The American Revolution was brought about and won by about a third of the population of the colonies. Roughly one third advocated for it, a third opposed it and a third didn’t care.
And it’s been this way ever since. This can be seen in any presidential election, where about 60% of eligible voters cast a ballot. That’s approximately two thirds involved and a third which doesn’t care enough to do so. Unless it’s a runaway landslide like that of Ronald Reagan, the numbers again approximate the one third for one side, a third for the other and the third which doesn’t care.
It’s always been this way and will likely always be this way. The key is to energize your third more than your opponent. With the right candidate, it’s relatively easy and as we’ve seen over the last election cycles – with the wrong one, it’s near impossible. It really is that simple, in normal election cycles.
There will always be outliers, such as Reagan. Things got so bad under Carter that a change was inevitable. But even then, the right candidate was required for the time and Reagan fit the bill to a tee. The right candidate that people wanted to vote for, not just cast against the other guy. Voters clamored to jump on to Reagan’s positive message bandwagon.
After Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, the democrats could have run Daffy Duck or Darth Vader and won. Actually, I guess they did run Darth Vader under the pseudonym Lyndon Johnson. Johnson was not well liked even in his own party. He didn’t win the election – The promise of the continuation of Kennedy’s legacy won. The myth of Camelot won. Again, people voted for the legacy, not against Goldwater.
Once he entered the race, Obama was also always going to win. He was a dope smoking radical black activist – but no one cared. This was an historic event and people were so enamored with being a part of this history that they put blinders on and shuffled off to the polls. In 2008, it mattered not who we put up against him – he was going to win. People voted for history, not against McCain. The voter turn out was about 59%. In retrospect, I’m kind of glad we didn’t waste a good conservative in 2008.
But 2012 was a different story. Obama was infinitely beatable. It just required the right candidate. But the republicans put up Mitt Romney. He was the wrong guy and got beat because a larger portion of our third didn’t turn out than failed to turn out for Obama. The total turnout dropped to about 55%. No one came out to vote for Romney. The ones who did cast for Mitt, did so as a vote against Obama. That was my reasoning.
But now we are back to normal, as it were – back to the third, third, third model. There are no obvious historic events, no obvious outliers. So we should again expect a third to be utterly disengaged, a third for them and the balance for us.
So when I heard Glenn Beck ask on his radio show yesterday, “If we had to do it all over again, is there a way that we could have reached the Obama supporter [in 2008] – is there something we could have done that would have opened people’s minds intellectually?” – I had to wonder.
To that, the answer is obvious to me. Like it or not, 2008 was an historic event – the whole first black president thing. There was nothing that could have been said or done at the time to cause anyone wrapped in the historic moment to switch.
This led the Beck Show guys to the Trump phenomena. Trump, for anyone who cares to really look, is not a conservative and certainly not an originalist. But he’s hitting all the hot buttons conservatives care about – security, strength and most of all winning. Winning is positive. For now, Trump supporters aren’t concerned with how he plans to win – just that he will. Americans like a winner, so for now, that’s reason enough to support him.
And that they surmise, and I agree, has been the Cruz strategy. This is why, if Cruz is not in the lead, he seems to be everyone’s second choice. At this time in the campaign, that’s a good place to be. This should also be the strategy of Cruz supporters. Avoid other candidates’ negatives – remain positive and give voters a reason to vote for him – not just against the other guy. Be the honey – not the vinegar.
History is there for us to learn from if we choose to. Fully energize our third and then lead. Like Reagan, give others a reason to follow and I think we may be surprised how many will jump on the bandwagon.