Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Accomplished: 0; Spent: $4 billion--A few lessons

Of course, that's just my perspective.  Based on my scoring proposed in my final Pre-election post, absolutely none of the objectives were accomplished.  A few things of a negative nature were accomplished, though I did not put a pre-election valuation on them:

The face of the miserable short-term future chosen by the Florida voters "in their wisdom". 

  • The Republicans will have drawn the conclusion that they have just the thing to offset the Democrats' Get-Out-the-Vote strategy:  dumping a couple hundred million in attack ads from dark sources in the last days of the campaign.  That's what they did this time, and it moved the needle 2-3% across the board, about the equivalent of what the Democrats' GOTV can accomplish in its best days.  Unfortunately, the massive money dump worked for the Republicans this time, while the Democrats' "we don't spend as much, but we do it better" did not.  So, the Republicans will be even less open to the idea of spending restrictions. 
  • Some Democrats will have learned that their strategy--avoiding their party and their nation's leader in the hopes of maintaining some sort of squishy moderate, non-Obama Democratic posture in states where Obama approval was weak and Democratic identification also--reeked of hypocrisy and failed miserably. Those Democrats may not have much of a political career to come back to after that failure, though. A few who fell honorably and did not fail miserably as campaigners--I'm thinking of Kay Hagan, possibly Mary Landrieu if her runoff does not succeed, a few of the Congressional candidates--may live to fight another day. 
  • The American electorate--those low-participation, low-information voters who allowed themselves to be numbed into staying home or browbeaten into voting against their economic interests by the wave of negative ads--they will experience the joy of continued gridlock and obstruction (the Democrats might get into blocking things more, now, to give the Republicans a taste of frustration) which they have richly earned ("in their wisdom"). 
  • The central Democratic committees will have learned that they cannot "localize" Federal elections anymore; further, state legislative and gubernatorial elections must be understood to directly impact the Federal elections through rules on voter ID, vote counting, redistricting, and now, perhaps, even Electoral College vote allocation.   Also, it might help to have something like an issue to point to as a reason voters might want to choose their candidates. 

What did I learn?  No more money for piecemeal contributions to individual candidates, trying to leverage close races (my miserable $5-$10 bits, spread around too widely, were drowned by megabucks, even if they added up to more than 1 or 2 ninety-millionths of that $4 billion in wasted money, 90,000,000 being the approximate number of voters in the elections); almost all of the candidates I backed lost (and it is stupid to try to improve that percentage by only contributing to candidates who are going to win, at my level).   It was like throwing a coin to a few selected beggars who were all crowded around me;  there were always more of them, and even the ones who received my pittance immediately came back for more.

Although President Obama will continue to labor tirelessly for us ingrates, I don't feel there is much he can do or could have done this time around.  What, exactly (without getting into name-calling), is the problem with him, anyway?  (That's directed to those who "disapprove" of him.)  To give just the most obvious example,  the economy was in shambles and falling into a deep Crater when he came in; his policies helped get us out, and onto a reasonably healthy basis.  How much credit did he get in the campaign for that?  Similar things could be said about healthcare, diplomacy, involvement in wars.  And Ebola?  Please.

I will never draw the lesson that politics, the art and science of large-scale human interaction through the advocacy and administration of public policy, doesn't matter in this country (a conclusion many seem to have drawn);  it is among the things that matter most, in the long-term view of a society which is critical for the future success of the human experiment.  I will say that this election's failure will have effects that are mostly transitory (loss of opportunity), because I expect them to be washed away in two years by a larger wave, in an opposite direction, by leaders with a plan and a new organizational approach to win elections.   We'll just have to muddle through a couple more years of asinine Congressional behavior,  with some of the leading protagonists being the donkeys who just won their elections with their dirty money.


Chin Shih Tang said...

A note on my estimate of 90 million voters in 2014: has published a preliminary estimate of turnout in 2014 ( at 36.6%, down from 40.9% in 2010, and from 58% in 2012. Based on the number of voters in the Presidential election of 2012 (129 mm) and in the House elections of 2010, and assuming the rate of increase in eligible voters was steady between 2010-2012-2014, I get the result of 86.4 million voters in 2014. So 90 million seems reasonable, maybe a bit high.

For me, as I indicated earlier, this is no surprise at all, given the efforts to suppress votes by the Republicans and given the absence of significant statewide races in the large states of NY and CA (and TX, essentially, which according to the 538 article had almost the lowest turnout of any state).

I recommend the review of the maps and charts of the statewide turnouts at that posting, which show that, for the most part, the states with the seriously contested races (TX probably doesn't count as one!) had increases in turnout. It's not random!

Chin Shih Tang said...

Further note: that is, the states had increases in turnout vs. the midterm in 2010 (not 2012). The lowest turnout % since 1942.