Republicans' Best Playbook: Create Non-Voters

Authored by Rick Marschall via,

The most important aspect of this year’s electoral battle concerns those elusive numbers that might tip the results.

Traditionally in fractious times, the supporters of each party are well identified. Appeals – by millions of dollars and thousands of workers – are employed to persuade the Undecideds. But in 2020, there simply are few Undecideds. By this time in the electoral cycle, if such creatures exist, they will stay home, or break evenly but in negligible numbers. Attention to the Undecideds largely is a futile exercise.

Further in times like these, parties expend efforts to pry voters from their opponents’ ranks. In the Republican Party, except for Neocons and “Establishment” Republican leaders – as the blue-collar billionaire Donald Trump virtually has driven them from party ranks – there has been no perceptible exodus to the Democrats. Nor, despite rumors and hopes, are many Sanders supporters turning Republican.

Rather, in a rare situation, this election will be determined by each candidate’s ability to create non-voters – the always stubbornly substantial number of “stay-at-homes.”

Whether by careful calculation or not, President Trump elicits evasions or denials from Biden that contradict his recent positions on climate change, fracking, the Green New Deal, court packing, taxes, and many other issues. Biden’s near-confessions (“voters don’t deserve to know my position before the election”) will neither attract Republicans nor inspire Democrats.

Liberals and radicals, new and old, who found themselves in the Biden camp by default after the primaries will not switch to Trump in response. And there is no third-party candidate in whom to register resistance. Sanders and AOC partisans are dispirited and unlikely to manufacture enthusiasm.

Conversely, and except for the non-existent armies of John Kasich and Christie Todd Whitman, Trump voters generally cement themselves in the Republican camp, and increase their enthusiasm when the President doubles down; and such has been the case for four years.

Trump’s supporters, new and relatively new, often feel as if they are members of a crusade. Biden, the shopworn face after nearly half a century in Washington – with no list of accomplishments nor even one notable “Biden Law” to his credit – cannot wave a magic wand to create a similar band of enthusiasts. If not over 40, 30, 20, or 10 years…  unlikely in the next weeks.

Surely, Trump’s invariable crowds at rallies, and Biden’s empty rooms, mirror the relative states of the parties in this analysis. Pollsters and pundits can theorize about “enthusiasm gaps” and “likely voter groups” and “targeted motivational appeals” and scientific polling, and similar swamp-matter. They are all subsets of 2020’s distinctive:

This election will be decided not by how many voters switch sides, or become new voters; but on how many voters feel betrayed or ignored, or are disgusted, and simply will stay home. That group constitutes a share of the electorate that the Democrats own.