by Chris Bowers, Wed Feb 22, 2006 at 10:02:39 AM EST
I have engaged in a decent amount of berating lately toward members of the progressive activist base who, in response to poor Democratic candidates, have indicated that they will do little or nothing to support the Democratic cause in 2006. I stand by those comments, because I feel the progressive response to any given political situation can never be to do nothing. I think this is especially the case when progressives are so desperately in need of strong, extra-party (outside of the party, not a third party) organizing to make sure that in the future we will have more power so as to, among other things, prevent the selection of poor Democratic candidates. However, in the interests of equal opportunity berating, I also want to make it clear that the Democratic Party has been doing a terrible job of firing up its base in recent elections, and it has cost them dearly at the ballot box. Just look at this remarkable data from Gallup (emphasis mine):While a seven-point margin would give Democrats majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives if all registered voters actually participated in the 2006 election, it is likely many voters will not do so. Typically, this early in the election year Gallup does not ask the "likely voter" questions that are designed to identify the subset of registered voters (RV) who are most likely to vote. Still, our experience over the past two mid-term elections, in 1998 and 2002, suggests that the RV numbers tend to overstate the Democratic margin by about ten and a half percentage points.I am not the world's biggest fan of the Gallup poll, but Mother of God. We have lost up to 10.5% in the 1998 and 2002 elections on turnout? If we had that 10.5% swing, our deficits in each of those elections would have been turned into victory margins nearly equal to what Republicans put together in 1994. (click here for more info on this)
This is far worse than I think anyone previously imagined the Kill Your Own Vote situation was for Democrats. If this is really true, and Democrats are doing 10.5% worse among Likely Voters than they are among Registered Voters, then I think it goes without saying that we are losing a lot more votes in midterm elections by trying to appeal to swing voters at the expense of our base than we would by trying to appeal to our base at the expense of our swing voters (not the mention the wasted resources this causes us). If this data is accurate, then the only way Republicans have managed to stay in power since 1994, besides stealing the occasional election, is by turning out their base. 10.5%? 10.5%! That is insane, just insane. There aren't that many swing voters out there anymore. Someone better explain to me how dropping 10.5% of our vote through an unmotivated base is somehow helping us win elections. Move to the center and cooperate with Republicans, indeed. Fat lot of good that has done us at the ballot box.