Widespread cynicism regarding politics and government paves the way for large blocs of voters to be open to new types of leaders. This is particularly true of leaders from outside of mainstream politics.
100 Million Alienated Non-Voters up for Grabs
1996 is a benchmark year for American politics. For the first time in recent memory, less than 50% of registered Americans voted in a Presidential election. In 1996, President Clinton was elected with 49% of the vote from 49% of the people -- or about 24% of the people.
20 to 35 Million Frustrated Frequent Voters up for Grabs
In 1992, political analysts learned that there are at least another 20 million frequent voters who are so angry about the collapse of two-party government that they will support almost anyone outside of mainstream politics.
In 1992, long term trends in declining voter turnout were reversed, however temporarily by the Ross Perot factor. In 1992, 55% of registered voters went to the polls for a three-way race in which billionaire Ross Perot got almost 20% of the vote.
The Perot movement revealed something to be taken very seriously. The election returns revealed a huge, amorphous group of alienated Americans who are willing to support almost anyone in preference to a mainstream politician. And the number of those alienated voters shows no sign of getting smaller.
The electronic age allowed a Ross Perot, a newsmaker -- to go from zero to a lead in the national polls at about 35%, without spending a dime on paid television. In a period of about three months -- from March 1992 to June 1992, Perot went from being a national unknown, a zero to the lead in several of the polls.
It is not likely that would have happened if a huge portion of the population did not believe that the two parties were bankrupt.
Ross Perot's 1992 presidential campaign touched a nerve with 20 million Americans who are fed up with Washington. Another 85 million adults who didn't vote in 1992 reveals a tremendous apathy even in a "high turnout" election. In 1996, that number of non-voters swelled to 100 million. Together, the combination of frustrated voters and alienated non-voters show huge sections of the country where conditions may be right for a fundamental shift in American politics.
Throughout the campaign, most political observers underestimated Perot. Pollsters reported that an extremely high proportion of voters were giving him negative ratings. His odd behavior was systematically reported by the news media even as he was mercilessly lampooned by TV comics and newspaper cartoonists. Even on the day before the election, mainline polls were estimating that Perot would pull only about 12 or 13 percent of the total vote. In fact, he got almost 20 percent.
Perhaps one of the most most interesting elements to analyze are the areas where his support was relatively weak. Mr. Perot did not do well in the South, and part of the reason was a poor showing among southern blacks. Perot's worst showing in the entire country was in the old cotton kingdom, a strip of Black Belt counties that stretches across Mississippi and Alabama into the Carolinas, and in the bottomland Delta counties of Mississippi and Arkansas.
Perot did not fare well in the rest of the South either. He also did badly in the lily-white counties of Appalachian Kentucky, eastern Tennessee, and western North Carolina.
Race may also help explain Perot's poor showing in other regions. He did badly in cities with large minority populations, such as Washington, Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Jacksonville.
Perot's worst showing in Florida was in Dade County (Miami), where fewer than half of residents are non-Hispanic whites. He also did poorly in Hispanic south Texas, in the Hispanic and Indian country of New Mexico and South Dakota, and in Asian-Pacific Islander Hawaii.
Entry into the race of a candidate who can appeal to black voters, hispanic voters and southerners, as well as urban voters -- would be an interesting development indeed.
The Perot vote is only one way to measure dissatisfaction with the two-party system. In recent elections, an ever-declining proportion of the American electorate has taken the trouble to vote at all. Like the Perot vote, low voter turnout is increasingly spread across the map.
Perot voters represent active dissatisfaction with the political system. Nonvoters are a measure of passive dissatisfaction. Add the two, and you discover that the system is awash in a sea of voter unease.
Perot voters were angry enough to support an eccentric candidate who ran a wierd campaign and never gave a clear idea of what he stood for. But every person who expressed dissatisfaction by voting for Perot was matched by more than four adults who did not vote at all.
Also, an uncounted number of Americans supported Perot but voted for Bush or Clinton so their vote wouldn't be "wasted." Polls taken before the election showed that only 4 percent of likely voters thought he could win.
If any significant part of that nonvoting population could be galvanized by some future independent or third- party candidate--more, uh... likeable than Perot, but just as well financed and organized --Americans might wake up some morning after election day to discover that someone from outside politics had indeed been elected President of the United States.
It has been suggested for a long time that America's traditional two-party system is in trouble. The map of the vote for Ross Perot combined with the map of non-voters suggests that the trouble may be deeper than even the worst pessimists had imagined.
This further suggests a significant opportunity to mobilize these voters by giving them something to vote for, instead of another thing to protest against.
In 1992, and in more recent elections, younger voters (18 to 34) went to the polls much less than their older counterparts. In other words, counties with a high proportion of that age group were likely to have lower voter turnout. This reflects the old political axiom that older Americans are most likely to get to the polls. But the poor turnout of this age group in 1992 also reflects unique generational values.
In 1992, Americans aged 21 to 34 represented the younger half of the baby-boom generation and the older half of the baby-bust generation. These generations are extraordinarily individualistic in all aspects of their public and private lives, according to Cheryl Russell, author of The Master Trend.
In her view, the withdrawal of younger generations from community institutions in pursuit of personal fulfillment is the "master trend" behind many social changes, from the soaring divorce rate to the popularity of home-shopping television.
In politics, she says, the radical individualism of youth has led to widespread alienation. And young people are no longer participating in electoral politics because they don't feel it touches their lives. And because they're not attracted to what they see of politicians on the television screen.
The causes of nonvoting are complex, and alienation is only one of many possible explanations. No one has ever made a map of political alienation in the United States. But if such a map were made, it might well resemble a combination of the Perot map and the voter turnout map.
Areas of high voter turnout, where Perot did well, may be those places where political cynicism simply attached itself to the handiest political vehicle. Areas of low turnout may be those where Perot was not appealing or where voters were just too alienated to care. Perot country and low-turnout country may be mirror images of the same voter cynicism.
The geography of voter turnout in 1992 shows that in large sections of America, people have turned off politics and tuned out government. The easing of voter registration laws in 1993 may boost voter registration, but it probably will not cure what ails our political system. In high-Perot or low-turnout regions, the most effective campaign strategy may be to stress one's opposition to government itself.
The connection of low turnout to younger, individualistic Americans may be the most important finding of this research. Children and other duties of middle age may yet create a civic spark in these generations. Better employment prospects and higher wages could also kindle their faith in politics.
But if changes like these do not occur, the spirit of community and consensus that holds American politics together may flicker out.
What is needed then, is an individual who can unite the divergent groups of Americans who have become alienated. Minus the Perot vote, minority voters, young voters and non-voters, who tend to be younger and less affluent represent a core base of no less than 60 million votes and potentially as many as 80 million votes.
Even the most conservative scenarios run by MJ2000 suggest that between 27 and 44 million voters would be drawn into the election by an MJ candidacy.
Research conducted by MJ2000 suggests that Michael Jordan has the ability to electrify those groups in a way no mainstream politician can possibly hope to. Even Bill Clinton's saxophone on MTV could be no match for MJ among voters age 18-34. That's also probably true for voters age 35-39.
Head to Head against any Candidate
Computer simulations run by MJ2000 suggest that under a healthy variety of conditions Michael Jordan would be a winning candidate in a two-way head to head comparison with any other candidate, Republican or Democrat.
In most match-ups, Jordan dominates. For example, simulations suggest that he would defeat Newt Gingrich, Elizabeth Dole, Dan Quayle, Lamar Alexander, Bill Bradley, Dick Gephardt and others by handy margins. In a matchup with Vice President Al Gore, or Texas Governor George W. Bush, the margin is closer.
In order to be fair to traditional candidates, it should be acknowledged that the MJ factor in a match-up tends to create certain unknowns and is likely to drive up the number of undecideds. This is probably due to the fact that an MJ candidacy is a new and unexpected idea. Exactly how that dynamic will work itself out with voters more than two years from now is unknown. Research suggests, however, that once voters have had extended exposure to the idea, as well as the elements of a campaign, traditional dynamics of name identification, favorability perceptions, etc. will take over yielding predictable results.
Computer simulations run by MJ2000 suggest that Michael Jordan would also run very strong in a three-way race. Analyzing potential three-way election scenarios assuming Vice President Gore or Congressman Richard Gephardt as the Democratic candidate, and any of the major Republican candidates suggest the strong possibility of a popular vote victory.
Scenarios taking into account the likely impact of an MJ candidacy on voter turnout, and specifically, turnout among historically low-turnout groups raise this possibility substantially.
Interestingly, in a three-way race, the number of undecideds does not go up as dramatically as in a two-way head-to-head comparison.
Political scientists have done substantial research on the demographics and attitudes of voters and nonvoters. They know that older Americans tend to vote at higher rates than do younger Americans, for example, and that the college-educated are more likely to vote than are high school dropouts. People are more likely to vote if they own a home, have children living at home, or hold a good job. In general, voting is highest among society's stakeholders.
The research tells us a lot about the who and why of voting, but it doesn't explain another important aspect of voter turnout: where voters and nonvoters are to be found. And in the United States, the geography of voter turnout is vitally important, because the popular vote does not determine the result in a presidential election.
As all schoolchildren know, a winning U.S. presidential candidate must carry enough states to go past the magic number of 270 electoral votes. There are actually 51 different races for president every four years--one in each state, plus the District of Columbia. State-by-state differences in voter turnout determine the size of the overall "market" of voters in each race.
Patterns of nonvoting reveal a lot about a state's clout in national politics. For example, Kansas and Mississippi each have about 2.5 million residents. But Kansas has had one of the nation's highest voter turnout rates, and Mississippi has one of the lowest. This means that the relatively small group of people who vote in Mississippi has an unusual amount of power in national politics, while the clout of each voting Kansan is diminished.
Electoral College Scenarios
Computer simulations suggest strong positioning for electoral college victory in the event of a close popular vote win due to distribution of projected voting strength.
Computer simulations run by MJ2000 suggest that there are also a number of scenarios for an Electoral College victory even in the event of a popular vote loss due to potential "small-state" and "industrial belt" strength.
Research and polling analyzed by MJ2000 suggests that, due to the visibility of the Candidate, the main requirement for running a competitive national campaign is to be on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
This means that there are several paths open that could be used to win the White House. Possibilities for gaining 50 state ballot access include Drafts by the Reform, Libertarian, US Taxpayers or Green parties, or as an Independent Candidate.
There has also been a suggestion that volunteers with leanings toward the two major parties might also organize Presidential and/or Vice Presidential draft efforts in each of the parties. It would appear that efforts of this type will serve the purpose of opening the door for voters of all stripes to support this campaign.
MJ2000 also expects to work closely with the coalition of 26 political parties of all stripes formed during the 1996 election cycle to help ensure complete ballot access for MJ and other Presidential candidates.
Election in the House
There are a number of Scenarios suggesting that a three-way campaign including MJ would end up in the House of Representatives.
That possibility will be analyzed in a separate memorandum.
Let's take a moment to outline the basic campaign elements involved in developing a vibrant, center-reform movement behind MJ as well as a quick look at some of the core tasks of the campaign over the rest of 1998, calendar 1999 -- and election year, 2000.
Our research and development activities have identified a number of strategies – particularly those used by former California Governor Jerry Brown and Ross Perot in their 1992 campaigns.
By 1992, the technology of communications had changed substantially and is still rapidly changing. In this environment, the campaign needs to distill its central tasks. That is the purpose of this memorandum. To describe and give focus to our tasks.
The evolution of the Internet and AOL since 1992 also adds an additional element not before present in a competitive Presidential campaign -- the ability to organize a movement from a base of millions of Americans -- at essentially zero cost per unit for each communication.
Every political campaign has a number of different activities it engages in:
In traditional politics – the most valuable thing is a rich person who can write a large check and find other rich people to write large checks.
In 1992, Governor Brown flipped traditional politics on its head by using an 800 telephone number and a pure volunteer organization to fuel an insurgent campaign for the Democratic nomination with thousands of small contributions.
MJ2000, like Governor Brown in 1992, will integrate the fundraising/political organizing/volunteer organizing/ function by implementing an "all are equal" philosophy to campaign development. This results in an essentially "horizontal" campaign organization and greater communications efficiency.
In practical terms, for Brown, that meant a maximum contribution of $100 and no PAC money. In really practical terms, it meant that there was no need for separate operations to deal with different types of people. Since no one can give more than $100, no one is a big wig, and no one is too small to ask for a contribution – even $10 or $15. And anyone is a potential volunteer – which is the most valuable thing of all.
It also means that most of the people involved are going to be people who are interested in and dedicated to the campaign – rather than political operatives hoping to hook a lucrative gig. With a $100 maximum contribution, MJ2000 seeks to take advantage of the same dynamic.
In this campaign, anyone can get involved – and the measure of success – in MJ terms, is the effort -- "I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying."
In 1992, Ross Perot came from nowhere in March to lead in the national polls by June 15th, about a month before his withdrawal from the race. Without spending a dime on television, more than a third of Americans were ready to accept this man as an alternative to the two-party mess.
It is true that Mr. Perot's withdrawal ended his hopes of being the ultimate standard bearer for this movement, but he did demonstrate that the path is definitely there for a Presidential candidate from outside of traditional politics.
MJ2000, like Mr. Perot, will tap the alienation of 20 to 35 million American voters who believe that our system is broken and needs fixing.
These are voters who believe it’s time for a President from outside politics. These voters are looking for a President who can shake things up, and renew interest in the system.
But particularly, these voters are looking for a Presidential candidate who can help break the iron-grip on power held by the two major political parties.
MJ2000, unlike many recent campaigns, plans to tap the alienation of the roughly 100 million Americans who do not vote. These people no longer believe in the system or that it has relevance to them. These people can only be motivated by an extraordinary set of circumstances – or an extremely rare opportunity to vote for someone who they feel is like them. Or rather, who they want to be like…
Most political campaigns write these people off and do not even attempt to communicate with them. MJ is uniquely positioned to speak to these young voters, lower income voters and minority voters.
Sudden entry into the electoral process for any significant number of these voters – which our analyses consider quite likely, in the event of an MJ candidacy (anywhere from 27 million to 44 million additional voters) – would likely invalidate the computer models of most major institutions that track Presidential elections. In other words, it would render traditional polling useless by introduction of a huge, new, unknown variable.
This phenomen would also, according to our analysis, create a huge bulge for MJ in the popular vote. This would be particularly be true in the "Low-Turnout Belt" states which are good prospects for MJ popular vote victories. States that fit this typology include Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina & of course, North Carolina.
MJ2000, also, unlike any campaign in this century, will utilize the technology of the Internet and America Online, not so much to reach voters directly – but to reach out to like-minded people for involvement and participation. The campaign seeks to build an "Electronic Grass Roots" base for the 2000 election.
MJ2000 seeks to attract people interested in a vibrant, center-reform movement. MJ2000 seeks to build and energize a broad consensus for reform around measures with a wide basis of support.
Campaign and political finance reform and other measures would likely be at the core of such an issue platform. Some basic approach to Tax Reform would also likely be a part of such an issue platform.
Like traditional campaigns, MJ2000 will reach out to potential activists among the young people and community activists across the country. It will also reach out to people who like MJ, but aren’t currently active or interested in politics.
The early stages of the campaign (the rest of 1998) are focused on organizational activities. Building lists, recruiting activists, planning, budgeting, etc. Organizationally, a major focus of this stage is networking with like-minded people to put together a pool of prospective participants.
Traditionally in campaigns, this is done in the year or two prior to an election as the candidate makes appearances, gathering names and building his/her list. In this campaign, that same function is expected to take place, except that the methodology for implementing the list is expected to be electronic mail.
Gathering E-Mail Addresses
This process is one of reaching out person by person, getting referrals of people who are likely to be interested and contacting them.
It would appear that there is a significant opportunity to build a broad-based Center-reform Presidential campaign behind a well-known, respected figure from outside of traditional politics.
The organizational plan calls for recruiting a full complement of "electronic grass roots" organizers in each of the 50 states, and each of the 435 congressional districts.
Each of the 15 to 20 Special Voter Groups (Republicans for Mike, Democrats for Mike, etc.) being targeted by MJ2000 will also have a complete vertical organization in all 50 states and 435 congressional districts.
That July 1999 goal of 1,000 national and state organizers, and roughly 9,000 in the nation's congressional districts (or about 20 per) -- is what gives focus to all of MJ2000's organizational activities.
By July 1999, MJ2000 expects to have assembled a team of "10,000 Maniacs" to conduct the campaign in all 50 states and all 435 congressional districts. The combination of a national MJ2000 organization, and vertically organized issue and voting group organizations is expected to be an effective new methodology for expanding the influence of the campaign into each congressional district in the country. (See Electronic Grass Roots)
American National Election Studies, 1952 - 1996, Center for Political Studies, University of Michigan
Tom Luce, Chairman, Perot Petition Committee, 1992
Peirce Lewis, Casey McCracken, and Roger Hunt, "Politics: Who Cares?", American Demographics, October 1994