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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Can Dems win the ‘Bystanders’?

Aaron Blake of The Fix has a post, “Who doesn’t care about politics? People who would otherwise vote for Democrats.” It’s about “the bystanders.” These are the 10 percent of Americans who aren’t registered to vote and don’t really follow political news.” Blake mines the data from a new Pew Research study and observes:

So why do these people matter? Because politics is as much about who doesn’t participate as who does.
American politics is dominated by the wealthy, the old and the educated — because they’re the ones playing the game. The “bystanders,” as you might imagine, are not wealthy, old or educated. They’re also disproportionately Hispanic.
Hispanics’ share of the “bystanders” (32 percent) is about 2½ times as large as their share of the entire population (13 percent), and young people’s share of the most apathetic group (38 percent) is nearly twice their share of the populace (22 percent).
These “bystanders,” as a whole, also tend to favor the Democratic Party and a liberal ideology — to the extent that they even care, of course.

Assuming the Latinos referenced in the study are eligible voters, Democrats have a challenge to meet in persuading more of them to get registered, since voter registration status remains the most reliable indicator of who is likely to vote. This won’t be done with gimmicks. It is apparently not enough that the GOP is all-out opposed to reforms that could help Latinos improve their lives. Like all demographic groups, they need to feel that they have a stake in the party they are being asked to support.
As for youth ‘bystanders,’ some more creative approaches to get young people registered and motivated are urgently needed, especially for midterm elections. This may be the most progressive generation ever, in terms of their attitudes. But that doesn’t mean much if they sit out elections. Dems may need to hold a summit to address this biennial problem that keeps festering on the party’s prospects for growth.

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