The Politics of Fear and the Party of Non-Voters
Robert B. Reich
However you read the polls, the 2012 presidential election is turning into a nail-biter. Former Gov.
The bump Romney got from the first debate seems to have been matched by the bump the president got from the good jobs report for September. (We won't know the real results of Tuesday night's matchup for another week.)
But beware. Polls of "likely voters" are notoriously imprecise because they reflect everyone who says they're likely to vote -- including those who hope to but won't, as well as those who won't but don't want to admit it.
The biggest party in America is neither Democrats nor Republicans. It's the Party of Non-Voters. Its membership outnumbers registered Democrats and registered Republicans.
In a typical presidential election, a bare majority of Americans bother to vote. Since World War II, turnout has usually hovered between 50 percent and 60 percent.
In this respect, 2008 was unusual -- summoning 63 percent of us to the polls.
In 2008, many of them deserted the Party of Non-Voters and went to the polls. For example, a whopping 65 percent of eligible African-Americans voted. So did 49 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 24 -- an age group that's normally far less likely to vote. Hispanics also went to the voting booths in unusually large numbers.
And most of them voted for
So the real question in 2012 is whose potential supporters are more motivated to vote, and whether President Obama can rely on anything close to the turnout he got in 2008.
In 2008, the biggest motivator was hope. But this time around there isn't much enthusiasm for either candidate. The Republican base has never particularly liked Romney, and many Democrats have been disappointed in Obama.
The biggest motivator this time around is fear of the other guy.
There's clear reason for members of the Party of Non-Voters to fear Romney and his running mate, Rep.
Hispanics are also worried about Romney's support for
Young people, who tend to be liberal on social issues, fear Romney and Ryan's opposition to abortion, and their rejection of equal marriage rights. As a result, they worry, too, about who Romney might pick for the
But will these fears be enough to summon these people to the polls in large numbers? Romney is such a chameleon that in the debates he has seemed to disavow everything he's stood for, hide many of his former positions, and even sound somewhat moderate.
Meanwhile, for four years the
They've drummed up fears in a public battered by an economic crisis Republicans largely created, while hiding
They've apparently convinced almost half of America of their lies -- including many of those who would suffer most under Romney and Ryan. And those fears and lies will almost certainly get many Americans to the polls.
Republicans are well practiced in the politics of fear and the logistics the big lie.
The challenge for Obama and Vice President
Obama and Biden must also reignite hopes about what they can do, if re-elected, to steadily improve the lives of most Americans.
Read the latest political news.
- United States Presidential Elections in Perspective
- Early Latino Turnout Could Swing Vote
- A Letter to Women Voters
- The Final Days, The Biggest Issue and The Clearest Choice
- Another Electoral College Nightmare?
- Why We're Still in Deep Trouble No Matter Who Wins The Presidency
- FEMA vs 'Romnesia'
- An Unscripted October Surprise
- Stormy Weather Politics
- Storm Saves Obama From Himself
- A Romney Presidency Would Erase Decades of Progress
- President Obama Has Earned Our Trust -- and Our Vote
- Conservatives Long for the Sad Days of Yesteryear
- The Key Election Factor -- Hispanic Turnout
- Presidential race will be 'all about turnout'
- Romney: Obama Victory Would Mean More Gridlock
- Obama: 'You Know I Tell the Truth'
- Romney Pledges Bipartisanship in Final Push
- Gaffes and Zingers, Highlights of Mitt Romney's Campaign
- Women Voters: Kingmakers in 2012
- Obama: 'We've Got More Work to Do'
- The Uncool President
- The 2012 Choice
- Busting Myths about Benghazi
- Benghazi -- No Mere 'October surprise'
- The Vanishing Act of Dubya
- Not an Easy Makeover for Florida Representative Allen West
- What Men of the GOP Don't Get About Rape and Abortion
- In GOP View, Life is Sacred ... Except When It's Not
- Romney the Wrong Man to Handle United States Foreign Policy
- Mitt Romney AWOL in Foreign Policy Debate
- How the Election Could Go Wrong for Romney
- Mitt Romney's Question-Mark Economy
- Will Money Talk?
- With Time Short, Obama and Romney Hit Key States
- Romney: One Campaign Taking on Water
- The Winning Road to 270
- Obama Blasts Romney in Foreign Policy Debate
- Foreign Affairs Debate Analysis
- Ann Coulter Calls President Obama Offensive Name
- What Did Ohioans Think of the Debate?
- A Vote for Election Day
- Principled Pragmatism Beats Bush-style Bluster
- Teacher Would Show 'Em How To Run A Debate
- Presidential Candidates Not Speaking the Same Language
- Foreign Policy Comes to the Fore
- Mitt Romney's Foreign Policy a Puzzle that Doesn't Fit Together
- Reality: Product of the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy
- The Politics of Fear and the Party of Non-Voters
- Bainport: A Taste of the Romney Economy
- Billionaire Koch Brothers Try to Buy Court
- Mitt's Hubris Shows Through in Town Hall Debate
- Obama's Economic Spin: A New Pony or Manure?
- Moderators Must Push Debates Past Talking Points
- The Second Presidential Debate
- Mitt Romney's Case to Women Fails to Convince
- Mitt Romney's 'Binders' Bind
- Obama's Recovery
- Left Wants Multiculturalism to Trump Free Speech
- Needed: A New Foreign Policy
- Quit Blaming Bush
- A Bright and Shining Libyan Lie
- Florida's Amendment 8 An Assault on Church-State Separation
- VP Debate Winner? Barack Obama
- As Vice President Role Grows, Spotlight Becomes Brighter
- Biden vs Ryan: Old vs New
- Red, Blue and Faithful
- Presidential Debates Reveal More About the Candidates and Less
- A Memo to Mitt and Ann Romney
- Mitt Romney's Biggest Problem is His Own Party
- The 'Self-Made' Hallucination of America's Rich
- Why Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are Going Down
- Four Reasons Why Mitt Romney Might Still Win
- America Needs Good Refs -- On the Gridiron and in Politics
- How the GOP Protects Its Falsehoods
The Politics of Fear and the Party of Non-Voters | Politics
(c) 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc