September 5th, 2012
05:59 PM ET

Letters to the President #1325: 'Independent thinking'

Reporter's Note: I'm still in Charlotte for the Democratic convention. Considering that I was also in Tampa for the GOP, by the time this week is done I will be about all conventioned out.

Dear Mr. President,

I’m sure you and your D.C. pals just love these political conventions, but let me tell you I think they are like Bluegrass music; fun at first, but a little goes a long way.

At some point all the folks carrying on about the greatness of “our side,” whichever side we’re talking about, gets tiresome. I know from my own experience that there are some terrific people in the Democratic Party and just as many on the Republican side. There are also some jerks. Each side has great ideas, and awful ones. Each one has people of great character, and louses. Neither party has the market cornered on being more American, and yet when you come to conventions like these you’d never know that. Both parties launch into scorched earth denunciations of anyone who opposes their agenda, and damn any innocent souls who stray into the path of destruction.

It’s kind of disheartening, and I think it is one of the key reasons that these conventions resonate so well with the faithful, but often not so much with regular folks.

Which brings me to the subject of the people who are most likely to decide this race: Independents. I am often struck by the barely concealed contempt that partisans, left and right, have for people in the middle. They are called indecisive, uninformed, apathetic…spoilers in the bigger clash of titans. It feels as if the two big parties imagine America to be their private domain that everyone else is just lucky enough to call home.

I don’t buy this dismissive view of independents. Most of the voters I have found over the years who call themselves independent are every bit as engaged by the political process, just as concerned about the leadership of America, and frankly considerably more respectful of everyone having a political voice than most of the partisans I’ve met.

This is something I think you should keep in mind as you make your final tweaks to the big speech for tomorrow night. Maybe you’ve decided that the base is where it is at; that you really just want to fill the room with red meat, fire up your Dems, and count on them to overset any losses among the independents. Fair enough. I’m not sure if that is a winning strategy. You would know better than I. But if you still want the independents, I would suggest that you make it clear that you know they are out there…that you respect their views, including their doubts about your leadership…and then ask them nicely to help you hold on.

One of the chief characteristics of many of these voters, I have found, is their reasonableness. They are willing to listen. They are willing to be convinced. But unlike partisans who are always looking to validate what they already believe, many independents want real evidence. Give it to them, and you’re in.

Hope all is well. When are you getting into town? Want to grab lunch? Give a call if you do. Security is a mess so you might have to come over near my hotel. Probably easier than me coming to you.


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