Sunday, December 20, 2009

Getting Out the Vote and the Myth of the Stupid Voter

An important, highly intelligent and well-argued blog post at Open Left discusses the myth of "stupid voters" and the weaknesses of the Democratic Party in getting out the vote in elections. This is highly recommended reading. I would love to hear a response from an official Democratic Party official on it.

Key points made in the article:
Year in and year out, voter-discouragement is an important part of the ongoing Republican campaign.

The Democratic Party seems to fall asleep between elections, and it has been historically very poor at the kind of message development and dissemination done by think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Foundation, the Heritage Foundation

Democratic voter-registration and get-out-the-vote efforts have been spotty at best, and it’s notable that the individuals and groups doing the best job of this (ACORN recently and Jesse Jackson a couple of decades ago) have been very little appreciated by the ruling group in the party.

Key quote:
The Democratic Party is a business like any other, and just as newspapers get their money from advertisers, and not from readers, the Democratic Party gets its money from donors rather than from voters. Bringing new voters from the lower orders into the party would almost certainly require policy proposals which would negatively impact the big-money people, and even if the Democratic Party started winning elections that way, the boodle coming in would be reduced, and boodle is what pays the mercenary pros at the party headquarters.

In large part this explains the constant refrain from the Democratic leadership: we’d like to do the right thing, but political realities make it impossible. The truth is that the Democratic leaders are very happy with the political realities and don’t want to change them.
If it were "politically possible" to pass single-payer, for example, the Democratic Party would lose incredible amounts of money from key donors in the medical biz. Single-payer might make the voters ecstatically happy, but these happy voters are not at all likely to replace the money the party lost.

Some food for thought the next time you hear someone invoke the theme of "we agree with what you say in principle but what you want is politically impossible."


The Angry Independent said...


Instead of stupid... I'd like to think of them as uninformed or ill-informed. And yes... they DO exist. No myth there. And they are hard to de-program... because the misinformation often fits into their own pre-conceived it's hard for them to consider facts that run counter to their views.

As much as we may hate it.... they have to be taken into account by strategists and policymakers.

The Right understands these voters very well....and have proven pretty effective at taking advantage of them.

Andre said...

Hey Lib,

Like AI, I tend to shy away from calling voters "stupid", although most indicators suggest that. Politically un/ill informed is a nicer way of saying it...I guess.

But what's often NOT discussed on liberal websites is that voter igorance doesn't stop or end with the nutjobs on the right. Some of the same political ignorance from the right also got Obama elected. People who didn't have a CLUE about Obama's positions, his voting record, or about politics in general hit the polls for Obama as much as (and perhaps even more than) McCain supporters. People from the cut who NEVER followed politics in their life came out in droves to vote for a dude who looked like them...and that was ALL they based their decison on. I bet Ray Ray from Detroit never took a political science course, much less relied on any ounce of politically scientific decision making in this choice for President.

The point of this: people across the board are politically stupid. But to make it sound less mean, we'll call them politically uninformed.

J.S. Buford said...

Strong Article. Considering the commentary. Would it not be more accurate to refer to most voters as simply disinterested or dispassionate, seeking only the convenience of what is familiar. People typically don't embrace or seek change until they have been agitated. Programming tends to dissipate when confronted by empty stomachs and heavy handed thievery.

I tend to believe that is why Dr. Ebo Cunningham Vroom from Detroit, or Suzy Stabnowski from Philadelphia chose to vote for Obama. The intellectual elite (those of us that read a book per month, perhaps)keep score, and read policy. Ultimately, most others just want a warm house, clean water, and something good to eat.

Roderick said...

I think the problem is that Democratic voters tend to be concerned about policy and Republican voters about emotion.

And Democrats are tend to vote on multiple issues while a lot of more Republicans are single-issue voters.

Also Republicans thrive on the anti-intellecualism and that is why Sarah Palin and her 'common sense' are so popular with her fan base which is the Republican base in its totality.

Republican voters seem to be intimidated by intelligent candidates and substitute folksiness as a qualification.

Most Democrats and liberals understand that being president takes above average intellegence to assemble the massive amounts of information even though most of it is predigested by the various secretaries and regurgitated to a president.