Next Tuesday’s US Elections in Black and White


By Al Giordano

You may have heard that Democrats have a problem this November and are at risk of losing control of the US Congress in Tuesday's elections. Whose fault is that? I’m going to tell you the whole truth even though many of you won’t like hearing it: If the House goes down, it’s going to be the fault of white people.

No, I’m not talking about Republicans or Tea Party bigots. I’m talking about white Democrats and liberals who don’t turn out to vote in midterm elections. Hey liberal pundits and bloggers: We have met the enemy and it is us. Look no farther than the mirror to find a scapegoat for next Tuesday’s electoral debacle if it happens.

With Nate Silver predicting a 52 vote swing in the US House to the Republican side (39 are needed to change the party in power) and the Cook Report estimating GOP gains of 48 to 60 seats, and Jay Cost saying it could be way more than 60, and lots of chatter about an “enthusiasm gap” in which Republican voters will turn out in bigger numbers while enough Democrats stay home to throw them the US House gavel, I can’t find any data (except in California, where Democrats are going to be just fine; and that’s good for Democrats, because California has the most US House seats, 53, of any state) to demonstrate otherwise. In other words, I’m saying they’re probably right, and the Democrats have only one Hail Mary pass left and its name is Organizing for America. And if the day is saved it is OfA and its army of volunteers - that might be you - that will deserve all the credit and none of the blame if it goes the other way.

I had hoped to be able to identify the 20 or 30 key Congressional Districts in play this year and wrap them up neatly for you here. The problem is that even now, just six days out, there are as many as 100 districts in play (yes, if everything goes wrong for Democrats all at once, Tuesday could be a massacre nearing those proportions): roughly one out of every five districts and almost half of all US House Democrats are at some risk (in fact, it is about half of all Democratic seats outside of California that could be in play).

Pundits are wondering aloud why it is that the Democrats can be in such danger of losing the House, but appear to be on the verge of maintaining a Senate majority. They tend to settle on, “well, Senate races are more personality driven,” and to a limited extent that is true. But here is the real reason why Democratic Senators are safer next Tuesday than so many Democratic US House members: Congressional districting.

Every ten years state legislatures are given the new census numbers and told how many US House seats their state will have, and are then charged with drawing a new map to reflect population shifts so that all Congressional Districts have roughly the same size of population. And in general, district lines are drawn to create black districts, white districts and, increasingly, Hispanic districts. And African American leaders and organizations are all for this because they get more Congressional representation by members of their demographic group. And white leaders and organizations are all for this because they get to have districts where their politicians don’t even have to shake many black people’s hands, much less attend to the needs and demands of that (more organized) sector of the American citizenry. And everybody in power is happy with this deal – courts have even backed it up – until, perhaps, now, when it is going to have a real impact.

But back to the Senate contests: Why are enough Democratic US Senate seats likely to remain Democratic while in those very same states US House seats are going to the GOP? It’s because they can’t redistrict state lines to separate the whites and the blacks. And those who blab on about an “enthusiasm gap” between Democrats and Republicans obviously talk only to white folks, because among African-Americans there is no lack enthusiasm or voter participation. If anything, they’re more enthusiastic to turn out and vote this year than Republicans and tea baggers. And since African-Americans are the reliable core of the Democratic “base vote,” white liberal pundits and bloggers who whine that “Obama hasn’t fired up the base” obviously have the same problem a lot of white politicians have in that they don’t have much exposure to black folks in daily life. They certainly don’t have a clue as to who makes up “the Democratic base.” The biggest demographic sector of “the base” is already fired up and ready to vote. So who is not as likely to vote? Young white people, mostly; those cell phone voters we identified last week in California who are likely turning out there because Proposition 19 to legalize and tax marijuana is on the ballot, but who don’t exactly identify with the political culture of Washington of which Democratic politicians, like Republicans, too often resemble wind-up Ken and Barbie dolls with strings pulled by lobbyists and special interests. They look the same, they sound the same, and they say the same empty phrases over and over again whenever their strings are pulled.

These folks turned out in record numbers in 2008 because presidential candidate Barack Obama didn’t look or sound the same. And he’s still different, and still popular (more popular than Reagan or Clinton were at this point in their first terms) and no matter how it goes down on Tuesday he’ll likely still be reelected in 2012, because then everybody will turn out to vote.

With only one exception I can think of, virtually all the Democratic House members going down on Tuesday represent predominantly white districts outside of California. Congressional redistricting has literally zoned them out of representation of African-American voters. Thus, there is no cavalry coming to rescue them if you can't or won't do it.

But if Democrat Joe Sestak suddenly pulls off a surprise victory in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, it will be because the 9.6 percent of that state’s population that is African-American rescued him. And if Alex Giannoulias pulls out a come-from-behind victory to become the junior Senator from Illinois, that will be because the 14.6 percent of that state’s population that is African-American put him over the top. If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid survives, guess who will have saved his ass? The 6.4 percent of Nevadans who are African-American, voting in bigger numbers than their actual per capita of the population. Senator Russ Feingold: the 5.4 percent of the people you represent in Wisconsin may be your last hope, too. They're turning out to vote. It's the rest of the citizenry that poses a problem.

Democratic Senators Patty Murray in Washington state, Joe Manchin in West Virginia, Michael Bennett in Colorado, and US Senate candidate Paul Hodes in New Hampshire – all in states where African-Americans make up less than five percent of the vote – will only win if young white and Hispanic voters get their butts to the polls on Tuesday. (And, frankly, Sestak, Giannoulias, Reid and Feingold need plenty of that kind of help too.) Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer in California is likely going to get reelected because the marijuana referendum will pull enough young voters to the polls (and also because the 6.1 percent of her state’s population that is African-American will turn out in big numbers).

For the Democratic Senate and House candidates in overwhelmingly white states and districts, the last and only hope is the ground war: that their field organizations and that of Organizing for America can drag enough first time voters from 2008 and other young and Hispanic folks who don’t usually vote in midterm elections and get them to the ballot box (or bring the mail-in ballot to them). Organizing for America is targeting these potential voters and also you. They want you to help make seven million phone calls this week, something, they remind, that you can do from home or work and they’ll set you up with the list, the script or even invite you to a phone bank location in your area where you can do it together with other interesting people like you who aren’t just sitting around complaining and worrying.

There is no doubt that Democrats will suffer losses next Tuesday. Almost always, the party in the White House loses some Congressional seats during the midterms. That’s the contrary nature of so much of the American electorate: If I can’t find my socks this morning, it’s the fault of the party in power. But whether Tuesday is the electoral blow-out that so many in the media are predicting, or closer to a normal midterm result, is not up to Obama, and will not be because of “what Obama did or didn’t do,” and anybody who comes around next Wednesday or beyond trying to sell that used car will get interrogated from this corner: How many phone calls did you personally make? How many voters did you personally turn out? Hit the phones, or pound sand. Armchair presidents need not apply. Between now and Tuesday, we’re all Mr. and Mrs. President. That’s how democracy was designed to work. The only missed opportunity this week will be your own.


Patty Murray

Washington has all-mail voting this year except in one county, and this seems to be helping a lot with turnout. Already half of ballots have been returned (and this info is several days old) and election officials think we're on track for the 3rd highest non-presidential turnout ever. Hopefully this bodes well for Murray and other Democrats.

Even something as simple as telling your friends about their nearest early voting location can get them to commit to vote and help make a difference.

Great post, Al!

So True Al

Solid post. I did some canvassing for OFA in NC over the weekend. It was a great experience and definitely banked some early votes. I plan on helping out more over the next few days. 

Your are absolutely right!

I have been volunteering here in Wisconsin for OFA and we don't have nearly as many volunteers as we did in '08.  I am working every volunteer shift available except one (so I can take my son trick-or-treating) from Saturday morning until the polls close on Tuesday night.  I am also doing everything I can to get those who volunteered wtih me 2 years ago involved this time around.  Time is running out and everyone needs to wake the heck up and get out there and do what they did in '08. 

Thanks for you voice Al - talk to you on Tuesday night!

Ohio Dems

Fantastic post, Al.  Just to chime in with my story, this is one young, white voter who has already voted, thanks to Ohio's vote by mail system.  I'm incredibly impressed with the Ohio Democratic Party this year, and let me tell you why.

I'd requested my ballot about a month ago, but you know, life gets busy and complicated and the ballot had been sitting around unfilled, just one of those things I kept meaning to get to, but hadn't yet.  And then, I started getting emails and postcards from the Ohio Democratic Party, telling me that my ballot hadn't been received by the Board of Elections, and reminding me of the postmark deadline.  In addition, the emails contained a great deal of information about how to fill out the ballot correctly, and to make absolute certain that the inner envelope was completely sealed; those instructions weren't terribly clear on the ballot itself and ballots were being rejected for this reason.

Well, their reminders did a number on me, and I started feeling a little guilty, so returning my ballot leapt to the top of my to-do list and I sat down, filled it out, and returned it.  Today, I received another postcard from the Ohio Democratic Party reminding me of the postmark deadline, and, having mailed the ballot a week ago, I started wondering if it hadn't been received.  I called the number on the postcard, the worker told me I can call my county BoE to assure the ballot had been received and was in order, and he gave me their number.  I immediately called my BoE and confirmed that my ballot was received and everything was fine with it.

That "tip of the day" at the top of your post certainly worked was effective in getting out my vote, and there's something to be said for staying on top of reliable voters as though you were their mother.  It is my sincere hope that other state parties are as organized as Ohio has shown itself to be this election cycle.

Florida canvassing

I canvassed in florida and the oroganizing is impressive.  They give you a sheet, a map and about 105 houses to hit!  About half were home and all are voting or have voted democratic.

Thus, the polls say we will not show up!  And we can change that and are.  Have you noticed the polls are closing?  That is because of us!

This election is about you!


I've spoken with hundreds of people in the last couple months and so far have only encountered one who said she wasn’t going to vote.  I just spoke with my field organizer and he said they made 3000 calls last night from the coordinated campaign (State Dems).  There are still plenty of people who haven’t turned in their ballot yet, but you can rest assured that every possible voter in this predominantly white Legislative District who hasn’t voted will be called multiple times until they agree to mail in their ballot.  And when I speak with people about voting, I don’t just secure their votes, I encourage them to secure the votes of others in their lives, which most agree to do happily. 

It isn’t just OFA doing this important work. makes calls; AFL-CIO has a coordinated effort to GOTV union members that seems pretty impressive, too.  I have no idea what the SEIU is up to, but they’re no slouches when it comes to voter contact.

There may be a bunch of slacker whiners posing as progressives out there, but the everyday Dems in my little corner of the world are working their behinds off making phone calls and knocking on doors

Tuesday's elections will...

will be talked about for decades as the time pollsters, pundits, and politicos had to throw out their models from the past, and start anew.  2008 was the tipping point, and we are now in a new era of American politics.  The BigMoney-created and financed teabaggerpaloozer tour is not much different from the Christian Coalition work in 1994.  It's a wash when comparing Repub craziness between now and 1994.

What's different is backed up by all I've been hearing personally, and in comments like the ones above, which signals activity and excitement in midterms that I've never seen before.  This is going to pay dividends.  Democrats will do better than most predict.  Fired up?  Now get out there or hit the phones!

Sub-groups in voter blocks

It is not just a racial difference. Knocking on doors we have found that there is a greater percentage of middle class and particularly lower middle class voters who aren't buying the media hype, who are still fully in support of the President. It's among the elite voters that the hype gets spread and believed. The more educated people appear unable to make simple distinctions between hyperbole and fact. The working people realize it takes time for real progress because they have lived their lives that way; it takes years of hard work to achieve meaningful goals.

One other thing Nate pointed out

Nate also mentioned this a couple of days ago:

"The reason that Democrats are most likely to hold the Senate but not the House — the necessary and sufficient reason — is because only one-third of the Senate is up for re-election every two years. If the whole Senate were up for re-election next week, Democrats would lose it and lose it badly."

Yet another thing Nate pointed out...

was that an average error of two points in the polls would put the Democrats at as likely as not to hold the House(down from the 50+ seats his model currently projects them losing). Just two points of error. That's within your typical statistical margin of error. This election is not some wave or blow-out or anything of the sort, despite what the media narrative would have you believe, it's a close-cut thing, even at the top. It COULD become those things, but there's no reason it has to. Even the darkest night soon sees the sun dawn over the horizon, but, in this case, we can make that dawn come sooner and brighter.

The link, for completeness sake.

Thanks to All who are working with OfA et al

I've been working more lately.  I am grateful because I am helping my family ($$). 

On Nov. 2, I must work, caring for the guy with MS, the older lady who stays in her own home, and the 2nd graders that are working to become better readers.  I will vote around 6 AM, and keep going until 6 PM.  Then I can go home, with my family.  Nov. 3rd is just as busy. 

I can not wait to check in here when the Black and White Foto is developed. 

An Authentic Snapshot, critiqued by Al et al.

To All who call, canvass, persuade and vote, Thank you.

Walking the talk...

There is absolutely no downsides to working the street and the phone line. Silly season or not, groundwork "neuronets" a Future indicative, anesthetizes a Present subjunctive. It makes a sweating reformer out of a whining disorder.

Thanks Al. Thanks OFA & other volunteers.

Let's make the repubs and the pundits and the pollsters e  at crow, feather and all, come Nov 3rd.


Bad link for 7 million calls


Great analysis. The ironies are as thick as blood on a Civil War battlefield.

Here is a better link for getting in touch with Obama for America's "Make 7 Million Calls":

Go the top navigation bar on this page and click on "Call  Voters."

The link that's in your story now takes you to a page that takes you to another page, that asks for money, and you still don't have a connection to start making calls.

what OFA is doing

This is a great post describing what OFA is doing to get voters to turn out:

OFA is beyond 10 million calls, contacts - and continuing!

10 Million Goal Smashed—On to the Final Push

Reaching out to 7 million voters in 7 days? You sailed past that goal two days early.

10 million voters? You surpassed that goal too, reaching out to an incredible number of folks at the doorsteps and on the phones.

But we’re not stopping now.

to be found at:

Al, you're going to have

Al, you're going to have more important things to blog about in the next couple of days, of course, and in the days to come.

But should you find yourself with the chance - and if you ever feel like having a bit of fun with it - I'd love to see you tear this to shreds:

Thanks, awildsurmise

I go back a ways with David. It's sad that whenever any old friends join the NY Times they immediatey become irrelevant. Just like y'all-know-who right now. But that is the NY Times' job. To co-opt and marginalize even its own employees. They were really stung by how Colbert called them out on Saturday. Well, Eff 'em if they can't take a joke.

More to say on all this, comin' up...

What is really going on?

 So I just want to know if there is any indication so far that this is still a GOP blow out like the MSM or more like a normal neck and neck race---just confused.

"Rally to shift the blame"

Sent to: M.Carr, Every word, the droid-like syntactic structure, the sweep of rhetorical half-breath, the studious unfolding of tightly measured paragraphs, the preconceived ideas hotly suggested and half-heartedly debated, the persona seeping up from the shallow depth of these thoughts, all bear witness to an impregnable fortress of shielded writer identity. You're a NYT paid contributor, a "coulda-shoulda-oughta" analyst of the "had-to" socio-political battlegrounds I presume; tell-tale signs, to me, of triangulated, "push-poll" sagacity wrapped around antiquated relevancy. I, for one, dismiss your writing as an offshoot of Board Room's train of non linear thoughts, and a haven for mediated shadowy "en filigrane", intertwined with careerist wordsmith apology.    Your literary talent is best expressed I suppose if and when it be written on the waning walls of Corporate desperation. And "walled in" this article of yours, not so truly, desperately feels like...!           

editing conundrum

I simply cannot render proper editing on my iPad, so sorry for cluttering up comments in a gibberish heap...

right on

This person of color thanks you, Al.

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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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