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Thursday, September 27, 2007  

The Country Is With Us! It has long been conventional wisdom among liberals (and among me, when I talk to myself) that the only real problem the Democratic party has is GOTV efficiency; that in an era of low turnouts, Republicans' ability to get the faithful out to the polls makes elections much closer than they would otherwise be if everyone in the country voted. This is why Democrats push things like national voting holidays and motor voter, while Republicans try to scare people with specters of "illegal immigrant voting" to push "voter registration" laws the real purpose of which is to make voting more of a hassle and ensure that fewer people do it. Undergirding this belief is an assumption that the majority of Americans are sympathetic with liberal policy goals (and an assumption that liberals really don't like to vote).

Kevin Drum has a useful post on this subject, not exactly refuting this pleasantly back-patting belief ("deep down, the country is with us!"), but offering some much needed perspective. The short version is that in isolation, in a context free environment (such as, say, answering a phone poll question asking "Do you think women should have access to legal abortion?"), these tendencies do exist. But, when these questions are asked in the context of the worst, most inflammatory arguments against them ("Do you think a woman should have access to legal abortion including the right for a woman and her doctor to partially deliver a viable foetus before tearing it to pieces and throwing it away?") these numbers shift unpredictably. And the modern political environment is one in which the absolute worst possible reading of anyone's opinion is immediately presented by their opponent as fact. So the voting decision is much more like the second question than the first.



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