by PhDinHistory | 9/09/2008 06:20:00 PM
Crossposted at PhDinHistory

This post is for 79.2 percent of historians. That is the proportion of history faculty who self-identify as Democrats, according to a recent study. Hat tip.

Historians are more likely than faculty in any other discipline to identify with Democrats. I think it is time we started making this fact count for something. Obama's poll numbers are down. McCain is pulling ahead. This trend might not last, but I don't think we have time to wait around and see.

I want us to start thinking about ways we can help Obama. In my estimation he can still win. One reason why is because the number of Democrats who have registered to vote this year is amazing. But even this surge of new voters will not be enough. We really need to get out the vote.

Let me give you a short history lesson on why this is so. In the last presidential election, Democrats were underrepresented at the polls. Consider a few examples:Political scientists have demonstrated a correlation between voter turnout and income and educational levels. And since studies show that "the majority of those with low incomes and little education vote for the Democratic Party," the voter turnout has traditionally been low among Democrats. I think this has happened because working-class Democrats have had so little hope for so many years. Here is how David Brooks explained it a few years ago:
According to the Pew study, 76 percent of poor Republicans believe most people can get ahead with hard work. Only 14 percent of poor Democrats believe that. Poor Republicans haven't made it yet, but they embrace what they take to be the Republican economic vision - that it is in their power to do so. Poor Democrats are more likely to believe they are in the grip of forces beyond their control.
I suspect Obama received record-breaking votes from Democrats in the primaries because he was offering hope to individuals who have been living for so long without it. We need to help persuade working-class Democrats and Independents that there is still reason to hope that Obama will get elected and that things will get better in this country--because of their vote.

We have about a month left to register more Democrats. Democrats are already registering new voters at a faster pace than the Republicans. But we need to do a better job. Let me give you an example of what I mean. Obama has a goal of registering 30,000 new voters in New Mexico in the next thirty days. I think this is a laudable goal but it needs to be more focused. We can't just register people in public places and expect that large numbers of Democrats will approach us wanting to get registered (especially since we have to "provide a registration application to anyone who requests one – regardless of party or preference of candidate."). We need to register people in Democratic neighborhoods where we can maximize our yield. Here is a map I recently sent the Obama campaign that should help them to strategize where they conduct their voter registration campaign in Albuquerque, since the precincts in the map contain an average of 4.5 Democrats for every 1 Republican:

Historians should be sharing their minds and their bodies with the Obama campaign. We can help them work harder and smarter. Let's get out the vote!

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Blogger Jeremy Young on 9/15/2008 2:13 PM:

All right, you and another friend convinced me. I start phone banking tomorrow.