There isn't an easy answer. As independents, we tend to be... well... independent. What we want varies wildly in specifics. It would seem sensible, to me at least, for our politicians to reach out to us and ask what we want. They poll for everything else, right?
Instead, each team seems to have a preconceived notion of us and what we're all about. Yesterday, I read an article about independents written by a conservative author in a liberal publication. Sounds
"Independents are herds of cats who find out what they think through a meandering process of discovery."
What the hell does this even mean? Herds of cats? Meandering process of discovery? This makes it sound as though independents are blundering cluelessly through the world, and only making decisions if we trip across truth. OK... He has to have something better than that, right?
"The first thing to say is that this recession has hit the new suburbs hardest, exactly where independents are likely to live."
Not much better. Apparently Mr. Brooks thinks we independents are gathered into enclaves like immigrants used to group together in the slums of Young America. If this were the case, you'd see a bigger showing of independent votes in certain precincts and districts. In turn, you'd see a shift in elected representatives from those areas, and an actual independent political base. The truth is, we're much like cockroaches. We're everywhere, scattered across every demographic group and living among those who've picked a side.
"The second thing to say is that in this time of need, these voters are not turning to government for support."
Ummm... Hence the term "independent", right? We don't support any party, and we don't expect any party to support us. I'd give Mr. Brooks credit for this point, if it weren't such a self-obvious explanation that he never needed to say it to begin with.
"Americans have moved to the right on abortion, immigration and global warming."
I don't necessarily agree with this. I think politics has slid sooo far left on these issues that simply being moderate makes one appear right-leaning. In a herd of white cats (to borrow his metaphor), the ivory one stands out.
"If I were a politician trying to win back independents, I’d say something like this: When I was a kid, I had a jigsaw puzzle of the U.S. Each state was a piece...."
So, politicians who wish to follow Mr. Brooks advice should address independents like we're slow children, painstakingly explaining the situation to us? Heh. Try it, I dare ya. Being an independent or undecided voter does not mean a person is intellectually inferior or uninformed, and most independents I know personally or read in media would not respond well at all to this tactic. Want to piss off an independent? Treat him/her like an idiot. If we wanted to be told what to think, we'd sign on to a party and not be independent.
Well, so far THIS independent isn't too impressed with Mr. Brooks and his brilliant insight into my mind. But maybe he ends with a good point, some gem of understanding that will enlighten not only the independents, but those struggling to understand us...?
"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."
Ah. I see. So we're back to independents as insecure children (of questionable intelligence) casting blindly for someone, anyone, to pat us on the head and keep us safe from turmoil.
How patently offensive. How completely arrogant and clueless. THIS nonsense is what drives away independents, and any politician foolish enough to take a word of this a fact deserves exactly what they get.
So, then... what do independents really want? I'm not a respected journalist, like Mr. Brooks, but I AM an independent. As such, I feel a little more qualified to answer. I've already said, the specifics of what we want vary wildly. We don't always agree, even amongst ourselves. But there are some general points I think are pretty much universal among independents. Ready?
We want the government to do its job, and only that. Get out of our personal business, and everybody else's. THIS independent doesn't care if gay people want to get married or grown adults want to smoke pot. I want my government to protect me from people who are an actual danger to society and leave the rest of us alone. Both parties struggle to put up candidates who take a hard line on things that are not government's business, and alienate those of us who don't care. Not every independent agrees with me on my examples, but as a whole, we do agree that government oversteps its bounds when it gets into our personal lives.
We want the government to be fiscally responsible. If I ran my home and checkbook the way the government runs finance, I'd have serious problems. STOP spending money you don't have (but take from us) on foolish things, and you'd have more to spend on necessities. Do what the rest of us do. If you don't have the money for something that must be funded, trim your budget before taking out a loan! Learn to do without things that are not essential. And actually spend money on the things the government is supposed to -- a stronger military, better education, and our infrastructure.
Stop making the government bigger. By definition, independent means we don't WANT taken care of and told what to do every second we breathe. We're turned off by the constant expansion of government into everything we are and everything we have. SMALLER government is better government.
Stop fooling around when it comes to the wars we're engaged in. Either get our troops out, or give them the money they need. This current holding pattern is ludicrous. Pick an option and DO IT! Your stance may turn out to be unpopular later, but for gawd's sake, take a side. Stop playing politics with people's lives.
And finally, you'd really better drop this idea that we're intellectually sub-par, or some mysterious phenomenon to be debated and understood. Both parties stand to lose elections if they choose this tactic. I vote for the candidate I think is best after carefully researching their positions with no thought to the letter next to their name. And I can tell you that I put a lot of weight into whether I think a politician is trying to decide what is best for me, regardless of my opinion on the matter. Want to lose my vote? Assume you know what I think without LISTENING to me.
Because THAT'S what independents want most. A government that listens to its people, and does what we want. A government that remembers American people have minds (some of them damn brilliant), and treats us accordingly. A government that serves us instead of ruling us. A government that protects us without controlling us. A government that provides the framework, and then gets the hell out of our way.
See? No mystery. Next time you want to know what independents think, just ASK one. What a nice change that would be...