Sept. 29, 2011
Dr. Charles Krauthammer has been hailed by National Review as The Leader of the Opposition. He is indisputably one of Washington’s wise men. His critiques of the manifold errors of the Obama administration are legendary. But in one particular, I suspect, he is flat wrong.
He recently opined that voter intensity does not matter because all the votes are equal on election day. Hes correct that you cannot pull the lever five times to indicate your impassioned support of your candidate (sorry Chicago).
But voter intensity is the key to winning elections. Voter intensity counts because the number of votes will depend on how motivated is the electorate. One radio talker this week mourned that GOP voters had to hold their noses last time and, unfortunately, there werent enough of them. Try to envision those nose-holders rushing to the polls. It would be funny if it were not so sad.
Voter intensity could be seen throughout the Northern states in the 1860 presidential election as tens of thousands of young Wide Awakes marched forLincoln. Soon, tragically, many of them would be marching to their deaths in places like Manassas and Fredericksburg. But that voter intensity was needed in the North because Lincoln was not even on the ballot in ten slaveholding states.
Voter intensity explains the landslide victories of Theodore Roosevelt in 1904 and Warren G. Harding in 1920. In that other era of economic distress, the 1930s, voter intensity produced Franklin D. Roosevelts stunning back-to-back victories.
One of FDRs impassioned 1932 supporters was even so cheeky as to send a telegram to the White House to the embattled President Herbert Hoover: Vote for Roosevelt; Make it Unanimous. Now, thats voter intensity.
I saw voter intensity in Virginia in 2008. Barack Obamas campaign had 82 headquarters staffed by volunteers statewide. John McCain had but one. Is it any wonder Mr. Obama became the first Democrat since Lyndon Johnson to carry the Old Dominion?
Next week, I plan to attend the Values Voter Summit. Ill have a chance to work on the FRC booth and to meet the thousands of intense Values Voters who will be coming to Washingtons Omni Shoreham hotel. Its always an interesting and worthwhile time. You get to meet leaders from throughout the nation, and even from some foreign countries here to see how the Yankees do it.
Ive walked precincts in every election save one since I could vote. Its an important way to learn what voters care about. A recent speech at the Reagan Library by a non-candidate created a stir when that important state governor promoted earned American exceptionalism. I think he was right about thatas the phrase was later explained.
The speech was said to be presidential.
Maybe. But the reason there is a Reagan Library is because President Reagan spoke of America as a shining city on a hill. You didnt have to have a Ph.D. in comparative government to understand what he meant. You learn that when you work a precinct.
The great American presidents were great because they communicated great ideas. Mr. Gorbachev: Tear down this wall. Profound and readily understandable. This government of the people by the people for the people shall not perish from the earth.
Im always bemused when I read biographies of Lincoln. I get the feeling their authors have never walked a precinct. They invariably depict President Lincoln as hounded, beset, and burdened by the swarms of office-seekers and favor askers who descended on his White House. Lincoln himself noted the problem of trying to fill offices while some states were seceding: I feel like a man trying to rent rooms at one end of the house while the other end is on fire!
But he could easily have delegated the task of party manager and political boss to others. Thats what the Postmaster General was used for by many presidents. Lincoln kept all the reins in his own hands for a good reason. He wanted to build his political base and he wanted to take his daily public opinion baths by seeing scores of local political activists. He knew that by seeing these folks, he could keep his finger on the pulse of what was happening in the country.
Next week, at the Omni, you wont have to walk the precincts. The precincts will walk to you. Thats why I love the Values Voter Summit.