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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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Election 2009: A Declaration from Independents

Last week’s voter turnout was low both on campus, with 1.6 percent of Stony Brook’s registered voters partipating in the election, and off-campus. To some extent, voting during a period of national transition is tiresome even for those who follow local politics. We know there are no ‘quick fixes’ regardless of the party in power. Last October, the political environment was defined by the divide between Democrats and Republicans. Unlike most other years, however, this oversimplification of policy and plan that most candiates rely on only to garner votes lasted long after the election. Perhaps because of this, both voters and candidates seemed a little less eager to jump to party lines.

Though it’s unwise to make sweeping generalizations about the future or even the zeitgeist based on subjective interpretations of the results, we can use them to take a perfunctory temperature of the people who did choose to vote.

Per the results from New Jersey and New York, experience seemed to matter just as much as recognizability this time around. President Obama’s endorsements didn’t seem to affect voters, and individuals seemed to be selected over image.Fewer caricatures from either side of the political spectrum ran this semester, and none were selected.

Several signifincant differences between this election and the last are another lens through which to analyze the results. With less at stake than in the last election, victors were likely to be chosen for leadership style and personal preference. Last year’s election had’ both political and emotional aftereffects’ on this year’s. Obama’s transparency can adds to our faith in our own power just as it convinces us of the opposite. Being more privy to our healthcare, economic, and foreign policy upheavals lends a sense of immediacy to our votes, but realizing how invasive and extensive those upheavals are lends to a sense of powerlessness. The last distinction is between image and reality: this time around, no one promised that simply voting for one person would solve all our problems. Even while running, candidates focused more on specific plans than their own images.

Experts have analyzed the results as per party, as per issue, and as per race, experience or gender, but as with all statistics, interpretation is key. Cross-party voting has been’ scrutinized up and down for meaning, but it’s possible voters are demonstrating how immature and unreprentative the distinctions are. David Brooks addressed’ in The New York Times that there’ are more Independents than Republicans or Democrats, and that many of those Independents are right leaning. If Candidate Obama’s greatest lesson was that we should vote, then this election’s lesson is that voting independent is not throwing your vote away.

We can’t attribute their losses to many candiates’ refusal to take a hard line, the decision to cross party lines, or in some cases, their resolutions to ignore the line. Blaming bad government on the Republicans in power pushes us towards choosing Democrats, and being disappointed in the Democrats in power convinces us to vote Republican again.

Statistician Nate Silver finds no signigicant correlation between the results of governer and presidential voting records, even during the same election. The fact that we recently had such a significant presidential election doesn’t confirm the significance of this one. As voters, we aren’t just seeking to accessorize the Obama model.’ It may be that Democrats are better for the theory-driven, upper-level positions while Republicans perfer concise policies for the local ones. Local government policy is more about plans than ideologies, and so it follows that we choose a different tool for a different job. In the past, Republicans have won when focusing on primary issues and presenting clear plans of action.’ Even’ if what’s going on on a state level is independent from what’s going on nationally, Obama’s progress is viewed as a function of his political party’s beliefs. Much of his policy was reflected in that of Democratic candiates, and they voted against it.’

Finally, what do these results indicate about the upcoming Midterm elections? If Democrats fail to regain the Independent and center vote, Republicans will be at an advantage. In the longer term, these distinctions will prove increasingly jejune until both parties hearken back to their founding ideologies and choose people over political networking.’ Without this sort of reorientation, the days’ we believe that a’ two-party system can represent our best interests are numbered.

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