Besides overt media bias, the Republicans had the deck stacked against them from the start. First, there was Bush fatigue factor. After eight years, the general public was hanging everything they didn’t like on Bush, sometimes fairly, most times not.
Second problem was McCain’s campaign, which couldn’t seem to articulate a message of what needed fixing and how they would fix it. For example, I remain convinced that the health care “crisis” is a manufactured one. There is no crisis per se, but clearly things in that area need to be addressed to ensure that the under-employed have coverage and that insurers meet their obligations. But the Republicans allowed the Democrats to (1) make it seem like there was a crisis and (2) convince everyone that only the Dems had the answer to it, even if that answer was nothing more than lofty rhetoric. Obama himself cynically played up this non-crisis with anecdotes of his mother's battle with insurers.
Third was the incredible and often baffling cult of personality built around Obama, with much help from the media. With many of Obama's most zombified cheerleaders being part of the media establishment, I'm not sure how this could have been countered, but certainly a better Republican message with a more energizing candidate would have blunted it.
Fourth was the sub-prime mortgage mess and the economic meltdown it precipitated. When the shit hit the fan, the splatter was all over Democrats like Chris Dodd, Barney Frank and Barack Obama. Yet the Democrats said all the blame belonged to George W. Bush and the Republicans in Congress, and by God, it was so. It was bad enough that a complicit media went along for the ride, but that the Republicans and McCain's campaign just stood there like idiots and let it happen, well, one would almost think they wanted to lose. Take a dive in the last round, kid.
This created the perfect environment for the "idjit" voters, which I'll come back to in a moment. But first, a word about the Republican ground game. I did volunteer work for the local campaign, and while I recognize that phone banking and door knocking are time-honored GOTV methods, they're absolute crap. Just ask yourself if, after taking calls at dinner time and on Saturday afternoons from both campaigns for two months before an election if that has ever made you (1) decide for or against a particular candidate or (2) get out and vote when you weren't particularly inclined to do so. Right...didn't think so. Add to that the modern conveniences of caller ID and voice mail and you've got 2 + 2 = crap. Where it might help some is to politely inform voters that hey, there might be a congressman or senator down ticket, too. By and large, though, I think phone banking and door knocking is a means of getting motivated supporters to feel like they're doing something for the cause.
So here's my advice: Screw phone-banking and door-knocking...hold events. Free food and beer, maybe some entertainment (assuming Republicans can find willing musicians), and weave in candidate introductions and substantive talk about issues. Educate and inform the voters. All those people signing up to make phone calls and knock on doors? Have them pony up a few bucks or cook hot dogs instead. And do this in every stinkin' precinct.
Because whose phones are ringing and doors being knocked on? That 60-80% of the electorate who are idjit voters. Who are idjit voters? A few weeks ago, I came across this post at Politico.com. Here are your idjit voters:
The two most unreal moments of my professional life of watching focus groups:That's not to say that "idjit voters" aren't intelligent people. They're just ordinary, every day guys and gals who are too busy with work and kids to be really informed on what's going on, and they get their news in snippets from a national media establishment that's not really interested in actually informing them.
54 year-old white male, voted Kerry '04, Bush '00, Dole '96, hunter, NASCAR fan...hard for Obama said: "I'm gonna hate him the minute I vote for him. He's gonna be a bad president. But I won't ever vote for another god-damn Republican. I want the government to take over all of Wall Street and bankers and the car companies and Wal-Mart run this county like we used to when Reagan was President."
The next was a woman, late 50s, Democrat but strongly pro-life. Loved B. and H. Clinton, loved Bush in 2000. "Well, I don't know much about this terrorist group Barack used to be in with that Weather guy but I'm sick of paying for health insurance at work and that's why I'm supporting Barack."
I felt like I was taking crazy pills. I sat on the other side of the glass and realized...this really is the Apocalypse. The Seventh Seal is broken and its time for eight years of pure, delicious crazy....
Educate and inform the voters.