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The Declaration of Independents

The collision of a landmark special election in Massachusetts and the first anniversary of the Obama administration has produced an interesting conversation among opinion makers and strategists about what the administration got wrong -- and what it and Democrats have to do better if they hope to avoid a repeat of last night in November. But the overarching lesson in Republican Scott Brown's election to the U.S. Senate is the same as it was in 2006 and 2008. Hell hath no fury like frustrated independent voters.

Last night, President Obama and congressional Democrats were reminded anew that the folks who put Obama in office aren't Big D Democrats. As former spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee Karen Finney points out in Politico, "The coalition of voters Obama brought together in 2008 -- new voters, moderates and independents -- do not see themselves as core democratic party voters." And those independents have not been shy about making their frustrations known. Adam Nagourney noted in the New York Times, "independent voters -- who embraced Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign and are an increasingly critical constituency -- seemed to have fled to Mr. Brown in Massachusetts, as they did to Republicans in races for governor in Virginia and New Jersey last November."

Independent voters fled because of what John P. Avalon at The Daily Beast says is their "dislike of the ideological arrogance and legislative over-reach that often comes with unified one-party control of Washington." To win them back, even liberal Democrat Lanny Davis believes it's time
for the base to put purity aside
by becoming "a party that is willing to meet half-way with conservatives and Republicans even if that means only step-by-step reforms on health care and other issues that do not necessarily involve big-government solutions."

While we're focused on the circular firing squad within the Democratic Party today, Finney and Avalon issue a "wake-up call" to both Democrats and Republicans. "Democrats can no longer be in denial about the fact that independents hold the balance of power -- even in Massachusetts. Conservatives should recognize that a pro-choice Republican brought them victory," Avalon writes. "In both cases, the party that connects with the center -- with moderates and the middle class -- wins elections." But that connection can't just be rhetorical or driven by soundbites. It has to be backed up with results. And this is where Finney gets it right. "Incumbents of both parties should now realize that when voters ask, 'What have you done for me lately?', you'd better have a good answer that's about them (the voters) not you."

By Jonathan Capehart  | January 20, 2010; 11:28 AM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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My fear is that this election will be read as a failure of the Democrats to compromise with the Republicans. On the contrary, the problem is that the Democrats compromised too much. From the start, the healthcare legislation was loaded with give-aways to big insurance and big pharma. Mandatory coverage was a tax on the barely middle-class, not a right. The Republicans led the debate and Obama quietly compromised in the backrooms. I don't think this is what Obama's supporters elected him for.

I know I didn't.

What was needed was a re-run of the old Harry and Louise commercials with a reminder that the actual provisions they threatened are now being delivered to us by the insurance companies. The actual death-squads are the insurers refusing coverage and refusing claims.

The slogan should have been "Do you want your coverage approved by a well-meaning bureaucrat, or by an executive who gets a bonus for every procedure he turns down?"

Even I want the present health reform killed now. The present system is so unpalatable that it has to be fixed or there will be a revolution. I think the MA vote is the first step in that revolution. The fix doesn't have to benefit only large corporations.

Posted by: adelemcdaniel | January 20, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

I agree totally with the previous commenter. We the People can see that we are being ignored, that the leaders of both major parties are acting not in our interests, but in the interests of They the Special Interests. (Insurance companies, Big Pharma, Wall Street, etc.) And that is most definitely NOT the "change" we were peddled by the Obama campaign last year.

I believe we will continue to see a series of votes against the incumbency - be that the individual or the governing party - and perhaps an even larger repudiation of the status quo, via third parties, Constitutional amendment movements, etc. (I personally believe this is necessary, as the current system has been perverted beyond redemption.)

Posted by: nan_lynn | January 20, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Another, really - really bad day for the DEMOCRUDS.

Posted by: stephenwhelton | January 20, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

The Democratic Party has been taken over by Socialists.

Socialists know as a party they can never win elections to enact their crazed policies.

So, they became parasites on the Democratic Party...and have taken over.

Posted by: bob59 | January 20, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

If the members of both parties are too incompetent to think up and pass reform that does not involve expansion of government offices and jobs, bribes, pork, having to "sell" the idea to their "ignorant" constituents or force it on them, then they all need put out of office.

Posted by: Elisa2 | January 20, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

I am one of those MA Unrolled voters who worked hard to get Obama elected but voted for Scott Brown yesterday. For years here in MA all you had to have was that "D" next to your name to get elected! Liberal Democrats have got to start meeting both Conservatives and Republicans halfway... or face losing at the polls. Some "career" Democratic pols here in MA will hopefully have tough re-election campaigns next time around(i.e, Kerry, Markey). Electing politicians for life is ridiculous. Personally, I am ready to vote against almost any incumbent.

Also, bottom line Martha Coakley was an abysmal candidate who felt she would win without even trying!

Posted by: mfiori | January 20, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

People are frustrated, and that causes them to lash out in all different directions.

Just about everyone knows that health care is screwed up, but they're all over the board as to what needs to be done about it. Some people want a public option (heck, some want a single payor), while others "don't want my Medicare handed over to the government".

President Obama failed to set out a clear plan and advocate for it. Rather, he let Congress take the initiative, which is handing the asylum over to the proverbial lunatics.

What the President needs to do here is lead.

Posted by: Itzajob | January 20, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

What Obama needs to do is resign.

Posted by: bob59 | January 20, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Lany is confirming the Tea-baggers claim about Obama pushing his agenda without any participation from the other side.

My impression is the GOP said 'NO' even before the President approached them for support.

If Bush were in the WH, his agenda would have been done by the first year....

The wishy-washy positioning of the Democrats has resulted in the loss of Kennedy seat to a Republican.

Where is the spine????

Posted by: wrock76taolcom | January 20, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

I am heartened to see that, so far, in these comments there has been much less name calling and hatred. I do agree with one or more of you that this entire issue should have been taken on differently and not with one party rule, dictating what we all end up with. You have to wonder why Congress didn't demand tort reform to enter into the discussion. The fact that lawyers support the Democrats, generally, is not a good reason to do away with something that MUST be a part of the conversation. How can you address health care costs without having some regulation on frivolous lawsuits? Common sense tells you that if you bring a lawsuit and it is determined to be frivilous, you should be picking up the legal fees of the one you are attempting to sue. The cost of these unending suits is the number one largest cost to physicians--both in malpractice insurance and day to day operations (think of time missed trying to respond to such attacks) and this cost must be passed on to you and I. No one is saying that if you have a legitimate case against a medical care provider, you shouldn't do all you can to recover but the current system allows for litigious sorts to bring suits based on anything, legitimate or not and has no responsibility for the costs incurred and often uses an attorney who doesn't require a retainer to proceed. The Republicans are right on this issue and hopefully Congress will employ some commons sense solutions if they indeed insist on taking over healthcare reform

Posted by: litttlebear | January 20, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

my prediction: "anybody but an encumbent" becomes the slogan of the indies for the next few elections. almost complete turnover in both legislative and executive branches... just in time for our sovereign debt crisis :-)

Posted by: millionea7 | January 20, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Brown was hesitant to even mention he was a Repubblican so as long as Republicans run away from their record and ideology, they might find electoral success, that seems to be the lesson.

The Democrats still have a larger Majority than the Republicans have had since the 1920s so I'm having a hard time seeing a big 'loss' here.

If the Republicans had been HALF as angry about the national debt while Bush was shoveling tax breaks to the wealthy and starting 2 wars while refusing to pay for them, they'd have some credibility & honor...

They didn't and so they don't...

As long as the rank & file GOP keep supporting the same policies that created the debt & deficits our country has, we will laugh at them and mock them.

As long as they keep waving fetuses, screaming at gays, and hating on brown people, they will continue to be ignored.

As long as Republicans keep supporting policies that actually hurt themselves, they will not be trusted.

The GOP supported a war of choice without paying for it, but rise up in arms when we dare to give the country healthcare more cheaply and reduce the deficit.

Like I said, zero credibility, even if the Democrats are a bit feckless, they aren't wrecking the place.

The. Stupidest. People. On. Earth. Vote. Republican.

Posted by: russcarter1 | January 20, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

All Massachusetts said was: We have our health plan, screw the rest of you.

Posted by: jckdoors | January 20, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

"If the Republicans had been HALF as angry about the national debt while Bush was shoveling tax breaks to the wealthy and starting 2 wars while refusing to pay for them..."

You forget two important things: 1) unemployment averaged about 5% under Bush and 2) we were attacked on 9/11 and people were okay with the two wars at the outset.

So people weren't nearly as disaffected as they are today.

Posted by: boosterprez | January 20, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

"My fear is that this election will be read as a failure of the Democrats to compromise with the Republicans. On the contrary, the problem is that the Democrats compromised too much."


Any compromises that might have appealed to Republicans were made at the behest of moderate to conservative democrats. Republicans objected to the implicit growth of government and therefore could not sign on to the legislation. Bipartisanship requires meeting in the middle. Of course, for far-left progressives, this bill WAS in the middle, but the far-left makes up a very small percentage of the country.

Posted by: boosterprez | January 20, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

"Hell hath no fury like frustrated independent voters."

FINALLY! Someone gets it! Unfortunately, those "someones" were not the folks at, Nancy Pelosi, and Keith Olbermann ("Mr. President, there is no health care reform without a public option!). Mr. Olbermann, there is no health care reform, period.

The liberal faction of the party may have won the Democratic primary for Sen. Obama, but it was Independents and cross-over Republicans that won the White House by winning key states: Virginia, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Carolina. Sen. McCain had a choice with the direction of his campaign: he could choose to woo the Independent voters or he could pander to right-wing party base. Unfortunately for him, he chose the latter when he chose the poorly vetted Sarah Palin as his running mate. And Independents overwhelmingly voted for Obama.

And somehow, this was mistaken as mandate for a liberal agenda. BIG mistake, which will play out this coming November.

BTW: If voters in Massachusetts chose the guy who promised to torpedo health care reform, perhaps that says something about how those folks feel about health care reform...pretty important given they are the only voting bloc currently under government-mandated health care reform.

Posted by: pepperjade | January 20, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

"The Republicans led the debate and Obama quietly compromised in the backrooms. I don't think this is what Obama's supporters elected him for."


The republicans weren't even ALLOWED in the backroom!!! Where do you get your information from - Ed Schultz and Rachel Maddow????

The only discussion Republicans engaged in was with the constituents...we were summarily dismissed from the debate when it was realized we weren't playing their game.

You may have voted for Obama for specific ideological reasons, but Independent voters, I can assure you, were NOT looking for a leftist agenda to be passed. They wanted compromise and transparency...and Obama delivered on neither, hence their disenchantment with the party in power.

Posted by: boosterprez | January 20, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Don't you hate it when the same person posts serially under different names?

Posted by: Itzajob | January 20, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

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