Republican success in mid-term elections is the result of a well-crafted arsenal: The Seven "D"s:
The voting age population in America in 2014 is 246M people. Deduct registered aliens, prisoners, etc. and you have 227M people who can vote. Almost a quarter of the electorate don't vote at all in any election.
So who came out for last Tuesday's mid-term? 36.6% of the registered population voted in 2014's general election. That's even lower than the 40.9% turnout of 2010. They were largely older, white voters who are strongly conservative and motivated..
The spin by the media of a GOP "landslide" in Tuesday's 2014 election was hardly the referendum on Mr. Obama's policies that GOP chairman Reince Priebus was touting on the Wednesday news programs.
According to the Wall Street Journal, 64% of voters at the polls either support the President or did not see his agenda as an issue. The GOP's favorability ratings remain low. According to Pew, The Republican Party's favorability rating stands at 37%, compared with 46% for the Democratic Party.
So how did the "landslide" for the GOP happen?
Only 13% of the voters who turned out where under 30. A record low. 40% of minorities stayed home, including the Hispanic community, which has been so vocal about immigration reform.
US News reports: "On average, the populations who are likely to avoid the polls are also the populations likely to vote for a Democrat, which presents a challenge for the Democratic Party. The challenge of turning out voters likely factored into the Democratic losses in the midterm elections, when Republicans gained control of the Senate."
The GOP has cultivated the mid-term as their base of power over the last three decades, leveraging the 7 "D"s to make the 3 in 10 registered Republicans, and some disaffected independents who lean Republican, into a dominating political force.
The Seven Ds of the GOP mid-term election strategy:
Divide: We are a more polarized nation than we have ever been before. 36% of Republicans think that the Democratic Party is a threat to the nation's well-being. 27% of Democrats feel that way about Republicans. Pew reports:
"'Ideological silos' are now common on both the left and right. People with down-the-line ideological positions - especially conservatives - are more likely than others to say that most of their close friends share their political views. Liberals and conservatives disagree over where they want to live, the kind of people they want to live around and even whom they would welcome into their families."
How did it get that way? Ask Ronald Reagan.
In 1987 the Reagan Administration's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) abolished the "Fairness Doctrine."
Fox News may advertise "fair and balanced," but broadcasters were required by law to be that way until Ronald Reagan released the airwaves for the propaganda tsunami of Rush Limbaugh and Rupert Murdoch's Right-wing propaganda machine.
Combined with the orchestrated harangue of Republicans around the country about a "liberal bias" in the media, and the polarization began. The GOP owns the media today, and leads by using a whole series of propaganda buzzwords to define both the agenda in the public eye and what the public think about it.
Disenfranchise. The most publicized portion of disenfranchisement are the much-talked about changes in post-2010 census, "gerrymandering," the redistricting favoring Republicans, tougher Voter ID laws, and the curbing of early voting that aim to reduce voting by the poor, minorities, the elderly and the young, most Democratic base voters. In many of the tight races, voter nullification became a factor. The GOP denies Voter ID laws and cross-checking the roles discourages voting, but as Media Matters clearly shows, that is not the case.
Disaffect. The bigger move to disenfranchise the electorate, though, has been through the "buzz" that is dropped into the media by coordinated GOP talking points dropped subtilely into the national dialogue.
"Both sides are equally to blame" we've heard over and over again, even though that myth has been debunked by credible political scientists of both parties.
The anti-Washington buzz plays into the agenda of the Libertarians who control the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party. Disaffection with government turns off moderate voters, mostly middle-class, who then don't participate in elections as "the whole system is corrupt."
It also justifies GOP moves to dismantle the New Deal government that supports the poor and middle class, and remove the restrictions on the very rich over the same kinds of high risk capitalism that lead to the Great Recession.
The result of disaffection is that, overall, party affiliation is at an all-time low. In January, Gallup reported a record high 42% of voters are now "independents."
Disinterest. Another element of the campaign to tune out the American electorate is to generate as much disinterest as possible. The pollution of the press' reputation over the last twenty years has done its damage: 47% of Americans don't trust news sources. Stories about entertainment, sports, traffic and weather do far better than stories about domestic politics, or international affairs.
Pew reports that 17% of Americans don't take in any news daily. Americans 18-29 are significantly less likely to follow political news than those 30+. That impacts turnout in that key Democratic demographic, because an uninformed electorate doesn't turn out to vote.
Distract. Republican operatives will move the public agenda as far away from those shortcomings as possible. In the final days leading up to the mid-term, the GOP was fear-mongering both ISIL and the Ebola virus as a means of keeping the electorate distracted. Republicans use fear and anxiety of "others" and disease to foster the notion that everything that government does is careening out of control, when fact does not support that theory.
Delude. Fact, though, has little to do with GOP politics, or with how they manipulate their core base of voters. A recent Pew study found that consistent conservatives:
- Are tightly clustered around a single news source, far more than any other group in the survey, with 47% citing Fox News as their main source for news about government and politics.
- Express greater distrust than trust of 24 of the 36 news sources measured in the survey. At the same time, fully 88% of consistent conservatives trust Fox News.
- Are, when on Facebook, more likely than those in other ideological groups to hear political opinions that are in line with their own views.
- Are more likely to have friends who share their own political views. Two-thirds (66%) say most of their close friends share their views on government and politics.
By contrast, those with consistently liberal views:
- Are less unified in their media loyalty; they rely on a greater range of news outlets, including some - like NPR and the New York Times- that others use far less.
- Express more trust than distrust of 28 of the 36 news outlets in the survey. NPR, PBS and the BBC are the most trusted news sources for consistent liberals.
- Are more likely than those in other ideological groups to block or "defriend" someone on a social network - as well as to end a personal friendship - because of politics.
- Are more likely to follow issue-based groups, rather than political parties or candidates, in their Facebook feeds.
Democrats. The GOP is focused, well-funded, and very regimented in its operations. They have purged most of the voices of moderation and dissent from the grass roots up to their top political leaders. They have patient, long-term strategies that allow what is clearly a minority party to act as if it is far larger, because Democrats are their own worst enemies.
Pick a political topic, from the economy to job creation to a living wage to women's rights to gun control and Democrats will be all over the place politically. Progressive policies, like a living wage, marijuana reform, paid sick leave, and others, did very well, even while Democrats were being hammered in elective office races. Democrats failed to poke hard enough at the Republicans' dismal record in the worst House of Representatives in U.S. history, or remind voters about the government shut-downs, or that Republicans opposed the economic strategies that lead to job creation and the restored health of the economy.
The polarized GOP has caused the Democratic Party to become even broader than it has in past decades. Consistent messaging is nearly impossible for groups within the party who can ideologically conflict with one another. The ACA for, example, is a place where a large number of Democrats don't feel that the law went far enough.
Democrats don't have the same kind of disciplined propaganda machine. More often than not, they spend the bulk of election cycles responding to Republicans, rather than establishing and controlling the agenda in the public discourse themselves.
Dems are very short-term political thinkers. They respond to the immediate moment, and present information in a way that does not cater to conservatives willing to buy into the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) that the GOP vends like anti-liberal lollipops.
What lessons should we take away from last Tuesday's mid-term? Democrats need to combat the seven "D"s. They need better long-term planning. They must get their message into the news streams ahead of GOP fear mongering. Most of all, they need to address the imbalances in the news media, and re-establish the Fairness Doctrine to force all news organizations back into the game of "fair and balanced," to bring an end to the Right Wing noise machine that helps grease the GOP wheels of regressive, white-power politics.
My shiny two.