Musings (Ramblings) On Why We Lost

This piece went by among many others on election night, but I think it is worthy of calling out for attention. I was working at MSNBC and had been thinking about this all day. I put it up about 8:30 Eastern time.

Republican “Silent But Deadly” Ground Operation

As well as Bush does tonite, The Republican Get-Out-The-Vote operation is much of the reason. Some facts about the Bush ground operation: (Sorry I had to put this together hastily…)

– Bush GOTV budget $125 million

– Pennsylvania, volunteers made 1.8 million calls last week compared to 415,000 in 2000.

– Washington State, GOP mailed out 1.2 million absentee ballots, up 53% from 2000

– And in WA volunteers contacted 200,000 homes last weekend

– Bush campaign contacting 400,000 people a day in Ohio

– In PA Bush campaign plan to contact 2 million voters since Friday

– Four years ago, Bush employed 22 paid staff members in Florida. This year, he has 500 on the payroll.

– Bush campaign Florida goal was 6,600 volunteers, instead they recruited 15,000

– RNC paying travel, hotel & food for at least 5,000 loyalists working in battleground states

– Minn – GOP contacting 1 million with freshly-refined database

– Chamber of Commerce claims to have registered 500,000 new GOP in corporations

– Chamber hopes to “reach” 20 million employees.

– Chamber/BIPAC membership was 50 corporations, now 500

– Oregon GOP 22,000 volunteers “largely hidden from view” “keeping their plans under wraps” and “silent but deadly”

– Iowa, GOP making 32,000 voter contacts each week

The details behind those blurbs are available at the link. I think the really important stealth GOTV effort was the Chamber’s operation within businesses — there’s an unconscious intimidation factor when your employer asks you to do something. And there’s loyalty, group dynamics like acceptance…

I think this is one of many factors.

Message (lack of) was the most important, in my opinion. Kerry just didn’t have a message. And then they would suddenly come up with some message and use it for about a week and drop it and move on to a new one. The Bush campaign (actually the infrastructure of “conservative movement” organizations that underlies and controls The Party now…) had their message ready maybe two years before the election. They pounded out the same message every day. The message on the last day of the campaign was the same as on the first day.

AM radio as a 24-hour-7-day ever-ongoing Republican Party advertisement/Democrat-bashing machine was a crucial factor. Ask any marketing person the value of having all the stations relentlessly broadcasting your message. It sinks in.

There’s one other major factor that I haven’t seen very much written about, which I’ll be writing about soon. This is the massive Republican “insfrastructure” effort, consisting of the think tanks, supposedly “independent” non-profit organizations, etc. These organizations are supposed to be non-partisan but actually spend all of their time engaged in activities to promote the Republican Party. This is a huge multi-billion dollar effort that goes on OUTSIDE of the election cycle, while aiming it’s entire effect at the election process. This effort goes on full-time, all the time, and it is long-term. The book The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America sums up this process in a passage describing the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation as long-term intellectual and short-term legislative-focused operations respectively:

“This allows for a two-pronged assault on liberal orthodoxy. The AEI softens up the liberal establishment with long-range bombing; Heritage then sends in the ground troops to capture the territory and convert it into a conservative fief.”

More on that later, but I think this is a major, largely-unrecognized factor in the last election.

Update – Jeeze, I left out something important. About a year ago I was at a presentation by Ellen Malcolm of ACT where she said the plan was to use the Media Fund’s ads to make the election close in the swing states, and the GOTV effort to tip the scales. Well, this brings to mind the Republican strategy — use lies and smears to make the election close, then use voter suppression and intimidation to drive it home. Like how Ohio Democratic precincts did not get enough voting machines, and had four-hour lines, while Republican precincts had 10-minute waits.