|Huffington Post Image|
I remember thinking to myself how thoughtful and intelligent these people were to hold such an open-minded attitude. Even, as a small child, I remember thinking how ignorant it was to just blindly support a political position or candidate based on party affiliation alone. However, the reality is a little different now in my adulthood. First, it's a fact, most people vote on the basis of their party identification. We may hear people in the morning coffee houses claiming they are weighing all the issues and candidates but when it comes time to vote they do so with a political party they most identify.
Party Identification Has Become The Lens Most People See Through.
The truth in modern day politics is that most people have a political party which they identify. Even more, but, not always, people have the same party identification as their parents. Second, in general, its people with strong party identification who tend to be better informed and better educated. These factoids have a number of implications. What they reveal to us is that voting and party identification are far more complex than we realize.
Today, when you ask someone, what party they support, you can pretty much guess who they are voting for and be right most of the time. When trying to ascertain a person's party identification, I would simply ask what political party do your parents support. Studies have shown that most people form their political views early in life and remain stable over time so for lack of term it's pretty fair to say most people are " born into it." Now, this writer is not one to generalize anything, however, in general 7 out of ten people identify with the political party of their parents. In some regions of the country, it has been shown to be almost 4 out of 5.
It is very unusual for a person to switch their party identification in America today. Also, it is rare that in the political climate of today that people vote for a candidate that is not affiliated with the party they have supported all their life. In the 1940's and the 1950's political scientist started doing research on voting. The purpose of these studies was to see what affects campaigning had on voters. The basic mindset going in was that political campaigns would have the same effect on people as advertising. However, what they found surprised them. As it turned out, the campaigning had little to no effect on most people. Furthermore, there was something else that surprised them. It was the better educated and informed voter that was least affected by the campaign. It is these type people who overwhelmingly vote for their party identification. Voters who were most effected by campaigns and changed their votes were less educated and less informed.[See Article: Why Do Poor Uneducated White People Vote Republican.] What was even more shocking, is that many of these less educated and inform voters did not even realize that the candidates they were supporting had contrasting positions. These findings were quite disturbing. These finding raised serious questions about Democratic government..
These early studies changed the way academia thought about voters and voting. For example, it came to be that the mindset was you don't win elections by changing people's minds. You win elections by mobilizing your core supporters or base. The problem is roughly 40% of the electorate are Democrats and 40% are Republicans that leaves 20% more or less Independent. Bear in mind these numbers deal with people who take part in the process. These numbers create a dilemma. While it is imperative that political parties mobilize their base. In turn, they must attract these Independent or swing voters without alienating their core supporters.
With such a wide spectrum of voter mindsets in modern day politics, the general rule of thumb has been to hug the middle. You want to be moderate enough to appeal to Independents without losing your core supporters. Normally, voters at the Republican end of the line will be conservative and at the Democrats end of the line liberal. The moderate voters are in the middle. This reality in the past has kept both parties platforms moderate. James Madison Federalist papers, part of the narrative was how the extended republic solves the problems of factions. The American voter has created a paradox. We want our political parties to stand for something, but; we want them to corporate with one another. We want our political parties to work together in the public interest. However, there is an important exception that makes it really hard to generalize party identification.
The SouthIn the South, we don't have the above mentioned spectrum of voters. In the south, moderate voters are few and far between, in the south, studies and surveys have clearly shown that the swing voters are highly conservative. Why? It only makes sense if we look at it historically. In my last article, Why Do Poor Uneducated White People Vote Republican, we covered the transformation of the south regarding politics. By and large southerners did not start voting for Republicans until the late 1960's. Back in the 1960's there was a very conservative faction within the Democratic party that left the party over the Civil Rights Acts. It was not until the early 1980's with the emergence of Ronald Reagan did we see a wholesale change of party identification from Democrat to Republican in the south. The term Reagan Democrat was born.
This transformation was largely due to an influx of northerners who started leaving the north and moving south. So, let's make no bones about it, in the south, in the 1980's and 1990's, swing voters were more conservative in mindset than moderate. Most racist conservative southern Democrats who for the longest time could not stomach calling themselves Republican because of it being the party of Lincoln finally started switching their voter affiliations. However, even in the south, with this new dynamic neither party has a majority in the region. So, to put together a majority and win elections in the south both parties have to appeal to these swing voters which puts the Democrats at a huge disadvantage. As we have seen, this disadvantage has translated to the south becoming almost entirely red states.
The Republicans can easily pick up the swing voters in the south without upsetting its core supporters. This fact is not the case for the Democrats. The Democrats face an uphill battle to win back swing voters in the south. So, starting in the 1980's there has been a complete take over by the Republicans in the south. One of the awful side-effects of these changing dynamics is partisanship.
Partisanship has undermined the aforementioned theory by James Madison and created an environment of factions and the quest of the political parties to appeal to the moderates. Bi-partisanship has been thrown overboard in today's political arena. The whole game plan of the Republican party has been to champion issues that make their base " foam at the mouth." Knowing there could be no compromise from the Democrats that puts not only the political parties at odds, but the American people as well. Issues like abortion, same-sex-marriage, social safety net programs, wedge issues. This divisive formula has led to a deep polarization in America today. What this all boils down to is the Republicans feel they can play to their base supporters and win in the south that will create political safe zones and allow them to gridlock and obstruct the nation on mass. We have seen this work quite well for them but, however, there is a change happening in the south.
Independent Voters In The South Are Changing!
We can distinguish two types of Independent voters. One group of Independent voters can accurately be described as 'weak party voters,' meaning, voters who tend to lean to one party or the other, but; describe themselves as independent voters. These type voters tend to proclaim their independent mindsets but normally vote for the same party year after year. The other group, the true independent voter don't show a preference for one party over the other. These voters fit the pattern that was revealed about the mentioned voter studies back in the 1940's. These voters still tend to be poorly informed and lack any real passion for politics in general. These voters tend to be of the mindset their vote doesn't matter and that all politicians and the parties they represent are corrupt. The bottom-line with this type voter is they tend not to vote
However, these trends are slowly changing [in this writers view] and the election of Barack Obama is my proof. With the election of America's first person of color to the White House, we saw in 2008 how a candidate based campaign as opposed to a party based campaign could ignite the sleeping giant. These truly independent voters engaged themselves in the process. Both in 2008, and 2012 we saw record numbers of new voters enter into the voting process. With this renewed awaking, we have seen the Republican Party combat this by implementing regressive voting suppression measures in their political safe zones. We have seen political obstruction to the point some claim hinges on sedition. We have seen the use of institutional racism used to enrage less educated poor white people to call for the impeachment of Obama based on trumped up bogus scandal accusations.
[See Article: Benghazi Benghazi Benghazi, Enough Already!]
[See Article: Benghazi Benghazi Benghazi, Enough Already!]
It has become clear that one of the fundamental flaws in conservative thinking is manifesting itself. The inability to adapt to change or accept it. As previously stated, this writer shouts from the mountaintops that the only thing permanent in life is change! Cause of this reality, the Republican Party has been labeled by many as " the party of no."
What Does All This Mean, Now?
Partisan politics has caused an eyesore on American's system of politics. Which in turn has led to more true independent voters which have weakened the element of Party Identification. This partisanship has led many political scientist to conclude that the mass electorate party that we have known is just about over. This factor means that political parties are going to become less relative. In a way, it brings the development of political parties back full circle. What this means could actually be a positive for We The People. This development forces political office seekers to connect with the electorate not based on party platforms but the special needs and concerns of the citizenry. There has become a growing awareness in the mass electorate of how big-money corporations and factions have put American government up for sale. There are major grassroots movements to end corporate person-hood and money equals free-speech. Yes, Party Identification has become the lens most people see through, regarding politics. And more people are starting to realize that it just might be the cause for much of the partisanship and dysfunction We The People have languished through in recent times.
|Written By: Johnny Hill|