Yes, the Democratic Rank-and-File Were Demobilized

I made this point Wednesday, but Steve Singiser breaks down the numbers:

But the "tack back to the center" crowd ignores a critical stat from yesterday evening: 44% of the people who cast a ballot for Barack Obama in 2008 in the state of Massachusetts either (a) cast a vote for Scott Brown, (b) cast a vote for Joe Kennedy, or (c) withheld their vote. The math tells us that option (c) was the most likely of the three.

Indeed, a good deal of Martha Coakley's problem last night was that communities that were absolute strongholds for President Obama in 2008 failed to turn out in the numbers that were necessary for a Democratic win.

I identified a total of 31 Democratic strongholds in the state by using the following criteria: the community had to have over 10,000 voters in 2008, and President Obama had to get two-thirds of the vote there.

In only 11 of the strongholds did turnout exceed the statewide average yesterday. In fact, in nearly half of them, the turnout was less than 70% of the turnout from fourteen months ago.

Meanwhile, over a dozen of the Democratic strongholds had lower turnout rates than Scott Brown's worst stronghold in terms of turnout (defined as communities of the same size, carried by Brown with 60% or more of the vote).

How many votes were left on the table? In Boston alone, a turnout at merely the state average (vis-a-vis 2008 turnout) would have been worth an additional 19,000 votes. Lawrence (which was the bottom of the pile, at 51% of 2008 turnout) could have provided another 4500 votes with a state-average turnout.

Would boosting Dem turnout have swung the election on its own? It is extraordinarily doubtful. But the bottom line is a painful one: a lot of races become vulnerable with the kind of depressed base turnout we saw yesterday in Massachusetts.

If Democrats don't create jobs and pass a good healthcare bill--not talk about these things, but do them, they're fucked.

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To what degree does this analysis conflict with your earlier analysis? It seems that your earlier analysis suggests policy-based systematic defection of Kennedy Dems (which happened for sure to SOME extent) but this analysis seems to support the idea (or at least does not disprove the idea) that a better run campaign that simply go out the vote (for the Dems) could have won the race.

Greg,

I think we're both right: 85% of Brown/Obama voters were independents; 89% of non-voting Obama voters were Democrats. Just as in a close basketball game, everything matters (if we had hit one more 3-pointer/a couple of foul shots, etc...). In a close election, everything matters.

There's also an 'interactive' term--mobilized Democrats probably could have convinced some independents to not vote for Brown. To me, a demobilized Democratic party is the root of the problem here.

"I'm not a member of any organized political party. I'm a Democrat." -- Will Rogers

Mike, I think you're starting to get a little obsessive here.

Whether or not 'the machine' was working its not as if the election was a secret. anyone who didn't vote can't honestly complain they didn't know there was an election. Anyone who didn't vote for Coakley can't claim they didn't know what their choice meant.

Some things about the numbers: there are a lot of local factors here: dislike of Coakley, the fact that voters liked their own health plan better than the Washington one, Brown running a good campaign, etc. I don't think there's necessarily any great lesson to be drawn here except "run better candidates."

Also: if dems. were "demobilized" what demobilized them? My impression looking at the numbers would be "anger." Anger of the sort that this blog seems to specialize in fomenting. If you don't get all you want, you lament about the system and dream dreams of Ralph Nader.

If there's a big picture problem here, I'd say you are probably part of it: the Democratic Party is highly fractious and the activists never know they've got half a loaf until they've lost it.

But I'd say this: the reason why this was a critical election was because of health care, and clearly MA was a bad place for that issue to come up for a referendum. NOt because they oppose it, but because they've already got it.

@Rob Jase:

I doubt it's being suggested that these missing voters didn't know the election was on, but more that they decided they couldn't be bothered going and voting for a party that, despite a majority, couldn't deliver on its promises.

I doubt it's being suggested that these missing voters didn't know the election was on, but more that they decided they couldn't be bothered going and voting for a party that, despite a majority, couldn't deliver on its promises.

Just like the Republican base abandoned it every time they couldn't pass an amendment banning abortion. Except they didn't.

"Just like the Republican base abandoned it every time they couldn't pass an amendment banning abortion. Except they didn't."

No, the Republican base just keeps pulling the lever for them even though the party repeatedly fucks them over and instead caters almost exclusively to corporate power. Sounds like the base of another major political party, now that you mention it.

It's like the old homosexual adage: if you keep swallowing, you'll never get off your knees. (Due credit to IOZ.)

By Tyler DiPietro (not verified) on 24 Jan 2010 #permalink

Well Tyler, you write me when that third party delivers on all your dreams and sets you up with a nice pension and a home in Candyland. But, meanwhile, back in present-day reality . . .

Let me finish that last sentence for you, Oran.

"...I will once again get my ass completely trolled by the Democrats because I can't imagine a world where meaningful change takes more work than showing up at a voting booth and pulling the lever for a marginally lesser evil."

By Tyler DiPietro (not verified) on 24 Jan 2010 #permalink

Well, then I guess it doesn't matter one bit to you who got elected in MA. Actually it's probably good that health care will be delayed as the additional deaths and suffering will probably hurry along what you would regard as real change.

"Well, then I guess it doesn't matter one bit to you who got elected in MA."

You'd be absolutely correct.

"Actually it's probably good that health care will be delayed as the additional deaths and suffering will probably hurry along what you would regard as real change."

Ah yes, the mark of a true progressive. Hold the currently suffering as a ransom while your precious Democrats stage giveaway after giveaway to corporate interests. Hey, the Donk tosses a bone to the underclass every once in a blue moon, so that means we have to forgo all efforts to effect meaningful change and elect more Democrats.

By Tyler DiPietro (not verified) on 25 Jan 2010 #permalink