Depiction of the House vote on H.R. 3590 (the ...

Depiction of the House vote on H.R. 3590 (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) on March 21, 2010, by congressional district. Democratic yea Democratic nay Republican nay No representative seated (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Kirk Clay

Analyzing Partisan Manipulation and Voter Mobilization

After witnessing the woman’s healthcare debate, I’m reminded that every politician becomes a little “Etch A Sketchy” when appealing to their base. Just like the etch-a-sketch easily erases an image, they use language in a way that if called to question, they can deny any intent to disrespect others. They use terms like “Obamacare” and “self-deportation” or twist remarks about foreign policy to spark a reaction from their base. Underneath this is a subtle reference to values in a manner that manipulates their base.

What’s worse is that election year tactics like “Death Panel” town hall meetings produce obstructionist legislators. The use of shock to motivate the base also triggers a downward spiral that adds to the dysfunction in Washington and encourages the 60 member Tea Party Caucus. It’s an outrage that during one of the toughest periods in American history longstanding GOP moderate forerunners have been held hostage. Outside of the bi-partisan response to the financial crisis in 2008, there has not been a real attempt to legislate in a post-partisan manner.

What’s clear to me is that after 40 years of one party control of the house, some of the most conservative elements in this country came together and developed a strategy to win a majority in ’94. Now, the philosophy that “you can’t win without demonizing the opposite party” has become edict and only the American voter has the ability to break this cycle. Will politicians attempt to manipulate voters with the use of fear and hate? Will they use wedge issues to mobilize and turnout their base on Election Day?

I think back to the 2006 elections when these extremist unleashed a harsh “cultural war” to get their base to vote. The political atmosphere is similar to that of today.  However there’s strong evidence that things may be different this time.  We’ve had six years of new registrants and many young voters plus voters of color (VOC) will return to the electorate in 2012.

This political geography is highlighted in majority minority cities like Norfolk where its population grew 3.4% to 242,803. This increase gives Norfolk more than 83,000 “key” Voters of Color. Also, People of Color are 26% of Virginia’s Citizen Voting Age Population. They were 24% of vote share in 2008 and about 23% in 2010.

If a modern coalition of conscious Whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Women, Unions, and Young Voters all demanded honest and trustworthy candidates, we could revitalize and expand our democracy. The truth is, we all love our country and that means every community in it. That’s what motivates most Americans to be compassionate. Hate only motivates “Etch A Sketchy” candidates to become partisan obstructionists. In my part of town, you can’t win without love. That’s popping the clutch.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC