The Futility Monster

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Posts Tagged ‘base motivation’

More American Elections = Fun, Fun, Fun

Posted by The Futility Monster on November 28, 2009 @ 10:11

The cheap way of doing things...

Psephologists worldwide are always excited when it’s a US election year. The main reason is that nobody does elections quite like the States. Big spending, big personalities, big media agendas, vast levels of polling data, unbelieveable detail in demographic targeting. And certain races catch the eye to become real battles getting the Hollywood treatment.

So next year we’re in for a treat. Not only will we see the demise of the Labour government, but later on in the year will be the first genuine test of how the USA will react to the so-called Democratic supermajority control of the legislature and the executive branches for the first time in some decades.

Elections to the US House of Representatives happen every two years. This pretty much means that as soon as they’re elected, the poor buggers have to go out and start campaigning again. Luckily, they’re helped by extremely favourable incumbency rates. But to some extent, they’re favourable for a reason: they work hard to bring home the bacon to their district.

With that in mind, the vast majority of Congress members will have been doing as much they can to raise the cash for next year’s election. However, certain races have the luxury of being the recipient of campaign cash from the national parties. And, at the moment, only one side of the aisle has the readies… at the ready. On top of that, certain races get lots of attention from the netroots, which can raise extremely large sums of money at the drop of a hat.

But money is obviously not the most important factor. Maybe we should be grateful of such a small mercy. In mid-term elections, enthusiasm is critical. How motivated are your base to come out when the big draw of the Presidency isn’t around? When the “coattails” effect isn’t in action…

Well, this survey (bottom of the post) gives us an answer. 40% of Democrats say they’ll either be “not likely” to vote, or definitely won’t vote. On the other side, just 14% of Republicans say the same. And when you consider that there are more registered Democrats than Republicans, that’s a lot of apathy amongst the Democratic base.

Generically, Democrats still hold the lead. But there are a lot of people who are very upset with both parties in Congress. Democrats can only hope that they either don’t vote at all, or choose not to take their anger out on the Democrats by voting Republican, in the usual protest vote strategy that one normally sees at a mid-term election.

In any case, elections aren’t fought generically. They are personal battles. And in the heart of the Republican party right now is an ideological one as well. This is very likely to result in much more conservative candidates than usual. Will that appeal to mainstream America? Or will the fired up nature of the Republican base get the Democrats out in force too?

And yet, while Democratic popularity has taken a nosedive over the last few months, courtesy of Congressional failures to get healthcare reform rolling, and a resurgent Republican party lying about every issue under the sun, they haven’t covered themselves in glory. Americans have extraordinarily unfavourable views of the Republican leadership – and a 70% unfavourable view of the Republicans in Congress in general.

How, in such circumstances, could the Republicans possibly gain?

The answer lies in whether Obama can find it within himself to deliver the goods to the nation. He seems to be forgetting that just a year ago his agenda was given a very positive reception by the American people. An agenda that was far more progressive than what is currently making its way through Congress.

He is wasting his mandate by not insisting on the policies that the American people actually voted for, and which continue to be popular in national polling.

Healthcare reform is key, but so is the environment, and, of course, getting the economy up and running again. Which means getting people into work.

Governing is a far more difficult job than campaigning. But what’s disappointing so many of us Obama fans right now is that we believed that if anyone could thread the needle, if anyone could use their leadership skills to bring Congress on his side, it would be Obama.

A year to go, and there’s all to play for. But if Obama messes the 2010 election up, his presidency will be effectively over before it’s even started.

America can do without that.

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