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.”