Politico presents stupid theses

Here’s the latest from Politico: Abortion bill’s collapse shows moderates’ clout

John Boehner has a new balancing act: Handling the moderate backbencher resurgence.

That’s their opening line. First off, the GOP’s strategy since 2013 has been to avoid outing extreme conservative ideas, which is why they had such little success in 2012. The midterms were all about laying low, and after the government shutdown, Boehner really buckled down and shut up the fringe in his party that were hurting them at the polls. Because, while the base pushes for an ever more conservative agenda, which is generally good in midterms, it isn’t anywhere near as effective in Presidential years when our electorate is built much different, demographically. Perhaps 2014 demonstrated that even in the midterms, ideological purity may be off-putting, which is why the GOP avoided much of the discussions of abortion, etc. last year.

But I think Politico’s thesis is incredibly simplistic, and even wrong. There isn’t a moderate backbench resurgence that the parties are catering to. When elections roll around, both parties are focusing a majority of their attention towards a narrow swath within the same general demographic that tend to be more fluid in their voting habits, and hence independent, than entrenched, partisan, ones. If I had to describe that demographic, they would be white, middle-class, and college educated, conveniently known as “soccer moms”, as this group tends to vary election to election more than possibly any other group. It’s the one group of whites where the GOP does not win with significant margins and could be particularly damaging in a Presidential election that features a woman at the top of the Democratic ticket. Capturing this demographic, or I should say, ensuring this group comes to the polls, in my view, is what wins a majority of general elections (assuming your base is energized and excited, not necessarily a guarantee these days).

I grow more tired of the momentum narratives told by the media as each day passes. While convenient, our political sentiment cannot be explained solely by policy decisions made by leaders during that year. New demographic groups do not just magically appear or resurface. Policy choices cater to specific portions of the electorate that hold different weight depending upon the realities of particular election cycles. When turnout varies so widely from one election year to the next depending upon the emphasis placed upon particular election years by the media and the public’s perception of the relative importance of particular elections (say, for president, as opposed to a “mere” local election), it’s clear that momentum plays a much more muted role in political outcomes than does the average type of person that comes out on any given year. There’s a reason why presidential elections tend to be younger and browner. And that reality has an effect on results.

Theses that ignore these simple truths (however upsetting and unsettling they may be), are quite simply, stupid.


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