Every four years there is a flurry of creativity poured into compelling people to vote. You might recollect the Samuel Jackson classic, or the controversial yet interesting "first time" double entendre.
There were others, including Errol Morris' cheeky video at the New York Times' website which is ironically titled "11 excellent reasons not to vote" wherein we hear the popular reasons people propose for abstaining, and a gentle exposition on the silliness of those ideas, climaxing with a charming confession of the real civic pride that voting ought to be, as one interviewee states:
When you come out there is a... you know, "now we're all on the other side" experience and... let's go get a drink and celebrate this thing we only get to do once every 4 years...I'm grateful for all of it, but there's something tragic embedded within it.
In September of 2009 I wrote a diary called Republicans poised for a comeback a la 1994 for which I received 3 recommends, one hot-listing, one donut and many, many comments telling me I'm an idiot.
I'm not here to say I told you so because I was in as much denial as everybody else and the title of my diary was more a warning whistle than a prediction.
But one stark fact of American politics that has always had me fixated is this:
As righteous as those star-studded pleas on behalf of the presidential nominee are, they amplify the vacuum of effective get-out-the-vote efforts in non-presidential years.
As endearing as Morris' video's character is when she encourages everyone to "celebrate this thing we only get to do once every 4 years" she is wrong, and perpetuating a sentiment that is ubiquitous and devastating, particularly since this misperception is held in confounding disproportion by Democratic voters.
The repercussions are much more insidious than simply electoral losses. As if the resulting Republican swings alone weren't enough to merit crisis management, consider how, even on this site, the idle speculations as to what Obama or congress "could've, should've done" to have kept Americans from "turning against them" were legion. Yes even here in this bastion of liberalism and paragon of accuracy it is simply a matter of course to analyze why people "changed their minds."
That is not a dig at the site but merely a poignant symptom of a systemic, media manufactured myth of "Republican Revolutions" and "Shellackings" that are nothing of the sort, and the ensuing effects are far greater than just overly tucked tail.
There is the faux prestige awarded to such worthless rabble as Newt Gingrich, Joe Scarborough, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul or the "Tea-Party," Matt Kibbe or Judson Phillips.
The lie - the grand lie that something is being "said" by the electorate in lieu of what should be the narrative of, "gee Bob, what the hell is wrong with people? Did everyone get drunk and forget there was an election?" - is the excuse to flood the airwaves with even more blathering Republicans with their worthless speculations as to how America has embraced their absurd Contract With America or their "small government" philosophy because "it is, after all, a center-right country!"
It allows people - even on liberal sites and shows, as I made mention - to speculate what Democrats did wrong and to get into slapstick pie fights over who is or is not a legitimate Democrat when really a small percent of voters actually changed their minds but it was simply a different, more Republican electorate by way of attrition.
You might want to point to a "Public Option battle" or soap-boxlessness or "under-selling" this or "overplaying" that but I would point to the graph above. Was there a "brutal, turning off of the electorate" every two years for the past 40 years?
No, it's the tradition of "celebrat(ing) this thing we only get to do once every 4 years."
If it were a "changing of minds" then I guess 2012 was some serious make-up sex. For a small slice of the electorate this may be true in some degree. But looking at the undeniable pattern of people, for the most part, expressing their minds in presidential years and leaving the "off-years" as a carcass to the scavenger party and their militantly-voting base (not to be confused as militant voting base, though they most likely are), and considering it in the light of an evident 53% ceiling for Democrats, it's pretty apparent that the bulk of the problem is that the 30% who only do it every four years are significantly more Democratic, and that's a serious hole in the boat between hard-won presidential victories.
So we live in a country where the the Ted Nugents of the world have a sole, admirable civic quality - they vote - and a pertinent amount of the reasonable, but not necessarily politically-obsessed people don't comprehend their civic responsibility.
Ask the next ten, non-political junkies you know how often they need to vote. Ask them how many congresspeople are up for election every two years and it will baffle you how many will dribble out an answer like "half" or "a third." People just don't really know, and in their defense I'd say that our 320 million-strong nation and its necessarily monstrous government with many, many moving parts; its bifurcated body of Federal vs. State governments; its attendant bureaucracies, and the fact that it's more likely to be discussed in pastoral, patriotic purple prose of "founding fathers" and "freedom" than in the mundane mechanics of governing is a confusing study.
That and the fact that it can be boring.
So some genuine and clever efforts need to be applied to educating the average voter whose carelessness is the cause of our biennial abuse.
I write this diary to bring attention to the real cause of our problems, electorally. To encourage people to be realistic in celebrating a win and to get serious about trying to prevent the imminent swing not just in the form of seats in the house, but in the inevitable narratives that would conspire to weaken a lame-duck president, putting 2 more years into stasis, as we've been for too many congresses.
And those who would point to 2006 as evidence that there is as fair a chance for Democrats to win in non-presidential years as there are in presidential years, I'd tell you to remember it took two wars and a faltering economy to change, what I contend, is a hard and fast line.
I didn't intend to suggest what would be the way to deal with this problem, but in the flurry of writing I'd suggest, aside from piecemeal educating efforts, that actions have to be taken to "nationalize" the themes of the election in such a way that would allow for the star-studded folks among Democrats to put as much creativity into a non-presidential year as they do in a presidential year. It'd be nice if Bill Maher put a Million into an "off-year" GOTV effort.
I remember in 2010 Nate Silver pointed out that a 2% swing in the electorate for Democrats would have resulted in a Democratic house. 2%! That is not an unacheivable number.
I sure wish Samuel L. Jackson had put a little energy then, into telling people to "Wake the fuck up!"