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Can Democrats Stop Republicans from Winning Big in 2014 and 2016?

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) February 10, 2013: Voter turnout is the key to winning elections in the United States. Everybody understands this. All politicians try to figure out how to motivate voter turnout, so that they will emerge as the winners. But what motivates voter turnout?

Could the Republican Party bounce back from the 2012 elections and win more elections in 2014 and 2016 than in 2012? That is entirely possible, especially if realists win out over purists in the current intra-party fighting. The realists want to win elections. But the purists want to maintain ideological purity, even though they may lose elections.   The struggle between realists and purists is not unique to the Republican Party. So purists in the Democratic Party could also win out over realists in 2014 and 2016 elections. But purists in the Republican Party are not likely to win many elections in 2014 or 2016, just as purists in the Democratic Party are not. For all practical purposes, mainstream, moderate right-center voters will determine who wins most elections in 2014 and 2016.

By coincidence two articles have recently been published online that provide complicated analyses of attitudes and voter patterns in the U.S.: (1) Thomas B. Edsall's "The Persistence of Racial Resentment" in the New York Times, dated February 6, 2013, and (2) William Saletan's "The Pro-Life Advantage: Why they hold political power -- and how pro-choicers can stop them" in Slate Magazine, dated February 7, 2013.

What, if anything, can we learn from the competing views advanced by the authors of these two articles? Both authors center their attention on "anti-" attitudes and views: anti-black attitudes (in Edsall's article) and anti-abortion views (in Saletan's article).

William Saletan's Article

Here's the money quote at the end of Saletan's admittedly complicated analysis of polling responses over the years: "Think about that when you see pro-lifers [i.e., people against legalized abortion] winning elections, passing laws, and marching in the cold. They don't win [elections] because they're a majority [in the polls]. They win [in the elections] because they care enough to fight."

He's right. When you care enough to fight, you are engaging your fight reaction, not your flight reaction or your freeze reaction. As a result of your engaging your fighting reaction, you may be able to enlist otherwise more neutral voters to vote in favor of your candidate.

In other words, the anti-abortionists, as I prefer to refer to them, are not the majority in the polls, but they somehow manage to win in certain elections. Saletan does not explain exactly how this can happen. But he correctly notes that it does happen.

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Unfortunately, he fails to note that the anti-abortionists did not win in their efforts to defeat President Obama in 2012. So anti-abortionists win only in certain elections, not in all elections. So when anti-abortionists do not win in other elections in which they made an effort to win, why don't they also win in those other elections?

Thomas B. Edsall's Article

As a result of Edsall's complicated analysis of voter patterns over the years, he attributes the recent increase in "the percentage of voters holding anti-black attitudes" to "the intensifying conservatism within the right wing of the Republican Party." His attribution here will probably surprise no one.

In other words, the efforts of outspoken people who hold anti-black attitudes to voice their attitudes has attracted like-minded people also to join and thereby intensify the conservatism of the right wing of the Republican Party.

It would seem to follow from Edsall's analysis here that we should also expect that that the voicing of anti-abortion views would attract like-minded people to join and thereby intensify the conservatism of the right wing of the Republican Party.

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Therefore Edsall's subsequent analysis may surprise some people: "To win the White House again, it [the Republican Party] must assuage the social conscience of mainstream, moderate white voters among whom an ethos of tolerance has become normal."

In other words, Edsall attributes the relative lack of support of mainstream, moderate white voters for the Republican party to an ethos of racial tolerance, instead of an ethos of racial division.

But if this were the case with respect to racial attitudes, shouldn't we also expect that it would be the case regarding attitudes about legalized abortion? But Saletan reports that this is not the case regarding legalized abortion.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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