Democrats Close the "Enthusiasm Gap"

By Ed Kilgore, Washington Monthly - September 20, 2012

As I’ve often observed, more nonsense is written about voter “enthusiasm” or the lack thereof than most any aspect of American politics. The need for it is cited as a justification for all sorts of polarizing political strategies and tactics that might or might not make sense otherwise, particularly negative advertising and catering (or to use the more loaded term, pandering) to organized identity or advocacy groups which are thought to be enthusiasm brokers.

It’s fairly well understood, of course, that highly visible efforts to generate partisan voter “enthusiasm” run the risk of backfiring by (a) repelling undecided voters and/or (b) helping the partisan enemy motivate its own troops. It seems less-well understood that any “enthusiasm” beyond that necessary to get voters to the polls is a costly waste. Part of the problem is that us Political Animals instinctively mistrust voters who aren’t as passionate about it as we are, and often tend to view “undecideds” as either stupid, ignorant or anti-social. So we tend to forget that “good” and “bad” voters have and should have equal weight.

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