Morphing in the Middle

Charles Krauthammer argues that President Obama has misread his victory. Mr. K. opines that the Obama ascendency was, in large measure, a reaction against the previous administration, war weariness and the financial collapse during the final stages of the campaign. The logic is not especially tortured; all elections are framed by the context of what precedes them. So too will the next election be framed by what precedes it.

Sobering points of analysis remain for Republicans. There is no intellectually honest, analysis to demonstrate the slide in Democratic approval numbers supports the idea that Republicans are “doing well”. The slide in approval for President Obama and Congressional Democrats does not equate with a similar rise in Republican numbers. People may be sliding away from Democrats but their stopping well short of the GOP goal line, Virginia and New Jersey notwithstanding.

 Republicans appear to be counting on self destructive behavior from Democrats. Big mistake! Big mistake, because your defined by your opposition. A small number of politically motivated decisions by the President, moving issues toward the center for a brief rest stop will thwart that anemic approach. A significant crisis puts you in a corner. Being a reflection of your opponent does little more than allow you to compete for the “lesser of two evils” mantle. That strategy may work, for one election, this one, …….. maybe!

Republicans may be taking comfort in a 9% increase in political self identification this year. Don’t believe it! The folks who alter their self identification in short time frames are not a base upon which a program can be built or sustained. These folks are the vanguard of the “lesser of two evil” voters.

 The middle morphs and the middle is where the game is played. The current edition of the middle does not like what it sees, yet remains justifiably distrustful of Republicans. Self aware Republicans accept that the distrust is well earned and not easily brushed away. Republicans, absent a strong, demonstrable, cohesive set of ideas will be no more than a one election messenger. Absent a demonstration of ideas and leadership capabilities any degree of victory will be short lived. Leadership by definition requires a degree of courage and courage is born of convictions.

Political pros appear concerned with the potential for a 3rd party movement. 3rd Parties are well capable of delivering messages, not winning candidates. A 3rd Party movement focused on running candidates is doomed to failure with the likely assurance that what they organized to resist emerges as a more powerful force. However, a 3rd Party structured to be issue orientated and focused on demanding accountability from the two established parties could be an immensely powerful force. It is unlikely the current edition of the middle or the potential 3rd Party movements will move to the left as that appears to be where they just came from.

In 2000 78% of voters identified themselves as conservative or moderate, in 2010 the number is 76% according to Gallup; an undeniable demonstration of consistency. True believers on either side may be the fuel of the process but voters in the self described middle decide elections. The population of true believers remains relatively static: the middle is, however, fluid. Self identification of party still leaves over 10% of the population with no affiliation. Add the moderates in both parties and there you have it, a voting force capable of demanding accountability. Likely, no less than 35% of active voters potentially fall into this category. Seemingly, however you look at the data, you come up with a third of the electorate that refuses to commit to the shifting ideologies or behaviors of the major parties.

The message from the center could be that the constant shifts between left, right and center by the major parties is the fundamental basis for a common sense analysis that sets a third of the electorate off to the ideological sideline; searching for signs of intelligent life in the universe or, perhaps, courage of conviction, politics be damned!