12 November 2009

Moderation is not Independence; Independence is not Moderation

Here's a link to an intriguing report from Zogby International that challenges what the writers take to be a common assumption that people who identify themselves as "independents" are political "moderates" who are equally dissatisfied for both major parties for the same reasons. While noting that two-thirds of "independents" do identify themselves as moderates, Zogby finds it significant that the rest split two-to-one for conservatism over liberalism. He warns against assuming that making the Republican party more conservative would drive away independents, noting that a majority of Republicans themselves believe that their party is "not conservative enough" while a conservative bias among declared independents has been growing in recent years. Zogby suspects that the independent ranks have been swollen with Republicans who've renounced the GOP because it isn't conservative enough, who could be drawn back in if it becomes more the party of Doug Hoffman than that of Dede Scozzafava. That would only show the limits of self-styled independence. Zogby defines it as not belonging to a party, but can an ideologue, even one without a party, or one who sees himself without one, really be called an independent? There are also limits to Zogby's analysis, since the tangible independence of third-party formation was off-topic on this particular poll. In any event, the most interesting detail is the enduring dissatisfaction within the Republican party with its ideological direction. It seems that Republicans who think their party isn't conservative enough don't bolt the party (with rare exceptions as in NY23). If they did, we should see more independents also say that the GOP is insufficiently conservative. But only 26% of independents say that compared to 58% of presumably still loyal Republicans. For comparison's sake, only 32% of Democrats think their party isn't liberal enough, a point with which only 11% of independents agree. Zogby observes that the Republican party is in a volatile state because it hasn't achieved the ideological cohesion that presumably exists among the Democrats. But what I see is a bunch of people held hostage in a cell without captors or guards. They remain prisoners because they think they own the place.