Friday, February 15, 2008

RAMs and SHEEP

Douglas Schoen, a former advisor to Bill Clinton and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, recently wrote a piece for the Washington Post in which he claims that this year's election may be decided by a block of voters he calls "restless and anxious moderates," or RAMs. "Most come from the third of the electorate that identifies itself as independent, but some Democrats and Republicans have also joined this new bloc," Schoen writes. "These voters tend to be practical, non-ideological and unabashedly results-oriented people such as Gary Butler, 60, who lives in Show Low, Ariz. Both parties, he says, 'are way too far apart, and nobody is looking out for the good of the people.'" Pollsters love to come up with fancy new names for this year's swing voters, who usually are not that much different from swing voters in previous elections. They are political sporks, people who can't make up their minds if they are really Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives, whether they are called yuppies, Reagan Democrats, soccer moms, security moms, NASCAR dads or office park dads. Pollsters love these people because they can charge clients in either political party enormous sums of money to explain how to reach them.

But this election is not going to be decided by RAMs or any of these other groups that pollsters and political consultants like to re-invent every election cycle. This election is going to be decided by the same people who decide every election. I call them Scared High-strung Easily-manipulated Egocentric Pinheads or SHEEP. SHEEP are flaky not particularly bright voters who make up their minds at the last minute and vote instinctively for whichever candidate promises them the most and frightens them the least. They are people like Betty Bukowsky, 49, who lives in Dinkytown, Minn., who told me, "There's a Presidential election this year?"

"Will you stop calling my house during dinner time?" another SHEEP told me.

SHEEP are barely paying any attention to the election now, though most have a vague idea that the candidates are "some black guy, the woman Bill cheated on with Monica-something and a really, really old man who was in World War II or Vietnam or something and still hasn't gotten over it." Most of them don't vote in primaries because they aren't quite sure what primaries are. As the summer rolls around, they will start to form concrete opinions about the candidates based on 30-second attack ads and jokes on late-night talk shows. And come November, this group is virtually certain to determine the winner of the presidential race.

SHEEP don't really know what they want. SHEEP may tell gullible pollsters they are looking for substance and straight talk and an end to partisan bickering but in reality they are like high school girls who say they want to date a guy who is smart and sensitive and dependable and really, really cares about them but go to the prom with the first guy on the football team who asks them. The last thing SHEEP want to hear is straight talk, no matter what they tell pollsters. They want a candidate who will tell them exactly what they want to hear and looks good saying it, someone who will protect them from scary things like terrorist attacks or universal health care. They want a candidate who promises to pay attention to people just like them and won't give away things to people who are not like them who don't deserve it because they don't work as hard and nobody should get anything for free.

The political parties don't need to hire expensive consultants to tell them how to reach these people. All they have to do is define their opponent in a way that will provide easy fodder for Jay Leno's joke writers, make good skits on Saturday Night Live and give pundits something to repeat over and over again, and the SHEEP will fall into line. And candidates just need to come up with snappy put-downs of their opponents and vague, feel-good slogans and avoid saying or doing anything that will become a popular YouTube video and get replayed endlessly on cable news stations.

Republicans already know how to reach these voters and most Democrats will probably never learn (except for Bill Clinton who just got lucky). By November the SHEEP will have decided that one of the candidates really icks them out and the other candidate isn't so bad. And SHEEP are never wrong. If the person they voted for turns out not to be so great after all, they will say that the alternative would have been so much worse. "Just imagine how bad things would be if the other guy won," they will say and all the other SHEEP will nod along.

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25 comments:

Anonymous said...

hmmm... reasonable conservative. Fox, Rush and Jay, maybe. I get mine from slightly broader more numerous sources but regardless if your political standing can be called reasonable or not I agree. The sheep in the middle, the sheep on the left and the sheep on the right call the shots in the end.

I agree they are indeed sheep because if they were truly informed on the candidates they might still choose to vote but they wouldn't be happy with any of the choices they've had in the past few or current election cycle...

Mr Wolf said...

Who's your Daaaaaaaaaaaaaady?

Doc said...

Don't worry, Mr. Man.

Hillary will come to her senses any day now and realize that she is carting faaaaaaaaaaar far too much baggage with her to win and will instead endorse and throw her lot in with (to include Super Delegates) Barack Obamama in order for the Democrats to show a unified front for the first time in...well, forever, thereby defeating Mr. Mental-Breakdown-or-Alzheimers_Right_Around-the-Corner Man for the Presidencey.

And we will drink mead and sing lovely songs.

Shep? Bah!

reasonable liberal said...

And the Demo-RATS cannot challenge our MONKEY-president's foreign policy and surveillance powers; and the Republo-RATS believe secret torture and warrantless spying is religiously-mandated conservatism. Maybe we're not SHEEP or RAMs but OSTRICHES - with our heads buried in the sand, afterall, the MONKEY is still eating bananas and throwing shit at us.

slag said...

Where can I get me one of them political sporks?

a said...

I couldn't find the satire in this one.

Howlin' Hobbit said...

Yeah, the satire was pretty thin on the ground but the truth was self-evident.

Great post Mr. Swift!

liquiddaddy said...

Mr. Swift,

I can't decide how I feel about being an undecided independent. One the one hand, I love all the attention. I almost never get any calls, and already I've had a call from Michelle Obama (I couldn't get a word in edge-wise) who said Mr. Obama needs money from me to save the free world. Imagine! And the polls! On the other hand, I probably should make up my mind, maybe eventually? Oh fiddle sticks.

Why I guess in this busy world a retired fella like me with no job, a land line, and six or seven cats is the typical American voter!

I swear these guys are a hoot. They just don't get that no matter how much attention I get, all the fussing and fretting, when I'm in the voting booth, I always vote for the guy predicted to win. Who wants to vote for a loser?

WomanHonorThyself said...

o yes its all bout CHAAAAAAAAAAAAAANGE.. What that change is..don't ask the sleepin doggies...you may wake them from their 6 century old slumber.......awesome as always Jon!

Comrade Kevin said...

I don't mind politicians so much until they raise my taxes.

Bahhhhhhh!

Anonymous said...

Jon said;
" And SHEEP are never wrong."
Wasn't there a movie from the olden days (maybe so old that it was based on a book) called "Far From the Madding Crowd" where the SHEEP were really, really wrong?
Oh well, God bless ChinAmerica.
Buzz

Jaesoreal said...

What about the CAMELS or the Considerably Able-Minded Earthlings Loving...Steakums? Wait, I had it a minute ago.

kathleenmaher said...

If the old anodyne goes: "someday we'll look back on this and laugh," maybe we better laugh now because the future doesn't look funny at all. Even if,you're right and it was always like this, more or less.

Anonymous said...

Fortunately this time I think most people would rather have a beer with Obama or Hillary than McCain. Can you imagine how cranky he must get once he's had a few?

parsec

Bustednuckles said...

Oh, you know a bunch of these people too?

The reason they put Velcro on shoes.

the rev. said...

Most of them don't vote in primaries because they aren't quite sure what primaries are. As the summer rolls around, they will start to form concrete opinions about the candidates based on 30-second attack ads and jokes on late-night talk shows. And come November, this group is virtually certain to determine the winner of the presidential race.

That you run an underappreciated satirical blog and Glen Beck is on CNN is further proof of the basic injustice of the universe.

Stupid, stupid universe.

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Jon,
There's a lot of truth in what you said. And the sheep are already being herded by Presidential pulpit rhetoric but pied piper specifics.
Baaa Baaa Obama, have you any wool?
--Durano, done!

Anonymous said...

I haven't made up my mind regarding how I feel about all this, but I'm sure I'll get around to it when the right time comes.

Huh? Oh, hi there! Hmm? Oh, nothing. Just writing something in a comment section, s'all, how 'bout you?...

Connecticut Man1 said...

I have decided that I will vote a day after the elections. That way I can be sure to vote for the winner but never really be blamed for the atrocities that follow. Also, I won't have to worry about whether or not those machines actually count my vote...

nunya said...

yes, but easily entertained those sheeple, eh?

Micgar said...

Hmmm SHEEP-I know a lot of those people. They don't read newspapers and probably don't vote a whole lot. They watch too much TV.

Micgar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JasonC said...

hey, i lived in dinkytown, too. now what about an election?

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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