[guest post by JVW]
Via Powerline by way of the The Independent Journal comes a discomforting story about a tactic the Cruz campaign in Iowa is using to drive up caucus turnout. Marked with notifications such as “VOTING VIOLATION,” “ELECTION ALERT,” and “PUBLIC RECORD,” the Cruz campaign has sent a targeted mailer to certain registered voters informing them of their “voter record” as determined by their past participation and rated by letter grade, as well as the record of their neighbors. The mailer contains what might be construed as a vague threat:
You are receiving this election notice because of low expected voter turnout in your area. Your individual voting history as well as your neighbors’ are public record. Their scores are published below, and many of them will see your score as well. CAUCUS ON MONDAY TO IMPROVE YOUR SCORE and please encourage your neighbors to caucus as well. A follow-up notice may be issued following Monday’s caucuses.
Similar mailers have been seen in past elections, with political parties and advocacy groups of all ideologies making use of the tactic. The Cruz campaign defended their use of this sort of campaign mailer by noting that Republican Joni Ernst had employed it to great effect in her successful 2014 Senate campaign.
I understand that a strong showing in the awful and grossly over-influential Iowa Caucus is a key signifier of the seriousness of a campaign and their ability to put together a solid field organization, but the Menckenian side of me is disgusted at the use of thinly-veiled scare tactics to motivate inconsistent voters, no matter what side of the political divide they may fall on. Using the prominent heading of “VOTING VIOLATION” is way beyond what ought to be acceptable to those who chafe at the ever-encroaching commercial and political intrusiveness driven by the tracking of every move that we make. Paul Mirengoff explains it pretty succinctly:
The Cruz campaign boasts about being into “Big Data” and says that it classifies potential voters by personality type. The Cruz campaign’s assessment of the personality type of the “very narrow” group that received this mailing must not be flattering. “Submissive to authority,” “Easily bullied” or maybe “Not too bright” come to mind.
I very much doubt that this mailing was suggested by the candidate himself, nor do I even suspect he was made aware of it. But to the degree that the campaign is a reflection of the candidate then Ted Cruz, who otherwise is an excellent choice to reverse the Obamian Descent into Mediocrity, needs to stop trying to scare the low-information voters to the polls.
[note: post-publication edit of poor grammar.]
UPDATE BY PATTERICO: I heard about this last night. I’m not happy about it and I bet Ted Cruz isn’t either. Primarily I am annoyed by the tactic which strikes me as overbearing and thuggish. Moreover, I am a huge fan of low voter turnout — and I can’t imagine why someone in Cruz’s position would want to get more unmotivated voters to the polls. Because unmotivated voters tend to be low-information voters. Meaning Trump voters. The whole thing is a complete mystery to me.
UPDATE x2 BY PATTERICO: Ted Cruz has defended the tactic:
Speaking to reporters on Saturday evening in Sioux City, Mr. Cruz said he would “apologize to nobody for using every tool we can to encourage Iowa voters to come out and vote.”
Well, I still don’t like it.
That said, if I were in Iowa, I would still vote for Ted Cruz without reservation. Apparently, he is not perfect. I think I already knew that. He’s still miles better than Trump and (in my estimation) better than Rubio.