Camp Carnahan

I decided to see how real politicians try to win elections, so I went to Camp Carnahan. It was wonderful. I got to see how real people really do it, real candidates who are running in local races right now, their real campaign managers, and real expert consultants who are advising the folks right here on their campaigns. And all for only $40, and that came with three meals.

And now I know why we lost the White House and the Senate and the House, and the Governorship and Senate and House here in Missouri, and so many other races in this country over the last forty years. Because we believe all those experts who helped us lose all those offices that used to be solidly Democratic and are now solidly Republican.

Targeting:
It seemed like every presenter started with the same refrain:

Well, it’s like this: 40% of the people are your Democratic base and they are gonna vote for you no matter what, so you can ignore them. And 40% of the voters are the Republican base and they’re gonna vote against you no matter what, so ignore them. The remaining 20% are your “swing voters” and you want to spend all your attention on them. You need half of them to win the election, so all your effort will be directed to targeting the 10% of the voters that you need to persuade to win the election.

So how does this translate into reality-based politics? It means don’t bother shoring up your base to keep them from defecting to the other side or to a third party or just giving up on voting in disgust at being ignored. And don’t bother with the other side, don’t try to break up their political coalitions and take away their base. Nope. Instead, you must ignore those who are the most politically alert and aware and concentrate all your attention on that tiny fraction who are so terminally clueless that, in the most partisan period in a century, they still have no idea what values they stand for, and will likely be persuaded (only when they are in the voting booth) by such criteria as name recognition and how tall or pretty they are. And they expect to win elections this way.

We lost huge numbers of union voters (the Reagan Democrats) because we ignored our base. We are on the verge of losing the Black vote because we are ignoring them. All so we can spend all that we have pursuing the Muddle-of-the-Road Terminally Undecideds.

We could be peeling off huge numbers of Libertarians and Paleo-Conservatives who hate the war and hate the Patriot Act and hate being spied on, but we won’t do it because it would mean spending time and money communicating with our opposition’s base. And so we lose.

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10 Responses to Camp Carnahan

  1. Jo Etta says:

    “Muddle-of-the-Road Terminally Undecideds” is excellent wordsmithing, not to mention that your point is exactly on the mark. Thoughtful posting, Tom–just as your tagline at the top of the website promised.

  2. Robert Levitt says:

    I believe I’m beginning to understand why the British are horrified whenever they hear the word “expert”. I have no idea where those so-called “experts” come from–what rock they live under, and so forth–but I think if aiming at the undecided 20% while forgetting about your base–that 40% that is already in your camp–is the way to go, then I’d say you should be looking at another line of work.

  3. John F. Wuenschel says:

    Tom, I’ll save your blog as a favorite and check up on your thoughts.

  4. Thanks for posting this Tom. I am continually appalled by the lack of practical observation and imagination in the core of the Democratic party. Can they be as blind and inept as they appear to be? How is it possible to be running the same failed strategy over and over unless Karl Rove is secretly behind it with a legion of fake Dem trainers that fool the rank and file into believing a strategy that is ultimately helps Republicans. Maybe they are so ingrained in politics that they just can’t see the forest for the trees. But when a suburban housewife like me sees this strategy as a load of sh*t, it is time to try something new before this country is so far down the toilet we can’t get it back.

  5. D. Mindock says:

    Tom,
    Great beginning of your blog. You can spot B.S. easily where others might
    be inclined to go along to get along. So, break a leg with your blog and keep those
    incisive thoughts a’comin’.
    Peace, D. Mindock P.S. I like the meaning of the word “numen” too.

  6. Ruth Ortbal says:

    Tom, I always enjoyed your comments on our yahoo discussion group and am sure I will like visiting your blog. Great start! Ruth Ortbal

  7. […] All the more reason why it may be a politically fatal mistake to ignore the political base of the other side and concentrate only on the Terminally Befuddled Undecideds. […]

  8. […] I’ve already criticized the foolish Democratic strategy of ignoring our base and concentrating on winning the “Muddle-of-the-Road Terminally Undecideds”. A bit more ammunition from over on MyDD (always a wealth of political insight): … the Bush pollster discovered that the traditional swing voter was fast becoming an endangered species as only 7 percent of the electorate in 2004 had voted independently of party loyalties. …. “Rove instantly recognized the significance of the numbers. ‘Really,’ he said, grabbing the sheet from Dowd’s hands, his voice rising with excitement. ‘Man, this is a fundamental change.’” […]

  9. […] Problem is, campaigns just don’t know any better, spamming us is all they’ve been taught. They are doing what the campaign before them did, and by the time they got to work, everything was already in crisis mode, so they didn’t have time to try out new ideas. And if they received any training, such as Camp Carnahan, they were taught by those whose day job is to sell canvassing and phonebanking and similar forms of spam to the campaigns. […]

  10. […] they don’t want the money to be spent on anything except their tired old, failed strategy of Targeting the Muddle of the Roaders and ignoring all those who are politically […]

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