July 21, 2022

The Other Side of the Pundits

by Janet Karvouniaris
July 21, 2002

Ed. Note: It was a brief exchange with Janet that set Karen Lee off on the ‘What Are the Pundits On About’ op-ed. They agree, as Janet notes, that 2022 is way too early to be speculating about 2024. It distracts from the very steep task at hand this year. But Janet also sees the other side, the voter ennui and where it may be coming from. There’s a lot of that in the US, and it dampens our enthusiasm abroad when we read the news feeds. Here’s a first salvo at identifying root causes.

In What Are the Pundits On About,’ Karen posited reasons why the ‘allied’ sources are going after Biden.

“But shouldn’t we be asking, instead, ‘What should we do in 2022 to make sure our votes are counted in 2024?’

It’s hard to tell why our own Dem-leaning sources are going after Biden (and Schumer and Pelosi). Here are some rough guesses:

    • They’re genuinely angry at the ‘slow action’ and just can’t contain themselves.
    • They hope the loud critiques will push Congress and White House to take swift, decisive action on the right-wing ‘outrage du jour.’
    • They’re reflecting the intra-Party arm-wrestling -- normal, nasty – between the deposed centrist wing and the 2018-ascendant progressive wing.
    • They’re just so anxious for a paying column, they’ll write any old click-bait.”

We agreed that it’s too early to be considering alternative candidates in 2024. This led us to think about why some Democratic and Independent voters seem unmotivated to vote in the primaries and even in November.

In an article on March 31, 2022, Politico discussed what they term, “enthusiasm deficit” on the part of Democrats compared to Republican voters.  At that time, they went on to say, “There’s little reason to think much will change. For months, Democrats pinned hopes for a turnaround to the possibility that Covid or inflation would subside, or that Democrats might energize base voters by passing even more legislation than the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill and massive infrastructure package already enacted. Most recently, they saw Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement announcement — and Biden’s historic nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to replace him — as an opening to energize young voters and people of color, two core Democratic constituencies.”

Well, a whole lot has changed in the three and a half months since the Politico article was published! The January 6th hearings, voter suppression, gun laws struck down and the overturn of Roe v. Wade are among the most prominent and far reaching changes – in both time and space. Two things these all seem to have in common are the blatant disregard for the will of people and reactionary acts of  ‘minority rule’ that result in our children having fewer constitutional/human rights than we had … the right to privacy, the right of children to be safe at school, the right to vote, to name a few. 

Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners, a Democratic polling group, in an interview with Laura Barrón-López, PBS Newshour, July 13, 2022, expressed this view:

“Independents and Democrats really want accountability. And they're furious about the will of the people being overturned.”

As Jonathan Capeheart put it:

“If overturning the people’s will doesn’t motivate people to vote, then I don’t know what will!”

So where are we now? What efforts can we take to lessen the “enthusiasm deficit”?

Robert Reich is aiming his latest initiative toward reaching young voters on social media. In Inequality Media Civic Action, July 13, 2022, Reich wrote:

“According to exit polls, explosive turnouts of 18- to 29-year-olds were the key to 2020 Democrat wins in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia — but these same young voters aren’t excited about going to the polls this year.

It’s a no-brainer that Snapchat is where we need to go to reach young voters, but a Pew Research Center Survey showed that fewer than 2% of journalists are on Snapchat or TikTok or other social media platforms on which youth voters spend their time.

You know who is reaching young people on Snapchat? Ben Shapiro. The extreme right-wing pundit already has more than 1.6 million followers. There is just no progressive equivalent to his vitriol on the platform.

But Inequality Media Civic Action is gaining on Shapiro.

We have to strengthen our social media presence on Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter to reach every possible youth voter before November.”

Reich's is just one example of the many broad initiatives taken by democratic organizations to reach unenthusiastic voters where they currently exist, in that grey space between apathy and despair. Robert Hubbell gives the readers of Today’s Edition links to many state and national organizations that are mobilizing voters, as well.

At the individual level, I think we need to keep up our efforts to reach people who vote from abroad in the places where we live. From my experience, however, there may not be enthusiasm among my like-minded friends but they are definitely committed to voting for the policies and values we share: upholding the right to privacy, strong gun-control legislation, making it easier, not harder, for people to vote and accountability for those who break the law and attempt to overturn the will of the people.

And when it comes down to the actual election, I believe Democrats should help voters overcome ANY obstacles Republicans may throw in the way of eligible voters. DAGR is really effective at helping with this in terms of voting from abroad, and good for us! It kind of comes down to doing what one can within one’s locus of control.

What I found particularly frustrating: By the time I thought through these issues and wrote something down, the landscape had changed! Again.