Friday, November 27, 2020

This may be crazy talk but there might be a subtle flaw in the tactic of telling your base votes don't matter

Anne Applebaum doesn't see it [emphasis added]

I’m afraid that I think it’s a little bit more sinister than that. I think that — certainly on Trump’s part, and other Republicans are probably coming to see this the same way as well — this is an attempt to create a new kind of base: an enraged receiving base, which will always think that the election was stolen and which will always assume that something went wrong and will always feel that they were deprived of something. And this base will then have uses in the future.

I don’t believe it will be all of the Republican Party. I can’t tell you right now how many of them it will be. But it will be a significant number of people. And in some congressional districts and some states, it could even be a majority. And this will be a base that is usable. This will be a base that not only dislikes the Democratic Party or disagrees with them, it will think that the Democratic Party is evil and anti-democratic — that they have stolen the election.

Think about what that means. That means that they aren’t even a legitimate political party. It means that there is a base of people who will be not just skeptical of mainstream media — whatever you think mainstream media is, which may even include Fox now. They will be not just skeptical of Fox, CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. They will think all of those institutions are part of a deliberately constructed conspiracy to steal the presidency. And that kind of feeling — that conviction that the other side isn’t just wrong, it’s evil and traitorous — that’s then a useful group of people who can be motivated politically and maybe in other ways in the future.

Lots of this is familiar ground, particularly to long-time readers who have suffered through about a decade's worth of posts on the conservative movement's use of disinformation/war on data and its implications.

 Here's a relevant bit from 2015 [emphasis added]

I've been arguing for quite a while now that we need to pay more attention to the catharsis in politics (such as with the reaction to the first Obama/Romney debate), particularly with the Tea Party.  Conservative media has long been focused on feeding the anger and the outrage of the base while promising victory just around the corner. This has produced considerable partisan payoff but at the cost of considerable anxiety and considerable disappointment, both of which produce stress and a need for emotional release. 

 And from 2019 [again emphasis added]

I don't want to get too caught up in the finer distinctions between catharsis, emotional release, relief of stress, etc. What matters is that the conservative movement has spent more than a quarter century using distorted news and disinformation to cultivate a base motivated by anxiety bordering on panic and anger bordering on rage. It is easy to see why the leaders believed that having a base this motivated and hostile to the opposition would be to their advantage. It is not so easy to see why they believed they could control it indefinitely.


 There's no question that convincing your base "that the other side isn’t just wrong, it’s evil and traitorous" is potentially useful, nor is it a new idea. Conservative media has been focused on this, with considerable success, since Clinton first took back the presidency in '92. Go back and listen to some Rush Limbaugh shows of the era.

 But this has always been a balancing act. Every claim that a loss was due to betrayal and corruption had to be matched with an equally persuasive claim that next time would be different. Your vote didn't count last time but it's essential you show up at the polls next time. Selling that message has become more challenging.


And here's Josh Marshall.

It’s hard to manage party enthusiasm and unity when you’re arguing that the state GOP is actually a front for the Democratic party. This was the third rail – Republican control of the Senate – that Powell touched. Whether McConnell picked up the phone and communicated this directly to Trump or whether he got the message in another way, this is almost certainly what led to her ouster.

Just to be clear, the GOP may hold both these seats -- I'd be reluctant to bet against them -- but it seems overwhelmingly unlikely that the base's delusions about stolen elections and betrayals from within are helping. The Republican may retake the House in 2022 and the White House in 2024, but it is difficult to see how convincing the majority of your supporters that elections are fixed is an effective way of getting out the vote.

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