Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Solid Democrat Turnout is the Impossible Dream

No one is surprised by stories today in my local newspaper and others that the Democrats can keep control in Washington if they can get a good turnout on Election Day.
by Charlie Leck
No one is surprised that the political analysts are saying the Democrats can hold on to the U.S. Senate next year if they can turn out their voters this November. This isn’t anything new for Democrats. The party has a solid hold on the majority of voters and does in a huge percentage of the states – even states that traditionally vote for Republicans.
Here’s the danged truth about this matter: Democrats just traditionally have trouble getting all their supporters into the election booth. They’ve struggled with this question (why?) for many, many years
Some of the reasons supporters don’t turn out is because of inconveniences caused by some states' voting laws.
Why do you think Republicans in Minnesota and many, many other states want to toughen up laws that govern the right to vote? How many states tried to pass laws in the last few years that would require tougher identification procedures? Or tougher proof of address procedures?
It is no secret that Democrats depend a great deal on voters who live in situations that make it more difficult and inconvenient for them to vote. And Republicans, of course, have no sympathy for such voters and don’t want to do anything to help them out. Republicans traditionally oppose any early-voting laws. Of course they oppose voting-by-mail laws. Image how they feel about voting-on-line laws? They always stand firm against laws that would increase the number of precincts in urban areas that would make it more convenient for people with difficult transit situations to get their voting place.
Here’s a True-Story situation right in south Minneapolis. Until recently, when voting-rights advocates showed her how to vote early and helped her go through the procedure, she just didn’t vote. She’s a poor woman and lives her life in a home that is 15 or 16 blocks from her voting precinct. She moves around with the help of a motorized cart. She isn’t close to a bus line. She would never pay for a taxi because she simply can’t afford to spend her money that way.
Years ago, when I lived in the city, we’d organize crews to go out on Election Day to assist people like this in getting to their voting places. It was a tough organizational task. We’d never get around to all the people we needed to help. The job is easier these days, thanks to laws that make it easier for people to vote. Those laws haven’t gone far enough, but they’ve helped.
Apathy is something that kills Democrats in many elections. And, it is apathy that, many times, is difficult to criticize. You can’t imagine how many people there are who just have to expand vast amounts of energy on surviving and keeping their loved ones fed and sheltered. They’ve lost faith in politicians and political promises. They’ve come to believe that their vote isn’t going to matter one little bit – that it won’t change the difficult circumstances under which they live.
A lack of awareness among voters also hurts Democrats. So many people, who would favor the Democratic Party’s approach to life and law, just aren’t in touch with political information and the potential of holding political power. Campaigns don’t seem to be aimed at that sector of the population because we haven’t yet figured out how to do it.
Age is another factor; and I’m not talking about old age! Young people of eligible voting age are among a very high percentage of those who do not vote. Political scientists believe that a huge percentage of this group of non-voters would likely vote for Democrats if they did vote.
In recent years, some advances have been made in reaching these groups of non-voters. Campaigns have found new ways of reaching these groups, but we’re not going to see a big impact on this year’s election from these new techniques.
Turnout is Key!
The headline is correct. The Democrats can keep control of the Senate this coming November is they can get a strong turnout in an off-year election. There is no doubt that the Democrats could taste the bitter pill of defeat in this election if they don’t make extreme efforts to get voters to turn out and vote.
The country hasn’t bought into the slick line of the Tea Party and the Republicans. It has not given in to the vast power of the wealthy to affect and effect elections. The question about turnout is vital, however. Will the majority cast votes this November?
Look, states like Mississippi and Georgia are really governed and run by minority parties. If Georgia could ever figure out how to turn out those voters with Democratic leanings, we’d get a Democratic U.S. Senator for sure. Though it sounds both impossible and improbable, the same thing is true in Mississippi. Getting a heavy voter turnout in that state is almost impossible and conservatives sure aren’t going to pass laws that make it easier.
At a recent fund-raiser, President Obama had the following to say about voter turnout this November…
“During presidential elections, young people vote; women are more likely to vote; blacks, Hispanics more likely to vote… We do pretty well in presidential elections, but in midterms we get clobbered.
Somehow, the Democratic Party has got to figure out how to treat this November’s election with all the seriousness and vigor that it would put into a presidential election. We just must. To turn the Senate over to the Republicans at this time will be a disaster for the progress we’ve made
This is probably the most serious election of my life-time. In the coming weeks, I’ll deal with some of these crucial Senate races state-by-state.


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