Last night’s win proved that this year that there is a lot of energy and not just to turn out the current disastrous government. It’s apparent that there is a much more widespread belief in the connection between the act of voting and one’s choices for the future than there has been in quite a while.
The numbers break down as they break down and there will be a lot of discussion and blather about what they mean. I’ve got a few thoughts to blather about, but I’ll put that on hold because of the much bigger story.
The turnout, the actual height of the wave, is the thing to look at and the numbers posted are eye-popping.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, more than 532,000 votes had been tabulated in Barack Obama’s commanding victory here. The returns easily eclipsed the 280,000 people who voted in the Democratic primary in 2004.
The win was impressive because of both the way in which the campaign was conducted and the success of an on the ground get out the vote effort.
South Carolina political veterans said Obama’s ground organization was one of the best they had seen, consisting of 9,000 volunteers and nearly 150 voting-day staging areas. His operation overlooked no potential source of votes.
Most significantly, Obama virtually swept the African American vote despite rejecting typical tactics deployed in the South; aides said they hadn’t paid “street money” to local leaders and community organizers to get people to the polls. Obama campaign officials had bragged about bucking this long-entrenched system, but they weren’t certain until Saturday whether it would work.
That portends a real possibility not just for a change of leadership, but also for a change in the way business is done in politics. One of the dynamics that happens when you have such traditional low voter turnout is that when there is a revitalization of participation the effect can be dramatic – or seemingly so to those who’ve been observing, say, the ebb and flow of the 5 to 10 percent of likely voters who are swayable for the past 20 years.
That’s why this election is different than 1992. This isn’t about winning over Reagan Democrats. There are no Reagan Democrats left. This is about turning out another 10 to 15 percent of the voting populace to the polls on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. When you look at the waves of new voters and re-energized traditional voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and, now, South Carolina you stop thinking waves and start thinking tide.
The election of 2008 has the potential to shake the current electoral structure to its roots.