A MeanMesa Note: This is the first part of a two part series on the 2012 election. Here we will examine what happened in 2010 a little more closely. In the second part of this series, MeanMesa will introduce a 2012 election strategy to respond to this latest calamity.
Realism and Elections -- A Little History
Looking over a recent history of the performance of the two parties in the House of Representatives, the record is a predictably symmetric one. If an additional "line" were to be created straight through middle of the bouncing curves, it would represent the Republican vs. Democrat ratios of a perfectly divided House of Representatives, and, at least theoretically, an equally "perfect" division of voters' priorities.
|Yearly Majorities and Minorities in the House (source)|
It's suspiciously attractive to lament the demise of the "good old days" when votes could be presumed to be the result of ballots cast on issues or a general "party" selection based on the "brand image" of the parties. The development of voting blocks founded on these considerations led to conclusions about what to expect if one party of the other were to gain a majority.
Republicans developed a party image of being good for business and strong on national security. Democrats developed a party image of being dedicated to the interests of middle class voters and cultural/social development. If the issues arising from the "burning question of the day" failed to inspire voters, these general party brand background images stepped in to drive the decisions.
Running along with the causes of the respective majorities being elected into the House seats, are the consequences of those elections. For the more analytical among MeanMesa visitors, these consequences can be mapped into the diagram above.
- The VietNam War ran from roughly 1961 to 1973.
- The Gingrich "Contract on America" was adopted at the beginning of 1994.
- Ronald Reagan initiated the fundamentals of the economic collapse during the 1980's with numerous middle class tax increases and anti-labor legislation.
In these example cases -- and there are, of course, many more -- the control of the House of Representatives shows a gradual migration for or against the party which was "held responsible" for the consequences.
The reaction was seldom as dynamic as what we see in the 2006 mid-term election as the country recoiled from the issues originating in the autocracy. The majority reversal in 2010 was significant, but not as decisive as the "pressing horror" of stopping Gorge II's plundering campaign in 2006.
The speed of the voter response to "consequences" may be mapped into the question of "How fundamental to American ideals are the issues being changed by the consequences?" When the issues of the government come closer to American fundamentals, voters respond more quickly. When the "consequences" are longer term or more theoretical, voters are usually willing to wait an election or two to see how things will turn out in the longer term.
There have always been "base" voters on both sides of the elections, and there have always been "independent" voters in the center of the spectrum unwilling to commit much durable sentiment to the respective "brand image" of either of the opposing parties. Although it is a mistake to attribute election success to any particular vote, these "fickle" independents have become increasingly important in recent elections because the "base" votes on either side have remained essentially equal.
MeanMesa Conclusion Number One
The 2012 election will show a return to voters responding to "party brand image." The Republicans have not hesitated to promote their party's "brand image" continuously whether an election is approaching or not. The Democrats will need to take this same approach as the 2012 election nears.
Independents like to pride themselves as voters who are responding to issues. However, the "issues" being presented to them currently by the Republicans have become grotesque and increasing unpersuasive. Further, the disparity between Republican performance and promise has grown larger and larger, moving fairly informed independents further from the Republican base.
Acting as an advantage to Republicans, the economic pain has been successfully "re-imaged" in a manner which can detach it from previous Republican performance -- at least when it comes to the Republican base. When the "memory" and "information" levels of independents are introduced as "vote deciding" factors, the numbers change, not because independents particularly like the premises of the Democratic "party brand image," so much as because they are becoming increasingly frightened by the Republican "brand image."
2012 will mark a return to "party politics," whether we like it or not. Democratic campaigns will have to return to the bold position of asking for votes based on the qualities of "being a good Democrat." No more hiding away in "androgynous political positions."
The "Prize" Hidden In Otherwise Rational Elections
With the relentless ideological "grooming" of the Republicans, the "base" voting block of the party has become immune to persuasion. There is essentially no reason for Democrats to expend campaign resources attempting to move Republican base voters from their election positions. Although at first glance, this may seem to be an accomplishment of Republican strategists, a closer look reveals what may well be a typical Republican "over reach."
The original challenge to Republicans was to consolidate their party base with just enough ideology to firmly persuade base voters' loyalty while not alienating the fickle independents with the same thrust. This first goal was fairly well realized some years back, but instead of tempering their ideological message -- and the party's performance -- Republican strategists became infatuated with these early successes at persuasion.
Rather than a strategic move toward the attraction of the independents, every Republican effort was made to further consolidate the mood of their party base. At this point, this aim has been accomplished in spades. The result is a Republican base who would rather cut off a foot than vote Democratic, but large numbers of independents who are looking askance at the prospect of "cutting off a foot" to be members of the Republican base -- even temporarily, that is, long enough to elect more Republicans in 2012.
So, who's left? Where can Democrats find the votes they will need in 2012?
Happily, there are plenty of votes remaining "in play." We can look at immense reservoirs of potential Democratic votes and the grisly selection of highly predictable Republican strategies to deny them to Democratic candidates.
The Democratic Voting Majority
Republicans accept as "written in gold" that the more Americans who vote in an election, the less likely a Republican candidate will win. The subsequent conclusion seems to be the one with which they have a greater difficulty.
There are more Democrats than Republicans in the United States.
This isn't simply a MeanMesa dream, either. The polls consistently reflect that more Americans are "nearly ready" to be Democrats than Republicans.
Yet, Republicans won in the 2010 election because Democrats did not vote. The reasons why Democrats did not vote is absolutely central to our plans for the next election in 2012. What, exactly, caused this phenomenal accomplishment on the part of the GOP?
The Republican party convinced these otherwise Democratic voters to either vote for "anyone else" or stay home during the 2010 election. The media pundits attributed this to a high level of dissatisfaction with these voters with respect the the economy and to the Democratic leadership. We'll deal with the leadership question first.
MeanMesa agrees. The behavior of Democrats, especially Democrats in the House, could not be called anything else but a walking surrender to the media glacier forwarded by the Republicans. The GOP used its ownership of the media and its bottomless barrels of cash very, very effectively. By the time the election came up, the Democrats were acting as if the situation was hopeless.
Because of the Democrats, it was.
It was nothing new, either. The Democrats had been acting as if the situation was hopeless for months prior to November. The potential Democratic voter carried a very damaging question with him as he entered the polling booth.
"Why should I vote to elect a Democrat?"
The astonishing side of this was also simple. No middle class American voter who was familiar with the facts would have ever voted for a Republican. But why, then, do we now have a House of Representatives full of illiterate tea baggers?
Simple. Voters were not "familiar with the facts" at all. Most potential Democratic voters were still wondering why the economy hadn't been "fixed," why there were still no jobs, why his house was worth 60% of what he had paid for it and why Wall Street was still gleefully dancing the maranga on his retirement account.
The President, effectively abandoned by House Democrats who would have sold their mothers into sex slavery to survive the 2010, was looking like a forlorn battleship after ten days of strafing with no covering cruisers. The fact the he was steadily accomplishing his campaign promises had died the "death of a thousand cuts" as it became an unspoken rule for House Democrats to never mention so much as word about it.
The "low" part of the description "low information voter" had reached, well, a new "low." If there remained a "questionable issue" in the mind of a potential Democratic voter, it had been thoroughly bathed in day old mayonaise and added to some dated bologna. Every one of the "questionable issues" had been ruthlessly addressed by the Republican talking machine. The Democrats had said practically nothing.
Certainly not anything which might have countered even the littlest fish in the torrent of lies.
Low information voters don't feel good when they vote with too many "questionable issues." In fact, they feel so bad, that not voting feels better than walking out of a polling booth wondering if one has just slit his own throat. Democrats were too busy doing, well, something else, to make even a low octane effort to remedy this, and they paid the price.
We all paid the price. We are all still paying the price. The people in charge of the House of Representatives have no idea how to run a government. Their adolescent meanderings may seem funny at first, but our ankles will be bleeding well before 2012.
Would you prefer to lay on your belly to do this bleeding or try it on your feet?
Stay tuned for Part Two.