Michelle Cottle may find it odd that I’m filing my response to her latest Daily Beast column under “Centrist Studies.” After all, she’s not attacking centrists, just swing voters:
. . . the vast majority of people still waffling aren’t . . . “independent” or “thoughtful” or centrist so much as . . . utterly clueless.
Already we have fallacy #1: People with ideological labels, “centrist” included, know more about the issues than everyone else. Therefore, they are not worth the candidates’ time, which is the crux of her entire argument. Unfortunately, she offers no evidence supporting the idea that swing voters are less informed than wingers, only the assumption that this is true because they haven’t picked a candidate. There is over a month to go, and there are many things President Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) can do to make their ideas and records more appetizing in that month.
Fallacy #2: “5 or 10 percent” is a “wafer-thin” number of voters. That’s a pretty thick wafer. In the latest polls, Obama and Romney are separated by anywhere from zero to seven points. Does Cottle expect a 10-point-plus difference every time, or believe the candidates realistically expect a difference above that? Obama won by seven in 2008. Five or 10 points is the difference between a squeaker and a mandate. It’s enough to appeal to millions of voters outside your base. It’s the exact opposite of wafer-thin.
Fallacy #3: She ignores the guy she quoted who points out the role of swing voters’ economic circumstances. While gleefully posting quotes that make her argument look better, Cottle doesn’t address this point from pollster Jefrey Pollock: The daily political back-and-forth is repellent to people who worry how to keep their households afloat. Will Romney releasing his tax returns, or Obama holding a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, make them feel more optimistic about who can make their lives easier?
Fallacy #4: Not only do swing voters know nothing, they believe nothing. She does offer evidence suggesting that most independents trend left or right. Those who do not are not “thoughtful” – a word she repeats with such scorn that you could replace it with “menacing,” as she did in her headline for some reason – just lacking in conviction. This won’t be the last time someone accuses true independents of this, simply because they can’t be pigeonholed.
Fallacy #5: These voters “don’t really give a damn.” Then why are they voting?
If you want a realistic and academic examination of swing voters that is actually worth the column inches, pick up Linda Killian’s The Swing Vote. I’ll be disappointed if five of you don’t mail copies of it to Cottle.