New York Times columnist David Leonhardt shares a vision of a brighter future for Democrats. It is predicated, however, on meeting a difficult challenge — increasing voter participation among liberals who haven’t been voting.
If liberals voted at the same rate as conservatives, Hillary Clinton would be president. Even with Donald Trump’s working-class appeal, Clinton could have swept Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
If liberals voted at the same rate as conservatives, Democrats would control the Senate. Clinton or Barack Obama could then have filled the recent Supreme Court vacancy, and that justice would hold the tiebreaking vote on campaign finance, labor unions and other issues.
If liberals voted at the same rate as conservatives, the country would be doing more to address the two defining issues of our time — climate change and stagnant middle-class living standards. Instead, Trump is making both worse.
Ditto for health care, immigration and education, among other defining issues. Regarding tommorrow’s GA-6 election, Leonhardt writes, “Jon Ossoff, has a real chance to win partly because he isn’t suffering from the gap in voter passion and commitment that usually bedevils Democrats, especially in off-year races.”
As for the nation-wide implications, “It would be a big deal if Democrats could more often close their passion-and-commitment gap. Even modestly higher turnout could help them at every level of politics and hasten the policy changes that liberals dream about.”
Leonhardt rightly urges Dems: “..Don’t make the mistake of blaming everything on nefarious Republicans. Yes, Republicans have gerrymandered districts and shamefully suppressed votes (and Democrats should keep pushing for laws that make voting easier). But the turnout gap is bigger than any Republican scheme.”
He also suggests that Democrats do a better job of leveraging digital technology, and adds “I’d encourage progressives in Silicon Valley to think of voting as a giant realm ripe for disruption. Academic research by Alan Gerber, Donald Green and others has shown that peer pressure can lift turnout. Smartphones are the most efficient peer-pressure device ever invented, but no one has figured out how social media or texting can get a lot more people to the polls — yet.”
The DNC and state Democratic parties should develop a template app, with localized voter registratiion deadline alerts, poll location info and maps, a celebrity GOTV pitch and a progressive slate up and running for every federal, state and local election in the U.S.
In terms of the quality of messaging needed to increase liberal turnout, Leonhardt urges “a passionate message of fairness,” — “providing jobs, lifting wages, protecting rights and fighting Trump’s plutocracy” However, “it should not resemble a complete progressive wish list, which could turn off swing voters without even raising turnout.” He believes that many liberals who don’t vote “are not doctrinaire…They are looking to be inspired.”
Sometimes the best way to project a message of fairness is to offer diverse candidates. Democrats urgently need more women, African American, Asian American and Latino candidates to run in every district and jurisdiction.
As Leonhardt concludes, “The country’s real silent majority prefers Democrats, if only that majority could be stirred to vote.”
Good points, all. But let’s not forget that many citizens don’t vote because of problems associated with voter registration requirements and voting convenience. Democrats must make Saturday voting, early voting, on-line and mail voting and universal automatic registration top priorities. And Dems are going to need better monitoring of voter suppression practices like “caging” and other methods used to obstruct voters of color and younger voters.
Leonhardt is surely right that Democrats can and must do a better job of engaging liberal non-voters. It’s a tough, but do-able challenge and it’s one Dems can’t shirk — if they want to be competitive in the upcoming election cycles.