Democrats Still Haven’t Learned

May 18th, 2010at 11:39am Posted by Eli

Yesterday’s NYT:

In 2008, when Mr. Obama’s candidacy galvanized Democrats and intrigued the nation, nearly 4 in 10 Americans declined to vote. Even at peak interest, the American appetite for democratic rituals is hardly universal.

Without a presidential race to lead the ballot, the appetite is even weaker. The last time more than half of the eligible citizens voted in a midterm election was nearly three decades ago, in 1982, census figures show.

Students of modern political history point out that this is often a problem for Democrats. Their less-affluent constituency traditionally goes to the polls at lower rates.

“We usually do well when the turnout is low,” said John Morgan, a longtime Republican demographic specialist.


Elections with low turnout can allow parties to tilt the outcome substantially through small shifts in the composition of those voting.

In the 1994 midterms, for example, overall turnout as a proportion of eligible citizens dropped slightly. But since Representative Newt Gingrich’s party was energized that year and President Bill Clinton’s was downcast, the result earned the moniker “Republican Revolution.”

“You can have a big-wave result,” Mr. Cook said, “without a big wave of voters.”

Multi Medium, 2/14/06:

Republicans understand that voters in “the base” turn out if motivated, and the undecideds in the middle do not. Consequently, they tailor their electoral strategy to pumping up their base to maximize that turnout, and they don’t worry about the middle all that much because they’re proportionally less of a factor. The Democrats, on the other hand, repeatedly throw their base under the bus in pursuit of those fickle undecideds who probably aren’t voting anyway.

In other words, Republicans understand that turnout is a force multiplier. Democrats are satisfied with just being ahead in opinion polls, implicitly assuming that voter turnout is homogeneous.

And this is why the ballot results never quite live up to the poll results for the Democrats. The Democrats are alienating voters by chasing after non-voters.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  The Republicans and the Democrats continue to race to the right, for complete opposite reasons.  The Republicans may scare off everyone except their crazy base, but they don’t care because they know the crazy base will turn out.  The Democrats may alienate everyone except a few people in the middle who won’t vote, but they don’t care because, well, they’re corporate-owned idiots.

GOTV and boots on the ground are all well and good, but if no one’s excited about what you’re selling and what you’ve done, it’s not going to translate into as many votes.  This is why Republicans usually do better in elections than they have any right to.  The GOP got crushed in 2006 and 2008 because so many people were passionate and energized against Bush’s failures, but Obama and the Democrats squandered all of that energy by deciding to be GOP Lite instead of actually keeping the promises that got them elected.  And now they’re about to pay the price.

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Elections,Politics

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