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June 8, 2006

The things you learn on the Internet
Posted by Patrick at 09:27 AM * 28 comments

Subscription-only Roll Call is quoted by Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire, discussing the upcoming Democratic Senate primary in Virginia. According to Roll Call, candidate Harris Miller

has amassed a lengthy list of homegrown endorsements, and is playing up his profile as a loyal partisan foot soldier while painting Webb as a Johnny Come Lately to the Democratic Party. Itís a strategy that could pay big dividends in a contest likely to be decided by a few hundred thousand hardcore activists.

Virginia has hundreds of thousands of hardcore Democratic activists? Wow, with numbers like that, surely we must be only an election cycle away from building a progressive utopia in the Old Dominion. Thanks, Roll Call!

Comments on The things you learn on the Internet:
#1 ::: John League ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 11:02 AM:

Yeah, right. Maybe a few thousand, and only if you beat the bushes in Arlington County with a backhoe. And many of those countless hardcore activists are put off by Miller because of his career as a lobbyist and by his negative campaign ads.

The ads are amusing. They start out with upbeat music talking about Miller's progressive bonafides and his great ideas. This lasts for about 30 seconds. Then the background music and the voiceover get all dark and Swift Boat on you and talk about how Webb is a wolf in sheep's clothing, only to switch back to a cheerful "I'm Harris Miller..." to close. The back and forth is creepy.

#2 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 11:20 AM:

I think this was a word-processor error. The author couldn't figure out whether he wanted to say "a few hundred" or "a few thousand" and failed to erase the discarded choice.

#3 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 11:32 AM:

A few thousand?

So how much does a Primary matter as an indicator of national trends?

#4 ::: Avery ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 12:12 PM:

Could be the word processor thing, but I suspect that when the author says, "hardcore activists" he probably means voters. In an age when war bloggers can complain about their battle fatigue, people who bother to vote in a primary can be described as hardcore activists.

Or maybe "a few hundred thousand" is a term meaning a lot, but more appropriate sounding than, "like a gazillion".

#5 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 12:20 PM:

Actually, it's part of the general Washington-insider tendency to describe all Democratic voters to the left of Scoop Jackson in scary terms like "angry," "hardcore," "activist," etc.

#6 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 12:35 PM:

Dave Bell: Not very much most of the time. Usually, primary voters are the most committed members (English: supporters) of their parties. That is to say, they are core members who are au fait with internal party debates and tend to be more activist than the general population.

However, in some cases the primary can be an indication of broader trends -- in a case in which primary voter turnout was far higher than normal this would indicate strong interest in a candidate and/or the issues that the candidate has identifies as central to his/her campaign.

#7 ::: Tom S. ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 12:59 PM:

Anyone got a good source of info on the two candidates? I'm in VA but haven't found much to help me decide which way to vote in the primary.

#8 ::: Yendi ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 01:29 PM:

Say, did anybody else wonder what Orwell would have said to this "lengthy list" of worn-out phrases?

#9 ::: Kelley Shimmin ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 01:42 PM:

Maybe they're hoping to import their activists.

I can see it in big red lettering, a full-page ad in all the Virginian phone-books - "Hire-a-Left: Hundreds of Thousands of Hardcore Democrat Activists just a phone-call away!"

Now if I can just find and mobilize a bunch of blues that are willing to canvass the almost completely red Virginia turf I'll be set. I could make millions, all from the comfort of my own home...

#10 ::: Tom S. ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 01:46 PM:

So I did some research. Somehow I'd missed that he's *that* James Webb (former Navy Secretary). This causes me all sorts of cognitive dissonance. I love what he's saying on Iraq, can't stand his position on gays in the military, and have some professional gripes with him about the Navy in specific. But he's a darn sight better than a party tool like Miller. Argh.

#11 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 02:23 PM:

Google "Harris Miller" and "outsourcing".

#12 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 02:28 PM:

Also, "Harris Miller" and "H1-B". (My apologies for not putting this in the previous comment.)

#13 ::: Things That Ain't So ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 03:34 PM:

Aw, you people are all so reality-based. Hundred, thousand, schmousand, what does it matter? The important thing is lying, cheating, stealing, and killing so's we can establish an honest-to-God Chistian theocracy around the world, right?

Sheesh. I'd think that'd be obvious by now.

#14 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 05:25 PM:

I think it's a matter of definition: Roll Call is merely saying that someone who votes in a primary is, by definition, a "hard-core activist".

Political activism has sunk low enough that that has a dismaying plausibility.

#15 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 08:26 PM:

Just watch, there'll be fewer than 50 voters in Manassas on Tuesday. Both Webb and Miller are not-so-good candidates, but I really distrust Webb so I'm voting for Miller. I wonder if my upstairs neighbor wants to vote. He has to use a magnifying glass and I touch the screen for him and he usually doesn't want to deal with that unless it's a big vote.

(I am considering taking my cellphone bill to the Miller committee and making them reimburse me for all the recorded calls.)

#16 ::: flaring ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2006, 11:05 AM:

Here in the bright red backwoods of the Shenandoah Valley, the dems aren't even bothering to advertise.

#17 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2006, 03:37 PM:

I think Bob Oldendorf has it right. Turnout in primaries is a minority of a minority, hence they are indeed "hardcore activists" in at least some sense.

Of course, the real point is the word choice. Had he said "a few hundred thousand strong believers in participatory democracy" or "the minority of people who feel it's important to participate in primaries" the tone would be rather different, wouldn't it?

#18 ::: Nell ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2006, 12:30 AM:

If Roll Call had used the phrase 'hardcore voters' rather than 'hardcore activists', what they said would be very accurate rather than mockable.

Virginia has four and a half million registered voters, of whom two million voted in last November's election for governor.

Primaries have very low turnout. Ours are open. We have non-partisan registration, so it's near-impossible to say how many Democratic voters there are, much less who they are. Primary voters are the best approximation we have (supplemented by voter ID during general election campaigns).

That's why it's not inherently ridiculous for Roll Call to consider anyone who votes in a Democratric primary 'hardcore'. In Feb. 2004, 396,000 Virginians voted in the presidential primary; some of those were independents and Republicans, but almost certainly not not more than ten per cent of them. In last year's Democratic Lieutenant Governor primary, with tee-tiny turnout, there were 115,000 total votes. I'd say we're down to hardcore Democrats there.

Turnout in this Senate primary should be a bit higher, and certainly will have more non-hardcore Dem participation than last year's Lt.Gov race. Webb will draw those kinds of voters, but thanks to the asinine open primary system, some measurable number of George Allen-supporting Republicans will be voting -- for Miller.

#19 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2006, 07:52 AM:

Probably doesn't belong here, but it would be more appropriate for President Bush to use the Presidential Seal designed by former President Hayes.

#20 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2006, 08:19 PM:

I was #39 at my polling spot. I've voted since 1973 and this is the first time there were no signs and no people advertising their candidates. I guess the Democrats figured Manassas is so conservative it was a waste of effort. The polls closed more than an hour ago, but I haven't been able to find results yet.

#21 ::: jim ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2006, 08:54 PM:

Webb seems to have won. With 90+% of precincts reporting, about 135,000 votes (so much for hundreds of thousands of activists!), he has 53+%. Big margins in Northern Virginia and Charlottesville. Miller took Tidewater and Richmond (over 80% in Petersburg). Some of that's racial. Petersburg in particular is heavily Black. Being an ex-Reaganite hurt Webb among Black voters.

#22 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 07:37 PM:

As of this morning, Webb has 51% and Harris 49%. Manassas actually managed 445 people voting. Webb essentially took most of the urban areas.

#23 ::: trifles ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2006, 06:12 PM:

I had the chance to watch the debate between the two of them (the joys of laundry television), and I was surprised to find myself more behind Webb than Miller. Webb's message wasn't as... smarmy. For that matter, neither was the man himself.

#24 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2006, 08:03 PM:

Virginia has four and a half million registered voters, of whom two million voted in last November's election for governor.
Well below half. That is so depressing to a (lower-case d) democrat. How on earth can someone call themselves a 'representative' if not even a majority of your constituency makes the choice? If you win 49/51%, say, then about three-quarters of your electors haven't voted for you. It's one major reason why I support our compulsory voting here.

#25 ::: Spam deleted ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2008, 06:42 PM:

Spam from

#26 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2008, 07:01 PM:

Mez, #24: I'd like to see voting made a duty of citizenship, with perhaps a modest fine if you don't at least show up and sign a blank ballot. We would not accept this kind of sample in an opinion ballot! (And the states might also start controlling the length of the ballots, which is ridiculous; we elect legislators to make complex decisions that require serious research and debate.)

BTW comment spam upstream.

#27 ::: Mary Aileen sees something spam-like ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2008, 07:01 PM:

What the heck *is* that at #25?!

#28 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2008, 01:04 AM:

I have to say, for all that he's not quite the thing, I am fond of Webb.

It may be that his pushing, like blazes, for a real GI Bill (of which I intend to be a beneficiary) speaks to me. That does more for lifting some of those who enlisted from the Poverty Draft up to the middle classes.

Then again, I understand the anger in his novels, about the folks who didn't have to serve in Vietnam, because they had the money to go to college.

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