Thursday, November 13, 2008
The moronic middle
This is a great article and it neatly explains why a country can elect a Reagan and a Obama and why partisans of both parties hate Clinton and Bush, respectively for their squishiness.
Moving centrists toward one’s candidacy is not a process that hinges on taking the right policy stands, either. Instead, it involves the enthusiasm and social contagion that builds around exciting candidates. We know from several volumes of political-science research that less-informed voters commonly substitute someone else’s judgment for their own. That someone else is often a spouse, workmate, or neighbor knowledgeable and enthusiastic about one of the candidates. Support for a candidate spreads through social influence processes.
It is therefore no accident that Sarah Palin’s nomination gave John McCain the only lead that he had during the fall campaign. She was Senator McCain's only hope for closing the enthusiasm gap, but then economic crisis stalled the gains. Polls will show that Barack Obama had social contagion working in his favor to pull the incoherent center in a leftward direction.
The key to electoral victory is holding your base with policy and exciting the moronic middle with charisma. McCain never got that. He thought he could win over those who were in the middle of the road with his maverickiness but he ended up losing far more in his base. Obama did accomplish something remarkable, he got a higher percentage of votes than any Democrat in a generation. Still, that was not many more votes than Bush got in 2004. The big story was how many fewer votes that McVain got.
In 2004, turnout was 6 percentage points higher than in 2000. But Gans said he believed it did not spike more this year because fewer Republicans went to the polls. While it may be premature to draw conclusions, Gans said, it appeared that Republican voting declined 1.3 points, to 28.7 percent of the electorate, while Democratic turnout rose from 28.7 percent to 31.3 percent of the electorate.
The Democratic increase struck some analysts as modest, considering the party’s immense get-out-the-vote operation, strong anti-Bush sentiment and Obama's popularity.
“It sort of calls into question some of the vaunted ground game discussion, the whole turnout machine,” said a Democratic strategist who did not want to be quoted by name criticizing Obama’s campaign. “The GOTV effort was redoubled in 2008 compared to 2004, but it did not seem to make that big of a difference.”
Despite all the advantage that Obama had going into the election it was really the economic crisis that pushed him over the top. We are still a right-leaning country and if the Republicans had a candidate that could articulately express conservative positions then they will win.
Diego: Some follow politics more than others and it is hard to blame those who are limited to what they learn from TV due to time and other constraints. I'm not sure how much the elections turn out to be a high school popularity contest but that factors in to some extent and I don't like it. Moronic is a harsh word though!
I have seen this effect first hand this election as someone I know missed two months of work due to an injury. Once away from their politicialy toxic work environment their views began to slowly change. It was something to watch over time. When they returned to work, the politics returned. Moronic is still harsh though! But I understand.