2018 and the rise of the "meh" voters

Is it a blue wave? Or maybe a red wave? It’s too soon to tell, but one thing you may be sure of is that people on both sides of the aisle are fired up and ready to charge out to the polls this November in a showdown over President Trump’s policies and the very future of the soul of America. Or are they?

If you spend a lot of your time following people like the writers here at Hot Air on social media, you’d certainly think so. Spending too many hours of your day watching cable news and browsing the editorial pages of the major newspapers would certainly support that sense of urgency and reinforce the notion of a nation hitting the political boiling point. The upcoming Supreme Court confirmation battle, in particular, seems to be gripping the national interest. But if you step outside the fishbowl we spend most of our time inside, the rest of the country may not be quite as riled as you imagine. The Associated Press has been sampling the attitudes of people in multiple demographic groups, including the highly prized college-educated women’s vote, and finding that a lot of Americans simply can’t be bothered.

Many of those on the left who were already energized to punish Trump’s party this fall remain enthusiastic. On the right, voters loyal to Trump often needed no encouragement either, though some Republicans who have soured on the president were heartened by Kavanaugh’s nomination.

And those in the middle? Many said they weren’t following the issue closely enough to have a strong opinion despite the prospect of dramatic changes to America’s customs and culture.

“I’m not going to know much about this, I’m afraid,” said 31-year-old Christian school principal Sara Breetzke, a self-described moderate Republican who lives in Omaha. “I really should know more, but I don’t have anything unique to say.”

Breetzke was among two dozen voters interviewed by The Associated Press in the days immediately after Trump tapped federal court judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was a swing vote on several key issues, including abortion rights.

This is a timely note for those of us who dwell on the political battlefield seven days per week that not everyone shares our fascination (or obsession?) with politics and the next election. While on vacation recently, I had to stop by the veterinarian’s office with my beagle. While sitting in the waiting area, two other people came in who were engaged in what seemed to be an excited discussion. All I caught of their chat initially was one of them asking “how is this going to play out in the fall?” My ears immediately perked up because I’m always curious to hear “man on the street” comments (or in this case, man and woman on the street) about the upcoming election. At the risk of seeming rude, I continued eavesdropping. As it turned out, they were talking about the New York Yankees.

That was a rather jarring reminder that there are a lot of people out there who don’t spend their lives in a panic over what shows up next on CNN, Fox News or MSNBC. They’re living their lives and probably hoping for little more than a good economy and a government that doesn’t bother them very much. And the economy is in great shape right now, so this considerably large segment of the country doesn’t have much motivation to be involved.

One other factor, examined by the Boston Globe this week, is that even the people who might have once been outraged at the President and ready to go to battle against him are simply exhausted with all of the drama after 18 months of this neverending show.

Is there a danger that their supporters might just get exhausted by the constant drumbeat of chaotic news from Washington? Are they tuning out politics? And — the nightmare question — would that prevent them from voting?

“There are a lot of people who are tired of talking about and tired of hearing about Donald Trump nonstop,” said Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster whose clients have included former Senate majority leader Harry Reid. “I do find people saying they’re more likely to avoid discussion of politics than they were in the past.”

The same media figures who have been working diligently to bring Donald Trump down may be adding to their own woes. When each and every day is filled with one outrage after another, people may eventually just grow numb to it. And the fact is that whether you support or oppose Donald Trump, you have to admit that the one thing he really loves is a fight. He likes fighting the Democrats, but he loves battling with the media. The more shots are thrown at him, the more he lights up his Twitter feed with counterpunches. And if you’re not particularly interested in politics to begin with it’s easy to imagine how potential swing voters would eventually tire of it and switch over to see what’s happening on The Big Bang Theory.

One other danger sign for the Democrats in particular right now is that their internal battles may be turning off their own voters even more than Trump energizes them. Our friend Jeff Dunetz has a study of the Democratic civil war this week and the details should be enough to alarm Democratic strategists. Just when they need to be closing ranks and focusing their fire on the GOP, establishment Democrats in the party leadership are fighting off an insurgent uprising by the socialists in their own hard left wing. That doesn’t exactly invite confidence among the base.

Will this year’s highly anticipated midterms turn out to be a bust? Remember that even in 2016, only 54% of the eligible voters in the United States could be bothered to turn out and vote. Now we’re in a midterm year. If that number sinks below fifty it’s going to be hard to assemble much of a wave in either direction.

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David Strom 2:31 PM on October 04, 2022
David Strom 1:31 PM on October 04, 2022