Rise of the “Independents,” the “Apathetics,” and the “Openly Disgusted”

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In a recent survey conducted by the Gallop Poll, Americans were asked to identify themselves on a scale of 1 to 5 – with a score of 1 being very liberal and a score of 5 being very conservative.  On average, the respondents rated themselves as a 3.3, which is just to the “right” on the moderate middle ground.  In the same survey, these  respondents evaluated Obama as a 2.3 and Romney as a 3.5, which suggests that most Americans view Romney as being a far better ideological “fit” for themselves.[1]

But this means nothing.

Four years ago, in December of 2007, Gallup surveyed Americans using the same scale and the same questions.  At that time, Americans evaluated themselves as a 3.2,  while giving scores of 2.5 to Obama and 3.4 to McCain.  But as we all know, President Obama beat McCain in the election by 7% of the general vote and by 192 votes in the electoral college.

What this means is that Americans do not choose their President on the basis of a perceived “fit” between their own ideological views and their perceptions of the candidate’s views.  And this, of course, begs the question: on what grounds do Americans decide to vote?

Further complicating the matter is the rise of the “Independents,” “Apathetics,” and the “Openly Disgusted.”  In a recent article by USA Today, Richard Wolf revealed that more than 2.5 million voters have left the Democratic and Republican parties since the 2008 election.[2]  While this is somewhat startling to political analysts, more startling are Wolf’s findings in the eight “swing states” that register voters by political party.  In these eight states, Democratic registration is down by 800,000 voters, while Republican registration is down by 350,000 voters.

So where are they going?  According to that article, only 325,000 voters have taken the time to re-register themselves as political “Independents.”  What this means is that almost one million people in these eight states alone have elected to withdraw from the political process altogether.

This leaves us with a host of pressing questions.  If ideological “fit” does not correlate with voting patterns, on what grounds do Americans decide to vote?  Moreover, if more and more people are willfully removing themselves from the process, what will happen to the nation’s ability to effectively govern the masses?  How does the issue of “power” or lack thereof, fit into these trends?  And have we ultimately, as a nation, become ungovernable?

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6 Responses to Rise of the “Independents,” the “Apathetics,” and the “Openly Disgusted”

  1. Mary DeVries Yager says:

    Religion that is pure: care for widows and orphans and do not be polluted by the world. I try to decide which party does a better job. What a tough process! Dems accept a lot more “worldly pollution” but in my opinion care more for the widow and orphan (or the 99%).

    As for Apathy – it is unacceptable. Wake up, do some reading, watch the news, SOMETHING. GIve a damn or keep your mouth shut and take whatever is handed your way.

    • Your comments seem to suggest that you accept the current two-party system. But I wonder if findings such as these don’t suggest that the decades-long trend may be leading us to a time that is ripe for a third party – a third way. And if that is the case, what might that third party look like? What are the common factors that are causing the disgust with the current two-party system, and how would a third party avoid these pitfalls? Is that even possible?

  2. The populace has become enamored with emotional arguments and, it would seem, that most are unwilling to do the hard work required to follow logical, ethical, substantive arguments or to check into the facts of history and the current circumstances in which we find ourselves. Because this is so, we are being governed by abstract ideas. Take liberty as an example. Most would now define liberty as equality, but the two are not the same thing. Voters seem convinced that someone will be able to come into office and—shazaam!—all will be equalized. History tells us this is not the case—thus, “the poor you will have always among you.”

    We watched a fascinating travel show last night that spent time in Europe visiting sites and outlining the rise of Nazi Germany. Hitler was the master at using pathos as his main mode of persuasion. He understood the angst of his people and played to those emotions. A concern for logic and ethics was no part of his message. The few, like Bonhoeffer, who did do the hard mental work to consider the logical and ethical implications of Hitler’s abstractions of reality became its victims. Day-by-day those abstractions became the horrific new reality for Germany and most of Europe. We ought to take notice of that. Do we really want someone leading us who promises to give us the desires of our hearts? To stick it to the other guy?

    Others are not satisfied to elect the guy who sounds like he sympathizes with their feelings while lacking substance, but neither are they wiling to do the hard work to reform and improve things. I totally get this sentiment because it feels like an impossible task. I honestly can’t listen to the radio sometimes without feeling the urge to move to a deserted island somewhere. Yet, as Christians, we have a hard calling to live in this kingdom while not being part of it. We are the hands and feet of our Lord and, while equality is not possible in a fallen world, justice and mercy are, albeit imperfect. God requires that we seek to defend the orphans and widows, as Mary has pointed out, and a concern for justice and mercy requires that we hold our leaders accountable.

    Both parties are equally greed-driven and have forgotten the high calling and the duties required of servant-leaders. That does not mean that we can forget our high calling and our duties as leader-citizens.

    Great post to get folks thinking, Scott.

    • A few years ago, a friend of mine suggested that justice is about “equal access, not equal outcome.” I really like that.

      P.S. If you decide to jump ship, Pete and I are looking into Greenland. There has to be room in Greenland for a few folks to try a “do-over.” 🙂

  3. clair strohl says:

    New Zeland is the place to go. They speak english, make movies like lord of the rings, democracy, no major threat to the international community, and farmland and temps are acceptable 🙂
    greenland will get the fallout from winds of north america and europe.

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