There’s a psychological difference in how Republicans and Democrats approach grassroots organizing. You can sense a near disgust in Republican circles when a word ‘community’ or ‘organizing’ is even mentioned. Yet, this is what wins elections these days.
Koch brothers had a rude awakening the last time around, in 2012, when they spend many millions on air campaigns for Romney and got nothing to show for it.
I think a big reason for the inadequacy of GOP ground game infrastructure can be found in a scam-like nature of the entire GOP voter interaction. It started back in the 1980s with Lee Atwater and his mailing lists that were used less for political purposes and more for scamming those voters, mostly old and scared, out of a few bucks. I mean who else would buy Ann Coulter books and gold coins if not a retiree who’s been told, for years, to be afraid. He’s been conditioned and groomed to become a perfect customer, not a perfect voter.
But there’s a deeper damage to the GOP electoral efforts that has the same origins as the direct mail scams. Yes, they will buy the books and herbal cures, yes they will go and vote, but they will not be engaged with the civic, communal life on a deeper level, because such involvement implies volunteering, doing things for free – a notion that short-circuits the business-oriented mind of an average GOP voter. The side effect of this meritocratic, ‘no free lunch’ mindset is that civic life – an activity that you’re not compensated for – is considered a waste of time. Thus Republican volunteers expect to get paid for knocking on doors and expect to get paid for the number of calls they make while phone banking. They’re incentivized the same way as the hapless low-level Wells Fargo employees were incentivized to open phantom bank accounts: the result looks good on paper, but the end-goal – having real customers with real accounts, or in this case, bringing people out to vote – is not achieved. But, hey, everybody got paid in the process! The suits got their millions of consulting fees and the rank-and-file got their $50 for a hundred phone calls. With such a mindset, that treats the civic life as a business, the final result – winning elections – becomes secondary to fattening your bottom line.
Democrats – and I witnessed it firsthand many times – don’t think like this. There are armies of unpaid volunteers who will not miss a door and will call the same number again and again until they get an answer simply because they are not doing it for money. They are doing it for the end result – winning.