The Big Picture on 2014 Turnout

Now and then it’s important to boil off a lot of the day-to-day observations of an election cycle and look at what we might call “mega-trends” if John Naisbitt hadn’t ruined the term forever back in the 80s. TNR’s Brian Beutler has a good snapshot of the Big Picture for 2014 today:

In a way, the story of the 2014 elections can be boiled down to two counterposed strategies, with Democrats on one side trying to mitigate their midterm drop off and Republicans trying to exacerbate it. In 2012, Republican efforts to suppress Democratic turnout may have backfired. The Republican response was not to scale back those efforts but to make them more impervious to blowback.

By “more impervious to blowback,” Beutler mainly means efforts to change election laws in ways that might leave non-voting Democrats frustrated, but also outside the charmed circle of Americans determining elections. And he also refers to what we technically call “dirty tricks” that are difficult to detect and attribute, such as Americans for Prosperity’s “mistake” in sending incorrect information on voting procedures to hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians.

And so:

[T]he question isn’t just whether Democrats can find their drop-off supporters and turn them out to the polls, but, assuming that plan is successful, whether Republicans will let them vote when they get there.

All I’d add to Beutler’s analysis is that Republican voter-suppression efforts have been strengthened significantly by an overt ideological opposition to universal voting rights–something we hadn’t seen until recently, at least since the demise of Jim Crow and of poll taxes and literacy tests. Some conservatives flatly believe in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century practices of property-owning qualification for voting; others simply defend voter suppression via one version or other of the “47 percent” meme that treats Democratic voting as being inherently corrupt. Either way, Republicans don’t appear to be particularly ashamed of their efforts to keep their fellow citizens from exercising the franchise if they don’t intend to vote the right way.

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.