suggests that, however much the issues of the moment may seem to be defining these elections, there are some deeper forces at work, too.

A conversation among a group of independent voters in this working-class town may illuminate at least one such longer-term trend.

The fast growth in the number of independent voters — a broad category that includes some voters who tend to identify more with one major party than the other, as well as a lot of Americans who are skeptical of both — has been making American politics more volatile. According to a Pew Center poll completed a few weeks ago, the Republican advantage at the moment is mostly grounded in the party’s 13-point lead among independents, which is about the same margin by which those voters supported Democratic candidates in 2006 and Mr. Obama in 2008.

In other words, independent voters have tended to side with whichever party can legitimately claim not to be in charge at the moment, and ideology does not have a whole lot to do with it.

This tends to make strategists in both parties insane, since they spend most of their time trying to draw out the contrasts between the two parties; it seems to them that the least the voters could do is pick a side and stick with it.

Democratic and Republican pollsters try to understand these voters by trapping groups of them behind panels of two-way glass and asking them lots of multiple-choice questions about the parties and the issues. Whom do they trust to handle the economy? Who stands up more to the “special interests?†That kind of thing.

But a group of New York-based consultants who specialize in corporate marketing, taking on tasks like predicting the behavior of shoppers in supermarkets, have been experimenting with a different approach. The three researchers — Jeff Levine, a pollster who has worked for Democratic candidates, and the marketing consultants Claire Tondreau and Christopher Brace — have been convening small groups of self-identified independent voters who are friends or relatives of one another, and convening focus groups in a participant’s living room.

No campaign or client is sponsoring the research, and no one is looking to “move†the voters with slogans or ad scripts. In fact, very little, if anything, is even mentioned about partisan politics. Instead, the facilitator asks the half-dozen or so voters to invent their own countries and to compare their idealized versions with the country they actually live in.

The focus group that met here in New Jersey on Monday included a bartender, a lawyer and a school bus driver. The dominant theme of the discussion, in which jobs and taxes came up only in passing, seemed to be the larger breakdown of civil society — the disappearance of common courtesy, the relentless stream of data from digital devices, the proliferation of lawsuits and the insidious influence of media on their children.

One woman described a food fight at the middle school that left a mess school employees were obliged to clean up, presumably because the children couldn’t be subjected to physical labor. A man complained about drivers who had grown increasingly hostile and inconsiderate on the roads, which drew nods of assent all around. Another described the Internet as just plain “bad.â€

The economy was discussed mostly in connection with these other stresses. “We all think that if we had a lot of money,†one woman said, “everything would slow down and we could enjoy ourselves.â€

These voters did not hate politicians. They simply saw both parties, along with the media and big business, as symptoms of the larger societal ailment. And this underlying perception, that politicians in Washington conduct themselves just as childishly and with the same lack of accountability as the kids throwing chicken casserole in the lunchroom, may well be the principal emotion behind the electorate’s propensity to vote out whoever holds power.

Bill Clinton certainly thought so, which is why his rhetorical emphasis on personal responsibility resonated with many independent voters. But Mr. Clinton immediately found himself pulled into polarizing debates (gays in the military, “Hillarycare,†and so on) that contributed to his party’s undoing in the 1994 midterm elections. The same thing ultimately happened to George W. Bush, who promised a return to civility and core values and ended up running a White House in which every issue, from wars to welfare, was heavily politicized. Now the tide threatens to swamp Mr. Obama, whose stirring call to “put away childish things†seems 100 years in the past.

Modern presidents win elections by promising to reform Washington, to make it more ennobling and more responsive to Americans overwhelmed by the speed of change. But once they are elected, they find themselves sucked into the capital’s partisan culture, caught up in familiar debates while the people who supported them struggle with a growing sense of chaos. And so the voters rebel again

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