This New Republic essay depressed the hell out of me and shook my assumption a libertarian lite movement could take huge chunks of independent voters turned off by the major parties. Instead, many independents are what author and Dem strategist Ruy Texeira calls “IINOs” — independent in name only:
In 2008, according to the University of Michigan’s National Election Study (NES), 90 percent of independents who leaned Democratic voted for Obama, actually a higher level of support than among weak Democratic partisans (those who said they were “not very strong” Democrats), 84 percent of whom voted for Obama. Among Republican-leaning independents, a still-high 78 percent voted for McCain, compared to 88 percent support among weak Republican identifiers.
Evidently, these two groups are quite different animals. On the one hand, we have a group of “independents” who voted 90 percent for Barack Obama. Moreover, as Alan Abramowitz and others have shown, the policy views of Democratic-leaning independents look just like the policy views of Democratic identifiers. On the other, we have a group of “independents” who voted 78 percent for John McCain and have policy views that look just like Republican identifiers. Clearly it does tremendous violence to the data to lump these two disparate groups together and give them a label—“independents”—that implies they do not have partisan inclinations.
The implications of Texeira’s research for the presidential race? I think it’s mostly that turnout is of crucial importance. I was talking with a high-powered Democratic activist and former officeholder today, and he says the flap over whether health insurance must always include contraception amounted to a carefully conceived, focus group-tested stratagem to increase the turnout of women voters — not a gaffe by the Obama White House. Could be.
I hope Mitt can come up with similar micro and macro strategies to rile up Republicans or GOP-loving IINOs and all the various subcategories on the right. I may be a libertarian who wrote in votes for Reagan in 2004 and 2008 to protest the big-government GOP candidates, but Obama is so hard left and so anti-liberty on so many fronts that he makes Bill Clinton look like a CATO fan. I’ve made my peace with Mitt. The prospect of four more years with Obama forces such choices.