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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: Dems, Focus More on Persuadable Voters, Not ‘Turnout’

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

Will Higher Turnout Fix the Democrats’ Problems?

Nope, not this election. And not future ones either. I explain in my latest at The Liberal Patriot:

“Turnout myths die hard. In fact they don’t seem to die at all.

That is particularly the case in Democratic circles. You don’t have to talk to a typical Democrat for any length of time before they evince their touching faith in the wonder-working powers of high voter turnout. Interrogate them a little further and it turns out what they really mean is that the stark choices presented to the electorate by Democrats’ progressive policies and Republicans’ reactionary ones will, if presented forcefully enough, produce massive turnout by Democratic-leaning constituencies (nonwhites, young voters, etc) that will neutralize Republican advantages.

We can see the latest example of this in how many Democrats are approaching the 2022 elections. The giant hole the Democrats are now in is hard to deny. Biden’s approval rating, a key indicator of midterm outcomes, is now below 40 percent in the 538 rolling average and below where Trump’s was at this point in the 2018 cycle. Republicans are comfortably ahead on the generic Congressional ballot, which typically underestimates their chances and augurs a big election for them. Gallup just released a comprehensive historical review of midterm indicators (Presidential and Congressional approval, satisfaction with the direction of the country, views on economic conditions) which shows the Democrats’ current situation to be exceptionally grim.

Democrats’ approach to digging out of this hole relies heavily on turnout. Either implicitly or explicitly, Democrats think of issues like abortion, guns, “MAGA Republicans” and, of course, January 6th mostly as ways of motivating their base to turn out at higher levels in the current dismal political environment….

There are, however, a number of reasons why this turnout fix is highly unlikely to work and, in fact, borders on the delusional.

1. Some Simple Math. Start with this: when Democrats persuade a voter to switch sides, that nets two votes for the Democrats (one less for the Republicans, one more for the Democrats). When Democrats turn out one more voter to vote Democratic that is, of course, a net of only one vote for them.

But it’s really worse than that. Typically, Democrats think of increased base turnout in terms of turning out more voters from various pro-Democratic demographic groups—young voters, black voters, Hispanic voters, college-educated whites, whatever. But not all the voters in these groups favor the Democrats so mobilization of more voters from a given group may well net less than one vote per additional voter. For example, looking at current Congressional ballot preferences, Democrats might net only a third of a vote for every additional Hispanic or young voter, six-tenths of a vote from every additional black voter and just a sixth of a vote from every additional college-educated white voter.”

Read the whole thing at The Liberal Patriot!

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