Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Tea Party rebellion based on myth

The notion that there was a huge right-wing political opposition to President Obama---and "buyers' remorse" from Democrats and independents for voting for Obama in 2008---was born in 2010 during the off-year election when voter turnout was low.

Back in August, 2011, Andrew Hacker explained in the New York Review why 2012 would be a much better year for Obama than 2010 because his voters would turn out in much greater numbers in a presidential election year:

The fact is that most Americans are not committed voters. Few turn out every year, and many never do at all. Citizens who are legally eligible to vote—not convicted felons or newly arrived in a district—tend to fall into three groups. About 40 percent turn out most of the time, although less so for primaries or in odd years. Another 20 percent show up quadrennially, when presidential contests are in the spotlight, but rarely at other times. The final 40 percent, for all practical purposes, never vote. The percentages in Table A suggest that it is difficult, verging on impossible, to raise turnouts much over 60 percent in presidential years or more than 40 percent in midterm elections. Nor has it been for lack of trying. There are get-out-the-vote drives, usually with energy and money behind them. Yet the enthusiasn for Obama barely raised participation above the level that was mustered for John Kerry and George W. Bush.

Many of those who voted for Obama in 2008 didn't vote in the midterm elections of 2010 as the table below shows:

Those of us who were following Nate Silver's blog all year weren't surprised at the results of the election. Only if 99% of the public opinion polls were somehow wrong would Romney win on election day.

But the myth of "populist anger" at Obama in 2010 will live on if this article in the NY Times last week is any indication:

None of this ensures election wins for Democrats. The tide of minority voters that helped elect Mr. Obama in 2008 ebbed just two years later in a welter of populist anger over budget deficits, job losses and Mr. Obama’s agenda, allowing Republicans to retake the House and make gains in the Senate in the midterm elections. And there is no guarantee that the next Democratic presidential candidate will match Mr. Obama’s huge margins or turnout with minority voters.

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