Wednesday, August 11, 2021


The headline for this Paul Waldman piece in The Washington Post is wrong:
The new GOP midterm election strategy is to make everyone mad
Republicans don't want to make everyone mad. They want to make their voters (and potential voters) mad. They don't want to rile up the rest of us -- as Waldman acknowledges a few paragraphs in.
... what they’re actually doing is trying out different ways of getting their base, and anyone else, as angry as possible....

In particular, Republicans want people to direct their anger at public health officials who are urging new mask requirements, and Democrats who say those requirements might be a good idea, especially since so many people are refusing to be vaccinated....

This is all generated and reinforced by a Republican message machine designed to identify and stimulate anger points, which can then, it is hoped, be turned into ratings and votes. It’s a kind of rolling test in which different issues are offered up to the GOP base to see what increases its pulse the most. Are you madder about high gas prices, or critical race theory, or having to wear a mask when you go down to the Piggly Wiggly?

But here’s the thing: The perfect midterm issue is one that gets your side angry and motivated but doesn’t do the same to the other side. That was true in 2010 of Obamacare: It filled Republican voters with fury, but since most of the law’s benefits didn’t take effect until much later, it did nothing to motivate Democrats.
Waldman suspects that mask and vaccine mandates might inspire rage that isn't merely one-sided:
The difference today could be that everyone is getting mad, including Democrats. As The Post reports, with so many Republicans going on a holy war against masks and even vaccines, some in the GOP fear the party ["is] on track to make itself the face of the delta variant — endangering fellow Americans while also risking severe political damage in the long term.”
But is it? The reason Republicans tend to overperform at the ballot box is that larger numbers of GOP voters are obsessed with politics (or at least politics as the term is defined on Fox News). Extremely engaged Democrats get a fair amount of attention, but there don't seem to be as many of us as there are extremely engaged -- if also extremely misinformed -- Republicans. Sometimes it seems that the entire GOP electorate knows every Fox narrative, whereas many Democrats don't think about politics at all for weeks or months on end. Admittedly, that wasn't true in the Trump years, or in the latter part of the George W. Buah presidency. But it was true in the midterms years 2010 and 2014, and it might be true next year.

Democrats (and swing voters) who are ordinarily apolitical need to get mad, too. They need to get as mad at the anti-public-health Republicans as they were at Bush after Katrina and the failure to find WMDs. They need to get as mad as they got against Trump.

Republicans assume that won't happen. I hope they're wrong -- but there's a serious risk that they're right. Do occasional Democratic voters understand that the only way people like these Tenesseans will stop being empowered is if we all focus on voting out the Republican officeholders who empower and encourage them?

Think about guns. Too many voters have never grasped the culpability of Republicans on gun violence -- even after Sandy Hook and other massacres, people who are open to gun safety measures either continued to vote Republican or didn't turn out to vote against Republicans.

The rest of us need to be as angry as Republicans are -- or at least angry enough to vote them out.

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