After today, you expect the pundits to declare -- among other (not smart) things -- that Obama needs to "win back independents" if he is to recover from this election. David Brooks had a head start on this "advice" with his column last week:
First, the president is going to have to win back independents. Liberals are now criticizing him for being too timid. But the fact is that Obama will win 99.9 percent of the liberal vote in 2012, and in a presidential year, liberal turnout will surely be high. On the other hand, he cannot survive the defection of the independents. In 2008, independent voters preferred Democrats by 8 percentage points. Now they prefer Republicans by 20 points, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. Unless Obama wins back these moderate, suburban indies, there will be a Republican president in 2013.
Of course, whether there will be a Republican president in 2013 depends on whether the economy improves, in which case, independents will flock to Obama as they did in 2008. Which brings me to the point of this post: Can we please stop lauding independents as if they are the ideal voter? Judging from the last several elections, the genuinely independent -- not the partisans who call themselves independent -- are completely nonsensical in their preferences. A commenter at Matt Yglesias' blog said it best, "Some are torn between principles, but many seem to be plain ignorant fence-sitters, subject to whichever way the current wind is blowing."
Barack Obama has governed exactly as he promised. That independents have turned against him says nothing about his administration and everything about the fact that independents are fundamentally disinterested in politics and policy, and almost always move in the direction of economic winds. If economic conditions were better, Obama would be winning independents, even if he governed as a hard partisan.
Yes, as citizens, their votes matter, but given their general apathy, I don't understand why our media caters to them and why we want our politicians to cater to them. As people who clearly don't care either way, they are -- to use a Bidenism -- literally the worst voters in the electorate. Far better would be to ignore them in favor of constructive objectives, like improving the economy.
-- Jamelle Bouie
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