Most political analysts agree that the key to retaining our Democratic majorities in the 2010 midterm elections will be voter turnout. Voter enthusiasm and voter intensity are the buzz words used to describe getting people all fired up to donate, volunteer and vote.
So…are you all fired up and ready to go?
“Why bother?”, you ask. “Because the Progressive Agenda will be stopped cold if we lose our majorities in Congress”, she
screamed replied calmly.
The 2010 Midterm Preview
From a recent Gallup Poll, we have the bad news here:
If registered voter preferences remain evenly divided, turnout will ultimately decide which party has a better night on Election Day. Historically, Republicans turn out at higher rates than Democrats, which means a tie among registered voters is generally more indicative of a stronger Republican than Democratic showing on Election Day.
In late March and early April, after Congress’ passage of healthcare reform, both Republican and Democratic registered voters became more enthusiastic about voting in this year’s elections. Republicans’ enthusiasm peaked at 54% “very enthusiastic” in late March and early April, but is 43% in the latest weekly update, from April 27-May 2 — essentially where it was before healthcare passed. By contrast, Democrats have more or less retained the slightly higher level of enthusiasm they showed right after the healthcare bill milestone.
So what’s happening? And how did we get here?
The Roller Coaster Ride
2008 was a remarkable year. Voter enthusiasm was high, young voters were energized, our candidate was brilliant, charismatic and had not let down a single voter. Yet. (cue ominous music).
2008 gave way to 2009. Our guy was in the oval office, we had huge majorities in the House and the Senate but Things Were Not Getting Done. The Senate was blocking all meaningful legislation with their arcane rules. Frustration was growing, people were angry and upset. Something called the Tea Party Movement was created by the republican propaganda network, Fox News, and disgruntled people around the country showed up at spelling-optional rallies. Two gubernatorial elections in states that had been blue in 2008 were lost because the Democratic base stayed home. We lost a Senate seat in Massachusetts because of candidate malpractice and infighting.
Think of 2008 to 2009 to 2010 as a giant roller coaster ride. We are up at the pinnacle of the roller coaster in November 2008, we hit our first drop in December 2008 when we realize that George Bush is still president, then we ride to the top of the next hill on January 20, 2009 Inauguration Day followed immediately by some negative G’s as we find out on January 21 that the Iraq war is still going on, the recession is continuing, DADT is still in place, and George Bush is not president but he is Not In Jail. The Sotomayor nomination and confirmation sends us through a looping corkscrew. We see Health Care Reform looming (then we see its name get changed to Health Insurance Reform which makes us twitch a little) and we start slowly chugging up the next lift hill until we reach August 2009 when the Tea Party merges with the GOP to form the Tea Party GOP.
Finally, on March 23, 2010 the “Affordable Care Act” is signed into law and we start easing into the station. In May, the banking re-regulation bill coming out of the Senate looks better than the bill that the House passed and polls show that people support trimming Wall Streets sails. Jobs data starts looking better. Things are looking up.
What is the Tea Party GOP to Do?
The Party of No is left with saying NO to things that the majority of the American people want. They are running on repealing health care reform and threatening to open up another hellhole for jobs by focusing on the deficit instead of pushing for government programs to help job creation.
What impact might the Tea Party have on the midterms? From DemFromCT’s Front Page story:
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll indicates that the tea party’s gain is mostly the GOP’s loss: the percentages of Americans seeing the Democratic Party as the most in sync with their values and as the most empathetic are about the same as in November, while the numbers siding with the GOP have dropped by nearly identical numbers now identifying with the tea party in these areas.
The Tea Party: A small, but vocal and divisive group, much more anti- than pro-anything, unwilling to come to grips with the fact that their hero George Bush got us in this mess, and happy to vote for a more conservative candidate over the establishment nominee.
Yesterday’s victory by Über-teabagger Rand Paul is a signal that purity will be driving out establishment republicans in GOP primaries this year. Establishment republicans have the money and the power centers…the Tea Party has some signs and a lot of anger.
It is not enough to recognize the Tea Party as somewhat unhinged, we need to make sure that those images are used to create momentum for GOTV campaigns. It is one thing to say “wow look at those crazy people…aren’t they ridiculous?” and another to say “holy mackeral, what if those crazy people WIN and are put IN CHARGE?”. The first one you shrug your shoulders at. The second one should light a fire in the vicinity of your shorts.
One Vote Does Matter
The state of Florida “went” to Bush by 537 votes. In the 15 counties that were Blue that year if another 35 people in each county had voted for Gore, we would not have had the Bush years. Look at that number again: 35 people in each already blue county.
Every. Vote. Matters.
These elections may well turn on the person you energize or the person you discourage.
What can we do? Back in January, NCrissieB examined the bandwagon effect in a series of Morning Feature diaries on making a bandwagon. The goal was to influence our archetypal median voter Fred and the bandwagon effect reminds us that “independent voters like Fred are more prone to jump on the bandwagon and support candidates and policies that seem to have majority support.”
The Tea Party GOP bandwagon is formidable: “they treat voting like going to church and (just like people who go to church rain or shine whether their god has been good to them or not), as an act of faith.”
How can we progressive activists help get Fred on our bandwagon?
1. For starters, we can stop waiting for Someone Else to do it for us.
2. We can help influence [the media] by being a more progressive media ourselves.
3. We need Fred to believe government can do that and make his life better. We need Fred to trust government more than corporations.
Finally, we need to get busy in public activism – local party activities, house parties, rallies, holding election signs – and invite Fred to join us. Every time we get someone to help with those activities, we both deepen our own commitment and deepen his/hers as well.
Remember, this is not a national election, this is Congressional District by Congressional District and State by State. We win by being locally active not by shaking our collective keyboards at the clouds or engaging in arguments of who is in the Democratic wing of the Democratic party.
Remember: this is not about “rewarding” or “punishing” Congress or President Obama for what they have or haven’t done towards our own personal agenda. This is about retaining our majorities so that they can continue their progress towards our goals. The Tea Party GOP No-alition have no interest in advancing our agenda. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. End of Message.
What can you do to get that last voter we need to put a candidate over the top energized?
Democrats have a president and solid majorities in the House and Senate. What is the best strategy to enable us to get things done for the next two years of that presidency?
a. Yell about how the President is a sellout
b. Stay home in protest of the President being a sellout
c. Both a and b (and tell a neighbor and co-worker about it!)
d. Help elect more and better Democrats