Quotes of The Weekend: Midterm Election Keys — Enthusiasm, Turnout — and Hate

Philip Bump in the Washington Post, from an article crunching the latest post-Roe polls:

Now we come to enthusiasm about voting, that metric that many Democrats have seized on of late as an indicator of fury about [the] Dobbs [decision which threw out Roe].

Bump: As it turns out, Gallup has new data on that. Enthusiasm for voting among Democrats is higher now than in any recent year besides 2006 and 2018 — two elections that went very well for the party. But Republican enthusiasm is 10 points higher.

If we look at the gap between the two parties’ enthusiasm, we again get a murky picture. That said: If the trend line is perfect and the enthusiasm gap stays unchanged (neither of which is the case), 2022 will be a rough year for the left.

Infinite caveats apply . . . . Poll numbers can change (though it seems unlikely in this highly polarized era that Biden’s approval is going far). Republican enthusiasm can sink; Democratic enthusiasm can surge. Exceptionally bad or exceptionally good general election candidates can shift a lot of results unexpectedly. It really does come down to turnout.

All of which is to say: If you are a Democrat who wants to shift all of the graphs [in your direction] , your best bet isn’t to parse individual polls or cross your fingers. It is, in fact, to vote.

COMMENT: About that “enthusiasm gap”.  There’s more to it, much more than Bump and his charts reveal. And there are crucial synonyms for “enthusiasm” he misses, especially two: rage and hate.

These were named and spotlighted by Tim Miller, in his book, Why We Did It, now a certified New York Times bestseller.

I thought I was done quoting Miller, in this multi-part analysis. But the following passage is not for review, or cited in it: rather, it’s field data, that shows how plumbing this deep well of hostility surprised and shocked even him, a longtime veteran GOP operative.

It seemed to crystallize in his long showdown heart-to-heart with Caroline Wren, a former colleague who admittedly “drank the kool-aid” for Trump, and wants him back in ‘24:

”I think,” she also admitted, “my  evolution had more to do with anger . . . . That’s where I was politically.

Miller: This notion of anger driving her support for Trump was something that echoed what a lot of elite Republican types were saying. Rich Lowry, the nebbish National Review editor, wrote on the eve of Trump’s losing reelection bid that supporting Trump was a “middle finger” to the cultural left.

This seemed to me to be an unbelievably asinine, if understandable, mindset coming from a fussy, middle-aged, Manhattan-dwelling white conservative who resents his more culturally ascendant neighbors.

But from Caroline, a socially liberal millennial, it caught me off guard. I pressed her for more. What’s to be angry about?

“I just don’t feel the need to drive around in my Prius drinking a coffee Coolatta with a COEXIST bumper sticker and checking the box like I’ve solved climate change. Me moving from plastic to paper straws is not actually moving this needle. The liberal culture of judgment, of do as I say, not as I do. John Kerry flying places in private jets. That’s why I was so drawn to Trump. I was at a breaking point. [Politics] was bullshit and we knew everything we were doing was bullshit and Trump called it out. If Trump had maybe run as a Democrat, I think I would’ve been a Trump supporter. I didn’t love him because of his conservative credentials.”

Miller: I was genuinely dumbstruck by this. As someone who loves a chocolate shake, I also find forcible paper-straw usage to be an utterly moronic inconvenience of modern urban life. But connecting that to support for Donald Trump? Being upset with Joe Biden about private companies switching to deteriorating straws?

This anger didn’t click with me at all. I mean, seriously. Who cares? What even is a coffee Coolatta? I had to google how to spell it!

. . . Throughout the conversations with former colleagues, it was on this question that I came to find the starkest divide between the hard-line Never Trumpers and our reluctant peers who came to terms with the man. Most of us in the former group weren’t bogged down by this animus. We disagreed with Obama on various things but didn’t detest him, whereas my friends who stuck around the GOP had a visceral loathing that I’m not sure I realized was there even when I was part of it.

When we were sparring with our Democratic counterparts, some of us were kind of faking it, going along with the kayfabe. While the rest of them were employing faux outrage and gamesmanship as well, it turns out that underneath the performance was a much more deep-seated desire to see the other side punished. To watch them get owned.

Their grievances were based in part in ideology, but more often it seemed like simple interpersonal annoyance and privilege. They live in liberal bubbles and find their neighbors’ excesses grating. They are sick of being told what they should and shouldn’t say or do.

They are embittered that the media is always being unfair to them. They are tired of diversity requirements that mean they lose out on jobs to “people of color.” They blanche at the DEI packets being handed out at their kids’ schools. They find the left-wing sanctimony in the prestige-TV shows they watch grating as fuck. And apparently they are also over people who drive Priuses while simultaneously drinking coffee Coolattas. All of that annoyance and envy bottles up until it boils over.

During the heat of the 2020 campaign, I interviewed a dozen top-level Republican operatives to try to understand why they were still grinding it out despite how miserable he was making their lives. These were not the Trump Kool-Aid drinkers, like Caroline. . . . For them there was an obvious, mundane reason for continuing (a paycheck), but the one thing that startled me was how many were also motivated by anger.

This rage would come out of nowhere from otherwise gentle people. They would lash out at Never Trumpers like me and the Lincoln Project, calling us “motherfuckers.” They told me that the media was a “bullshit leftist institution” and that “the mask is off.” One cut through the clutter with this searing admission:

“Woke culture has created no other lane for you but to support [Trump] on the one or two things that you like, and then you have to countenance all the rest of the bullshit.”

They all wanted to cut the left down a peg. Put a cap on the diversifying cultural elite who were flourishing at what they perceived was their expense. Trump was the vehicle for doing it.

I laid this theory out for Caroline, ensuring I wasn’t misrepresenting her. “Is there something I’m missing here? I literally cannot name a single trait of Trump’s I’d want to pass on to my kid. What were you seeing positive about him that I wasn’t? Or was it you were just happy the other people were triggered?”

“I would say probably all negative,” she replied. “I hadn’t thought through much of what a Trump presidency looked like. I couldn’t stand Clinton and the Democrats.”

The morning after Trump won, she left for her yearly postelection holiday, this time to Morocco. When she landed in Marrakesh there happened to be a United Nations climate change conference going on. The people there were despondent and terrified. Caroline retold the story with a twinkle in her eye. She was exuberant. Triumphant. Rubbing it in their faces a little bit. I can sense your glee. You had no concerns?
“None. In that moment it was really gleeful.”

While “Trump” is not on the ballot this fall, many of those who are share this long-simmering rage, and it affects turnout, as shown by Glen Youngkin’s election as governor in Virginia last year.  Youngkin’s opponent, Terry McAuliffe, got more votes in 2021 than when he was first elected to the Richmond state house, but his improved GOTV drive was still swamped by historically high, revenge-driven GOP turnout.

Hate and revenge. Cut through the stuffy legalese, and it jumps out at me from the recent blast of precedent-shattering Supreme Court decisions. Same goes for the seditious effusions of the super-MAGA “Christian” nationalist  Lt. Governor of North Carolina. And many more.

Their list of grievances goes far beyond paper straws. How to blunt the assault? As smart as Tim Miller is, and as data-stuffed  as Philip Bump must be, I’m not sure either one has any more of a clue than, say, I do.

Another data point: This ad by Missouri Senate candidate and disgraced ex-governor Eric Greitens evoked much blowback — but he’s doubling down with the murderous meme, and is reportedly polling well.


5 thoughts on “Quotes of The Weekend: Midterm Election Keys — Enthusiasm, Turnout — and Hate”

  1. Who knows?

    “Vote” is the Democratic version of “thoughts and prayers”.

    Latest polls show only 22% of voters ages 18-34 approve of Pres. Biden’s performance. More young voters may mean Dems lose worse. And Hispanic voters seem to be turning against Dems as well.

    The bi-election in south Texas, where a very conservative Hispanic woman Meican immigrant defeated a Dem in what was considered a safe Dem district may have given us a glimpse of the future.

  2. I can understand people’s frustrations, which I think have been compounded by the cloud of Covid hanging over us. And I’m all too aware of the unfortunate phenomenon of the “circular firing squad”. A previous post has pointed out internal strife in many liberal organizations.
    What continues to puzzle me is why anyone, from either side of the political spectrum, would look toward an obvious con man for deliverance.

    1. The Mexican immigrant woman conservative Republican who just won a seat in Congress in a very Democratic district in south Texas is NOT a con man.

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