Opinion: Swing Voters Swing - That's Good for Dems, and Bad for the GOP

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 05:10 PM

Along with a handful of people I've met, several years ago I noticed a pattern in the swinging pendulum of popularity of each party. Every few years, the party that had the most power would begin to let the power get to their head. They'd begin ignoring the swing voters that helped them get there, start pandering to their base even more, and leave an opening for the opposing party to seem more moderate in comparison. Consequently the swing vote swung the other direction, and a new party came into power.

Over the last generation these swings have gotten progressively shorter, and unless something big changes, we're about to see the fastest of them all... one that is internal to a single two year election cycle.

The most recent swing took only two election cycles. The terribly out of touch presidency of George W. Bush, and the rest of the Republican party at the time, gave Democrats the opening they'd been hoping for. They took back the legislative branch in 2006 and kept their momentum all the way through 2009, when they too began to ignore the will of the people and push for horribly unpopular things like the individual mandate part of the health care reform bill, as well as over-promising and under-delivering on the stimulus package.

The GOP rode that wave of discontent into big gains in the Senate and a takeover of the House. Instead of trying to build on those gains, from day one they began pushing an extreme partisan agenda. The most noteworthy of late is their position on the debt ceiling negotiations, where they refuse to support any deal that has any tax increases, even though earlier their demands were not so extreme, and the latest Gallup poll shows only about 20 percent of the country is with them on this.

Earlier on in the debates they said they'd agree to a deal as long as it contained cuts to entitlement programs and discretionary spending. They got those in the most recent compromise package President Obama has been pushing, and again the fringe Tea Party types within their party, who care more about ideological purity than the economic security of our country, get their way.

Just like in previous years when one of the parties began to use their power to go off the deep end, the polls are showing a major shift has occurred in just the last several months.

From Public Policy Polling:

I think Democrats' chances of retaking the House are being significantly undervalued by most experts right now. This finding, as well as one we made in Florida last week that Democrats led the generic ballot there by a 45-40 margin, reinforce our national polling which currently finds voters leaning Democratic 48-42 for the House next year. Voters are not happy with the new GOP majority and if there was an election today Democrats would at the least pick up a lot of seats, even if not enough to take back control.

The pollster professor, Larry Sabato, is more cautious in his most recent post on the subject. He does point out the major potential drag the GOP has in Paul Ryan's budget, specifically in how that may effect the older vote, who always turn out at a higher rate than other demographics and are a significant portion of the GOP base. He currently lists the GOP as having more races that are leaning their direction, but if polls keep trending the way they have been, and the GOP continues to push an extreme agenda.

It's a sad state of affairs for the GOP when the best thing they have going for them is that the American people don't trust the Democrats either. But when the leader of one side has managed to twist enough arms in his party to get them to back a compromise plan that seems fair to most, when your party sides with the "twenty percenters" on the far right, you're not setting yourself up well for electoral success.

Solomon Kleinsmith is a nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates.


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Comments [1]

Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

Well, it doesn't hurt for the GOP to show itself as a bunch union-stripping, greedy pseudo-patriots who wrap themselves in the flag while being willing to see the country fall back into recession rather than have the most wealthy among us pay more in taxes.

Like most of us, Independents fall into two categories. Those that make up their minds based on the news and facts around them and those who make a choice based on something else...usually emotion or how a candidate makes us 'feel'.

I also think the true story of the 2010 election was the failure of the Left and the young to show up and vote. They (wrongly) thought that the 2008 result was all it would take to change the arc of power and the effects of distorted income distribution of the previous 40 years. Shame on them.

They also (wrongly) think that Obama and the Democrats had two years of majority power and did nothing with it. Please remember that the Democrats had a super-majority in the Senate of 45 days - from the delayed inauguration of Al Franken -- another victim of GOP obstruction of the will of the people -- to Teddy Kennedy's death.

Fixing what is wrong in our nation will take more than one election cycle to fix. Are we in it to win it?

Jul. 20 2011 09:00 AM

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