The commonplace wisdom when it comes to the difference between the Republican and Democratic Party asserts the idea that Democrats fall in love and the Republicans fall in line. Rooted in that assumption is the idea of the Republican Party being better organized and that the Democrats led around by emotions. It would therefore hold that the Democrats would rely more on enthusiasm as a measurement to energize their base.
Often stated in the media in 2012, was simply the Democrats had an enthusiasm gap when it came to the upcoming presidential election. It was argued that the enthusiasm gap was an outgrowth of a down economy. Graduates who couldn’t find jobs after college would sour and their voting behavior would change in 2012. Minority groups who suffered the brunt of the unemployment rate would simply sit out the election. In many ways, the scene was set for a great night for the Republican Party in 2012.
What happened on the way to electoral heaven for the Republican Party? It’s actually very simple, the Republican Party post 2008 happened. The Tea Party movement leading up to the 2010 election closed the enthusiasm gap. In 2010 the Tea Party was a silent movement that spoke to the anger of the moment with government. Their shortfall was the Tea Party coalition didn’t represent a majority.
Their victory came at an opportune time. They won in 2010 after the euphoria of 2008. Many within the Obama 2008 coalition were just plain tired and disengaged during the mid-term election and the Tea Party Republicans capitalized at the ballot box. The Tea Party in your face style shaped the Republican 2011-2012 Presidential Primary and broader Republican Party headed into the 2012 election.
Between 2009-20012, the rhetoric against President Obama and the Democratic Party got nastier and nastier. Out of this the birther movement was formed and egged on by the likes of notables like Donald Trump. The Tea Party movement made Mitt Romney, the Republican Party nominee, change his approach altogether. He went from running as a ‘turn around’ specialist and effective businessman, to an average run of the mill pandering politician. He was transformed into a man who was everything they wanted him to be.
The sole purpose of the 2012 campaign for Republicans was to beat President Obama at all cost. It didn’t matter if doing so would sacrifice the Republican long term brand. In fact, there was a war on any group that did not subscribe to the 1950’s as being an ideal period and a period we should seek to create. This leaves out many living in modern times. But the square peg had to go in the round hole for their strategy to work.
The only problem with this strategy it creates push back on the other side of the strategy. This push back, I argue didn’t manifest itself in the typical form. The Democratic grassroots base did not borrow from the energy of the tea party.
In many respects and strangely enough, it could be argued that the Democratic base borrowed from the lessons of the moral majority of the early 1980’s which swept Ronald Reagan into power and kept the Republican Party in power for years.2012 represented a complete role reversal. Democrats silently organized themselves in the field and won at the ballot box. The standard method for measuring enthusiasm changed.
I would argue there was something deeper burning within the Democratic base voters (African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians and Women) and it was a backlash to how President Obama has been treated for the past four years. It takes a deep commitment to stand in a line for up to 6 hours to pick the next president and this is what the base Democratic supporters did. It was an anger that drove this action. Indeed, an anger that was focused on outcomes much like the moral majority of the 1980’s.The moral majority of the 1980’s often claimed to have a silent majority speaking for everyday people that doesn't make noise but exercises power on Election Day.
This happened on Election Day 2012 as determined people stayed in line to vote against the Tea Party backlash after the 2008 election. This new movement should be dubbed the Silent Majority 2.0.
This silent majority has one key element on its side and it’s the math and it’s time. Increasingly America will look more and more like the people standing in those lines for up to 6 hours and less like the forces that sought to suppress the vote in 2012.
The Silent Majority 2.0 is more than a wave generating power out on the shore. The Silent Majority 2.0 has the power to overtake the shoreline and reshape American politics and American life. This was revealed in large measure due to the reaction from the right wing to the first term of President Obama. The Republican Party is damaged over the next 25 years.
The Republican Party is damaged because many people within the Silent Majority 2.0 will remember how they were treated when they were down economically. Tactics were applied to get folks to disengage and turn from the vision of the future they choose in 2008. There was a backlash that reaffirmed the need to invest in our future and between these tensions is where the Republican may have lost the future.