What was the secret of Barack Obama’s success in the 2012 election? Traditionally, a President who produces substandard economic growth in a first term doesn’t get a second term; in fact, it’s about the only reason an incumbent President loses, other than offering a pardon to his predecessor. One task in which Team Obama excelled was turning out low-information voters, a deliberate strategy that went all the way to the top. While Barack Obama dodged the White House press for almost all of 2012, he continually appeared in entertainment venues to broaden his appeal and get reluctant voters to come out on Election Day.
Republicans tried to counter this with massive amounts of money from outside groups intended to even out the ad war. They succeeded at that effort, but still lost the election, and ended up looking more marginalized than before. Glenn Reynolds wonders whether that money would have been better spent buying the kind of media outlets that reach the voters Obama courted — especially among single women:
My suggestion: Buy some women’s magazines. No, really. Or at least some women’s Web sites.
One of the groups with whom Romney did worst was female “low-information voters.” Those are women who don’t really follow politics, and vote based on a vague sense of who’s mean and who’s nice, who’s cool and who’s uncool.
Since, by definition, they don’t pay much attention to political news, they get this sense from what they do read. And for many, that’s traditional women’s magazines — Redbook, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, the Ladies Home Journal, etc. — and the newer women’s sites like YourTango, The Frisky, Yahoo! Shine, and the like.
The thing is, those magazines and Web sites see themselves, pretty consciously, as a propaganda arm of the Democratic Party. So while nine out of 10 articles may be the usual stuff on sex, diet and shopping, the 10th will always be either soft p.r. for the Democrats or soft — or sometimes not-so-soft — hits on Republicans.
When a flier about getting away with rape was found in a college men’s bathroom, the women’s site YourTango (“Your Best Love Life”) led with the fact that the college was Paul Ryan’s alma materin a transparent effort to advance the Democrats’ War on Women claim that Republicans are somehow pro-rape. A companion article was “12 Hot Older Men Who Endorse President Obama.”
Similar p.r. abounded across the board: Sandra Fluke is a hero; Sarah Palin is a zero. Republicans are all old white men (women or minority Republicans get mocked or ignored).
This kind of thing adds up, especially among low-information voters. They may not know or care much about the specifics, but this theme, repeated over and over again, sends a message: Democrats are cool, and Republicans are uncool — and if you vote for them, you’re uncool, too.
This isn’t a bad idea for the deep-pocketed business leaders who sunk a lot of money in the election — and not just the general election, but the primaries as well. Not only would that help push a more conservative point of view to consumers who are less connected to politics, these media outlets make money, too, which conservatives don’t mind when choosing investments. At the very least, we can be sure that this won’t hurt, and it at least addresses the dynamic seen in the last election.
In general, Glenn’s argument goes along with a point Andrew Breitbart used to emphasize, which is that culture informs politics, and not the other way around. Conservatives have to engage in the cultural as well as political sphere, even though the entertainment culture — which is the dominant culture in America these days — is tilted against conservative values and principles. Perhaps conservatives have to engage especially because of that tilt. And it would help to have some footholds in that arena when attempting to engage there.