Independents are herds of cats who find out what they think through a meandering process of discovery. Right now, independent voters are astonishingly volatile. Democrats did poorly in elections on Tuesday partly because of disappointed liberals who think that President Obama is moving too slowly, but mostly because of anxious suburban independents who think he is moving too fast. In Pennsylvania, there was an eight-point swing away from the Democrats among independents from a year ago. In New Jersey, there was a 12-point swing. In Virginia, there was a 13-point swing.[….]
Independents support the party that seems most likely to establish a frame of stability and order, within which they can lead their lives. They can’t always articulate what they want, but they withdraw from any party that threatens turmoil and risk. As always, they’re looking for a safe pair of hands.
Too often in “mainstream” political analysis, once it is pointed out that independents have swung in one or another direction, the analysis stops. The pundit inserts his own opinion about what caused the independent vote to shift (“Obama’s far-reaching proposals and mounting spending”, says the Washington Post), without citing any evidence. It’s a neat trick, and someone who isn’t paying attention is liable to conclude that the pundit has actually said something interesting.
But in New Jersey, there’s literally almost no evidence that the Democrats’ agenda had anything to do with Jon Corzine’s defeat. Voters who cited a national issue were more likely to vote for Corzine, and voters who cited a local one, the Republican Chris Christie.
The whole Bobo piece is a classic, from the jigsaw puzzle he played with as a kid to the “America moved to the right” meme. The Sulzbergers must be very proud of him.