So George W Bush got a majority of the popular vote, the first to do it since his father in 1988. Everybody I know is crying in their beer now. I should be pretty depressed too, but really there’s a spring in my step this morning. I’ve got this politics bug bad, and this is one of the most fascinating days in American history.
The question on my mind today is: how’d they do it? Looked at as separately as possible for policy questions and “issues,” what did they do to win the vote? You can’t tell me W has an agenda for America that the public has gotten behind, because he hardly has an agenda at all. “Tax cuts.” Anything you can sum up in two words is not an agenda. The country has been evenly split, but somehow there were more of them on election day. Here’s what I think, keep in mind it’s Wednesday morning and still very new.
GOTV – They kicked our asses on this one, pure and simple. About halfway through Saturday’s canvassing in Milwaukee, I realized that the “undecided” voters were not going to vote. It was as simple as that. Victory was going to be found in getting more of our supporters to the polls, not in convincing more people to vote for us. Democrats have a traditional advantage here, is the common wisdom. But if that’s so, why do most Likely Voter models assume more Republicans will vote?
The effort in Wisconsin was very disorganized. We had way more people and resources than the Republicans did in Wisconsin, but we didn’t use them well. Saturday we were still knocking on doors asking for names and phone numbers. Why didn’t we have that information in July? Some of the independent groups had lists of voters and addresses organized by block. Why didn’t the party? It’s called information technology. Florida hired an outside firm to generate a list of felons. Inaccurate and abhorrent as that is, it’s and example of using IT for political effect. If the party doesn’t know where its supporters live, it should hire a marketing research firm to find out. Next time I want names, in an interactive database, and I want to canvass with a printout of our efforts on the block so far in my hands.
CONTEST EVERY STATE – The Republicans put a lot of effort in Blue States they didn’t need. Who really thought they would win Pennsylvania or Michigan? In fact, at this writing, it is still possible, even likely, that every state will go the same way it did in 2000! But the popular vote has definitely shifted (although not by much) towards Bush. It makes him look like a big winner. Even if he hasn’t won Wisconsin, Minnesota, or Iowa, he has done well enough there and in Pennsylvania to tip the popular vote scales. We should do more in Texas, Georgia, Virginia, Louisiana. We won’t win those in the near future (well, maybe Virginia, and Texas, the second most urban state, by 2012) but a lot of dispirited Democrats sit home in those places. Turnout in “our counties” in the South would make it look better nationally for the Dems. Strong local candidates will help. But we had some pretty good Senate candidates who just couldn’t survive the Bush surge in many of these states.
BALLOT INITIATIVES – many people are going to say Bush won this election by demonizing gays and lesbians. The interesting thing is how: by drawing social conservative to the polls to vote for anti-gay ballot initiatives. These voters also pulled the lever for Bush. Democrats need to find popular progressive issues and put them on the ballot to drum up turnout: stem cell research or drug re-importation would have been good ones this year.