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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

 
Ralph Reed's big plans

by digby

The NY Times belatedly reported the Ralph Reed electoral machine story over the week-end -- the same story Adele Stan at Alternet has been on for months. (Too bad they didn't credit her.) She's got an update and a warning today: don't get too cocky. Reed's operation is formidable. She talks at length about the operations mechanics and it's impressive. (It's based on the Obama 08 model.)

But this is really the key, in my book:

For all of the grousing that right-wingers do about the power of labor unions in elections, there is no parallel liberal infrastructure to the network of evangelical churches that Reed has been organizing since his salad days at the Christian Coalition. Just name a labor group that meets weekly, always on the same day, and enjoys most of its members showing up for the meeting. Churches, with their homey bulletins ripe for the insertion of a purportedly non-partisan Faith and Freedom Coalition voter guide to the candidates' positions on hot-button issues, are nearly ideal as organizational cells.

At a recent the workshop conducted by the Faith and Freedom Coalition at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., it was suggested that voter registration forms be placed in the pews.

For the most part, people the unions target for voter turnout operations are their own members. But unlike the churches of the Christian right, the ideological and cultural make-up of unions is hardly homogenous: only 51 percent of white union members identify as Democrats, compared with the 65 percent of white Christian evangelicals who identified with the Republican party in 2008. (That number has since climbed to 70 percent according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.)

Christian evangelicals comprise 26 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, while union members make up 12 percent of all wage and salary workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and a still-smaller percentage of the general population.

Liberal pundits often make the mistake of comparing the GOTV efforts of competing Democratic and Republican campaigns, as conducted by the parties and their candidates, concluding that the Democratic efforts are far superior. At the party and candidate levels that may be true, but the Republican turnout operation exists largely outside of the party structure, through organizations such as Reed's, and the Koch-backed Tea Party group, Americans For Prosperity. Unlike unions, whose budgets are limited by the size and scope of their membership, FFC and AFP could have access to however much money they need to get the job done.

I think it's incredibly foolish to understimate the possibility that the right could pull it off, despite Romney's lame performance. I agree that it's unlikely, but it is possible due to the fact that organizations like Reeds have unlimited money (in fact, everyone on the right has unlimited money) and they have the infrastructure. They are also making it as hard as possible for Democrats to vote. That combination is fairly lethal in a close election.

I also don't think you can underrate the right's hatred for Obama. Stan spells out why:

As important as the particulars of Reed’s turnout operation may be, perhaps the most important data point about the constituency he seeks to organize is the temperament of its voters.

Let’s say that 60 percent of likely voters in a given state lean left or liberal, and 40 percent lean right.

“Likely voters,” as the name implies, are not guaranteed to vote. In election 2012, Obama doesn’t enjoy nearly the level of enthusiasm among key constituencies -- the very young or the very progressive, for example -- that he did in 2008. A bad economy and the heartbreak of drone warfare have taken their toll. And you can shake your finger in the face of a disheartened progressive all you want while you tell them to vote, but for someone with fond memories of her “Question Authority” bumper sticker, that’s not a winning strategy.

But right-wingers, particularly members of the Tea Party and the religious right, the instructions of their leaders matter. According to social psychologist Bob Altemeyer, the Yale-trained author of The Authoritarians, right-wing followers place an undue level of faith in their leaders.

“The followers have a great desire to submit to established authority,” Altemeyer explained in an interview with John Dean. “They're also highly conventional, and they have a lot of aggression in them, which studies show comes primarily from being fearful. One of the classic reactions to fear is to fight, and the followers will attack when their authorities tell them to.”

So while members of the the Tea Party and the religious right may not love the ideologically bendy, Mormon Mitt Romney, they’re ginned up and ready for an attack on Obama, whom they’e been taught to fear, via all manner of tropes, ranging from the birther conspiracy theory to the lie of the so-called “death panels.”

If, in eight of those nine battleground states, Reed and his allies manage to turn out 90 percent of the right-wing base, and Obama turns out only 60 percent of his, Romney wins.

Add to that formula the concerted efforts in states throughout the nation to disenfranchise voters who are inclined to vote Democratic, and you have a recipe for a Romney victory.

I have always thought that Obama was likely to win. But I would never underestimate a combination of wealthy plutocrats, churches, right wingers with an ax to grind and a willingness among all of them to cheat their way to victory. That's an American success story in the making.

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