Blackjack: 21 Days To Zero

“It all comes down to turnout.”

I won’t put a name behind that quote because those voicing it are legion. Midterm elections are defined, historically, by their low turnout and the hangover (for lack of a better term) from the preceding presidential election. Saint Ronnie the Gipper of Malibu led his party into a snake-pit in 1982; 27 Republicans lost seats in the House that year. The Clinton’s, armed with Hillary’s health care plan, led the Democrats out of the House majority in 1994. The lies and incompetence of the Bush Administration, led by co-President Dick Cheney, helped a morally compromised group of Republicans lose the gains of the Contract with America.

Midterms are tough on both parties, largely because they are heavily influenced by buyer’s remorse. We Americans force our citizen legislators to lie to us, at great expense, before we will cast our votes for them. Then, two years later, we revel in calling them on their wicked ways, and throw them out of office. But the specter of turnout always plays a role in these cycles. Young voters, minorities, and the bulk of the unskilled working class, stay home during midterm elections, leading to a very conservative electorate. The Republican bloodbaths of 1982 and 2006 then, were the results of gross failures easily traced.

Reagan’s massive budgets and soaring rhetoric did nothing to stem the tide of job losses; where unemployment due to the Great Recession peeked and then fell before the end of President Obama’s first year, Reagan’s policies were projected by the electorate against job losses that continued to grow well into his second year. Republicans in 2006 were undone by the inaction of the Bush Administration’s amateur-hour appointees; people like FEMA chief Mike Brown, appointed solely on the appearance of loyalty or friendship, soiled the brand with their incompetence and unprofessional demeanor. The more conservative electorate of the midterm cycle needs real failures by Republicans or unquestioned success by Democrats to return votes in favor of a liberal slate.

And that is the campaign in a nutshell; Republicans can say what they need to fire up their base. They can feed thinly-supported stories of woe to their friends in the conservative mainstream media and watch as the artists formerly known as reporters repeat GOP talking points. Democrats are forced to teach voters about their success. They are forced to defend themselves against the charge of not achieving everything in two years. They are forced to explain to all in the progressive big top, why every nuance of every interest group has not been vigorously, and successfully, prosecuted. As Democrats play defense, potential voters are left to wonder why they should be motivated.

When Robert Gibbs made his unfortunate comment about the “professional left” he captured (crudely) the essence of the frustration felt by liberals who engage in politics. Dozens of critical liberal agenda items were accomplished during two legislative years that were among the most crude, constricted, and brutal in the history of our nation. Despite this, those progressives who have the ability to bring out the voters of 2008 have spent 2010 complaining about “missed opportunities”. The reason that conservative Americans are angry, is that this Congress and this President have accomplished and continue to accomplish their agenda, despite the most aggressive efforts by Republicans to block its entirety.

Our national fascination with keeping score is represented in politics by polling. Polling in 2010 is dominated by the “likely voter” model; registered voters are screened by age, sex, demographic, race, education, and political preference. Most African-American registered voters are not likely to have their responses to polls retained in the results, because most African-American voters will not vote in the midterm…according to the numbers. Most Latino registered voters are not likely to have their responses to polls retained in the results, because most Latino voters will not vote in the midterm…according to the numbers. Most college-aged registered voters are not likely to have their responses to polls retained in the results, because most college-aged individuals will not vote in the midterm…according to the numbers.

Pollsters like Rasmussen have used the likely voter model with success, leaving room for other pollsters (PPP is a major one) to follow the lead. They have had great success in forecasting results in most cases. 2008 and the special elections of 2010 have been a different matter. Why? Turnout. Many more African-American, Latino, and younger voters have been coming to the polls recently. It made the normally reliable Rasmussen miss by 5-7 points over a large sample of elections, and it led to massive misses in the special elections for open House seats in Florida and Pennsylvania.

Turnout means everything. If progressive voters turnout over the next three weeks in defense of health care reform, financial reform, student loan reform, steady progress on don’t ask don’t tell, steady progress on rational foreign relations, and the end to legal pay disparities for women, the election will look very different then the experts believe. Turnout means Democrats would hold at least 57 seats in the Senate, and elections in Arizona, Indiana, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Ohio, Missouri, and New Hampshire would be very interesting. Turnout means that our nation will not have Speaker of the House John Boehner.

Republicans haven’t satisfied themselves with just turning back progressive legislation, they have redoubled their attacks on the working class. This year, teachers, state troopers, firefighters, police officers, and every single other state or municipal worker represented by a union and making a decent wage have come under attack. In 1984, Ronald Reagan and the Republicans showed that they had the resolve to weather the storm of the ’82 midterms, and proceeded to destroy the once central position of manufacturing in our nation. Under their leadership, shipbuilding, steel-making, and most of the appliance industry left the United States. What will Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House John Boehner, and committee chairs like Michele Bachmann do?

It all comes down to turnout…

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Animated Balls: Election 2012

Episode 1: It's Hard to Choose Just One

Episode 2: Occupy Wall Street

Episode 3: 999! The Cain Train to Prosperity

Episode 4: Small Government

Episode 5: Newt is Forgiven

Episode 6: A Candidate with Big Balls

Episode 7: Why We Must Elect Rick!

Episode 8: Don't Make Me Use the "S" Word!

Episode 9: Santorum & Obamaville

Episode 10: Settle for Mitt!

Episode 12: Austerity and Obama's Debt!

Episode 13: From My Cold, Dead Hands!

Episode 14: Ryan is a Bold Choice for VP!

Episode 15: Mitt Romney's Taxes

Episode 16: Mitt & Me; 2 Peas in a Pod!

Episode 17: Mitt and the 47%

Episode 18: The PA Voter ID Law

Episode 19: The Boss is Running!

Episode 20: Benghazi Has Legs

Episode 21: Grover, the NRA, and the GOP

Animated Balls: A New Frontier!

Piers Morgan & the White House Conspire Against Alex Jones!

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