There’s been a lot of moaning on this site lately about how Lincoln Project and other GOP groups ads against Trump are great but not very useful in persuading voters, since Trump’s base will never be swayed by them. These ads, they say, are really about getting into Trump’s head and banging around in there. I posted a comment on this viewpoint in Teacherken’s diary on the latest Lincoln Project ad, but I decided to expand on it: These ads are about reaching the 4 in 10 voters who didn’t vote at all in 2016.
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When it comes to the Donald Trump presidency, nonvoters are just as responsible as verified 2016 voters for the presidential election results, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.
The study notes an important statistic: four in 10 Americans who were eligible to vote did not do so in 2016. And by taking the unique (and uniquely valuable) step of validating those who claimed they voted, Pew researchers were able to determine who actually voted and who did not. Breaking out these categories into hard data makes it clear: Nonvoters in 2016 had just as much to do with establishing the Trump presidency as actual voters.
From that Pew Research report:
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Four-in-ten Americans who were eligible to vote did not do so in 2016. There are striking demographic differences between voters and nonvoters, and significant political differences as well. Compared with validated voters, nonvoters were more likely to be younger, less educated, less affluent and nonwhite. And nonvoters were much more Democratic. [emphasis added]
These are not people whose votes were suppressed, whose registrations were “lost,” who were intimidated away from the polls or told to vote on Wednesday. (Sure, there were a few, but not 4 in 10!) Some were Bernie-only types, some were plague-on-both-houses types, and an awful lot were the what-difference-does-it-make types.
Well, this time around Bernie is making sure his followers don’t make that mistake again. (It was his mistake, too.) The Lincoln Project is going after the other two groups: those who couldn’t stand either candidate, and those who didn’t see much difference between either candidate, which also includes those who felt it was too much bother to vote.
The Lincoln Project creators may be (are!) working out their guilt for what they’ve helped make the GOP into all these past years (and their attacks are aimed at the whole GOP, not just the Mangoflied Malignancy), as well as their guilt in helping or just watching the way GOP discouraged voter turnout in 2016. They know how to discourage voters — which means they also know how encourage them.
The Lincoln Project ads, the Never Trumpers, the Republican Voters Against Trump, may peel off a bit of Trump’s base — and every bit helps, as we learned in WI, MI, and PA, to our sorrow — but their real target is those apathetic 4-in-10 who could have voted and didn’t. Many of those voters were already starting to get riled up; the LP ads are aimed at feeding that anger from now to election day and beyond.
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And it’s working — especially because the Biden campaign is very cleverly sticking to the other half of the combination: giving these voters a reason to vote for Biden as well as voting against Trump.