For the third straight election, independents voted against the party in power, and for the third straight election, at least 20 seats changed party control. These are the signs of a restless political center in American politics.
Barack Obama’s 8-point margin with independents proved crucial to his 2008 presidential victory, when he won the biggest majority of any Democratic nominee since Lyndon Johnson. Their defection—Republicans just won independents by 15 points—largely explains the midterm sweep.
The independent shift raises a host of crucial political questions:
Why is the number of self-identified independents growing? Just how independent are they, really?
Why have they moved sharply to the right?
To what extent does their shift to the GOP explain Democrats’ huge losses among blue-collar whites, and among white voters in general?
And, above all, can President Obama rebuild his standing with these crucial swing voters? Will an economic rebound be enough to bring them back into the progressive coalition? How should Obama and the Democrats address their profound mistrust of politics and government? What should they be prepared to compromise, and where should they stand on principle?
Please join PPI as we explore these questions with several of America’s leading political and policy analysts.