October 22, 2004

Getting out the vote: the motivation and the pitch.

It is interesting to see how niches of voters within a given battleground state are being targeted and cultivated. Here's a story I heard on on Wisconsin Public Radio this morning about the get-out-the-vote effort on Indian reservations in Wisconsin ("Sovereign Tribes a Maverick in Coming Election"). Note that what the persons conducting the effort say they care about is ending the war quickly--and they support Kerry for this reason--but as they go around to varous potential voters, the pitch they make is about tribal sovereignty. Perhaps Wisconsin's ten electoral votes will determine the outcome of this election, and maybe this niche of voters will make the difference. How many other niches like this are being targeted and cultivated? The problem of low visibility niche targeting in battleground states seems to me to be the strongest argument for abolishing the Electoral College and moving to a national vote.

Is Kerry really the stronger candidate on the issue of tribal sovereignty? In that radio story, the get-out-the-vote people going door-to-door are heard saying, "He's got a 20 year record of working with tribes on a sovereign basis." But is that saying anything of substance? I tried to figure out which candidate has a stronger position on tribal sovereignty, but I couldn't find anything on either candidate's website. I do know Bush has an embarrassing sound bite on the subject. According to the Native American Times:
The Kerry campaign [after Bush's embarrassing sound bite] issued a release criticizing Bush’s comments and touting the endorsement they have received from national tribal officials.

"I am proud to receive the endorsement of tribal and community leaders from around the country," said Kerry. "Our Native Americans for Kerry-Edwards effort continues to grow every day and these leaders will play a critical role in helping to energize, organize and mobilize the Native American community as we head towards November 2nd."
In other words, Kerry sees Native Americans as a rich source of votes. I like the way the Native American Times article ends with this savvy comment from a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe:
"From what I read the Democrats are concerned that Bush left out one or two things that they thought were important. Well, the Democrats also leave one or two words out of their speeches. I don’t think the Democrats know any more about sovereignty than Republicans do,” he said. “ I think both parties are reaching out to include Native Americans-and why wouldn’t they? The Republicans are reaching out just like the Democrats.”
One answer to my fears about niche targeting and cultivation may be that people are actually pretty good at detecting political manipulation.

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