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Gender: Male
Hometown: Rockledge, Florida
Home country: United States of America
Current location: Jacksonville, Fl
Member since: Thu May 1, 2014, 06:18 PM
Number of posts: 116

Journal Archives

Another perspective on the down ticket votes.

First, I am not trying point fingers or assign blame, rather I am interested in getting a better idea on how the votes were cast. One of the things I have had concerns about is with Biden's outreach to GOP or conservative voters is the possibility of them splitting their votes. So they might detest Trump and then vote for other GOP candidates. While a number of never Trumpers have been vocal about voting against the entire party this election, I'm not sure that is what happened. I suspect that there were a lot of split ballots.

I get that there is frustration with poor messaging on some topics (for example the label defund the police) from the progressive side, and that may very well be a factor in how votes were cast. I also get the frustration with the progressive side with how their issues and leaders are addressed (or ignored) by the party leadership. I think it comes down to two basic philosophies on how to approach voters and each has benefits and dangers.

One philosophy is a "big tent" approach where there is outreach to middle of the road or more moderate conservative voters. The other is a appeal to the left by championing their issues. The crux of the matter is that neither approach gets consistent voters. Making matters worse is the perception (real or imagined) that these are polar opposites.

Centrist outreach doesn't always work and even when it does there is no guarantee that agreement on one candidate or issue will carry on through out the ballot. Florida is a good example of how voters can split their ballots. Trump won, but so did a $15 minimum wage initiative. And this is not a isolated incident. Florida voters have kept the GOP in power at the state level yet voted for Obama twice, (attempted) to restore voting rights to ex-felons, approved medical marijuana, etc.. There are significant problems with the state level party leadership and organization that also play into these results, but I think the example holds.

On the other hand more left leaning outreach also doesn't achieve consistent results. The young vote is notoriously (with good reason) hard to get participation and turn out from. Large youth turnout is as decisive as it is rare. When it happens it is big, then never seems to happen again. And the schism with far left voters and the Democratic Party (thanks Ralph Nader) continues. I know of left voters who said they would vote for Biden this time only. One then vowed to never vote for another democratic candidate. (yeah, I think it is dumb and short sighted also)

So my first question is, do we have any good information on split ballot voters yet? On how they think and make their decisions? Not conjecture, but actual data? And if we do, what have we learned? We know that once issues are presented in a way that divorces them from labeling, many democratic and progressive issues become popular. For example at first "Obamacare" was unpopular yet calling it the ACA or looking at specific provisions suddenly it was very popular. So how do split ballot voters think? Is it tribal, they like individual candidates or issues once they become failure with them but are so tied to the other party, officially or not, that they just automatically default to voting R in every other instance? Do split ballot voters believe that it is type of checks and balances? Is it a branding/messaging problem?

If nothing else, the Lincoln Project proves just how good conservatives are at messaging. And that is a deficit that the Democrats desperately need to correct. I know that the Reagan administration didn't view messaging as outreach or education but rather psychological warfare. They weren't interested in finding voters who agreed with them or doing what voters wanted, they wanted to condition voters to agree with their labels and messaging, even when the actual policies might not have been popular. I'm not saying that democrats need to do this, but they do need a way to break through this.

My second question is are the two different types of outreach really mutually exclusive? If we can break through the labeling barrier and articulate positions that might otherwise be popular with centrist and moderate voters then more issues that are important to progressives could be championed. This would allow outreach to both sets of voters at the same time. A second benefit would be that by being able to safely push more left leaning issues, if there is too much resistance to get big changes there is more room for smaller fall back positions that might then be successfull. One of the problems that the ACA had was by having a more moderate starting point, the GOP was able to weaken it and push back implementation of key provisions.This in turn let GOP spread more misinformation about the act as the actually provisions were not in effect. Once they finally were implemented, they became very popular.

I think it was a calculated risk reaching out to republican and more conservative independent voters. Not only was it a risk worth taking, as getting Tump out was of utmost importance, but it was successful. But the trade off may very well have been weaker down ticket results. Ultimately we need to A) understand split ballot voters, and B) figure out a way to neutralize the advantage that conservatives have with labeling and framing the debate. Being able to reach out to both types of voters, energizing left leaning voters and not allowing the GOP to scare the moderate voters is a win/win scenario.

Finally as expanding the ability for people to vote must be another top priority I wonder if there is a way to provide ways to get more access for young and other traditionally non-voters involved as part of this effort. If there is automatic voter registration then spur of the moment decisions allow someone who normally doesn't vote to participate. They don't have to decide they want to vote ahead of time and register. Our current system of voting does not mesh well with non-traditional voters, especially young voters. As the system needs to be improved one of the goal must be to lower barriers and make the process more friendly to non traditional voters.
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