I’ve been saying this for years, and sometimes I feel like I’m banging my head against a cement wall.
The number one strategy Republicans have in any election is to piss people off so they don’t vote. The last few midterm elections have been disasters largely because of NON-voters. the 2014 election featured a modern-day record for turnout; a whopping 36 percent. The midterm in 2010 was 37 percent. Democrats can’t win when turnout is so low because Republicans in their batshit crazy base almost always turn out to vote in droves. In 2010, GOP turnout was above 85 percent and in 2010, it was 90 percent. And a large part of the reason for both of those was the rhetoric coming from the left. I was especially fond of the PUBs and pro lefties, who have been dogging Obama since before he took office, complaining because Southern Democrats weren’t “embracing his record” and refusing to support them. I know of one prominent pro lefty who wrote a column excoriating Alison Grimes, who was running to unseat the loathsome Mitch McConnell for not admitting she voted for Obama, just a couple weeks after they wrote a scathing article about Obama for not having closed Gitmo yet.
In a speech he made in 2014, President Obama said the following:
“The real voter fraud is people who try to deny our rights by making bogus arguments about voter fraud. … There are well-organized and well-funded efforts to undo [the] gains (of the civil rights movement). … Just as inequality feeds on justice, opportunity requires justice, and justice requires the right to vote.” (Source)
Have you ever noticed that Republicans only talk about Voter ID and attempt to purge Democratic voters during election years? Not only that, but their argument is always based on claims of stopping the illusive “voter fraud.” And let’s be clear; yes, there is disenfranchisement going on with these laws, but really, the volume of people affected isn’t all that great. Sure, in a close election, it can make a difference. How many people in, say, Pennsylvania do you imagine are walking around without identification and intend to vote? Perhaps 20-30,000? In a state with nearly 13 million people, that shouldn’t be enough to swing an election.
On the other hand…
When they propose outrageous things, one thing the GOP can count on is a swift, strong, sustained reaction from progressives. We spend so much of our time fighting “voter suppression” that we probably have a net greater negative effect on most elections than any actual voter suppression action Republicans take. Think about it; if a million or so Pennsylvanians are trying to decide whether they should or can take an hour or two off from one of the three jobs they need to make ends meet, but our message is that there’s a good chance they’ll be turned away at the polls, many will decide not to vote. In other words, with our reactionary rhetoric, we end up helping the right drive good people away from the polls and make it more possible that the people of Pennsylvania, who are 60% Democratic, continue with majority-Republican representation.
Again, the Republican Party’s main strategy is to drive down turnout. The more people they can get to stay home, the greater the value or “base” voters in the election. All of the disgusting, anti-American shit they do and say aren’t necessarily because they believe them, but it serves two purposes; they know it will disgust voters and make them think the system isn’t worth participating in, and they’ll stay home. Plus, they can count on progressives to react and fight against them, which amplifies their message and makes them stay home. It’s a GOP win-win.
This is not a new concept. I heard about it from my mentor when I first became involved in politics at age 14. Charles “Mac” Mathias was a liberal Republican before they followed the dodo bird into extinction, and he told me exactly that in 1972. For the record, he hated this strategy. Eight years later, in 1980, Tea Party pioneer Paul Weyrich confirmed this in a speech. And while Weyrich is less well-known than Saint Reagan, he’s actually held in higher esteem among the far right Republican leadership. He is a co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, and the founder of ALEC.
In the following infamous speech, Weyrich stated the following:
“Now many of our Christians have what I call the ‘goo-goo syndrome.’ Good government. They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
Now, I know a lot of you want to believe this politics thing is enormously complicated, but it’s not. This is actually a rational political strategy; if you have a rabid constituency that will always vote for you, making their votes count more makes sense. And this strategy should not come as a surprise to anyone who’s paying attention. I have been repeating this for years and all of you should repeat it to every progressive you know:
The main strategy for the Republican Party is to depress turnout. It doesn’t hurt that making liberals’ ears bleed also makes their “base” excited, but the difference between 85% and 90% turnout is less important to them than limiting overall turnout to less than 40%. Put it another way; self-described Republican voters only make up about 25% of the eletorate, but when they show up at a 90% clip, that’s 22.5%, which means our side can’t win when turnout is 36%.
Haven’t you noticed that the current GOP isn’t actually FOR anything? They’re “anti-everything” because it works for their strategy. And when progressives do the same thing, voters have the same reaction; they become cynical about the system, and they are less motivated to vote. Republicans want liberals to scream at them and to engage them in ridiculous discussions about minutiae that no one cares about. Most of what they say and do has been designed to generate a negative reaction from us because it works for them.
During the period from World War II until the early 1970’s, voter turnout was almost always around 60 percent for presidential elections and 50 percent for mid-term elections, and Democrats usually won in a walk, or the Republican who won was more like a Democrat than how we think of a Republican today. The Democrats had a supermajority throughout the 1960s, in part because voter turnout was high. Since 1980, which can be considered the beginning of the neocon era, presidential election turnout is usually around 50 percent, and mid-term turnout is usually less than 40 percent. That’s not a coincidence.
It’s also not a coincidence that Obama’s extremely positive campaigns caused overall turnout in 2008 to hit its highest point since the 1960s. If we can keep turnout in presidential elections above 60 percent, Democrats will usually win, which is good. Get midterm turnout back up to 50% and they will almost never win again. It’s so easy to stop the Republicans; just be positive, to counter their negativity. Give voters something to vote for and we’ll win every time. Negativity works for them and against us.
It really is that simple. Be positive, we win. Be negative and the GOP continues to win.