29 April 2011

Are Independents Clueless?

Michael Kazin is a historian of Populism, but reveals himself in The New Republic as no friend of today's independent voters. The results of a poll taken by Democracy Corps provoke him into asking rhetorically whether independents are nothing but a "clueless horde." Among the "mildly hilarious" findings of the poll are that majorities of independents agree with propositions Kazin presumes to be completely contradictory to one another. For instance, they believe that Paul Ryan’s budget plan “changes the reckless path of over-spending and borrowing,” yet also affirm that it will “eliminate guaranteed Medicare and Medicaid coverage” and “force seniors to negotiate with private insurance companies, which are free to raise rates and deny coverage.” Kazin apparently believes that you can't agree with all these propositions without being a fool. Call me foolish, then, but I don't see the necessary contradiction. Can't a person believe that overall the Ryan plan does what the first proposition claims and yet criticize the same plan for doing violence to health insurance? Or is it Kazin's belief that no one can criticize "reckless...over-spending" yet defend Medicare and Medicaid? Perhaps it marks one as an independent to think otherwise. One would at least be independent of Michael Kazin.

Similarly, majorities of independents told pollsters that “Over-regulation and high taxes punish companies for success," and that “decreas[ing] taxes for CEOs and big corporations [is] giving millionaires another huge tax break.” Again, Kazin sees a "clueless" contradiction, but he seems to underestimate the populism of the respondents. A populist might well say that taxes unfairly punish the successful small business or other members of the truly productive classes, but might also be less sympathetic to the allegedly overtaxed super-rich. Independents may simply be more capable of making distinctions than Kazin allows.

Kazin's own conclusion is that independents "appear to be seduced by the last thing they have heard." How he can make that claim, unless the Democracy Corps poll shows them agreeing with everything proposed, is unclear -- unless we make the easy call and assume that Kazin considers party-line politics the only option today. Anything short of 100% agreement with either the Republican or the Democratic line, he concludes, indicates that an independent "seems to stand for very little -- or, perhaps, for nothing at all." The presumption, of course, is that both major parties stand for a coherent, consistent policy. I'll leave it to others to list the contradictions within each party's body of collective opinion. But there remains an observation that should have been obvious; whether they meet Kazin's standard of coherence or conscientiousness or not, the independents polled clearly find neither major party position entirely satisfactory. How clueless is that?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just as an aside, anyone who refers to taxes as a "punishment", needs to feel the cold, hard slap of reality on their face.

If you don't want to support the society you are a part of and the civilization it entails, go live in the woods with the rest of the animals. It is where you belong.