07 Nov 2009

Democrats Scaring Independents

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David Brooks, too, observes that the willingness of democrats to try for radical change at the risk of the economy is costing them the support of the non-ideological center.

Independents turned on the Republican Party because the MSM persuaded them that it was George W. Bush’s intransigent extremism which had poisoned American political life and produced bitter factionalism, and that it was Bush’s war spending and Republican banking deregulation that produced the economic crisis. They put democrats in charge, and our politics has not become bipartisan, the Middle East is not at peace, and the economy has not recovered. On the other hand, the deficit has quadrupled, the government owns General Motors, and Congress is trying to nationalize another one sixth of the economy while adding another trillion dollar entitlement, just before it proceeds to start working on carbon taxes.

Right now, independent voters are astonishingly volatile. Democrats did poorly in elections on Tuesday partly because of disappointed liberals who think that President Obama is moving too slowly, but mostly because of anxious suburban independents who think he is moving too fast. In Pennsylvania, there was an eight-point swing away from the Democrats among independents from a year ago. In New Jersey, there was a 12-point swing. In Virginia, there was a 13-point swing.

The most telling races this year were the suburban rebellions across the country. For example, in Westchester and Nassau counties in New York, Republican candidates came from nowhere to defeat entrenched Democratic county officials. In blue Pennsylvania, the G.O.P. won six out of seven statewide offices.

Middle-class suburban voters who have been trending Democratic for a decade suddenly lurched out of the Democratic camp — and are now in play.

Why? What do these voters want?

The first thing to say is that this recession has hit the new suburbs hardest, exactly where independents are likely to live. According to a survey by the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, 76 percent of suburbanites say they or someone they know have lost a job in the past year.

The second thing to say is that in this time of need, these voters are not turning to government for support. Trust in government is at its lowest level in recent memory. Over the past year, there has been a shift to the right on issue after issue. According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans who believe that there is too much government regulation rose from 38 percent in 2008 to 45 percent in 2009. The percentage of Americans who want unions to have less influence rose from 32 percent to a record 42 percent.

Americans have moved to the right on abortion, immigration and global warming. Over the past seven months, the number of people who say government is doing too many things better left to business has jumped from 40 percent to 48 percent, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

According to that same survey, only 31 percent of Americans believe that the president and Congress “should worry more about boosting the economy even though it may mean larger budget deficits.” Sixty-two percent, twice as many, believe the president and Congress “should worry more about keeping the deficit down, even though it may mean it will take longer for the economy to recover.”

These shifts have not occurred because conservatives and liberals have changed their minds. They haven’t. The shift is among independents.

According to Gallup, the share of independents who describe their views as conservative has moved from 29 percent last year to 35 percent today. The share of independents who believe there is too much government regulation of business has jumped from 38 percent to 50 percent. Independents are in the position of a person who is feeling gravely ill at the same time he has lost faith in his doctor. …

Independents support the party that seems most likely to establish a frame of stability and order, within which they can lead their lives. They can’t always articulate what they want, but they withdraw from any party that threatens turmoil and risk. As always, they’re looking for a safe pair of hands.

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