Who Hijacked Our Country

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Too Many Focus Groups?

This column by Anna Quindlen is still more evidence that the recent election wasn’t about Left or Right, Democrat or Republican. She says “Call it realignment, or moderation. Just don’t call it liberal or conservative…Those labels don’t really apply. That’s how it was possible for voters to both reject both an abortion ban in South Dakota and affirmative action in Michigan …Both results are at least partly fear of government gone too far.”

She also says “Ultimately the Republicans lost the confidence of even some of their own because the stranglehold of the radical religious right changed them from the party of Lincoln to the party of Leviticus.” This is a warning to the new Democratic Congress not to make the same mistake by overplaying their hand.

Quindlen also makes the point that politicians have relied too much on focus groups and micro-targeting. The everyday conversations you overhear — at the bus stop, the supermarket, anywhere — might not be a scientific sampling, but they’re a strong indication of what America is thinking. Politicians used to have their ear to the ground and have a finger on the public pulse. Maybe there’ll be a partial return to that and a little less reliance on political labels, market research and political consultants.

When Nixon and Agnew were running for the White House in 1968, somebody described Agnew’s rhetoric (not that I agreed with it) as “the kind of things people are saying over coffee, over backyard fences.”

Just a few days after the 2004 election, we were sitting in a coffee shop in a little redneck town in Oregon. The group at the next booth all seemed to agree with each other that they didn’t like Bush, they were just voting against Kerry.

Quindlen says “Outside the D.C. bubble are fast-food joints, school parking lots, health clubs, corner taverns and millions and millions of living rooms in which citizens, who every two years are known affectionately as voters, gather to talk about what they are thinking. If the guys in the GOP, particularly the guys in the White House, had had eavesdroppers out there in the last six months, they would have known that they were going down the tubes.”


Blogger Lizzy said...

I think she's right.

December 2, 2006 at 9:04 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Lizzy: I do too. She makes some good points.

December 2, 2006 at 10:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good article. I would say that hyper-partisan politics benefits the Republicans more than the Dems because they are more dependent on their base. They don't mind only getting 51% of the vote.

That's why I'm so glad we were able to get some moderately conservative folks elected in the red states.

December 2, 2006 at 2:54 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

J. Marquis: I think you're right, Republicans benefit more from political extremism. Maybe it'll start being less true; we'll see. Right after the Terri Schiavo fiasco, a lot of experts were saying that it didn't matter if Republicans alienated 75% of the country, because tens of millions of Biblethumpers would be more motivated than ever.

December 2, 2006 at 4:41 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

Let's hope the experts are wrong about what they were saying after the Schiavo fiasco.

Quindlen seems to always write thoughtfully. Thanks for that link!

I agree with the Major, it is good to get some moderate Dems elected in "red" states. This may ultimately help "un-brainwash" some western red states by proving that Democrats are not all foam-at-the-mouth "liberals", and that many Democrats are actually more interested in what happens to the Average Joe and Jane than the Republicans are.

For too long now, the GOP has had a stranglehold on voters in the mountain states and in the South. The GOP has falsely used religion to steer many voters, and it has also targeted certain areas of the West by pushing land-and-resource-use proposals that are defined by an "us versus them" approach, with "us" being us poor little locals, and "them" being the Democrats. Such proposals don't promote a "work together" attitude, and often seem designed to punish the left, or to banish the Democrats into "irrelevancy. After all, it's politically expedient to the only party people will consider voting for, right? In some "red state" areas of the West, it is that way.

The GOP politicians are mostly a bunch of charlatans when it comes to how they manipulate rural voters. The election of moderate Democrats in some of these parts of the country will at least open the door for the Dems to promote the agenda of their party, should they have the skills to do so. I hope they will figure out a way to get some kind of message across.

A few years ago, I looked at places like eastern Oregon and Washington, Idaho, Wyoming... and thought of them as lost causes when it comes to getting people to vote for Democrats. Now I'm not so sure that is the case. I do think it will take the Dems more than just the next two years controlling the House and Senate before rural voters will start getting the idea that the Democratic party is not evil, godless, and out to take away things such as property, or jobs based on natural resources.

December 2, 2006 at 7:10 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Snave: Yeah, it’s good that some moderate Democrats got elected in red states. This may be an effective counter to all the Rovian stereotyping — that anyone to the left of Bush is a navel-gazing Satan-worshipping child killer. Democrats (assuming that a few of them actually mean what they say) definitely care more about working Americans and non-VIPs. It’s absurd that so many working people have voted against their own self-interest based on “I hate fags and so do the rightwing Republicans.”

You’re right that it’ll take longer than just two years for Democrats to counter all these long-standing prejudices among rural and Southern voters. Let’s hope they can stay in Congress long enough to change these perceptions.

December 3, 2006 at 10:29 AM  

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