Democrats Who Move Right Lose Elections – There Is No “Center”

Mainstream Democratic campaign consultants and pollsters typically tell candidates they should “move to the right” and campaign to the “center” with positions that are “between” the “left” and the “right.” This is the way, they say, to “attract swing voters” who would be “scared off” by a candidate who takes populist positions that favor the interests of the 99 percent over the interests of the 1 percent.

Polling and experience show that exactly the opposite might be true.

This week Lynn Vavrek writes at the New York Times Upshot blog, in “The Myth of Swing Voters in Midterm Elections“:

There just aren’t that many swing voters. … Ultimately voters tend to come home to their favored party. There are relatively few voters who cross back and forth between the parties during a campaign or even between elections.

Looking at the Democrat loss in the 2010 election, this is the key:

The results clearly show that voters in 2010 did not abandon the Democrats for the other side, but they did forsake the party in another important way: Many stayed home.

Again: In 2010 “swing” voters did not “shift” toward Republicans. What happened was that Democrats stayed home.

2011 Pew Poll: Independents Aren’t ‘Centrists’

Who are the “independent” voters? In 2011 The Washington Post’s “The Fix” looked at a Pew Research Center poll. In the post, “The misunderstood independent,” Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza wrote (emphasis added)

In politics, it’s often tempting to put independents somewhere in the middle of Republicans and Democrats, politically. They identify somewhere in between the two, so they must be moderates, right?

A new study from the Pew Research Center suggests that’s not so true anymore. Independents, in fact, are a fast-growing and increasingly diverse group that both parties are going to need to study and understand in the years ahead.

. . . Pew identifies three different kinds of independents. Libertarians and Disaffecteds are 21 percent of registered voters and lean towards Republicans; Post-Moderns are 14 percent and lean towards Democrats.

A look at their views on issues shows those three groups can often be among the most extreme on a given topic.

Disaffecteds, for example, believe in helping the needy more than most Democrats. Libertarians side with business more than even the solidly Republican Staunch Conservatives. And Post-Moderns accept homosexuality more than most Democrats. The three independents groups are also less religious, on the whole, than either Republicans or most Democrats.

In other words, polling shows that many “independents” are to the left of Democrats and many others are to the right of Republicans. They are not “in the middle” or “between” but rather are more likely to stay home and not vote for candidates who move “to the middle.” Those independents to the right of Republicans are not going to vote for Democrats no matter how far “to the right” the Democratic candidate goes.

2010 PPP Poll: The Independents Who Stayed Home

In 2010 Greg Sargent wrote at the Washington Post’s Plum Line blog, “Progressives and centrists battle over meaning of indy vote” (emphasis added):

Independents are not a monolith, and what really happened is that indys who backed Obama in 2008 stayed home, because they were unsatisfied with Obama’s half-baked reform agenda, while McCain-supporting indys turned out in big numbers.

. . . The key finding: PPP asked independents who did vote in 2010 who they had supported in 2008. The results: Fifty one percent of independents who voted this time supported McCain last time, versus only 42 percent who backed Obama last time. In 2008, Obama won indies by eight percent.

That means the complexion of indies who turned out this time is far different from last time around, argues Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. His case: Dem-leaning indys stayed home this time while GOP-leaning ones came out — proof, he insists, that the Dems’ primary problem is they failed to inspire indys who are inclined to support them.

“The dumbest thing Democrats could do right now is listen to those like Third Way who urge Democrats to repeat their mistake by caving to Republicans and corporations instead of fighting boldly for popular progressive reforms and reminding Americans why they were inspired in 2008,” Green says.

March Florida Special Election

In the March special election in Florida’s 13th District, the Republican candidate strongly embraced the values of “the base” while the Democratic candidate took “centrist” positions, even embracing austerity and cuts to Social Security – in Florida. In Did Dems Have A Reason To Show Up And Vote In Florida House Race? I wrote about what happened, but in summary, R’s voted and Dems stayed home.

The Republican won by about 3,400 votes out of about 183,000 votes cast. Turnout was 58 percent in precincts Romney won in 2012, and 48.5 percent in precincts Obama won in 2012. There were 49,000 fewer people who voted in this election than in the 2010 general mid-term election (down 21 percent), and 158,500 fewer than in the 2012 Presidential (down 46 percent). So it was the failure to get Democratic voters to show up that lost them the election.

The Republicans ran “the furthest right a GOP candidate had run in the area” in 60 years. Meanwhile the Democrat tried to “reach across the aisle” to bring in “centrist” and “moderate” voters, and emphasized “cutting wasteful government spending” and “introducing performance metrics to hold government accountable for waste and abuse and creating the right fiscal environment for businesses to create jobs.”

Again, the Republican campaigned to the right, the Democrat campaigned “in the middle.” The result: Republicans showed up to vote, Democrats stayed home.

What The Heck Do “Centrist” And “The Middle” Even Mean?

Think about the words we use to describe voters and policy positions. “Left,” “right,” “between,” “center” and “swing” force the brain to visualize policy positions as endpoints on a straight line. The visualization forces people to imagine a “centrist” that is someone who holds positions that are somewhere “in the middle” and “between” the policy positions that are these endpoints. There is a bulk of voters who are imagined to “swing” from the positions on these endpoints, who are looking for politicians who don’t go “too far” in any policy direction. Politicians can “attract” these “swing” voters by taking positions that are “between” the endpoints.

But polling and experience tell us:

1) There are very few actual “independent voters.” Instead there are lots of voters who agree with the left or agree with the right, but are further to the left or right and so do not register as Democrats or Republicans.

2) There is no “swing voter” block “between” the parties. There are different groups of voters who decide to vote or stay home. No conservative “independent” who is to the right of the Republican party will vote for any Democrat, no matter how far right they move. All that moving to the right accomplishes is to cause many Democratic “base” voters to hold their noses if they do vote, and possibly just stay away from the polls.

Karl Rove got this. He understood that you can get the right-wing voters roused up to come to the polls by moving Republican politicians to the right. Instead of “moving to the center” he got Bush and the Republicans to stand up for conservative principles and refuse to compromise, and the result was that more of “the base” enthusiastically showed up at the polls.

Conclusion: You Have To Deliver For And Campaign To Your Base Or They Don’t Show Up

Here is what is very important to understand about the “swing” vote: Few voters “switch.” That is the wrong lesson. There are not voters who “swing,” there are left voters and right voters who either show up and vote or do not show up and vote.

The lesson to learn: You have to deliver for and campaign to YOUR “base” voters or they don’t show up and vote for you. If Democrats don’t give regular, working people –- the Democratic base -– a reason to vote, then many of them won’t.

To learn what the American voter wants, please visit Populist Majority, Exposing the gulf between American opinion and conventional wisdom.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

FL-13 – Did Dems Have A Reason To Show Up And Vote?

Republicans won in Florida’s 13th district special congressional election on Tuesday. What does this mean?

Here is the key point about why the Republican candidate: More Republican voters went to the polls and voted than Democrat voters. The Republican won by about 3,400 votes out of about 183,000 votes cast. Turnout was 58 percent in precincts Romney won in 2012, and 48.5 percent in precincts Obama won in 2012. There were 49,000 fewer people who voted in this election than in the 2010 general mid-term election (down 21 percent), and 158,500 fewer than in the 2012 Presidential (down 46 percent). So it was the failure to get Democratic voters to show up that lost them the election.

The obvious conclusion is that the Democratic candidate did not give Democratic voters sufficient reason and motivation to show up and vote. If just a few more Democrats – 3,400 – had decided to show up and vote the election would have gone the other way.

Factors and Non-Factors

Obamacare? Maybe not. According to David Weigel at Slate, “both rejected the national “narrative” that the race was a clear referendum on Obamacare.”

It wasn’t spending. Outside groups showed up and helped the Democrat, balancing out the usually enormous Republican spending advantage.

Medicare counted. Republicans accused Democrats of “$716 in Medicare Cuts.” This was the same theme that shifted the 2010 election to Republicans, and it helped again.

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The Democrats fell short in getting their absentee voters to mail in their ballots. According to Sean Sullivan at The Washington Post, the Democratic candidate “did not build a big enough lead in absentee voting to prevail on election day.”

It’s The Base

Republican strategy is to feed red meat to “the base” to whip them up and get them to show up, (and do what they can to suppress Democratic turnout). In this race the Republican candidate ran to the right. Kartik Krishnaiyer of The Florida Squeeze, in a great analysis of the election, wrote that “this is the furthest right a GOP candidate had run in the area” in 60 years.

The Republican appeared on and was promoted by FOX News.

Apparently the Democratic candidate tried to “appeal to the middle,” thinking this would bring in “moderate” and “independent” voters who are thought to be “between” the left and the right. Her website emphasized “breaking the gridlock in Congress,” and offers, “I’ve proven again and again that Republicans and Democrats can work together to get things done.”

The website also emphasizes “cutting wasteful government spending” and “introducing performance metrics to hold government accountable for waste and abuse and creating the right fiscal environment for businesses to create jobs.”

So the Democratic candidate decided not to appeal to base Democratic voters, instead hoping to “reach across the aisle” to bring in “centrist” and “moderate” voters instead. One way or another this “appeal to the middle” failed to bring enough “moderate” voters to the polls to overcome the left-leaning voters it repelled.

Democrats Let It Happen

Thomas Frank summed up the problem in “The matter with Kansas now: The Tea Party, the 1 percent and delusional Democrats” at Salon. The subhead is “Democrats believe demographics alone will defeat the Tea Party. It’s a smug fantasy: Economic populism’s the answer.”

Even more alarming for Democrats were the stark implications of “Kansas” for their grand strategy of “centrism.” As I tried to make plain back in 2004, the big political change of the last 40 years didn’t happen solely because conservatives invented catchy conspiracy theories, but also because Democrats let it happen. Democrats essentially did nothing while their pals in organized labor were clubbed to the ground; they leaped enthusiastically into action, however, when it was time to pass NAFTA and repeal Glass-Steagall. Working-class voters had nowhere else to go, they seem to have calculated, and — whoops! — they were wrong. The Kansas story represented all their decades of moderating and capitulating and triangulating coming back to haunt them.

If Democrats don’t give regular, working people – the Democratic base – a reason to vote, then they won’t. In Florida’s 13th District, 3,400 of them decided there was not enough reason to bother.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

A Moral And Economic Imperative To Extend Unemployment Benefits

Federal unemployment assistance for 1.3 million people who have been unemployed longer than 26 weeks expired last Saturday, after Republicans blocked efforts to extend them. 3.6 million more people will lose these benefits over this year. Restoring these benefits is a moral, economic and political imperative.

On Monday the Senate will hold the first procedural vote on bringing back unemployment benefits for people who have been out of work longer than 26 weeks. The hope is to break a Republican filibuster so the extension can be passed and sent to the House (where Republicans will likely refuse to even allow it to come up for a vote).

Click here to Tell Congress to Extend Unemployment Benefits.

A Moral Imperative

When the financial crisis hit the country provided assistance to (“bailed out”) the largest banks. We have a moral imperative to also help our fellow citizens. A democracy provides assistance for people who need help. A fair and just society provides assistance for people who need help. A moral society provides assistance for people who need help.

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Who Will Fight To Help The Unemployed?

At the beginning of November, the poor went over the “Hunger Cliff” as Food Stamps were cut. Now long-term unemployment assistance will run out at the end of December. Regular people think the government has given up on them. They have been hit by one blow after another, with little or no help in sight. They see shutdowns and budget cuts at the very time the government needs to spend more to help Americans.

This is part of the Republican effort to turn Americans against government, because the public will blame Democrats. Democrats have to stop letting Republicans get away with it, and return to being seen as trying to help the unemployed and poor.

Long-Term Unemployment Assistance Running Out

In a few days, long-term unemployment benefits run out in spite of a “budget deal.” This cutoff of long-term aid means that in most states aid will end after a person is unemployed for 26 weeks, and in other states even less – some dramatically less. It occurs at a time when the average length of unemployment is 37 weeks, and there is still only one job for every three people still bothering to look for work.

1.3 million people will lose this assistance immediately, just after Christmas. By mid-2014 another 2 million will lose this aid as well.

“If my wife loses her benefit before she finds a job, we lose our house.” – Philadelphia resident.

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How To Dismantle A Country

Let’s say it’s the 1970s and you’re a foreign power of one sort or another – Soviet Union, China, Arab oil interests, secret cabal of billionaires, whatever – and you want to dominate the world. But the US is in your way…
Let’s say you do a comprehensive analysis of all the things that make the US a world power (for better or worse). Let’s say you develop a plan to infiltrate, undermine, weaken, fracture and ultimately dismantle each the institutions that made America so strong.

Looking back today, can anyone offer anything that could have been more effective at accomplishing this plan than funding America’s conservative movement?

Pledge To Vote, Not Withhold Vote

I have a post over at CAF, Republicans Sabotaging, Not Governing. This Is Who They Are Now., that is gaining traction at other places.

I want to emphasize the last paragraph:

“The answer is not to threaten to withhold your vote when you don’t get everything you want. The answer is for all of us – every single alienated, ignored, disillusioned citizen – to promise to always vote. Then the people you would actually want to vote for will have some assurance they can win, and take the risk of running, even if they can’t raise a poop-load of corporate cash.”

Don’t withhold your vote. Instead pledge to always vote. It’s collective power, and we can beat the corporations if we all pledge to always vote.

Bipartisan Solutions

Here is how the DC game works:

– One side proposes to kill everyone in Kentucky and Tennessee. 15% of the public supports this (0% in Kentucky or Tennessee.)

– The other side thinks children should have enough food so they can grow up strong. (85% of the public supports this.)

– A Grand Bargain is reached in which they agree to kill everyone in Tennessee and spare the people in Kentucky, and children will get half as much food as they need.

The DC pundits will say that since everyone is angry at this, it must be the right solution because “both sides” only got part of what they want.

Read The Shock Doctrine

There is no better way to understand what is happening to us than to read The Shock Doctrine. Shock-Doctrine tactics are why we have so many “manufactured crises” and why the right and Wall Street seem to come out on top from each one.

The “deficit” is entirely a manufactured crisis. The “sequester” is a manufactured crisis, like the :debt ceiling” crisis and the “fiscal cliff” crisis and the other crises again and again. People around Reagan said the tax cuts (combined with dooubling the military budget) were a strategy to cause deficits that would force spending cuts. It was called “strategic deficits.”

George W Bush said the shift from surpluses to deficits after his tax cuts was “incredibly positive news” because it would bring 99on a deficit crisis that would stampede opeople into accepting cuts.

This is the Shock Doctrine at work. Create a crisis, terrify people, then force “reforms” that shift the wealth upwards to the billionaires.

The Legacy of Sandy Hook: An Unprecedented Opening for Change

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The wholesale slaughter of children sparked an unprecedented opening for change in this country. Killing children broke something fundamental in our culture. On that sad day, it felt as if there was a giant ripping in our society — yielding a gaping hole in all that was sacred and right. It was like watching the Twin Towers collapse all over again, but now it was our children. Many have asked if we have waited too long for action, the answer is simply no. Babies and guns do not belong in the same sentence. Assault weapons must never again be used to kill children.

It’s that opening – the gaping wound — that is inspiring our President Obama and Vice President Biden. This unlikely duo appear to be fueled by the fire of what is possible, and are driving a Mack truck through this opening right now — whether it is to push through the broadest gun safety legislation; or enact comprehensive immigration reform; or to raise the minimum wage; or end violence toward women; or to support gay marriage.

Watching our President Obama the evening of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School – it was clear that he would leap tall buildings to save the children and people of this country. It had become a Holy Crusade and compromise is off the table. Witness the fervor with which this team is working to move their Cabinet nominations forward even for beleaguered Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel. Republican shenanigans are not being tolerated even on their home turf, the House of Representatives. These folks can rant and rave for the cameras (and they do), but are falling flat with no run way. The President’s approval ratings are soaring even in the shadow of the latest, manufactured financial machination of the ‘sequester.’ And it is this fundamental lack of empathy and understanding that may be the down fall of the Republican Party as we know it today.

Frankly, the President is done turning himself into a human pretzel and for this we must rejoice. You just can’t compromise with folks that hate you and all that you stand for. It’s a travesty that it took this horrific loss of lives in Sandy Hook to galvanize the American people – but it did. Unbelievably, today one child still “dies every three hours from gun violence in the United States.” Everyone knows that gun safety legislation is not about the Second Amendment, but rather about sustaining a modern civilization.

The winds of change are upon us. Just witness the President’s news conference today on the impasse over what is called sequestration. He’s not backing down.

 

Why DC Ignores Real Problems And What You Can Do About It

How many real and serious national problems can you list? And how many obvious solutions can you come up with literally off the top of your head? Now an experiment: list how many of them are being worked on by our DC elites or even discussed my our elite media? The answer is none. Why is this? And what can you do about it?

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The Terrible Cost of Not Fixing the Filibuster Sooner

Senate Democrats were all about getting things done, and that kept them from getting anything done. They didn’t take on the filibuster head-on, so now obstruction is the expected norm. There have been more than 380 filibusters and the public (and apparently the media) doesn’t know there has been even one. It is time to MAKE THEM TALK if they want to filibuster a bill.

380 Filibusters – The Public Doesn’t Know

Under Lyndon Johnson there was one filibuster, and the public knew about it because a Senator had to talk all night. In the last few years there have just a few been more than one and the public doesn’t know about it at all. How many filibusters have there been? Harry Reid writes in Politico: “Since Democrats took control of the Senate in 2006, Republicans have mounted 380 filibusters.”

If you talk to the public you will find people do not know about this. Most people do not believe there has been even a single filibuster because they haven’t seen it happen. To the public a filibuster is a dramatic event, a big deal, involving Senators talking all night until they fall down from exhaustion.

Here’s the thing. The public hates obstruction, and would apply the right amount of pressure if they knew about it. That is how democracy is supposed to work. But the public does not know that obstruction is occurring. The silent filibuster tactic has been successful because people don’t see it. And that means that democracy isn’t working the way it should.

The Senate Made A Mistake

In the 1970s the Senate changed rules that required a filibuster to be a spectacle and a talkathon. Instead they wanted to be able to move on and get things done so the “silent filibuster” was enabled. Nobodye could have predicted that a corporate/conservative minority would later use the new “silent filibuster” tactic more than 380 times to keep anything from getting done. The filibuster is now so abused that the media tells the public that Senate rules require 60 votes to pass any bill.

Senate Democrats have been irresponsible in allowing this to continue, because democracy wants the public to be alerted to obstruction. In their wish to get things done and get along with the other side they have been accomplices in the obstruction strategy. They have resisted making a big deal out of each and every obstruction, resisted using theater tactics like “bringing out the cots,” resisted “making waves” by changing the rules, and tried to just keep the Senate moving along and getting along. But the result of accommodating the conservatives is they have enabled a take-no-prisoners minority to just block everything. Since the public is largely unaware of this minority obstruction they are not applying the pressure that a functioning democracy requires.

Basics:

  • People believe a filibuster is senators talking all night.
  • People have not seen any senators talking all night.
  • People do not believe there have been any filibusters.
  • But there have been more than 380 filibusters.
  • Democracy suffers because the public does not understand that these filibusters are occurring.
  • We, the People are not getting from our government what we want and need.
  • Conclusion: Make. Them. Talk.

A Simple Fix – Make Them Talk

Make. Them. Talk.

There is a simple fix that will stop obstruction — except when obstruction is appropriate. This simple fix is to change the rules back to what people think the rules already are: make them actually filibuster in the way the public understands. They should make them talk all night if they want to obstruct a bill.

Here is why making them talk all night is the best solution. While getting rid of the ability to silently and secretly obstruct action it retains the ability of the minority to make their point, and does it in a way that brings that point to the attention of the public. By killing the “silent filibuster” and making Senators engage in the public theater of a dramatic event, where they stand in the Senate chamber and talk and talk, Democrats can actually restore a functioning democracy and engage the public in our democracy.

But when something is happening that is truly egregious and the minority wants to bring the public’s attention to this, they can alert the press and their supporters and get started in a dramatic talk-all-night theater event. They can launch an actual filibuster, just like the movie. It will be big news. The news channels will all make a big deal of this, and people can contact each other and organize a response.

Making them talk gives the public time to get involved. In fact it invites the public to get involved. Or not. It gives the public the choice, which is why we have those first three words in our Constitution.

The Cost Of Filibuster Abuse

The core principle of our government is that We, the People make the decisions. We are supposed to have self-government by majority rule. But in the last few years this has been turned on its head by this silent filibuster obstruction. Nothing gets done, and the public doesn’t understand why not. The cost to We, the People has been staggering.

How many things that the people and our economy want and need have been blocked in the last few years? Well, aside from literally everything, I mean. This abuse of the rules even keep us from learning who or even what country (Disclose Act) is paying for the abuse of the rule.

Just a few examples: Here are just a few examples — just a few out of 380+ filibusters — from Dylan Matthews in the Washington Post, in 17 bills that likely would have passed the Senate if it didn’t have the filibuster,

  • DREAM Act
  • DISCLOSE Act
  • Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)
  • Public option
  • Paycheck Fairness Act
  • Permanent middle-class Bush tax cut extension
  • Rescinding of the upper-income Bush tax cuts
  • Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act
  • Emergency Senior Citizens Relief Act
  • Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act
  • American Jobs Act
  • The Buffett rule
  • Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act of 2011
  • Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act
  • “Shared Sacrifice”
  • Withholding Tax Relief Act of 2011
  • Burmese import restrictions
  • Appointments – [click through to see the whole list]
  • Again, those are just a few of the things that We, the People want and need, that were blocked by Republican filibusters. JOBS. The public option. Stopping tax breaks for outsourcing. Ending the huge tax breaks for the oil companies and the billionaires.

    A big one: Labor: This week’s anti-union vote in Michigan shows us that one cost to We, the People was that reforming labor law was blocked. Blocked by filibuster in 2007, Senate Democrats dropped this in 2009 because it could not get past a nother filibuster — just one of 380.

    June, 2007, GOP Senators Filibuster Employee Free Choice Act,

    A majority of Senators voted in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) today, but the vote was nine votes short of the 60-vote requirement to break a filibuster of the bill by a handful of obstructionist Senators.

    Then in 2009, (again from 17 bills that likely would have passed the Senate if it didn’t have the filibuster above), Democrats were trying to get the Employee Free Choice Act passed,

    But at the time, well over Democratic Senators had indicated their support of the bill, which also got 51 votes and passed the House in 2007, when Democrats had fewer seats, meaning it was especially likely to pass in 2009.

    And of course, never forget climate change. Action has been obstructed and obstructed and obstructed…
    So many solutions to our country’s problems have been obstructed by corporate&billionaire-funded minority filibusters!

    Things You Can Do

    Fist, be aware that the filibuster does exist and has been used 380 times, even though you haven’t seen anyone talking all night.

    Call the offices of both of your state’s senators and tell them you want them to fix the filibuster and make them talk all night if they want to block a bill. You can use this number: 1-877-782-8274.

    Visit Fix the Senate Now and sign up for updates.

    There is a Fix the Senate Now Facebook page. “In the US Senate, back room deals and filibuster rules allow a handful of senators to stop the rest from making any progress. Let’s fix the Senate, now.”

    Follow @FixTheSenate on Twitter.

    Start your own Fix the Senate online petition; Use an online petition tool like SignOn.org to start your own petition to ask your Senators to reform the Senate rules. You can get ideas for language to use at http://fixthesenatenow.org/page/s/signthepetition/.

    New Mexico Senator Tom Udall has a special Senate Rules: Common Sense Reform website with a lot of resources and recent press coverage, as well as all of Senator Udall’s past statements on rules reform.

    Because it is time to Make. Them. Talk.


    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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