I understand that Brian Beutler is exhorting Democrats to get out and vote. I understand the argument he is making. But it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me to blame low-propensity Democrats for whatever problems Hillary Clinton is supposed to be experiencing. I think the problem is that it’s wrong to think about these voters as “Democrats” in the normal sense of that word. People who don’t vote regularly aren’t really party members. They are just people who exist who (sort of) have opinions that they only sporadically express in any meaningful way.

If you took the entire universe of people who were eligible to register to vote and cast a ballot in 2010 and 2014 but neglected to do so, that universe would be skewed very heavily to the left for the simple reason that apathy runs strongest among the young, the transient, and the underclass. The most regular voters are senior citizens, and people who own homes and have assets are more likely to be registered where they live and to make a habit out of voting in off year elections. The demographics of the Democratic base ensure that apathy will run higher with them than with Republicans.

But it’s a little misleading to think about these marginal voters as the base. They’re the people who don’t know who the vice-president is, who couldn’t tell Watergate from Whitewater, who never read political news and don’t know the difference between Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity. Most of them probably don’t even know where they stand on the issues until they realize where their friends stand.

A subset of these folks gets activated during a presidential election, but a lot of them are hardly aware that there’s an election coming up in a week and could not possibly care less about the result. If they spent five minutes thinking about it and you compelled them to vote, most of them would vote for either Clinton or a third party candidate. But they’re not Democrats.

The only difference between a presidential year and a midterm year is that more of them are self-activated in a presidential year and more of them are contacted and persuaded to participate in a presidential year.

If you want more of them to vote in a midterm cycle, you can raise and spend more money on voter contact, but you’ll never get anything near a presidential cycle turnout. To match Republican turnout in midterm elections, you have to eat into their base. It’s that simple. No wants to admit this, but it really is that simple.

This wasn’t always the case, but it’s the case now where the Democrats have huge advantages with low-propensity groups, especially young voters. You can attract young voters, as Obama did, and you can craft policies to excite them, but young people will always be the least politically active age-cohort of the electorate. If you rely on them in midterms, you’re going to lose.

There are obviously other reasons why Democrats struggle to win a majority in the House of Representatives regardless of the cycle, but the makeup of their base is fundamentally unsolvable by messaging or charisma or money. Perhaps the only thing that holds any promise is good old-fashioned grassroots organizing.

The problem isn’t marginal Democrats not voting but reliable Democrats not doing enough work. They don’t want to eat their peas, so they’ll hold their nose and vote and spend the rest of their time being critical and sarcastic on their social media feeds. They’re the only people who can knock the doors, make the phone calls, and organize the underclass, but they’re busy complaining. Do they think that’s attractive? Do they think that they’re helping to get out the vote?

The too-cool-for-school crowd is the face of the progressive left and it’s not much of an invitation for the politically disaffected.

A lot of Clinton’s problems are of her own making, and she should own them, not point fingers at folks who couldn’t really give a shit either way. But if you’re going to blame anyone for there being too little Democratic power in Congress to fight back against crap like what the FBI is pulling, then you’ve got to look at the people who are reliable voters but shitty allies. And if you tell them that their base isn’t ever going to be good enough in midterm elections, they’ll call you a neoliberal sellout and pretend like they’re waiting for a virtuous revolution to get off their asses.

What the problem really amounts to is that people mistake what a political party really is. It’s the people, not the politicians. If you wait around for the perfect politician, if you’ll only work for the candidate of your choice, then your party isn’t going to change and isn’t going to succeed where it has failed before. Don’t wait for some politician to convince people to vote. Go convince them yourself.

And if you haven’t tried to convince them, don’t go running to blame the people who weren’t convinced.

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