Are Voters Masters of Hate … or Love?

Are Voters Masters of Hate … or Love?

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I’m reminded that every politician becomes a little “Etch A Sketchy” when appealing to their base.  After witnessing the women’s healthcare debate, it’s the etch-a-sketch effect – the politician easily erases an image, using 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 extremists 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.

KIRK CLAY is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

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Kirk Clay
Kirk Clay has returned to PowerPAC as a Senior Advisor, Political Analyst & Strategist. In 2013, he led an independent expenditure to elect U.S. Senator Cory Booker. Before that, he worked for PowerPAC as the national field director during the 2008 primary season where he led a $10 million effort that mobilized more than 500,000 voters in ten states. Between 2008 and 2011, Mr. Clay was the National Civic Engagement Director for the NAACP where he was responsible for developing and implementing political research, advocacy and training agenda. Under his leadership, the NAACP executed three 4.0 style voter mobilization campaigns and a national census effort to increase civic participation rates in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Kirk served as Vice Chair of the Census Information Center Steering Committee. Members of the Census Information Centers are recognized as official sources of demographic, economic, and social statistics produced by the U.S. Census Bureau. Kirk Clay’s experience includes serving as the Director of Outreach at Common Cause where he cultivated relationships with contributors and developed a diverse national coalition of strategic partners. Earlier, Mr. Clay was Deputy Director of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation where he managed day-to day operations as well as participated in efforts to mobilize members, activists, community leaders, faith leaders, and state legislators in grassroots issue campaigns. In 2004, he served as the National Field Director of the Unity’04 Voter Empowerment Campaign. Mr. Clay was a Deputy Director for People For the American Way’s field department where he managed the Partners for Public Education program and organized successful pro-public education coalitions and rallies in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Charlotte, Cleveland, Detroit, Denver, Ft. Lauderdale, Houston, Jackson, Jacksonville, Memphis, Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Richmond, and St. Louis. He also mobilized the Los Angeles community to oppose Proposition 38 and helped to mobilize activists in Detroit against proposal 209. While at PFAW, Mr. Clay developed the African American Ministers Leadership Council to build national support for public education with ministers from around the country. Kirk has been featured in many newspapers and magazines. He has written many articles including “Redistricting Strategies for Civil Rights Organizations” for the State of Black America publication. He has also been a guest on numerous television and news programs across the nation. Kirk began his career as a trainer and lead administrator for the Democratic National Committee Campaign Training Academy where he helped to train over 500 campaign staff and activist. He is a former White House intern and has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Cincinnati in Ohio. He lives in Washington, DC with his wife and three children. His hobbies include traveling, cooking, and Jazz. He is a popular political blogger - kirkclay.com - and is active on twitter @kirkclay

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