When They Go Low…

Among many on the left, a theme has once again reared its ugly head over the last few days, and it’s a potentially destructive one. You see, they think Al Franken has been victimized by the general “wimpiness” of the Democratic Party.  They claim Democrats don’t “fight,” which means Democrats don’t hit back when the GOP right wing hits them.

It is this sort of thing that lies at the heart of why we lose most times. We can’t be like the right wing and expect to win. We have to be the exact opposite of them if we expect to attract enough people to the polls to end the GOP scourge. The key is Election Day turnout.

On Twitter this morning, one person even suggested we “go low” when they pull whatever it was that they imagined was pulled on Al Franken. This is nonsense, as can be proven when we look back at successful Democratic politicians since 1932. Go ahead; name one of them who aimed low to meet a Republican dirty trick and then won. The sole exception I can think of is the LBJ Daisy ad, and that only aired once. You might find another stray example, but the most successful Democratic politicians of our time, like Jimmy Carter, Bill (and Hillary) Clinton and, especially, Barack Obama, never went low.

And they don’t go low for a very simple reason. Going low does not attract voters. In fact, it encourages them to stay home. Think a second; if the right wing is so wretched, and our side acts just as wretched, don’t we reinforce the notion that both parties are basically the same? And if they’re the same, what’s supposed to encourage someone on the fence to go out on a cold November day, brave long lines and possibly take three buses to the polling place? If it doesn’t matter who they vote for, what’s the point, right?

See, while the current incarnation of the Republican Party features people who will vote for anyone who represents their party, they only make up about a quarter of the electorate. That gives us the other three quarters who aren’t batshit crazy and who are potential votes for the Democrats. Most of them are not crazy about the current GOP. Most also don’t have the time or inclination to sit in front of the computer and watch and talk about news all day, so all they see is the general trend. Therefore, when they see the right wing idiots getting in the gutter toward us, they hate it. Now, if they hate the Republican right when they act like assholes, why would any rational liberal think they would LOVE it coming from us?

The number one thing every “political junkie” or “news junkie” has to understand is that the number one strategy of the Republican Party for the last half-century has been to depress the vote. That’s right; everything they do is with the express purpose of making more and more people not want to vote. That’s not an exaggeration; here is the father of the modern Republican Party explaining their strategy way back in 1980:

Look at what he said and mull it over:

“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.”

That’s what I keep telling you. Republicans can only win when fewer people turn out to vote. And the results bear that out. Before 1970, turnout was always in the 60% range during presidential elections and about 50% in midterms. Since then, turnout is usually around 50% for presidential years and about 37-39% for mid-terms. When Barack Obama won, turnout was 58% and 56% in 2008 and 2012; the highest since 1968. In 2010 and 2014, however, it was about 37% both times and we squandered our advantage in Congress.

The lesson you should learn from all this is, when President and Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high,” they weren’t being idealistic clods; they were articulating a valid strategy for electoral success for Democrats and the entire progressive movement. I know, it is always tempting, when someone targets a hero like Al Franken, your first instinct is to kick their ass. Unfortunately, the spectacle of watching the left and right fight with each other makes a lot of people stay home, which is great for the opposition.

I know many of you have a lot of passion and you’re turned on, in a way, by watching our side fight the right wing. However, you should also think rationally and realize that not everyone feels the same way. Many voters we liberals supposedly advocate for are working two low-paying jobs, taking care of the kids and shuttling back and forth between trips to the supermarket and Target and soccer practice; they do not have the luxury of parking themselves in front of MSNBC all day while they flit back and forth between offering their opinions on Facebook and Twitter. They only have the time to listen around the edges, so when the only image of politics they have is the far left and the far right bitching at them and telling them it doesn’t matter who they vote for, or even that their vote likely won’t count, why would you assume they will take a couple of buses and endure a long line on a cold, possibly rainy night to go vote?

No matter how low Republicans go, let THEM go low. We need to maintain the high ground because that is what makes people want to cast a ballot. And that is how we win. We have the two biggest elections in the history of the country in 2018 and 2020 and, for once, that is no exaggeration. In 2020, there will be a census, and we have to make sure Democrats control redistricting, in addition to making sure sane people control the White House and Congress. Winning elections is the only thing that matters right now, which means encouraging turnout is everything. Be positive.

Also published on Medium.


When They Go Low… — 2 Comments

  1. FiveThirtyEight agrees…

    “Maintaining the moral high ground isn’t always easy. It means you have to hold your party to a higher standard than the other party. It means you sometimes have to make real trade-offs. But it can also pay political dividends and mitigate political risks. Democrats just lost an election in 2016 against a historically unpopular candidate because their candidate was disliked nearly as much. The political environment is favorable for Democrats in 2018, but perhaps the easiest way that Democrats could blow their opportunity is if voters conclude that as bad as Republicans are, Democrats are no better. With Democrats coming around to a tougher stance on Franken and Conyers while Republicans equivocate on Moore and restore funding to his campaign, they’ll be able to draw a clearer distinction for voters.”


  2. You are right, Milt. The wingnuts in Facebook and Twitter eat the nastiness up and get real jazzed about it, but most people see the bullshit and just shake their heads. They get upset, and cynical and become alienated from the whole process. I short, it’s exactly what you said. Dirty tricks and mud wrestling (because we are beyond mud slinging) depress the vote. We Democrats can’t resort to that and win, especially when our voters keep growing more concentrated.

    As the old saying goes, never wrestle with a pig. You’ll just get dirty and the pig will enjoy it.