Democratic ‘apocalyptic’ scare tactics are ineffective, negatively impact primaries: NY Times guest essay

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A New York Times guest essay on Tuesday argued that both progressive and establishment Democratic Party email and digital tactics were “ineffective” and actually had a negative impact on primary election turnout. 

“Millions of dollars and hours were wasted in 2018 and 2020. And yet, as the party stares down a bleak midterm landscape, with abortion rights on the line, the Democratic establishment and progressive organizations alike are doubling down on the same old tactics,” Lara Putnam and Micah L. Sifry wrote. 

The authors said that Democrats, both the far-left and the establishment, believe voters to be “data points best engaged via atomized campaigns orchestrated from afar.” 

They noted campaign emails from people like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who sounded the alarm on democracy in a recent email and said it was in immediate danger before asking for donations. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was banned from receiving communion by San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was banned from receiving communion by San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

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“I don’t know how else to say this, so I’ll be blunt: All these top Democrats would not be sounding the alarm if our democracy wasn’t in immediate danger of falling to Republicans in this election. I need 8,371 patriots to step up before time runs out, rush $15, and help me close the fund-raising gap before the End of Month Deadline in 48 hours,” Pelosi’s email said, according to Putnam and Sifry. 

The authors describe this tactic as a “churn and burn,” and said that this type of engagement becomes tiresome for voters and “these apocalyptic messages fuel despair.”

“In elections where voters are already getting bombarded with ads, the odds that a volunteer contact can help get people to the polls may be canceled out by the odds the contact will turn them off entirely,” Putnam and Sifry wrote. 

'Vote Here' sign is seen at a precinct the day before Michigan Democrats and Republicans choose their nominees to contest November's congressional elections, which will determine which party controls U.S. House of Representatives for next two years, in Birmingham, Michigan, U.S. August 1, 2022. REUTERS/Emily Elconin

‘Vote Here’ sign is seen at a precinct the day before Michigan Democrats and Republicans choose their nominees to contest November’s congressional elections, which will determine which party controls U.S. House of Representatives for next two years, in Birmingham, Michigan, U.S. August 1, 2022. REUTERS/Emily Elconin

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They noted studies that found “handwritten postcards” had a no effect and actually a negative effect on turnout in 2018 and 2019. 

Putnam observed a red area in Pittsburgh where “ordinary voters appalled by Donald Trump came together by the dozens and then hundreds, hoping to contest every seat, in every election.”

Through engaging directly with voters, “they heard firsthand their neighbors’ reactions to national Democrats’ sound bites. They learned not to overestimate the impact of anonymous contacting,” Putnam and Sifry wrote. 

Alexi McCammond and Nicole Wallce discuss voter turnout in Georgia.  (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)

Alexi McCammond and Nicole Wallce discuss voter turnout in Georgia.  (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)

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Democrats have also used another strategy this year as groups such as the Democratic Governors Association and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) have meddled in Republican primaries by boosting candidates they believe to be too extreme or unelectable.