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The Chick-fil-A Effect on the 2012 Election

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All week I've been trying to go to Chick-fil-A. Not due to the boycott or the counter-boycott. I've been trying to eat.

The crowds the past few days have been so big there have been traffic cops in the parking lot directing cars. Tonight, the crowds were so large, not only could I not get into Chick-fil-A, I couldn't get into the shopping center where it's located.

These folks were there to support Chick-fil-A. Most, if not all, are conservative. Duh, Ron.

But it got me thinking. In the 2010 elections conservatives surprised the pundits by turning out unexpectedly in droves. Since then, they, and the Tea Party along with them, have been pretty quiet.

The prevailing political theory this year seems to be that turnout is key for both parties. Today, the First Lady was in North Carolina to encourage turnout, as was President Obama in Ohio.

Could the Chick-fil-A controversy turn out to the be conservative "black swan" event that motivates laconic Republican voters to get to the polls?

A "black swan" event has two main characteristics. First, it comes out of nowhere. Second, it changes everything. A good example is the man in Tunisia in 2011 who, in protest, immolated himself, and in doing so ignited the Arab Spring.

The Chick-fil-A controversy certainly came out of nowhere, and now it's leading the news, is at the top of the page on Google News, and is all over the national networks.

Does this event have the ability to change things in a "black swan" fashion?

Let me offer up a reason it might. In 2006 I was involved in the Wal-Mart wars, as I made a pro-WalMart movie and got caught up in the national controversy surrounding the retailer. I became friends with a few of the national anti-WalMart protest organizers. One night over drinks, I asked a few of them "Why? Why pick on a store? Why are you spending a year of your young careers doing this?"

Here's what I was told. "It's not about Wal-Mart. It's about rallying the Democratic base a year in advance of the general election in 2008." WalMart touched all the liberal hot buttons: union rights, low wages, and health care. It made sense, and it worked.

Curiously, there was never a grassroots effort that sprung forth from conservatives to defend WalMart. WalMart's PR firm at the time invented some phony astroturfing support, but in reality there never was never a groundswell of support for the retailer, which surprised me given the makeup of the typical WalMart shopper.

This is clearly not the case with Chick-fil-A. People started jamming the stores on their own in support even before Huckabee and Palin got involved. And they are pissed. They've had enough. The tipping point has been tipped. Rahm Emanuel et al may have been too clever by a half in making Chick-fil-A an issue, because if people are motivated enough to wait in line an hour (even in Chicago!) for a sandwich in order to send a message, they just might be motivated enough to stand in line at the polls to send another message.

The Chick-fil-A controversy has clearly, absolutely, motivated the conservative base, just as the WalMart wars did for liberals. The best thing President Obama could do for to defuse this right now is to walk into a Chick-fil-A and order a #1 with sweet tea. Liberals would understand, and conservatives would lose what has become an explosive rallying cry. And if President Obama likes the fast food mecca The Varsity in Atlanta (which he does), he'll love the place.

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