Anna and the Independent Voter: Targeting Minorities

It's A Free Country political reporter Anna Sale continues her monthly series with us. This week: how independent groups are going after minority voters.

University of California Berkeley Political Scientist Taeku Lee said the stereotypical image of the independant voter does not hold up to scrutiny.

What struck me was the overwhelming presumption, that, when speaking of independent voters, you are just speaking about a predominantly white segment of the electorate, which, you know, all the exit polls from 2008 show clearly that independent voters today in the United States are far more demographically diverse segment of the electorate.

Anna says her experience in Virgina talking to Latino and Asian voters led her to independent voters with a different independent identity.

Throughout this series we’ve used that word [independent] to mean folks who are opting out of the Democratic and Republican parties. And it’s a little different with Latino and Asian voters, because they’re not so much opting out as they haven’t opted in, yet. They don’t look at the Democratic party and Republican party and see themselves, yet. When you ask them how do they identify themselves politically, you get answers like “none of the above” or “I don’t know.”

Anna said labels like liberal or conservative don’t really apply to the way that new immigrant voters analyze their lives, and the parties have not done a good job of aligning their positions with new voters concerns.

When you look at who self-identifies as independent, or who will say I don’t really fall into liberal or conservative, who reject those labels, you get more than half of Asian voters and Latino voters.

Clarissa Martinez from La Raza says it is a missed opportunity.

There is a lack of outreach to these voters by, what is frankly in our political system, the biggest machine to energize political participation, and that is parties or candidates.

Anna said its not just Asian and Latino voters being treated as political bystanders. Mudcat Saunders, a rural strategist for Democrats in Roanoke Virginia, said rural white voters are also being shut out, with no economic populist message coming from either party.

If Barack Obama gets after the corporate greed that everybody knows exists in this country – I mean everybody knows that – if he will get after that, I think that he would be a heck of a lot more acceptable, you know, to the culture down here.

A Latino caller from Jersey City said he is independent because he wants to see a wider spectrum of candidates, less dependent on money.

Money really shouldn’t be the reason you’re put up as an elected official…There’s college graduates, there’s high school graduates... there’s people who don’t know English... This is the United States, you know, it’s not a white country, it’s a multi-cultural country.

An Indian-American caller from Queens said he identifies as independent because the two-party system is too polarizing.

A lot of times you have to be kind of pragmatic, and come to the center a little bit, but they just stick to their sides and it becomes childish. The country’s suffering.

A Hispanic caller from Rockland County said he is independent because neither party speaks to what he feels are the important issues.

Our biggest issue is that our politicians need to stop focusing on corporations… That’s not solving our problems because these are the same companies that put us in this position.

An Asian American caller from NYC who identifies as independent said while she understands that party politics are more practical for a country with such a large population, she wishes politicians would consider proposals on their merits rather than with an eye toward progressing their party.

I think the process is too polarizing… it causes people to decide along party lines instead of as individuals.