More Evidence That Appealing To “Center” Is A Losing Strategy

In a May, 2011 post, Appealing To The “Center” Drives Away Voters I wrote that the traditional Democratic campaign strategy of taking positions perceived to be “between” the left and the right not only doesn’t appear to work, it actually might be costing Democrats.
The traditional idea, driven by Democratic campaign consultants, is that “independent” voters “swing” between parties. SO you can get them to “swing” your way by taking positions that are not those of the base of your own party, but instead creep over towards those of the other party. I wrote in that May post,

The problem here is the effect the metaphor of a "center" has on our thinking. Thinking about independent voters as being a "block" that is "between" the parties is the problem. It forces the brain into a constraint because of the visual image that it evokes. What I mean is that the actual language of "centrist" changes how we think. The metaphor makes us think they are "between" something called left and right. And as a result it forces certain conclusions.

I said that Karl Rove figured this out, and used this to get Bush to instead “appeal to the base,” which increased Republican turnout, while dispirited Dems, tired of their standard-bearers taking wishy-washy positions that give everything away, decided to just stay home. I wrote that Rove has “nailed it,”

Karl Rove believed that there were independents who were not registered Republican because the party was not far enough to the right for them, who would only turn out if the party gave them something to vote for. I think Karl Rove’s model is more accurate, that the independent voters are a number of groups, and very large numbers of them are MORE to the left or right than the parties, and don’t vote unless the parties appeal enough to them.
Rove decided this means the Republicans need to move ever more to the right, and this will cause those “independent” voters who had changed their affiliation out of disgust with the centrism of their party to now turn out and vote.

Now there is confirmation of this. On NPR’s Talk of the Nation today, Clarence Page talked with host Neal Conan about the role of independent voters, saying that we might be surprised to learn that candidates who try to appeal to “independents” tend to lose, because they turn off the voters who closely follow and care about the issues.
Click the Play button below to hear this Talk of the Nation segment:

In fact, candidates that try to “appeal to the center” lose, because this idea of a :center” is a myth. From the transcript:

You know, there is a professor Alan Aramowitz of Emory University, who has been studying this using voting statistics, and he found that the – well, as he put it, in all three of the presidential elections since 1972 that were decided by a margin of less than five points, that the candidate backed by the independents lost.
This was – this surprised me. You know, he’s citing here Jimmy Carter in ’76, Gerald Ford – sorry, Gerald Ford beat – excuse me, Gerald Ford won the independent vote but lost the election. Put it that way, OK.
Most independents voted for George W. Bush in 2000, but Al Gore got the overall popular vote. As you recall, he got the popular vote but not the state vote.
CONAN: Yeah, but that’s fudging your statistics a little bit. The guy who got the independent vote got the big prize.
PAGE: Yeah, but still, though, most of the – the one backed by the independent voters, though, did not get the majority of the popular vote. And in 2004, John Kerry, most independents voted for John Kerry, but he lost the overall election.
What does that mean? What it means is that Karl Rove and others, who have often advocated firing up the base rather than reaching out for independents, they’ve got a point. In some elections, that works. If you fire up your base, get your vote out, it can be big enough that it will overwhelm the opposition and the independents, because independents also tend to have the least turnout, and they also tend to be the least committed, not just to a party but also to – well, less engaged with the whole campaign.

They are joined by Daron Shaw, who was a campaign strategist for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.

SHAW: Well, I think the thing that Clarence pointed out that’s worth reiterating is that the distinguishing characteristic of independent voters is they’re not that interested, they’re not that involved, they’re not that engaged with politics. So if you’re a political professional and you’re dealing with finite resources, and you have to make decisions about where you’re going to invest dollars, and where you’re going to invest manpower, you know, the idea of reaching out to independents, who may or may not show up, and if they do show up may or may not vote for you, can give you pause.
So you know, it’s interesting that there’s been this movement in the last two or three election cycles, and as Clarence correctly pointed out, I think Karl Rove is kind of given credit for this, although I don’t know if he’s, you know, the architect or godfather of it; a lot of people who have moved in this direction.
But the idea of sinking your resources into mobilization, which primarily targets, you know, sort of identifiable partisans and appeals to them, that that’s become kind of a staple and maybe even the dominant perspective. And I find it kind of interesting that word out of the White House – and you have to read all these things with a dose of caution – but suggests that they’re kind of moving in that direction. That’s sort of what their thinking is. And I just find that fascinating.

As I wrote in May:
The way to grow your voting base is NOT to try to “appeal” to some group that is not left or right, but is “between” something called left and right. To get more voters — especially the “independent” ones who won’t identify with a party — is to take stands, be more committed to progressive positions, and to articulate them more clearly.
See also, Clarence Page: What it means to be an ‘independent voter’ might surprise you.
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.

Hillary’s Victory

A guest post by Bettina Duval of the California List
Senator Hillary Clinton’s victory in New Hampshire was the first time in our history that a woman won a presidential primary*. Her win was a momentous achievement that the early suffragettes could only dream of. It was a triumph for all women – a giant step forward in the drive for equality.
The nation’s political attention has wrongly focused on why Senator Clinton won New Hampshire. The most important fact, that she is the first woman ever to win a primary, has been lost. Does it matter that Hillary Clinton won the primary – YES. Senator Clinton’s victory cannot be brushed aside with political positioning or media downplay. Make no mistake, it was an historic moment.

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Today’s Voting Machines Post

TomPaine.com – Making Democracy Transparent,

Theories of widespread election fraud are highly debatable, to say the least. Some people enjoy that debate. I do not. It encourages a sense of hopelessness and consumes energy that could instead be focused on long-term changes that could give us elections we can trust.
The election fraud debate frames the problem incorrectly. The question should not be whether there is widespread election fraud. It should be: “Why should we trust the results of elections?” It’s not good enough that election results be accurate. We have to know they are accurate—and we don’t.
In a word, elections must be transparent. People must be able to assure themselves that the results are accurate through direct observation during the election and examination of evidence afterwards.
U.S. elections are far from transparent. Instead, winning candidates and election officials alike tend to put all their efforts into suppressing recounts. That attitude has led to increasing bitterness with each national election, at least since Florida 2000.
But we can conclusively win a debate about election transparency.

I agree, word the problem in a way that we can win. Elections should be transparent. We should be able to prove who won.
Go read.

Voting Machines

Missed this a few days ago: As Elections Near, Officials Challenge Balloting Security,

Four times over the past year Sancho told computer specialists to break in to his voting system. And on all four occasions they did, changing results with what the specialists described as relatively unsophisticated hacking techniques. To Sancho, the results showed the vulnerability of voting equipment manufactured by Ohio-based Diebold Election Systems, which is used by Leon County and many other jurisdictions around the country.
… Then, in a warehouse a few blocks from his office in downtown Tallahassee, Sancho and seven other people held a referendum. The question on the ballot:
“Can the votes of this Diebold system be hacked using the memory card?”
Two people marked yes on their ballots, and six no. The optical scan machine read the ballots, and the data were transmitted to a final tabulator. The result? Seven yes, one no.

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Sign The Petition! — Another Today’s Voting Machines Post

Support H.R. 550–Verified Voting is Vital!
I got there by following MyDD :: Verified Voting Now linking to Big Push to Support Congressman Holt’s H.R. 550 which links to SIGN THE PETITION TODAY! which says,

There are many politically contentious issues in election reform, but making sure votes are counted accurately is not one of them. Because of its narrow scope, its realistic goals, and its strong bi-partisan support, with 159 co-sponsors both Democrat and Republican, H.R. 550 is our best hope to restore integrity and voter confidence to our electoral process – the very foundation of a representative democracy.
We urge you to pass H.R. 550 as written immediately.

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California Voting Machines Emergency?

Apparently the Republican Secretary of State in California may be stealthily REVERSING the previous Democratic Secretary of State’s decertification of Diebold paperless voting machines! Raw Story and Brad Blog have stories about this (links below). Here’s a summary: Democratic Secretary of State Shelley had decertified Diebold machines as dangerous to democracy. (He also sought to prosecute the company for lying to state officials.) Then, after the recall and Schwarzenegger’s election Shelley was forced out of office on contrived charges, with a Republican appointed in his place. Now there is funny business going on and it looks like Diebold may be coming back. I tracked down a new document [Note – PDF] outlining requirements for voting machines, and the previous requirement that they produce paper ballot backups is NOT on the list.

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