Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Power of Ind.Voter 02-11-15

The power of the independent voter

Mirza A. Beg
Written on November12, 2002
Birmingham Post Herald, Friday November 15, 2002

Elections are over, Republicans are happy and Democrats are sad at least at the national level. The spin-meisters have had their say. Most of the complaints were about mudslinging and the negative effect it had on the turn out.

Mudslinging and the negative campaigning is reprehensible, but it has been with us in one form or the other since the presidential election of 1796, when Jefferson defeated Adams; and the electoral inception of the political parties. The candidates themselves feigned lack of interest while the partisans on the Federalist as well as the Democratic Republican Party side accused the candidates of every transgression under the sun including treason. Some how with our system of checks and balances, quite new at the time, the republic not only survived but prospered.

Talking of checks and balance, the dyed in the wool Republicans and Democrats provide the checks on each other's propaganda and mudslinging, while the independent voters provide the balance, or should provide the balance but some time fail to do so.

The electoral process suffers because the Democrats and Republicans know the truth and are not confused by the facts, and an Independent voter knows many facts but can not fathom the obscure truth. The Democracy survives.

Solid Democrats form about 40 percent of the vote. That means about 40 percent voted for the party. About Republicans one is less sure in this election as they did not have week candidates. I suspect it is some where around 30 percent. This makes the 30 percent independent vote very important. Nationally, Ross Perot the strongest independent presidential candidate in recent times got about 20 percent of the vote, some independents voted for the major parties.

This being a mid term election the decibel level was supposed to be lower. But the times are such that there were enough issues screaming for our attention. The weak economy, collapse of the stock market, Unmitigated greed of the CEO's such as at the helm of Enron, Worldcom, and Globalcrossing as poster boys of white-collar robbery and Bush administration's push for waging war on Iraq.

We had plenty to worry about and responsibility to give direction to those who serve us. Republicans of course supported the President; it was the job of the Democrats to make a case against the present policies. President tried and succeeded in neutralizing the loyal opposition by wrapping himself in the flag because of our higher sensitivity to Nationalism in the wake of 9/11. Bush and Ashcroft even suggested that opposing and debating the administration policies amounted to giving aid and comfort to the enemy. A jingoistic stifling of democracy.

In the last decade the distinctions in ideologies have become more and more fuzzy. The independent voters usually dislike stark choices and ideologies. But when politics subsumes ideology they miss the choices, become rudderless and confused. In 1988 when Dukakus positioned himself as a better manager, effectively saying that ideology did not matter, competence did. He lost in spite of being way ahead of Bush the elder and maverick Perot in opinion polls until about mid-October 1988.

In this election even though the issues were breaking on the side of the Democrats, they played it safe. They shied away from criticizing the administration on the unseemly haste in calling for war with Iraq. They figured that in the wake of 9/11, it would not be pragmatic. They were afraid that taking a stand against bluster of war on Iraq would be construed as supporting Saddam Husain.

Mr. Bush kept the pot boiling with the drumbeat on Iraq and succeeded in sidetracking the bread and butter issues. It was the "metooism" of the Democrats that the voters did not appreciate. The minority vote that they depend on did not turn out because the genuine issues that effect the minorities were covered only with platitudes.

Democrats lost because the independents do not want to vote for a faded replica of the Republican Party. They could have considered the Democrats, they waited for the Democrats to make a case, take a principled stand but the Democrats were "missing in inaction".

Mirza A. Beg can be contacted at

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