[*I've written previously on what I think being an independent means and don't want to go into it here, but, especially in an election year, the number of independents seems to me to include people who call themselves that, but will almost certainly vote for the party with whom they have always been most comfortable for any number or real or imagined reasons. And, though I don't fully understand why, it also seems to me that many liberals are not as comfortable with their ideological affiliation as conservatives and relatively more of them call themselves independents, but are not. I could not guess at the numbers. But, if I am correct, it is important, as it gives the Democrats a small hidden advantage in the election. And a small advantage with "independents" is all any candidate needs.]
I am troubled by the example of a young man I know who was very liberal, but has moved more and more over to the fiscally conservative side. But he refuses to vote for Republicans because he believes too many in that party despise him because he is gay. I could, if so inclined, say an analogous thing. Right now and for a long time, I have more in common in terms of economic theory with Republicans than Democrats. But I am well aware that many conservatives look down on atheists, or, at least stand by quietly while their compatriots disparage them or call for measures that I believe violate the first amendment religion clauses in significant ways. Unlike the young man I know, I deal with it, because, overall, we live in such a tolerant society, the intolerance towards atheists by conservatives, is almost always harmless. I spent 4 1/2 years living in the Bible Belt. There was some discomfort by some friends/acquaintances of mine when they learned I was not a believer. But, they were certainly not violent nor did it end up affecting our personal relationships in any significant way. If anything, it just made them feel bad for me and be curious. Frankly, my personal views on a host of seemingly less controversial matters cause people much more discomfort. There is occasional violence against gays and it is horrible, but it is really rare. And, the ban on their serving openly in the military is now gone. Gay marriage is becoming legal in more and more states and I believe in a generation - say 20 to 25 years - will be to a large degree a non-issue. Similarly, I believe, even if we continue in the endless war with radical Islam, the bias against American-Muslims is relatively mild and will disappear in time. I am not saying there is no important discrimination (it is always more painful when you are the subject of it) but that it is not sufficient now for me to vote Democratic in the presidential election. Times could change that. I have voted for Democrats before and might in the future.
The world started changing after WWII. People understood that they could not hope to defeat those so much more powerful than them. Government are more inclined to cooperate, but others are not. So, they found another way. The greatest threats to peace are not just governments, but non-governmental organizations like al-Qaeda and Hizbollah. The only change that will make any long term difference will be internal to the Muslim world, a rejection of violence in response to perceived deviance and an acceptance of what I call the enlightenment values. Short of a modern crusade coupled with genocide, which I do not expect in any way, the war between the cultures will be long and hard fought. No one really knows how to fight it. We just know we have to kill the bad guys and hope to kill as few good guys while we can as we do it, because it is really hard to tell the difference. We will almost always screw up in this manner. No one can claim that Obama has not tried to kill as many "bad guys"as he reasonably could.
But, while considering internal change, let me finish this post with the question - what will happen to the Republican Party internally if Romney loses? The Limbaughs and Gingriches, etc., will claim that it is because they did not go with a true conservative and insist the next candidate be of that mind. By that they will mean, among other things, that they want someone who is against gay marriage, any abortion (for some excepting the situations involving the health of the mother, or rape and incest), wants to prevent Muslims from building mosques in America and establish prayer in school and religious symbolism (mostly Christian) in our government institutions. If they are successful, I believe they will fail in the general election again, and then there will be no defense to the economic policies of the liberals in the Democratic Party.
Another Republican group will claim that the Limbaughs and Gingriches (I use them merely as examples) are the problem. I tend to agree with that, but if that group is successful and right wing third parties may result in the most energetic part of the party ensuring liberal success just the same.