Nov. 5, 2004
Already the strategists are advising the Democrats to go to church more, hunt more, and become more like the Republicans. This strategy has, however, been pushed just about as far as it will go, and in a quarter century of trying has worked only for Bill Clinton, and then only with a lot of help from Ross Perot and a number of lucky breaks.
With over 40 percent of the country still not interested in voting despite massive Get-Out-the-Vote efforts, record turnouts, and endless lines at the polls, it’s worth considering who those 40 percent are before diving headlong into yet more Republican imitation. There are some clear segments of the population that decidedly favored Kerry. There may be a strategy that would move more of those populations to turn out and even higher percentages of them to vote for the Democrat.
Of the 20 percent who said that the economy and jobs was the most important issue (using CNN numbers) 80 percent voted for Kerry. I know it’s too much of a glass-half-full outlook for Democratic leaders, but might it not make sense to find more of those people? Another 8 percent told CNN that health care was the top issue, and 77 percent of them said they’d voted for Kerry.
In addition, 15 percent said Iraq was the top issue, and 73 percent of them backed Kerry.
Just imagine if Kerry had actually had a plan to end corporate trade agreements, institute a jobs program building infrastructure and helping shift us toward renewable energies, if he’d supported single-payer health care, or if he’d been willing to end the Iraq war.
That approach goes against the thinking of the DNC and most high-paid Democratic strategists. They would prefer to focus on the 22 percent of voters who thought “moral values” was most important and the 19 percent who said terrorism was. But Kerry got a whopping 18 and 14 percent of the votes from those groups respectively. He built his whole campaign around terrorism and “values” and couldn’t break 20 percent with this crowd. He fit his military service into every sound bite, and was brought down by voters who had served in the military. Of those 82 percent who said they’d never served in the military (not a small segment of the population), Kerry won by 50 to 49 percent despite having neglected them and given them reason to feel excluded from his events.
As for the “moral values” bunch, Kerry lost heavily among Christians who go to church a lot or claim to. Ten percent of voters said they had no religion, and 67 percent of them voted for Kerry. Another 10 percent were either Jewish (3 percent) or other (7 percent), and each of those groups went 74 percent for Kerry. Of the 40 percent of voters who only went to church occasionally and admitted it, 53 percent voted for Kerry, and of the 14 percent who said they went never, 62 percent backed Kerry. Note that we are talking about a majority of Americans (40 percent plus 14 percent). Why not appeal to that large and growing segment? Why not encourage it to grow faster and to turnout in greater numbers and to vote even more heavily Democrat? We don’t need to exclude religious people in order to stop the futile effort to make them the focus of Democratic campaigns.
The same goes for white people, but nearly a quarter of voters were non-white, and they decidedly favored Kerry. African-Americans were 11 percent of voters, and 88 percent of them voted for Kerry. Imagine if Kerry had given them more of a reason to turnout.
The same goes for old people, but the only age group that favored Kerry was 18 to 29 year olds, who made up 17 percent of the voters.
The same goes for rich people, but they backed Bush. The 45 percent of the voters with incomes under $50,000 backed Kerry with 55 percent, and the 8 percent who had incomes under $15,000 backed him with 63 percent of their votes.
Kerry won 54 percent of urban voters (who made up 30 percent of voters) despite having no dramatic plan for cities and no focus on rebuilding them. Hunting geese did absolutely nothing to increase this turnout or win more of these voters. The Republicans tried to paint Kerry as an urbanite, but he didn’t help.
What I am advocating is not encouraging the cultural divide in the country, but allowing one side of it to have what the other side has two of: a political party. If the Democrats want to win, they’ll start paying attention and shift to a winning strategy that plays to their base, not the other party’s. If the Democrats don’t want to listen, maybe we’ll find someone else who will. Now is the time to start looking.