Democrats Should Target the Limbaugh Vote, and Other Brilliant Ideas

Tom Schaller discusses one of my greatest frustrations:Did you hear that Karl Rove is advising Republicans that they need to figure out ways to communicate and connect with secular, professional single women of color living in eastern seaboard cities? Stunning, yes, but let's face it: This wise man knows of what he speaks when it comes to building national party majorities.

OK--you caught me: I'm joking. Obviously, Rove would be laughed out of Washington and his party if he suggested that the key for Republicans to building a lasting, unbreakable majority is to start with a group that is, by every component demographic feature (gender, region, religious, race, urban/suburban), among the least-likely to be conservative or vote Republican.

I offer this little allegory as preface to pondering why some Democrats, most notably Steven Waldman and Amy Sullivan, continue to assert that Democrats must make the equivalently absurd overture--i.e., that Dems must "get right" (so to speak) with evangelicals, who are more likely to be white than not, male than female, rural than urban, and southern more than any other region (including the Midwest). Of course, what happens when self-abnegating Democrats and Democratic-hating media muddleheads hear this advice? Without pausing a moment to think through the logical implications of this advice, or the glaring partisan double standard it implies, in near-unison they respond: "Yeah, that's the ticket!" Internalizing and following the obviously poor election strategy offered up for Democrats by pundits within the established news media is one of the greatest problems we face when trying to win elections. The basic problem is that we are repeatedly told, and repeatedly believe, that in order to win, we must not go after either swing votes or rev up our own base, but instead focus our main strategy on actually trying to win over the Republican base itself. I call this the "Democrats Must Court The Limbaugh Vote" strategy syndrome, both because we tend to follow the election advice given to us by Rush Limbaugh types, and because that advice invariably means that we must target the hard-core Rush Limbaugh audience. We have this bizarre belief that wherever we are getting beat the worst, that is where we must concentrate our resources the most. I have complained about this in the past:
Pundits have a weird problem that emerges whenever they try and explain what Democrats must do to improve their electoral prospects. Whenever they see Democrats losing on Issue X but winning on Issue Y, they become convinced that Democrats would gain more by improving ten points on Issue X than they would by gaining ten points on Issue Y. However, that does not make any sense. Moving from a fourteen point lead on "pro-middle class" to a twenty-four point margin on "pro middle class" would gain us exactly as much ground as moving from a twenty-two point deficit on "keeping America safe," to a twelve point deficit on "keeping America safe." Both would move us ten points, and ten points are the same wherever you draw them from.

If all issues are of equal importance to the electorate, and the electorate has equal swing potential on all issues, than it does not matter what issues Democrats make gains on, as long as they make gains. It is not a reasonable argument to claim that just because Democrats are losing among those who cite "terrorism" as they top issue that Democrats must focus on "terrorism" instead of, say "education." If all things were equal, developing an even greater lead on "education" would be just as useful as closing the gap on "terrorism." I should note that the problem is actually more severe that I indicated in that old article. While it is certainly true that a ten point gain is a ten point gain no matter where it comes from, it is also certainly true that it will be more difficult for us to make gains in areas where we are already doing extremely poorly than in areas where we are already doing well or areas where we are roughly even. This is because in areas where we are doing poorly, there is usually a debilitating image problem leading to our poor performance in those areas that has proved difficult to overcome and that will continue to make it difficult to make gains in that area. For example, the Democratic Party has had a long-term deficit on national security that is not going to be overcome overnight, but we have no major narratives against us when it comes to "standing for the middle class." In the short term, it will always be easier to make gains in areas where we face no major narrative and image roadblock than in areas where we face a narrative and image roadblock.

This same thinking applies to demographics. We are regularly told, even by members of our own party, that we must appeal to the absolute hardest of the hard-core Republican base in order to win: white evangelicals who attend church regularly. Not only does it make no sense that we should spend resources trying to pick off the most republican votes in the country, but this strategy is typically couple with proclamations like this from Steve Waldman:I had been making a narrower point - that many liberals carry an elitist attitude toward evangelical Christians. Lerner's indictment is far more sweeping. Is he being unfair? I think a distinction should be made between the elites and the rank and file on this. The fact is that most Democrats are religious. But secular liberals, who made up about 16% of the Kerry vote (more stats here) seem to have a disproportionate impact on the party's image and approach. How the hell (pun intended) are we supposed to win over more "values voters" when members of our own party are reifying the narrative that Democrats are hostile to religion? Not only is it bad electoral strategy to argue that Democrats must pursue votes from those demographics and psychographics most hostile to our views, but stating beforehand that we are doing so because Democrats are hostile to the views most often found in said demographics and psychographics will actually make such an attempt far more difficult.

In the end, this is why third-way politics utterly fail for Democrats over the long term, even if they might win an election here or there. Arguing that we are hostile to faith, or weak on defense, or don't stand for anything ends up simply reifying the notion that Democrats in general are hostile to faith, or weak on defense, or don't stand for anything, even if they might prop up the individual image of the person making such a proclamation. For Waldman to state that Democrats and liberals are hostile to faith will go a long way toward making him and the Washington Monthly seem not hostile to faith, but it will simultaneously make all other Democrats look hostile to faith in a way that Republicans making the claim alone never could. Statement like this close the triangle to the benefit of the individual Democrat who says them and the benefit of all Republicans in general, and to the detriment of all other Democrats. And then, after we lose again, we repeat the problems of "Democrats Must Pursue the Limbaugh Vote" syndrome, and go ahead and reify more negative narratives about ourselves.

What Waldman seems unable to realize is that secular liberals only have a disproportionate influence on the national image of Democrats and liberals because that is exactly the narrative Republicans have been trying to sell for decades. As Atrios notes, secular liberals themselves have essentially no voice in our national political discourse:Do the Democrats have a perception problem about religion? Sure. We have a political party which has been claiming to be God's Own Party for decades. We have a mainstream media which equates Christian with Religious Right most of the time, and news anchors who don't think liberals can be "good Catholics." We also have some left-leaning Christians who seem to think this perception problem is due to hostility to religion by secular liberals who (see below) have no public presence. I don't understand this. People who perpetuate right wing talking points about Democrats always piss me off especially when they have no basis.

Secularism has essentially no representation in our media or politics. I'm sure there are secular politicians and media types, but few discuss it. No one gets on tv or writes newspaper columns or in any way participates in our contemporary mainstream political discourse and praises secularism or atheism or anything similar, and certainly not in a way which denigrates religious beliefs generally. Advocates for the separation of church and state are not advocating secularism, aside from government secularism, they're simply trying to defend freedom of religion. It strikes me that the real problem Waldman and many third-way types have is that they utterly fail to recognize the way that national conventional wisdom is created. They seem to believe that if there is a national CW that Democrats are hostile to religion, then it must be because liberals and Democratic leaders are hostile to religion, not that the Republican Noise Machine is arguing that they are hostile to religion. Of course, they probably don't even know or believe in the Republican Noise Machine itself, and probably agree with conservatives that the media landscape is somehow favorable to Democrats to liberals. And so we all suffer.

Tags: Media, strategy, The Triangle, Third-Way Politics (all tags)

Comments

37 Comments

Dem Branding

While it is certainly true that a ten point gain is a ten point gain no matter where it comes from, it is also certainly true that it will be more difficult for us to make gains in areas where we are already doing extremely poorly than in areas where we are already doing well or areas where we are roughly even.

Also, by making gains in areas we are strong, we reinforce the Dem brand, tackling the "Dems don't stand for anything" meme.

by gina 2006-03-14 08:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Dem Branding

A ten point gain in a district that is liberal to begin with is no meaningful gain at all.  But a ten point gain in a purple district that turns the election for a Dem House member is a gain of one more seat.  How can people fail to see this?

The point is not that Dems should go for the Rush Limbaugh vote but that church-going people are a more diverse group than is generally appreciateed by Bowers and Schaller, and that AMONG the church-going populace are a significant number who are receptive to progressive ideas on issues like poverty (Jesus said to care for the poor) and environmentalism (take care of God's creation), and that these people ought not to be gratuitously put off by rhetoric that evidences a disdain for religious people and their beliefs.  

There are a fair number of people who are getting fed up with the GOP's obvious worship of Mammon and the naked ambitions of some of its practitioners like Ralph Reed.  They are receptive to a Dem message that isn't demeaning to their values.  What I think these people want more than anything is to have a sense that the Dem candidate has SOME values (even if they are different, as people accepted Tim Kaine's opposition to the death penalty because they could see it fit into a framework of values he had), and is not just an opportunist.

While clearly one branch of the Dem pundit world mistakes the finger for the moon in understanding the message of Tim Kaine's victory (a candidate should have some values, not his particular values), some on the Left make the same mistake and think that making an approach to pick off some church-going voters who share progressive values means acting like Ralph Reed.

It is really more subtle than this.  The bottom line is that there aren't so many Democrats that we can afford to alientate any potential supporters.

by Mimikatz 2006-03-16 07:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Democrats Should Target the Limbaugh Vote, and

Didn't Limbaugh just get cancelled in Baltimore?

That sort of thing doesn't occur unless an audience is shrinking.  

by LionelEHutz 2006-03-14 09:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Democrats Should Target the Limbaugh Vote, and

Dems courting the limbaugh vote makes as much sense as Bush Courting Black Voters.

That is unless, something like this happens:

WHILE Ken Mehlman and Karl Rove raided suburbs and exurbs for unregistered Republicans, a small group of non-party irregulars laid siege to the Democratic citadel: the minority precincts Al Gore carried by huge majorities in 2000.

This year, conservative 527s spent roughly $3 million to run 30,000 broadcast spots courting voters via Spanish-language and black media. On November 3, I reported the results of these efforts to Dan Perrin, executive director of the Republican Leadership Coalition. "Kerry outpolled Bush 84-16 among blacks in Ohio, and 86-13 in Florida," I told him. "And he outpolled Bush 56-44 among Hispanics in New Mexico."

"That's fantastic!" Dan exclaimed. "Let's get out a press release right away!" So it went in the wacky world of Republican minority politics. Bad news was our stock in trade. In 2000, Democrats had taken 90 percent of the African-American vote to the Republicans' 9, and the Hispanic vote went for the Democrats 64-35. Many consultants considered an electoral assault against these bastions of liberal loyalty a waste of time and resources.

In 2004, the good news for Republicans was not that the GOP had won minority support (clearly, it hadn't)--but that it was winning marginal increases. Nationwide, exit polls showed Bush's vote share increasing 2 percent among blacks and 9 percent among Hispanics. In crucial swing states, where conservative 527s waged vigorous campaigns on behalf of the GOP, the president fared better still.

by blueflorida 2006-03-14 09:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Democrats Should

This is a good point. It's dumb to say that Republicans aren't being shrewd by going after groups they traditionally do poorly in. That's smart politics because you're expanding your coalition. The GOP is going after minorities by appealing to social conservatism (gay marriage, abortion) and universal concerns (security, terrorism). I don't think it's about shifting to the right. It's about understanding where certain groups are coming from, then addressing their concerns.

by bluenc 2006-03-14 09:15AM | 0 recs
$3million is about right

Bush didn't stop hating black people, his people spent less than 1% of the media budget to provide some ethnic media cover for the micro-targeting they were using.

Democrats don't need to go all theocon to do the same thing.

by blogswarm 2006-03-14 09:34AM | 0 recs
Hiding comments...

Congratulations on your recently-acquired ability to hide comments.  whee... now would you please stop hiding comments simply because you disagree with them.

liebermanlives is an annoying dipshit, but he's an annoying dipshit who's been trumpeting  Lieberman on MyDD ever since you've been in blog-diapers, and he has every right to say supportive things about Lieberman without you vandalizing the blog with your unnecessary deletions.

by NCDem 2006-03-14 10:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Hiding comments...

I front-pager suggested he be troll rated down and I did. To make ya happy, I went back and gave him a one.

by blogswarm 2006-03-14 11:02AM | 0 recs
Personal Attacks

From the FAQs:

Users who have a mojo greater than a certain minimum and who have posted a sufficient number of comments are considered "trusted" users, and have the added capability to hide offensive comments that are personal attacks

I agree Liebermanlives  has been trumpting Joe ever since I can remember and I don't consider him a troll in the usual sense (just whacked out on the subject of Lieberman). He has every right to support Joe Lieberman.  However, he did violate the no personal attack rule on a non-troll (Matt). I gave him a pass because Liebermanlives' non Joe Lieberman related comments are reasonable. In retrospect, having re-read the rules, I think I did Matt a disservice in not O rating the personal attack on Matt.

by molly bloom 2006-03-14 02:42PM | 0 recs
10 point gains

I have to disagree with you Chris about the comparative value of 10 point gains on issues.  Just like a 10 point swing in white married males would be more valuable than one in asian unmarried females, a 10 point boost in, say, handling of terrorism would be a lot more important than one in education.

It just so happens that a LOT of people vote based on one or two issues where Dems perform poorly.  The idea that we need to address those perceived shortcomings is conventional wisdom, but I think it is also correct.  All issues are not created equal.

by ItsDrewMiller 2006-03-14 09:23AM | 0 recs
Re: 10 point gains

I agree 100%.  If it is a top 3 voting issue then we need to figure out how to address it.  The answer doesn't have to be Repub-lite but it needs to be something other than what we have been saying.  There is nothing wrong with thinking out of the box.  Some of the most successful political movements have come out of challenging political orthodoxy.

I wouldn't go after the "Limbaugh vote" but there is nothing wrong with trying to address a party weakness.  In fact, it is probably a smart move as long as you can stay true to your principles.

by John Mills 2006-03-14 11:22AM | 0 recs
Re: 10 point gains

One example just came to mind - Clinton and the deficit.  By being fiscally responsible, Clinton helped neutralize the party against the old tax and spend saw.  In fact, I don't think we have used this effectively at all in the past few years despite polling that shows the Dems as more trusted on this issue.

by John Mills 2006-03-14 11:30AM | 0 recs
Re: 10 point gains

The point is what the dems have been trying is repub-lite.  And every time soemthing goes wrong, the suggestion is to go even further to the right.

by Valatan 2006-03-14 11:48AM | 0 recs
Re: 10 point gains

My point is we need to think out of the box more and come up with new and creative solutions to problems.  Our lack of think tanks in relation to the Repubs puts us at a disadvantage in this area.

by John Mills 2006-03-14 11:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Democrats Should Target the Limbaugh Vote, and

There's a big difference between connecting with a targeted demographic by finding key issues that can sway their vote.

Republicans do it with gay marriage and abortion. they don't change their position on any issues, or betray their values, they just find the few that connect with their demographic.

Democrats, at least recently with the DLC, find the key issues to connect to a certain demographic ("Libaugh-votes", you say), and then abandon their values and change their stance on the issue hoping to sway some of them. The problem is that the centrist group they're courting smells their fakeness a mile away. And, they alienate their progressive/liberal base.

It's time we, as the progressive base, say once in for all that we will not support the selling out of our values. It's killing our party.

by T Dubya Ault 2006-03-14 09:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Democrats Should Target the Limbaugh Vote, and

What frightens me most about the simplistic Dem notion that they have to get right with the God crowd is that they'll end up abandoning choice (hell, many of them are there already), turn on gays with a vengeance, and then expect Republicans to raqlly around and progressives to not notice or not mind.

Lyndon Johnson gave the South to the Republicans when he pushed through civil rights legislation in the 1960s. It was the right thing to do, but it set off the GOP's "Southern Strategy" that (with modifications to embrace theocracy and homophobia) continues to keep Democrats out of office. At least, back then, Democrats didn't change their minds and abandon blacks and civil rights.

Democrats must show some courage. And they must convince Americans of the rightness of their convictions.

by S1 2006-03-14 09:54AM | 0 recs
Let's Grow our base!

It is stupid to go after Limbaugh voters by switching our positions on issues. But let's persuade them to switch ideologies and grow our base!

by ahf8 2006-03-14 10:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Dems and Evangelicals

On Democrats and self-described evangelicals: White evangelicals are not just white evangelicals.  They are often also, for example, working class people, single mothers, people who send their kids to public schools, people worried about health insurance, union members, and people resentful against corporate power.

SOME white evangelicals are part of the religious right, but many aren't.  Bill Clinton got over 40% of the self-identified evangelical vote, as I recall.  

The lesson is to do the sort of things that Clinton did.  He didn't change positions on abortion or school prayer or private school vouchers.  What he did was present himself as an enthusiastic Bible-reading Christian himself, which to some extent he is.  He found ways to communicate that he totally respected evangelical Christians and that he didn't identify them with the religious right.  

by yellowdogjz 2006-03-14 10:02AM | 0 recs
P.S. Limbaugh vote does not = Evangelical

Also, I think it's a mistake to equate Limbaugh voters with evangelicals.  Limbaugh's core audience is rich white guys.  They're your standard wealthy Republicans.

So maybe this should be framed as being about the "Dobson vote" rather than the "Limbaugh vote."  But I'd estimate that less than half of self-ID'ed evangelicals would actually be part of the religious right -- i.e., the Dobson vote -- in terms of consistent voting patterns.

by yellowdogjz 2006-03-14 10:07AM | 0 recs
Its HOW You Target These Groups That Count

I think we should target evangelicals or other groups with which we do poorly.  But its how you do it that counts.

Similarly, I think the Bush Republicans are right to "target" blacks and hispanics.  Here is the difference though in how they try to accomplish outreach and how our Democratic bretheren do it.  For the most part when centrist Dems talk about reaching out to groups that typically dont vote for us, they believe the best strategy is to adopt Republican positions (e.g. see Hilllary Clinton) (Note-I threw in this gratuitous anti Hillary jibe for Chris' benefit-I know how much he loves that).  This is the wrong approach. . .it dampens the enthusiasm of the base, looks weak, causes long term harm to the party by accepting the premises of the other side, and most importantly, IT IS BAD POLICY.

But, the Republicans do this better.  They look at a group like blacks or hispanics and try to figure out what within their worldview, ideology, policies, etc will appeal to them and they concentrate on that.  For example, they dont adopt affirmative action, that would anger their base.  But they do funnel "faith based" grants to black churches, or closely align themselves with conservative catholics.

So, if we go after evangelical votes, I am for it.  Not to win them over but to cut down the margin of victory for the other side.  But how we do this is key.  We can and should build bridges to the growing number of "green" evangelicals.  And I have no problem with wrapping issues like the minimum wage and health care in moralistic, or even biblical language. I am pretty sure that Jesus said some nice things about poor people.  I have no problem with using that.

I just dont think we have to become more like them to steal some of their votes.  Especially since their rule is proving to be so disasterous.

by Andy Katz 2006-03-14 10:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Its HOW You Target These Groups That Count

Exactly.  

The democratic position has a lot more in line with the true religious point of view in most cases.  Taking the focus off of these hot button issues and explaining how pacificism and caring for the poor are actually the Christian approaches to national politics would help immensely.  For example, Kerry should not have let the press focus on abortion like it did, when the Church opposed the war and opposes the death penalty.

by Valatan 2006-03-14 11:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Its HOW You Target These Groups That Count

You are exactly right on this.

Very few groups have a ideological agendas that match up exactly with the platform of either party. Further, most group members disagree with a few of the positions the group a whole seems to have.

The key is not to duplicate Republican ideological appeals to voter groups, but to find the existing matches between the Democratic Party ideals and those of the groups we want in our coalition.

Two examples:

A large number of evangelicals place a high priority on both economic justice and social mores, but it's a fair bet that not all are equally concerned about both.

The Republicans have appealed to this group through their positions on social mores, but have offered verey little in the way of economic justice.  However, they are the only ones making an appeal, so the evangelicals accept half a loaf from the Republicans rather than nothing from the Democrats.

Economic justice, however, is a good issue for the Democrats.  We can compete with the Republicans by appealing to evangelicals on this issue. Those who believe economic justice is the most important part of their ideaogy would then have an alternative party to support.  This would work far better than trying to take over Republican issues, which would offend our own base and never be seen as credible.

We can, and should, also appeal to small business.  

The National Federation of Independent Businesses is one of the most powerful and reliable backers of Republicans in the country.  But, aggain, they have multiple concerns.  Thye like low taxes and free markets, but they also like large profits.  

Democrats will never credibly appeal to them on taxes, and shouldn't, but we can make the arguemnt that cronyism is hurting them.  We should ask them if any small business they know has ever recieved a multibillion dollar no-bid contract.  If corruption costs them, they'll vote against it.

We don't needto re-invent the Democratic Party in ordeer to compete, but we do need to present our ideals as an alternative in as many ways as possible to as many people as possible

by Mudshark 2006-03-14 11:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Democrats Should Target the Limbaugh Vote

It's probably indeed moronic to try to peel away the Limbaugh voters from the GOP.

But going after the Buchanan GOP voter? Now that on the other hand has much to recommend it. Not least of which is the fact you don't have to give up your ideals on choice and gay rights.

As Paul Hackett proved.

Further, you don't have to be a 3rd way DLC-style dem to pull it off - the Buchanan GOoPer is with us on labor issues, on many if not most civil liberty issues (just a matter of emphasis), on trade and on bread-and-butter economic issues.

Unfortunately, most beltway Dems are NOT with us, which is why we mostly hear of their version of triangulation, and why Hackett was ultimately seen as a threat.

by redstar66 2006-03-14 10:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Democrats Should Target the Limbaugh Vote, and

Why stop at Limbaugh?

Why not go after the Michael Savage audience?

by Pachacutec 2006-03-14 10:41AM | 0 recs
Moderate Republicans

There were a lot of moderate Republicans who didn't like Kerry in 2004 so didn't vote for anyone.  That's a loss of a vote.  We should court at least the moderate Republicans, and some of the conservative.  A vote is a vote.

by IR 2006-03-14 11:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Moderate Republicans

why didn't they like Kerry?  It was because of equivocation and percieved personal weakness.  It wasn't because of his policy positions.  

by Valatan 2006-03-14 11:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Yes and no

I agree that Dems shouldn't aggressively target the most Republican demographics.  And to the extent that the Democrats do go after white evangelicals they should do so by appealing to common values, like Christian charity, rather than "admitting" that there is a big, progressive hate-religion movement.

But I do take issue with this: "If all issues are of equal importance to the electorate, and the electorate has equal swing potential on all issues, than it does not matter what issues Democrats make gains on, as long as they make gains."

All issues are not of equal importance to voters. There are many people who agree with Dems on domestic issues, but will not vote for them until they can be reassured that they will defend America strongly against foreign threats.  

Similarly, there are many progressives who are primarily concerned about preserving the political structures of our government.  Sure, they would like to have the luxury of worrying about health care, education, pollution, infrastructure improvements, etc.  They would like to vote for the best policy wonk.  But they will only support a candidate who can demonstrate that he or she recognizes the threat that Bush and the GOP pose.  

You have a great single-payer health care plan but haven't heard about Diebold?  Take a hike.  You want to increase automobile gas mileage but can't defend yourself against swift-boat style attacks?  Next!  You want to fully fund NCLB but don't know how Neil Bush is involved or how public education is being willfully sabotaged?  Go back to grade school.

by space 2006-03-14 11:27AM | 0 recs
evangelical vote

i wish the democratic party could stop being so judgemental about evangelicals (and christians for that matter).  not every evangelical is a monster.  many of them are in fact people, americans, who vote.  comparing them all to limbaugh, mike savage, et. al. is disrespectful, ineffective, and represents the worst of our party.  its attitudes like this that make republican talking points like "liberal elite" or "out of touch with mainstream americans" ring true for the majority of voters.

lets turn the analogy on its head: say what you will about the republican party spending millions of dollars on courting the minority vote, but the success they did have did not come from them saying, "screw them, they're all a bunch of drug-addicted welfare queens and gangstas." think about it.

by elie 2006-03-14 11:53AM | 0 recs
Re: evangelical vote

i wish the democratic party could stop being so judgemental about evangelicals (and christians for that matter).

Name names of Dem leaders who do this.  No more of this Republican talking point without naming names.  You did notice that every Dem presidential candidate ever has been a Christian, right?

but the success they did have did not come from them saying, "screw them, they're all a bunch of drug-addicted welfare queens and gangstas." think about it.

They haven't been very (really, at all) successful.  And the Republicans have been saying just that since the Southern Strategy.

Jeez, better trolling, please.

by jsw 2006-03-14 06:00PM | 0 recs
Re: evangelical vote

actually:

1. I wasn't responding to comments by democratic leaders.  I was responding to comments posted directly above me.  i was responding to the general tone of the essay itself (i.e.the evangelical vote = "the limbaugh vote" is right there in the title... so name names?  Chris Bowers for starters.

2.WHILE Ken Mehlman and Karl Rove raided suburbs and exurbs for unregistered Republicans, a small group of non-party irregulars laid siege to the Democratic citadel: the minority precincts Al Gore carried by huge majorities in 2000.

This year, conservative 527s spent roughly $3 million to run 30,000 broadcast spots courting voters via Spanish-language and black media. On November 3, I reported the results of these efforts to Dan Perrin, executive director of the Republican Leadership Coalition. "Kerry outpolled Bush 84-16 among blacks in Ohio, and 86-13 in Florida," I told him. "And he outpolled Bush 56-44 among Hispanics in New Mexico."

"That's fantastic!" Dan exclaimed. "Let's get out a press release right away!" So it went in the wacky world of Republican minority politics. Bad news was our stock in trade. In 2000, Democrats had taken 90 percent of the African-American vote to the Republicans' 9, and the Hispanic vote went for the Democrats 64-35. Many consultants considered an electoral assault against these bastions of liberal loyalty a waste of time and resources.

In 2004, the good news for Republicans was not that the GOP had won minority support (clearly, it hadn't)--but that it was winning marginal increases. Nationwide, exit polls showed Bush's vote share increasing 2 percent among blacks and 9 percent among Hispanics. In crucial swing states, where conservative 527s waged vigorous campaigns on behalf of the GOP, the president fared better still.

3. perhaps you should read what has been posted before you accuse someone of trolling.

by elie 2006-03-15 08:07AM | 0 recs
First, what makes the Limbaugh vote?

Limbaugh appeals to people through both style and substance.  We won't get votes from people who agree with what he says, but we have to consider those who like his entertainment value first and pay attention to his politics second.

Limbaugh is a confrontational entertainer with an incredible talent for mockery.  He is the right wing version of the most vicious Satuday Night Live sketch you can imagine. This is his primary appeal for many people, who would rather identify with his perceived toughness than the perceived weakness of left wing spokespeople.

We do not need to abandon our ideals, but we need to present ourselves in a way that voters can identify with. There is nothing new about this idea. Martin Luther King Jr.'s colleagues marched in jacket and tie, so that the people watching TV could identify with them.

I've heard it said that liberals need to "stop hugging trees and start kicking ass".  I couldn't agree more. If that means cutting our hair, putting on ties, and talking tough, so be it. We could do worse than make fighting for justice seem macho and cool.

by Mudshark 2006-03-14 12:13PM | 0 recs
God's Politics

If you really want to understand how progressives can reach out to evangelicals without compromising on our ideals, read "God's Politics,  Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It" by Jim Wallis.

Wallis, an influential evangelical and remarkable   activist, calls on Christians to judge all candidates, Republican and Democrat, by how they will actually act on the full range of Christian concerns, includeing poverty, war, civil rights and social justice.   He argues that effectively that every great progressive movement in the United States, from the abolition of slavery, to voting rights for women, to the end of child labor laws, to the Civil Rights movement included, and was often led, by religious leaders. He also makes the case that progressive politics is in the best tratdition not of of American citizenship but also Christian citizenship.

My favorite quote so far (Wallis is at a meeting with a Republican strategist right after the 2002 midterm elections):

"This very smart political operative said that Republicans won middle-class and even working-class people on the 'social' issues, those moral and cultural issues that Democrats don't seem to understand or appreciate.  He even suggested that passion on the social issues can cause people to vote against their economic self-interest.  Since the rich are already with us, he said, we win elections.

I raised my hand and asked the following question:'What would you do if you faced a candidate who took a traditional moral stance on the social and cultural issues?  They would not be mean-spirited and, for example, blame gay people for the breakdown of the family, nor would they criminalize the choices of desparate women backed into difficult and dangerous corners.  But the candidate would be decidedly pro-family, pro-life (meaning really want to lower the abortion rate), strong on personal responsibility and moral values, and outspoken against the moral pollution throughout popular culture that makes raising children in America a counter-cultural activety.  And what if the candidate was also an economic populist, pro-poor in social policy, tough on corporate corruption and power, clear in supporting middle- and working-class families in health care and education, an environmentalist, and committed to a foriegn policy that emphasized international law and multilateral cooperation over preemptive and unilateral war?  Waht would you do?' I asked.  He paused for a long time and then said, 'We would panic!'"

It's a great book for anyone concerned about how the definition of values has been warped by the Republicans

From Wallis' biography:

"Jim Wallis, an evangelical, is the leading figure at the crossroads of religion and politics in America today. He is a public theologian, nationally renowned preacher, faith-based activist and author of seven books. He is the founder of Sojourners, a nationwide network of progressive Christians working for justice and peace, and continues to serve as the editor of Sojourners magazine, covering faith, politics, and culture. He is also the Convener of Call to Renewal, a national federation of churches and faith-based organizations working together to overcome poverty by changing the direction of public policy..."

by Mudshark 2006-03-14 12:32PM | 0 recs
False Choices

It's interesting that Chris Bowers brings up Amy Sullivan and Steve Waldman, because all three of them suffer from the same problem. They both sell personal political preferences as matters of strategy.

Amy Sullivan constantly stresses the need of the Democrats to reach out to the white evangelical vote, be more clinton-esque on abortion, & embrace abstinence education. Why? because she's a religious woman who cares about such things & wants people in the party to care about those things too.

Same with Chris Bowers. His arguments against trying to close the political gap on Nat. Security & religious issues aren't because he thinks addressing them is bad strategy and would be so difficult that we might as well abandon them and try to make improvements on our strengths, it's because he doesen't particularly want the Democrats to take a route of getting more Nat. Security cred and trying to appeal to the religious vote. He doesen't want the Democratic party to go there. Maybe it's because he thinks it will compromise the values of the party, maybe he takes a very chomskyesque view of military & security issues & isn't very favorable to the zealous and would rather the GOP keep that crowd. Either way, he's taking politics, & selling it as strategy.

This is one thing the DLC has been most notorious about, and is one criticism I have of them. They urge Democrats to get right on Trade issues & embrace open markets & liberalized trade if they want to appeal to middle-class voters. Of course, this isn't sound strategy, the number of voters who would swing over something like trade liberalism is incredibly small & if anything, if they were being purely strategic & machiavellian, they could peel off far more independents who are trade reactionaries & skeptics of globalization by demagoguing on trade than they would globalization stalwarts. Yet the DLC urges this, not because it's actually good strategy, but because they, the DLC are pro-trade & want the party to be pro trade too. Which is fine, I'm a pro-trader myself, but it's dishonest to sell policy as politics, or personal politics as strategy.

Back to what Chris says, it goes without saying that I disagree. Chris says it's not worth improving the party's brand in places where we have an image & narrative problem & we should concentrate on improving in areas where we possess no such roadblocks. He may be correct on appealing to evangelicals, which the party would have to compromise too much on to get minimal returns. If we are ever going to crack that group, it will be by appealing to them for reasons other than religion. Yet just recently, Democrats closed the gap on their weakest political issue: National Security. All through the GOP mishaps of late, the GOP has maintained a constant lead on Nat. Security, yet the Democrats recently achieved near parity on this issue. How? Simply by opposing Bush's scheme to let foreign states control American ports. Wow, that sure was hard.

Another great example is fiscal responsibility. It wasn't too long ago that the Democratic party was weighted with the image of a spend happy party who 's only use for the populace was to extract taxes from. Yet in a period of just a few years (and with serious effort by the party) they not only shed the "tax & spend" image, but they even got the reputation of being fiscal guards & budget hawks. Especially contrasted with the fiscally incompetent GOP. If Chris Bowers' were in the Clinton administration, he would have said "There's no use trying to close the gap on fiscal issues where we have an image problem, the GOP owns it, we might as well just try to strengthen our lead with the black vote."

Contrary to the article, there isn't a consituency that the GOP DOESEN'T spend time trying to convert. Especially outreach to Democratic strongholds like the Black vote (which they are obsessed to bringing home over time) the Jewish vote, and most recently the hispanic vote. the biggest loss though is probably the rapidly decreasing "gender gap" (they haven't been trying to appeal to single women at all).

It's kind of ironic that the same guy celebrating the fact that "Run everywhere" is now considered conventional wisdom when it comes to congressional races, doesen't seem to have much confidence in this strategy when it comes to appealing to voters. Something he gladly doesen't sharw with the party chairman.

Speaking of the "Limbaugh vote" it's interesting Chris brings that up. When Paul Hackett was top of the pops in the news cycle, Rush Lambaugh dedicated a part of his show to bashing him; accusing him of being a trial lawyer and going to Iraq only to pad his resume. Only something happened, Limbaugh was barraged with calls from military vets chewing him out for disparaging Hackett's name. Limbaugh forgot his audience. Sure, there are some true believers, but the tempremental barroom conservative who jokes about hollywood weirdos & feminist wackos, it doesen't follow that they are especially political animals or know the GOP platform by heart. So Limbaugh changed his strategy. When Hackett dropped out of the race he was no logner antagonistic towards Hackett, he LIKED Hackett, but The Democrats kicked him aside for some black guy (who wasn't even black) because they're affirmative actioneers who are hostile to the military.

If Limbaugh has to subtlely propagandize to his own audience with race-baiting and flase memes about a Democratic hostility to the Military, I think that shows that the "Limbaugh vote", while maybe not ideal pickens, is different than what one would characterize it as.

by Epitome22 2006-03-14 01:01PM | 0 recs
Re: False Choices

Your examples on National Security and Fiscal Responsibility are excellent.  There are issues people care deeply about that we have to close the gap on if we are going to win in 2006 and 2008.  You just showed we can do so without giving away our principles.

by John Mills 2006-03-14 01:49PM | 0 recs
Democrats Should Target Evangelists

If God's Politics Author, Jim Wallis goes to every evangelist community and talk about his book--I bet you we will get some evangelists  

Christ  told us to love your neighbor as you love yourself and whatever you do to the least of your bretheren you do to me.

And if we talk to evangelist how Democrats will decrease abortion rate aggressively through commonsense policies  and that the reason we should not recriminalize abortion--is like Christ ask those who has no sin cast the first stone.

by jasmine 2006-03-14 01:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Democrats Should Target the Limbaugh Vote

I was telling a friend this weekend that one of the reasons I'm happy Air America exists - and why I'm not terribly concerned that their facts are right - is the dittoheads.  I think a fair fraction of them aren't particularly bound to Rush by ideology, but rather by a fondness for overblown rhetoric.  And if Air America can reach those people with left-leaning vitriol and outrage, it's all to the good.

I don't think they vote much, or contribute, actually, don't think they do much beyond bumper stickers, so it probably doesn't matter much in the big picture.  I certainly don't think we should be changing our policies, programs, or values to bring them into the fold.  But I'd rather have them ranting and railing on our side.

by carlmanaster 2006-03-14 03:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Democrats Should Target the Limbaugh Vote, and
"If all issues are of equal importance to the electorate, and the electorate has equal swing potential on all issues, than it does not matter what issues Democrats make gains on, as long as they make gains. It is not a reasonable argument to claim that just because Democrats are losing among those who cite "terrorism" as they top issue that Democrats must focus on "terrorism" instead of, say "education." If all things were equal, developing an even greater lead on "education" would be just as useful as closing the gap on "terrorism."
I'm sorry but this is a very stupid point especially on terrorism in particualar, quite clearly it will be hard to win congress if we let the "Dems are weak on terrorism lie" live especiolly when it so easily killed by attacking bushs credebility on the issue at a time he is not trusted well, such as now.
by rtaycher1987 2006-03-15 08:42PM | 0 recs

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