NEW! [Below] "While the packaging of Republican Party politics has evolved since 2000, what remains unaltered is a bedrock commitment to regressive tax cuts, a sharp curtailment of worker power, and the elimination of health, environmental, and economic regulations. This is an agenda that, structurally, has limited electoral appeal. Indeed, there is a reason that since 1988, excluding 2004, no Republican presidential candidate has exceeded 48 percent of the popular vote.
"In this post, I seek to explore whether or not the Republican Party's positions on economic issues defines how likely voters view the party. I am especially interested in how likely voters that self-identify as Republicans conceptualize their own party....
"We actually know a lot more about the policy positions that politicians and parties hold than we give ourselves credit for. This is in large part because voting records are publicly available. It’s there, not in private anonymous comments, that elected officials reveal their expressed preferences, as opinion is combined with power to fundamentally reshape people's lives....
"The political scientist E. E. Schattschneider argued that 'democracy is unthinkable save in terms of the parties.' For Schattschneider, parties solved an information problem that arises with advanced (post-)industrial society. Put simply, the kinds and quantity of policies that arise are of such complexity and scale that no one person could ever hope to know enough to make an informed voting decision. The parties then are to work as heuristics. With their platforms they work to simplify the great issues of the day. But if this metric by which we are to judge their relative success, they have evidently failed.
"...But these findings suggest that despite the ideological drift of the parties in Congress, voters don’t always see the choices they have as being distinct on issues where the parties are in fact quite different.
"As for why Republicans voters in particular don't see a difference between the two major parties, there are many causes. Motivated reasoning likely plays a large role. If a Republican voter doesn’t think mining companies should dump debris into a stream, why would they think their elected representative would support this policy?
"This is a long-running trend, of voters, especially Republican voters, denying the extremism of the positions that the party holds on questions of political economy. Matthew Yglesias, formerly of Vox, terms this phenomenon 'the politics of incredulity.' For him, such voters are a major reason why these conditions persist. He argues 'voters find [the Republican Party's position on economic issues] so outlandishly bad that they'll only believe someone espouses them if you can convince them first that the person in question is a heartless monster.' For Republican voters in particular, Yglesias adds: 'Consequently, people who align with Republicans on broad values themes — whether opposition to abortion rights, love of guns, patriotism, or panic at the thought of a diversifying country — find it simply not credible that their champions are actually running on a politically toxic agenda that would clearly lose elections.'"
"Republicans Don't Know Anything About Their Party. That's Very Bad for American Democracy." By Ethan Winter, Data for Progress, December 31, 2020
[Below] Polling, for all of its shortcomings, may help to describe dominant characteristics of people by their political identity. This can help to guide messaging: "A significant number of Americans believe misinformation about the origins of the coronavirus and the recent presidential election, as well as conspiracy theories like QAnon, according to a new NPR/Ipsos poll."
"Even If It's 'Bonkers,' Poll Finds Many Believe QAnon And Other Conspiracy Theories." By Joel Rose, NPR, December 30, 2020
[Below] "It wasn’t because voters were turned off by leftist sloganeering but because Dems failed to inspire their own base—and the data prove it."
"Centrist Dems Are Wrong About November’s Losses." By Steve Phillips, The Nation, December 21, 2020
[Below] POLLING: The number of Black registered voters in Georgia increased by about 130,000 between Oct. 11, 2016, and Oct. 5, 2020, the largest increase among all major racial and ethnic groups, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Georgia Secretary of State’s Office data.
"Black, Latino and Asian Americans have been key to Georgia’s registered voter growth since 2016." Pew Research Center, December 21, 2020
[Below] POLLING: Black eligible voters in Georgia have played a significant role in driving the growth of the state’s electorate over the past two decades. Between 2000 and 2019, Georgia’s eligible voter population grew by 1.9 million, with nearly half of this increase attributed to growth in the state’s Black voting population, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of new census data.
"Black eligible voters have accounted for nearly half of Georgia electorate’s growth since 2000." Pew Research Center, December 15, 2020
[Below] "For about a decade, voters have been more favorable to Democratic positions on health care, climate, immigration, taxes, and gun safety. Yet, the public support for our policy agenda has not translated into commensurate political support especially in redder states.
"Historically, the Republican Party has been less popular than the Democratic Party - although neither party is adored. But Republicans have generally been more popular than their policies. The Republican policy agenda is incredibly unpopular. Voters oppose cuts to Social Security and Medicare, cutting taxes for the wealthy, and allowing corporations to melt the planet and poison people for profit.
"The fact that Democrats are the more party popular and have a more a popular agenda, but struggle to win enough elections to implement that agenda is a source of great frustration.
"Our party is better liked and trusted than the Republicans. We have won the popular vote in seven of the previous eight elections. Yet, our political power comes nowhere near matching our popularity. Why is this? Because our electoral system is inherently biased against Democrats. The Electoral College and Senate give massively disproportionate power to the GOP’s shrinking base of white non-college educated voters....
"Up until the moment the Electoral College is abolished and/or we add a half dozen states to the Union, Democrats will be playing a lot of the game in Republican territory. Therefore, Democratic politicians need to win over more voters that are inherently skeptical of the Democratic Party. We need to improve perceptions of the brand...."
"The Democratic Brand in 2020 and Beyond." By Dan Pfeiffer, The Message Box, December 8, 2020
[Below] This analysis of exit polls from the 2020 Presidential election, "which was written by Trump chief pollster Tony Fabrizio, shows how Trump advisers were privately reckoning with his loss even as the former president and many of his supporters engaged in a conspiracy theory-fueled effort to overturn the election. The autopsy was completed in December 2020 and distributed to Trump’s top political advisers just before President Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration."
"Post Election Exit Poll Analysis, 10 Key Target States." Prepared by Fabrizio, Lee & Associates, December 2020 (archived copy)
[Below] CONSERVATISM: The first link below is an overview of the longer article in the second link.
"As Pandemic Soars to Deadly New Heights, 'Conservative Ideology Itself' Blamed for Disastrous US Response." By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams, December 3, 2020
"It's Not Just Trump: COVID-19 Is The Test That Conservatism Was Built To Fail." By Michael Linden and Sammi Aibinder, TPM, November 30, 2020. (archived)
[Below] “The election has shattered the Democratic illusion that demography is destiny. A far-right nativism can appeal to many voters (including those of Hispanic and African-American ethnicity) who were assumed to be part of an emerging left-of-center consensus…. Trump, win or lose, doesn’t merely have a post-November 3 afterlife. As a political force he has never been anything but an afterlife. One of the reasons there cannot be a postmortem on Trumpism is that Trumpism is postmortem.
“Its core appeal is necromantic. It promised to make a buried world rise again: coal mines would reopen in West Virginia, lost car plants would return to Detroit. Good, secure, unionized muscle jobs would come back. The unquestionable privilege of being white and male and native would be restored. Trump did not manage to do any of this, of course. But, in a sense, that very failure keeps the promise pure, unadulterated by the complexities of reality….
“…What Trump stumbled on was that the solution to the [Republican] party’s chronic inability to win a majority of voters in presidential elections was to stop trying and instead to embrace and enforce minority rule. This possibility is built into the American system. The electoral college, the massive imbalance in representation in the Senate, the ability to gerrymander congressional districts, voter suppression, and the politicization of the Supreme Court—these methods for imposing on the majority the will of the minority have always been available. Trump transformed them from tactical tools to permanent, strategic necessities.
“As we are now seeing, the difference for a democracy is existential…. A program of consolidating the means by which a minority can gain and retain power must try to institutionalize itself, to become so embedded that it can withstand the majority’s anger. To do that, it must not merely evade the consequences of losing the popular vote in this or that election. It must, insofar as it can, make those elections irrelevant.
“This is the most important thing to understand about the postmortem Republican Party. The logic is not that a permanently minority party may move toward authoritarianism but that it must. Holding power against the wishes of most citizens is an innately despotic act. From 2016 onward, the GOP has become not so much the RINO Party, Republican in name only. It is the RIP party, repressive in perpetuity. When Trump said on Fox & Friends at the end of March that Democrats want ‘levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,’ he was openly redefining the meaning of the vote. Voting, in this formulation, is something to be ‘agreed to’—or not—by Trump himself. Democracy is no longer rooted in the consent of the governed, but in the contingent permission of the indispensable leader.
“In all the noise of the 2020 election, it was easy to miss the signal that was not being sent. The incumbent president made no effort even to go through the motions of presenting a future open to deliberation by citizens. He had no policy agenda for a second term—the GOP merely readopted its platform from 2016, without even bothering to delete its multiple attacks on ‘the current president.’ Why? Because arguments about policy are the vestiges of a notion that Trump has killed off: the idea that an election is a contest for the support, or at least the consent, of a majority of voters. Such arguments implicitly concede the possibility that there is another, equally legitimate choice. That is precisely what the posthumous Republican Party cannot and does not accept.”
"Democracy's Afterlife: Trump, the GOP, and the rise of zombie politics." By Fintan O'Toole, The New York Review, December 3, 2020 issue
[Below] RURAL AREAS: "I’m the chair of the local Democratic Party in a Wisconsin county that Donald Trump won. It wasn’t for a lack of progressive organizing. It was because national Democrats have failed communities like mine."
Opinion: "Why Democrats Keep Losing Rural Counties Like Mine." By Bill Hogseth, POLITICO, December 1, 2020
[Below] "The 2020 presidential election shows that, more than ever, the Democratic Party has become the party of educated voters. For the next four years, Republicans will play up that divide to expand their own base."
"Why Republicans Want to Make Class, Not Race, the New Political Fault Line." By Ken Stern, Vanity Fair - Hive, November 30, 2020
[Below] "The moderate Republican is a myth. For all the Lincoln Project’s assertions that it would peel away Republican voters, the president actually secured a larger share of the Republican vote than he did in 2016. Some 94% of Republicans looked back on the debacles and racism of the last four years and concluded that they wanted more. This is not a delusion; it is the core of the Republican party. Biden would like to frame his presidency as a return to normality after the Trumpian exception. The reality, however, is that Trump doesn’t represent something new; it emerges from the long shadow that white supremacy cast over American history."
"Why Biden shouldn't extend an olive branch to Republicans." By Joshua Craze and Ainsley LeSure, The Guardian (UK), November 26, 2020
[Below] "Expecting 2008, Democrats got 2016 again, an unnervingly close election that Joe Biden appears to have won by razor-thin margins in a few states....
"...But what happened in the seven major Texas border counties whose population of 2.6 million is 90 per cent Mexican in origin (Tejanos)? The national party has many neglected or abandoned constituencies, including Puerto Rico, Indian Country and Appalachia, but southern Texas has a unique strategic significance.....
"As the fantasy of great gains in Texas dissipated, Democrats were stunned to discover that a high turnout had instead propelled a Trump surge along the border.....
"...As Congressman Filemón Vela (Brownsville) was quoted as saying in the Valley Morning Star, a Harlingen newspaper, 'I think there was no Democratic national organisational effort in South Texas and the results showed. The visits are nice, but without a planned media and grassroots strategy you just can’t sway voters. When you take voters for granted like national Democrats have done in South Texas for forty years, there are consequences to pay.'"
"Rio Grande Valley Republicans." By Mike Davis, London Review of Books, November 19, 2020
[Below] RELATIONAL ORGANIZING: "The pandemic wrecked traditional campaigning. Relational organizing stands to reinvent it."
"The first thing relational organizing evangelists say is that their approach is nothing new. Word-of-mouth and community-based activism were the backbone of the civil rights, women’s rights, farmworkers’, and labor movements. Political parties once had their own local networking machines, for better or worse, facilitated by free holiday turkeys, reliable snowplowing, and government jobs for somebody’s nephew. But in the second half of the 20th century, just as more Americans gained access to the ballot box, campaigns turned to consumer-based approaches like television advertising, and mass marketing became the primary way politicians reached voters."
"Community-based groups already steeped in organizing have been quicker to use the strategy than candidates have. Political campaigns are often cautious, risk averse, and shaped by what’s worked before. With high stakes and limited resources, innovation is constrained. So while Democratic candidates have taken note of relational organizing, few, including Joe Biden, have fully embraced it. To the dismay of organizers who believe the resources of a presidential campaign could be harnessed to engage Americans on a transformative scale, his campaign’s strategies skew toward the conventional. 'We’re in the fight right now for the soul of our democracy,' says Paschall, 'and more digital ads and more television isn’t the answer.'"
"The Secret to Beating Trump Lies With You and Your Friends." By Pema Levy, Mother Jones, November+December 2020 Issue
[Below] "'The true power and possibility of this project is not onscreen,' explains executive producer Naomi Klein. 'That resides in the movement of movements that is fighting for this vision of radical repair every day.'"
"'Years of Repair': New Animated Film Imagines the Future to Come Inspired by a Vision of Justice and the Common Good." Common Dreams, October 3, 2020
[Below] "Beneath the dreary furor of the partisan wars, most Americans agree on fundamental issues facing the country. Large majorities say that government should ensure some form of universal health care, that it should do more to mitigate global warming, that the rich should pay higher taxes, that racial inequality is a significant problem, that workers should have the right to join unions, that immigrants are a good thing for American life, that the federal government is plagued by corruption. These majorities have remained strong for years. The readiness, the demand for action, is new."
"Make America Again." By George Packer, The Atlantic, October 2020 issue.
[Below] "In his book The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution, legal scholar and public policy analyst Ganesh Sitaraman writes the following: 'When it is used today, ‘progressive’ is not usually thought of as describing someone with a coherent worldview or philosophy. Instead, it is generally thought of as a term to describe those who prefer not to be called ‘liberal,’ those who are on the far left side of the political spectrum, or those who are part of a conglomeration of center-left groups in American politics.
"...Sitaraman is telling us the word progressive, which has become virtually ubiquitous in contemporary American political discourse, is effectively meaningless: A word that carries several different and conflicting meanings has, essentially, no real meaning...."
"How to Make Progressivism Mean Something Again: A Message to the American left." By Win McCormack, Res Publica column, The New Republic, October 2020
[Below] MESSAGING; PSYCHOLOGY: Abstract: "Truth is commonly viewed as the first casualty of war. As such the current circulation of fake news, conspiracy theories and other hostile political rumors is not a unique phenomenon but merely another example of how people are motivated to dispend with truth in situations of conflict. In this chapter, we theorize about the potentially evolved roots of this motivation and outline the structure of the underlying psychology. Specifically, we focus on how the occurrence of intergroup conflict throughout human evolutionary history has built psychological motivations into the human mind to spread information that
(a) mobilize the ingroup against the outgroup,
(b) facilitate the coordination of attention within the group and
(c) signal commitment to the group to fellow ingroup members.
In all these instances, we argue, human psychology is designed to select information that accomplishes these goals most efficiently rather than to select information on the basis of its veracity. Accordingly, we hypothesize that humans in specific instances are psychologically prepared to prioritize misinformation over truth."
From the article: "...three ways in which falsehoods can serve adaptive functions. First, the spread of false information can facilitate the coordination of groups because such information more strongly can send the key signal that it is time to 'go!' Second, statements containing false, illogical or unlikely representations can serve as enhanced signals of group commitment because such representations can be a signal of awareness of group-specific representations and exclusive commitment to the group. Third, statements containing blatant falsehoods can function as signals of dominance."
NEW! [Below] MESSAGING; PSYCHOLOGY: "The high-stakes science of campaign messaging reveals that success at the ballot box hinges more on how you feel about things than on what you think about them. Is anyone getting it right?"
From the article:
"Three Principles of Effective Messaging
"Principle #1: Know what networks you're activating....
"Principle #2: Speak to voters' values and emotions....
"Principle #3: Tell a coherent, memorable story...."
"How to Win an Election." By Drew Westen Ph.D., Psychology Today, published April 29, 2020; last reviewed on May 26, 2020; accessed July 3, 2022 [See Weston's book, The Political Brain, here.]
NEW! [Below] MONEY IN POLITICS: "The 2010 Supreme Court decision further tilted political influence toward wealthy donors and corporations."
"Citizens United Explained." By Tim Lau, Brennan Center for Justice, December 12, 2019
NEW! [Below] POLITICAL/ECONOMIC HISTORY: "Can Liberal Democracy Survive the Decline of the Middle Class?"
""The Future of History." By Francis Fukuyama, Foreign Affairs, January/February 2012