Who will decide the 2012 election for president and the various congressional races in Connecticut and most other states? I’ll tell you who. It’s those pesky undecideds. You know, the mushy middle—the independents, moderates and ticket-splitters who refuse to march in lock-step with either party.
The fact that such a block of voters even exists is enough to drive some pundits and commentators into fits of apoplexy. Witness comedian Bill Maher, who recently launched into a tirade against undecideds, calling them “ignorant jackasses” on his edgy HBO show, Real Time.
“If you’re one of the five percent of American voters who are still undecided on who to vote for, it’s okay to admit you just don’t really give a [expletive deleted]. Seriously, if you still can’t figure out who you like more—Mitt Romney or Barack Obama—stay home . . . because you probably couldn’t find your polling place anyway.”
Among the undecideds are millions of independent voters who don’t have a home in either party—people whom neither the Republicans nor the Democrats can claim as their own, either because the parties’ positions do not reflect the sentiment of the unaffiliated voter or because those voters are hybrids.
First case in point: the Democrats. I’m not a government-hating right-winger, but the waste I see firsthand on the state and municipal levels appalls me. And the extent to which public sector employee unions have a stranglehold on the Democratic Party is nauseating. During state budget negotiations last year, for example, few Democrats—with the notable exception of Gov. Malloy—could agree to end the egregious practice of using late-career overtime to grossly inflate pension benefits for state employees.
And the Democrats all too often just don’t get simple economics. Lately, it seems that their idea of economic development is to bribe companies such as Bridgewater, the largest hedge fund in the world whose CEO raked in $3.9 billion last year, to stay in Connecticut. And in a time when many small- and medium-sized businesses are struggling to stay afloat, Democrats were eager to pass the largest tax increase in state history, raise the minimum wage, and impose mandatory paid sick leave. Should we really be surprised that Connecticut’s unemployment rate rose to 9 percent from 8.5 percent over the summer?
Where do Democrats think the money comes from for the big government they crave? Printing presses? No, it comes from a thriving private sector that produces the revenue to fund a caring and compassionate government. You simply cannot have the cart without the horse.
Conversely, Republicans seem to have their heads buried in the sand on a number of issues. Take health care, for example. Beyond a few bromides about the free-market, Republicans are short on ideas about how to address a disgraceful fact: tens of millions Americans are uninsured. And any mention of expanding the government’s role in health care is met with frenzied GOP cries of socialism.
I lived for five years in Canada, where the government covered every resident with health insurance. It’s not a perfect system. If you want a hip replacement in the U.S. it might take you six weeks to get one. In Canada, maybe more like six months. Rationing is essential if you are to cover everyone and keep costs down. But polls have consistently shown that almost 90 percent of Canadians are satisfied with their system and would not want to return to the U.S. model that prevailed north of the border until the 1960s.
Why? I suspect the reason is actually quite simple: It’s a trade-off. Even while taxes are higher and there are waiting periods for elective procedures, Canadians can rest assured that they’re never one catastrophic illness away from total bankruptcy. In contrast to Obamacare, a single-payer system is actually business-friendly. Costs for the program are more stable, and unlike the wild fluctuations in private insurance rates here in the states, Canadian businesses know what to expect from year to year. Why don’t Republicans get that?
And what accounts for GOP opposition to sensible regulation in the private banking sector that might have prevented the financial meltdown of 2008? Is it skepticism at the prospect of more government intrusion into the economy? Or perhaps Republicans are beholden to banks and corporations in the same way Democrats are married to the public-sector unions? Something was working against reform because Canada’s banks, which the World Economic Forum pronounced the most stable in the world, are prohibited from engaging in the kinds of chicanery that nearly drove us into another depression.
These are just a few of the issues in which neither party has a monopoly on correctness. I could go on for days about this, but there’s a reason 40 percent of all registered voters in the U.S. are unaffiliated and that 2.5 million voters have left the Republican and Democratic parties since 2008. And there is a reason why there are more unaffiliated voters in Connecticut than either Republicans or Democrats. Heck, even in deep-blue California, independents have reached record numbers.
No Mr. Maher, we’re not all ignorant jackasses. We’re just not very good at picking our poison.
Terry Cowgill blogs at ctdevilsadvocate.com, is the editor of ctessentialpolitics.com and was an award-winning editor and senior writer for The Lakeville Journal Company. He can be found on Twitter @terrycowgill.