Obama Talks Midterm Falloff

As someone with a missionary commitment to getting people to understand this issue, it was obviously gratifying to hear the President of the United States talk about the “midterm falloff” phenomenon, per this report from Politico‘s Tal Kopan:

President Barack Obama told Democratic donors that Democrats tend to “get clobbered” in midterm elections, and in order to win in November they need to turn out the vote.
Speaking at the suburban Miami home of basketball legend Alonzo Mourning and his wife Thursday, Obama told attendees at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser that Americans agree with Democrats on every issue, but that Washington politics has “become so toxic” that they aren’t voting.

“That’s especially true during the midterms,” Obama said, according to a White House transcript. “During presidential elections, young people vote, women are more likely to vote, blacks, Hispanics more likely to vote. And suddenly a more representative cross-section of America gets out there and we do pretty well in presidential elections. But in midterms we get clobbered — either because we don’t think it’s important or we’ve become so discouraged about what’s happening in Washington.

Well, I’d say that part is about half right: young people never ever vote at representative levels in midterms, no matter how “encouraged” or “discouraged” they are; it probably has more to do with greater residential mobility, a lack of “rootedness” in a particular community, and a generally apolitical cultural diet than anything in particular going on. Hispanics also have a long history of low participation in midterms. And yes, voter suppression efforts, subtle or blatant, have played and continue to play a role in many locations.

In reality, there’s only so much Democrats can do to eliminate the midterm falloff, short of some revolutionary GOTV techniques we haven’t heard about yet. But at the margins, at least, efforts to do something midterm falloff could have a big impact, and it’s good to see Obama himself mention it, if only to throw some sand into dumb arguments like the one that claims Obamacare will keep young voters at home.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.