Only when the tea-party cabal in the House took Washington hostage did it fully dawn on the Beltway gentry that the country was in danger. But even now, Obama keeps being urged to make nice with the rebels so that he can woo independents, who, we’re constantly told, value bipartisanship every bit as much as the pundits do. The “all-important independent voters,” as the “Lexington” columnist at The Economist recycled the conventional wisdom earlier this month, “are said to be looking for a president who defuses partisan tensions, rather than inflaming them.” Said by whom? Mainly other Washington bloviators.
Obama, after all, is exactly that president. For the good deed of trying to defuse partisan tensions, he has been punished with massive desertions by the very independents who are supposed to love his pacifism. In the last Wall Street Journal–NBC News poll, his support among them had fallen by half since he took office, from 52 percent to 26 percent. Perhaps that’s because these independents, who represent roughly 36 percent of voters, are not the monochromatic ideological eunuchs they’re purported to be. One polling organization that regularly examines them in depth, Pew, has found that nearly half of independents are in fact either faithful Democrats (21 percent) or Republicans (26 percent) who simply don’t want to call themselves Democrats and Republicans. (Can you blame them?) Another 20 percent are “doubting Democrats” and another 16 percent are “disaffected” voters, respectively anti-business and anti-government, angry and populist rather than mildly centrist. The remaining 17 percent are what Pew calls “disengaged”—young and uneducated Americans, four fifths of whom don’t vote anyway. There’s nothing about the makeup of any segment of these “all-important independent voters” that suggests bipartisan civility has anything whatsoever to do with winning their support.
Yeah, the numbers don't lie. There is no such thing as a bipartisan-fetishizing "independent" voter. That creature does not exist outside the fantasies of Broderite-DC pundits.
Now after three years of trying to be play nice against a "hold-no-prisoners" GOP, what is the Democrats' reward? Gallup:
Americans see the Republican Party as better able than the Democratic Party to protect the country from terrorism and military threats, and to keep the country prosperous over the next few years [...]
At this point, Republicans, who currently control the House but not the presidency or the Senate, appear to be at least slightly better positioned going into the elections, given Americans' preference for the GOP to handle the nation's domestic and international woes.
Democrats held the advantage over the Republican Party on the "prosperous" dimension from 2003 through 2009, a period that included the majority of George W. Bush's presidency and the first year of Barack Obama's. The advantage switched to the GOP last year and remains so this year, by 48% to 39%.
If voters were that enamored with "bipartisanship" and "comity" and all that other shit that makes DC columnists swoon, those same voters would be punishing the GOP for their intransigence. But they are not.
Democrats should give it a shot.
The data is clear: People want politicians who are passionate about their beliefs. They don't give a rat's ass about process or bipartisanship or how well politicians work together. They want politicians who look like they're fighting for something.