Beyond Catalist, perhaps

Last week J. Christian Adams posted an important and informative column on “‘CATALIST’: The Democrats’ database for fundamentally transforming America.” This was all news to me, I confess, and I am grateful to have it brought to my attention. Please check it out.

Catalist, as I understand it, is the database that, among other things, helps Democrats microtarget voters. Adams points out that Mitt Romney won independents in the 2012 election and yet still lost. “If you wondered why the conventional wisdom about independents and moderates didn’t seem so wise in 2012,” Adams writes, “the answer is Catalist.” The Democrats’ 2012 campaign gives new meaning to the term “political science,” and Catalist is part of it.

I think there is more to it than that. The Democrats have a natural genius for blackening the reputation of men and women of outstanding character. They did it with Romney in 2012. Whatever Romney’s faults, the man has led a blameless life. If the Democrats could effectively defame him, who can’t they do it to?

Working Romney over in swing states after he locked up the GOP nomination, the Democrats scared away the potential votes of demoralized voters who ultimately stayed at home. By the time he was crowned the nominee at the GOP convention, he was dead man walking.

This year Democrats are working their genius on Tom Cotton and Joni Ernst and others (Minnesota’s Torrey Westrom, a candidate for Congress in the Seventh District, is among them). Democrats show us that in politics it helps not to be constrained by conscience.

Nevertheless, we need to understand what the Democrats have in Catalist and develop a counter to it. Adams leaves us on a despairing note. “Some of you reading this might think this is much ado about nothing, because the Republicans can match the power of Catalist. Think again.” He makes a powerful case, concluding:

The strength and power of Catalist is based on the huge number of groups feeding it data. Leftist players sacrifice their egos for the larger messianic call of destroying Republicans, obliterating conservatives, and ultimately gutting the Constitution. Non-profit interest groups on the left gladly feed their internal data into Catalist because it helps progressives win, period. They don’t care about profit, glory, connections, or a new car.

As far as I can tell, conservative database models don’t capture anywhere near the level of inputs that Catalist does.

Catalist does not derive its power because it has the insiders imprimatur as the official party-sanctioned database. It derives its power because nobody feeding it data cares about who gets the glory. They have a country to transform.

In her weekly Wall Street Journal column this past Friday — “Leapfrogging the Democrats’ tech advantage” (behind the Journal’s paywall but accessible via Google) — Kim Strassel reports on the Republican Party’s program to counter Catalist. “The RNC line is that it intends to leapfrog Democrats in the technology of turnout,” Strassel writes, “and a lot is riding on the claim.”

I am dubious. Who wouldn’t be? I hope Adams will address Strassel’s column and allow some hope for the future.