It’s been a long time — eight years, to be exact — since the words Democrats and enthusiasm have been credibly uttered in the same sentence. And even now, it seems the most enthusiastic Democrats are those highly attached to a presidential candidate who is probably going to lose the nomination on what will feel like a technical knockout or just points. Meanwhile, Republicans are very excited — or in some cases, freaked out — and are participating in primaries at high levels.
Observers have naturally wondered if the very things that so excite Republicans in the presidential contest will eventually excite Democrats — negatively, of course, by creating the specter of an extremist presidency occupied by either a white-identity politician or a throwback to Barry Goldwater.
Now via Greg Sargent comes some data from Stan Greenberg on engagement in the election indicating the Trump Factor could indeed be making a difference with Democratic groups:
Last November, Greenberg warned that the lack of engagement of Dem voter groups loomed as a big problem for Democrats. Now, however, this new poll shows a big bump in engagement among college educated women, minorities, white unmarried women, and Democrats overall. This would suggest a potential downside with Trump’s apparent strategy of unleashing white (male) backlash: Anything Trump says and does to keep that backlash at fever pitch — like the things he’s been all over the media for lately — risks increasing the engagement of Dem leaning groups.
It’s the age-old problem with highly conspicuous voter-mobilization techniques: the more loudly you labor to rev up your “base,” the more you do your opponents’ work in revving up their base as well. It’s why Get Out the Vote programs are often more effective when they operate under the radar screen. There’s nobody more on the radar screen than Donald J. Trump.
If Cruz manages to beat Trump in Cleveland, here’s guessing his scary-to-Democrats features will become rapidly more evident when they are no longer eclipsed by Trump’s. There will always be a few Susan Sarandons out there who insist there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the two major parties unless one or the other is under entirely new management. But this could turn out to be a very enthusiastic cycle for Democrats even if they have some misgivings about their nominee. Back in the heyday of racial politics in the 1960s and 1970s, there was talk of reactionary backlash sometimes stimulating progressive frontlash. That could be what we are beginning to see right now.