Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Paging the Anti-War Voter...

The Doctor in his post below attempts to determine the impact of the voter whose primary motivation was the war in Iraq. I remain, so far, unconvinced of his conclusion that failure to motivate the antiwar voter specifically cost him the election, if I am paraphrasing his view correctly. Here are my doubts for consideration:

  • Suppose Kerry adopts an "Anti-war" stance, which presumably would mean that he states unequivacally the war is wrong and some kind of withdrawal timetable will be a priority. Does he lose any other voter? The answer is likely yes. It seems to me in order to argue that his alleged failure to motivate the antiwar vote by taking a position that would energize them more cost him the election, you must assume all other things being equal. But they are not. As strictly a matter of political calculus, every position you take firmly alienates a bloc of voters of various sizes. I think you can credibly argue that an antiwar stance could have cost him more votes than he would have gained. That is not a value judgement of whether the stance is right or wrong, but it certainly could have, and likely would have cost him votes, particularly in the BG states where perhaps the antiwar vote was not nearly as strong as Ca.

  • If I understand the major premiss here, turnout of potential Kerry voters was depressed by his stance on the war. Yet voter turnout was the highest in 36 years. Since, well, the height of the Vietnam War. You are analyzing voter data of people who actually voted. How do we know who stayed home based on data of who actually voted? I would argue that to make this argument more credible, we need to build a more complete profile of this voter, based on gender, income level and what they consider their values (I'm really trying not to abuse this word, I'm open to suggestions.) And then determine if that voter failed to show up. In light of the high voter turnout, I am sceptical

I think the Doctor is right on the money though, that Kerry's better manager argument, and the general incoherence on the war on Iraq and incoherence on his candidacy in general cost him the election. The Kerry campaign seemed to regard the war in Iraq as wrong, but was afraid to admit it in fear of alienating the more conservative (seemingly) voters in the BG states. I don't believe the data makes the case that a bloc of dispirited anti-war voters were the culprits. Rather, I think the crucial blocs were married women, voters in the middle of the income range, and voters whose economic interests are clearly threatened by the gruesome policies of the GOP. I doubt that those are antiwar voters, in the way I think you mean them. Rather, they are voters who had doubts about the President in general, but lacked a convincing reason to vote for John Kerry, or Democrats in general. Those convincing reasons exist, but they have been exiled to the lands of Academia and lefty policy wonkage because hyper-cyncial consultants and party bag men beholden to big money donors have exiled them there, and condemned the rest of us to perdition.

I have not seen really any fingers pointed at antiwar voters or hardcore liberals as the cause of Kerry's defeat. Rather, I am getting the sense that DNC leadership instead is being handed the bag. Hopefully they are a mere few months away from the guilliotine.

It is my contention that we got the turnout we needed. We had enough "energy". The Democratic base, and the most liberal section of voters turned out for Kerry in an inspiring act of faith and unity. We failed on message, a coherent narrative that gives undecided and/or flexible voters a sense of what you believe and what you will do if you get their trust. I examined Senator Kerry's record, and was and still am convinced that he was a capable, decent and intelligent man who was likely to grasp the extent of the desperate failure Iraq is, the betrayal of American values it represents, and the grievous threat its continuing chaos poses to the nation. Yet he and the party failed to convince other voters of that , some of whom were disposed to give him the benefit of the doubt, and those voters were looking for a more general and comprehensive reason to vote for him, beyond policy proposals or arguments that he could run the trains on time.

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