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Monday, July 12, 2004

It's just as much about those who don't vote as those who do

I expect this story will be catching fire big time in the blogosphere today. In a way, I'm not surprised that Bush is trying to weasel out of an actual election. They've been prepping the base for this for months are the Madrid bombing. A good part of the electorate now believes somehow that the people's choice can be considered illegitimate under various conditions, most of which pretty much lead to any conditions where the conservative loses.
I imagine that for BushCo, if they could actually get the election cancelled, they would embrace that option whole-heartedly. But I doubt that they think that they could really accomplish that. So, what does post-poning the election, even if it were for just a week or so, really accomplish that would help them politically? Well, the main way that it would help them is that it would create confusion about what day to vote, reducing voter turnout.
Believe it or not, it never occurred to me that politicians might actually want to lower voter turnout until I heard this story on the public radio program "This American Life". Basically David Foster Wallace witnessed the way that Karl Rove eviserated the McCain campaign, getting Bush the nomination and eventually the Presidency. It's well worth listening to, but the thing that startled me the most is that Rove was deliberately trying to lower voter turnout. Low voter turnout favors incumbents and it favors Republicans and it favors candidates that have the party faithful's support. Bush is all three, so you can bet that their number one strategy is to lower voter turnout.
But they are screwed on this, and they know it. No matter how you slice and dice the debacle that was the 2000 election, one thing is certain--if more people had bothered to go out and vote, the election might have been a very different one. Gore almost certainly would have won with a much larger margin. With that in mind, you can bet that we'll be seeing a much higher voter turnout than we did with Snoozefest 2000. The higher the percentage of people who show up, the better Kerry will do.
One way to lower voter turnout is to make the campaign as hostile as possible. Negative campaigning pisses people off and they are likely to just boycott the entire election. That's the biggest reason that the Republicans are the nastier campaigners--not because it lures people to their side so much as it keeps people who would vote for their opponents at home instead of in the voting booth. The extent of Rove's faith that lowering voter turnout will help his man is evident in how ugly the attacks have gotten. Even though things like whipping out images of Hitler is bound to turn some voters against Bush, most of those who turn on him will be staying home instead of voting for Kerry, so that's a loss they're willing to take.
Taking steps to move the election date is just one more attempt to make voting seem like more of a hassle than it's worth so that more potential Kerry voters stay home. It's disconcerting that they feel like our democratic processes are their to monkey with, and it seems like there really is no limit to what BushCo thinks is acceptable as long as it keeps their man in power. It's pathetic, though, to see how small-minded Rovian thinking is, that they are willing to chip away at democracy itself in a cheap ploy to reduce voter turnout.
The Democrats need to deal with what's going on for what it is. This election isn't going to be based on convincing a few swing voters to go this way or that. The election is going to be decided on voter turnout. There's probably nothing more important than making sure that people know when and where they can vote. And Kerry probably should just ignore the Republican noise machine. If he or Edwards responds to any in the deluge of attacks, they are just feeding more negativity into an election season that is already going to be one of the ugliest in history.

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