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The biggest lesson of 2012 GOTV efforts is that we can no longer afford to ignore half the country and expect to win.
This excellent post from Erick Erickson describes the way the makers of Political Gravity view winning an election. But the model Erickson uses -- the model that has been used for decades to win campaigns -- is hopelessly limited.
The model is flawed because it views elections from the point of view of campaigns to elect candidates. Instead, we need to focus on getting people on our side, marketing the causes of liberty and a constitutionally limited government.
There is not some massive shift to a welfare mentality in America. There are people taking the free lunch that is being handed to them. We need to inspire these people.
They have been beaten down and told that they cannot have a different life because society is out to get them -- and our side represents that society to them. The deck is stacked against you, they are told, and conservatives are the dealer.
It's powerful in-group out-group psychology, and Obama used it shamelessly. It was the key to his victory, and will be the key to taking back our culture and country.
Obama won by getting people -- single women, especially -- to see themselves as being on his team. His campaign message took a horrible negative, Obamacare, and focused on another horrible negative, forcing people to buy birth control with health insurance, and made some groups think it was not just a positive, but freedom itself.
Birth control, war on women, Big Bird, and making appearances on The View and David Letterman were all to appear to be on Team Single Mom and Team Pop Culture. He "had their back."
Obama spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the summer convincing low information voters that Romney was not on their team. They bought it. Before the Romney campaign was really even engaged, Obama had defined his opponent as the corporate monster who wanted you to hire him so he could fire you.
When someone is not on your team, you distrust whatever they say, believing they're out to deceive you. By the conventions, it was over.
Obama activated his base and played to his activist core followers. He used new data tools to arm those activists with the information they needed to contact and register new voters primed and made ready by Obama's appearances on pop culture TV.
Results of exit polling to determine trends in the electorate suffer a key flaw: they measure the result of get out the vote efforts. That selection bias makes them perhaps useful for seeing how campaign strategies worked, but not for spotting trends in the electorate.
Obama's negative ads succeeded in getting millions of swing voters who were polling in Romney's favor not to go to the polls. Obama turned out his base, and Romney didn't turn out his.
Bruce Donnelly of the Barrington, IL Tea Party sums it up about the failure of the GOTV effort in Illinois, as one state party that failed:
Regardless of the reasons behind these trends, the situation analysis is pretty obvious. Unless the Republican Party does something to start attracting more members between elections, it won't be enough to simply "get out the vote" at election time, or try to persuade voters with costly advertising campaigns.
That demonstrably is not getting the job done, but the party leadership remains in denial about even having a problem. Instead, the latest excuse is to say that the party is "too conservative", or that the Tea Party supporters have "ruined the party" (even though they did not exist prior to 2009, so that hardly explains the above pattern). Others claim that we must figure out how to pander better to specific groups of voters to buy their votes, as the Democrats do.
RB Pundit says the Republicans need to reach out to Hispanics, concluding:
The key is letting go of this idea that we have to steer clear of identity politics and embrace the idea that conservatism is the right path for minority groups. But you need to get specific. And if that requires using race as a means to make the case, so be it. Democrats are going to continue doing it, so we have to figure out a way to do it better or we’ll continue to miss a golden opportunity to steer this country back from the road to Europe-West.
Byron York run through the statistics in various states on the Hispanic vote and says
The bottom line is that even if Romney had made historic gains among Hispanic voters, he still would have lost the election. That means Romney underperformed among more than just Hispanic voters. And that means winning more Hispanic votes is far from the GOP's only challenge.
The point of Hispanic outreach is the trend in population: Hispanics are a growing slice of the demography. This year they may not have been decisive, but that may change in coming elections.
A collaboration from Brittney Morrett and Samuel Rosado, with Michelle Lancaster and Ben Domenech underscores this point:
At its core, the biggest problem the GOP and conservatives have with Hispanics and minority groups in general is a lack of a ground game. The GOP lags behind the Democrats because for years, the middle-aged to elderly white voting class has been the most reliable voting bloc, and they have traditionally voted for Republicans. Therefore, conservatives and the GOP have never had the need for a major ground effort to bring them to the polls. The changing demographics in the United States necessitate a concerted ground effort with the GOP.
Kim Strassel writes that this same principle applies to all minority voters:
This is the demographic argument that is getting so much attention, and properly so. The Republican Party can hope that a future Democratic candidate won't equal Mr. Obama's magnetism for minority voters. But the GOP would do far better by fighting aggressively for a piece of the minority electorate.
The answer is to start now, not in the summer of 2016, to reach into every community across America, regardless of how they vote. We must engage using local people, and not be shy about it. People accept a message from people who look, act, and talk as they do. They're already on the same team, which is half the battle.
Political parties organize by state, county, and precinct. We must seek out and train volunteers in every precinct in America.
We can't focus just on swing districts. Focusing on winnable precincts and districts is fine for the final push for an election, but in focusing on winnable precincts in the past we have ignored everything else. As a result we don't turn out our base and we never make inroads into the other side's territory.
The other side, meanwhile, has been teaching the next generation in the public schools and universities, as well as on their TV screens, that America is the problem with the world, and conservatives are the problem with America. We must correct that.
The only way to combat this full-out assault on our culture is by stepping up the ground game to make it a year round activity, reaching into every community in the country with the message of liberty, constitutional government, and opportunity.
It's a massive undertaking. It will take a long time.
A campaign orientation prevents that kind of long-term thinking. A campaign can't afford the time and effort to take a 0/100 precinct and move it to 10/90, but a volunteer in a precinct can do far more than that. Building a team, they make voting a matter of personal preference, not a question of herd behavior.
Moving a precinct from 0/100 to 10/90, or 30/70 to 40/60 yields the same number of votes as flipping a precinct from 45/55 to 55/45.
Looked at another way: if we never go into an area and ask for someone's votes, what are they going to think? They will soon think we don't want their votes. They will think it's personal, rather than merely a result of the short-term thinking of campaign operatives. If the other side is constantly crying racism, sexism, and any other groupism, that message will fill the vacuum we have created.
Continuing our online outreach, we must reach more and more people in every community who look around and are dissatisfied with the headlong plunge toward socialism. We will continue to combat the media narratives, and hopefully supplant the mainstream media as the information source of choice for most people.
The final piece of the puzzle is to get our activists to join the political parties as precinct workers -- precinct committeemen, precinct chairs, etc. They will bolster the idealism of the people who are there, turning the local parties into GOTV machines. In doing so they will be put into positions of increasing authority in the local, state, and national party organizations.
Michael Biundo, campaign manager for Rick Santorum's primary campaign, said, "You don't win Iowa by winning the straw poll. You win Iowa by working hard in each of its 99 counties."
The same is true of Illinois, California, New York, Pennsylvania, and every other state.
If you think the American people -- especially minority voters -- are forever bought off and no longer want to succeed with the freedom to pursue their dreams, then you may as well quit. I don't , and I won't.