The Elusive “Swing” Vote

Have you heard of the “Moveable Middle?” This is the idea that there are voters on the left who will always vote on the left, and voters on the right, who will always vote on the right, and then there are voters between them who switch back and forth. They are called “swing voters.”

So the idea in politics is that in order to win elections you have to take positions that appeal to these voters, and they will “switch” and vote for you instead of for the other side. This is a fundamental mistake.

Here is what is very important to understand about the “swing” vote: No voters “switch.” That is the wrong lesson. There are not voters who “swing” there are left voters and right voters in this middle segment who either show up and vote or do not show up and vote, and this causes this “swing” segment to swing.

The lesson to learn: You have to deliver for YOUR part of that swing segment or they don’t show up and vote for you. That is what makes the segment “swing.”

Any Democrat politician who thinks that any conservative will vote for any Democrat, no matter how far right they move, is learning the wrong lesson. All that does is cause your voters in that swing segment to turn away from you, and stay away from the polls.

This is the lesson that Karl Rove brought to politics. He understood that you can get the right-voting part of the “middle” roused up to come to the polls by moving the Republicans to the right. Instead of “moving to the center” he got Bush and the Republicans to stand up for conservative principles and refuse to compromise, and the result was that the right-leaning part of the swing segment started to show up at the polls.

The polling supports this conclusion. Greg Sargent, in Progressives and centrists battle over meaning of indy vote,

Independents are not a monolith, and what really happened is that indys who backed Obama in 2008 stayed home, because they were unsatisfied with Obama’s half-baked reform agenda, while McCain-supporting indys turned out in big numbers.

. . . The key finding: PPP asked independents who did vote in 2010 who they had supported in 2008. The results: Fifty one percent of independents who voted this time supported McCain last time, versus only 42 percent who backed Obama last time. In 2008, Obama won indies by eight percent.

That means the complexion of indies who turned out this time is far different from last time around, argues Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. His case: Dem-leaning indys stayed home this time while GOP-leaning ones came out — proof, he insists, that the Dems’ primary problem is they failed to inspire indys who are inclined to support them.

“The dumbest thing Democrats could do right now is listen to those like Third Way who urge Democrats to repeat their mistake by caving to Republicans and corporations instead of fighting boldly for popular progressive reforms and reminding Americans why they were inspired in 2008,” Green says.

The Democrats have taken the entirely wrong lessons, and election results show this. Instead of standing up for progressive values, they give in and “move to the right’ on every issue, thinking that there are voters “in the middle” who will then switch sides and support them, when what they are actually doing is convincing those in the middle who might have shown up at the polls to stay home and not bother.

2 thoughts on “The Elusive “Swing” Vote

  1. I must agree. I do lots of canvassing by means of phone banking, handouts to residents’ homes, and e-mails. I concentrate most on those who have shown in some way that they will vote for a candidate or issue that would be beneficial to the general public.
    Professionally, I taught applied psychology for many years, and can say with some confidence that canvassing does help to bring out the needed vote. However, the canvassing is by far the most effective if it is done by a neighbor, a friend, or by someone who obviously shares the same concerns as the recipient. True grass roots organizing, I guess you would call it.

  2. Yes, you go right on believing this nonsense. The truth is this: Barack Obama ran as a moderate. I heard him in his campaign say that universal healthcare was too extreme. I heard him express all of this moderate positions in the campaign so as not to alienate the moderate vote. But, as president, he has moved far to the left. And, the progressives are surprized that the hoodwinked masses have revolted?

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