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2014 election

donkey-knocker[1]I’m not naming names because embarrassing candidates or campaigns isn’t the point. I’m not saying this explains any results necessarily. It might make a couple percent difference which might have candidates who lost by a whisker kick themselves, but the campaigns I could name won or lost by much larger margins. Still, why reduce our odds a couple percent? I’m referring to campaigns that chose to lit drop instead of doorknock. I thought we all knew better by now. Maybe not.
 
Just to avoid losing anyone in jargon, pardon this if it’s obvious, lit dropping refers to going to prospective voters’ doors and leaving campaign literature. Doorknocking means knocking on the door and waiting for an answer in hope of having a conversation. “Canvassing” usually is used as a synonym for doorknocking, though I’ve also heard it used for all direct voter contact, meaning including phoning and tabling, which means having a table at an event where you give out something and talk to whoever comes by, sometimes called a non-targeted canvass.
 
Shortly after last month’s election, Vox had an article asking essentially the same question, “Experiments show this is the best way to win campaigns. But is anyone actually doing it?”
 

By far the most effective way to turn out voters is with high-quality, face-to-face conversations that urge them to vote. How do we know? Nearly two decades of rigorous randomized experiments have proven it.

Alan Gerber and Don Green ran the first of these “field experiments” in 1998. The professors randomly assigned voters to receive different inducements to vote: some received postcards, some received phone calls, some received a visit from a canvasser, and some received nothing.

The experiment found that voters called on the phone or sent postcards were not noticeably more likely to vote than those sent nothing. But canvassing was different. Just one in-person conversation had a profound effect on a voter’s likelihood to go to the polls, boosting turnout by a whopping 20 percent (or around 9 percentage points).

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Kurt DaudtThe majority party in the state House of Representatives gets to decide committee assignments, even for minority members. Junior members don’t get all the committee assignments they prefer, but by longstanding practice, the minority gets to choose its lead member on a committee. Apparently, incoming speaker Kurt Daudt thinks kicking DFLers is more important. Or maybe he’s the obeisant servant of corporate special interests. I don’t pretend to being a mind reader.
 
Whatever the motive, Daudt has started his speakership with a childish act. Committee assignments were announced today, and Daudt removed Rep. Jean Wagenius from the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee, despite her designation as minority lead on the committee by House Minority Leader Paul Thissen.
 
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CANNAB~1As you must have seen somewhere, a number of marijuana initiatives passed, including legalization for non-medical use in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C.
 

When historians look back at the movement to end the war on drugs, they might very well point to the 2014 election as the moment when it all got real.
 
With marijuana legalization measures passing in Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., and with groundbreaking criminal justice reforms passing in California and New Jersey, there’s no longer any denying that drug policy reform is a mainstream — and quite urgent — political demand.
(Drug Policy Alliance)

(Though wingnuts in the U.S. Congress have of course intervened in DC, and it’s unclear what the practical outcome will be.) Moreover, as part of the recent budget deal, the feds are now prohibited from interfering with medical marijuana programs in states that have, or will implement, them.

 
In Colorado, the results of legalization can be summed up in one word: SUCCESS. And in Minnesota:

 

State officials on (December 1) announced the two companies that will grow, process and sell medical cannabis to Minnesotans next year under the state’s new law.
 
LeafLine Labs and Minnesota Medical Solutions were chosen from among 12 applicants. They’ll distribute the medication through eight sites across the state, the Minnesota Health Department said.
 
State officials hope to have the products ready for sale by July. Minnesota Medical Solutions said its cannabis greenhouse in Otsego will be up and running this week.
 
Lawmakers passed the strictest medical marijuana law in the country earlier this year. It prohibits smoking of the drug and requires instead that it be manufactured in pill or oil form.
 
Medical marijuana will only be available to patients suffering from about 10 conditions including ALS and cancer.
(MPR)

Yes, the most restrictive law in the country, and even getting that was only slightly less difficult than, for example, getting a typical Tea Partier to understand that he’s just being the rich man’s exploited dupe. And as things stand, many medical users will have to go an unconscionably long way to make legal purchases. Meanwhile, Alaska – Alaska – an electorally red state despite its total dependence on federal $ originally generated in blue states like MN, has seen the light, as in that pleasing orange glow when one’s favorite pot pipe is in use.
 

Like any reasonable and fundamentally intelligent person, Gov. Dayton has shown himself open to changing his mind, when impelled by valid evidence and argument. Remember that he didn’t even much want to hear about medical marijuana, originally. There’s no reason not to keep pushing for better policy.
 

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538554_417321918296055_196601040368145_1516637_2083533339_nA few good things did happen in the 2014 election, and this was among the best.
 

Anti-abortion activists have pushed for “personhood” in five separate ballot initiatives since 2008. These amendments would likely restrict abortion access as they give unborn fetuses more rights.
 
Five times now, those amendments have failed, with voters in North Dakota and Colorado rejecting personhood ballot initiatives on (election) night. These amendments have failed even in conservative strongholds like Mississippi, which rejected a personhood amendment in 2012.
(Vox)

These keep failing, even in elections that go badly in general for everyone except right-wingers, because in fact the public strongly supports abortion rights.

 
This article is something of a guilt trip, and I usually avoid passing those along, but I’m making an exception.
 

It was women like me—married white women, specifically—who failed (Texas gubernatorial candidate) Wendy Davis—and ourselves, and our families, and Texas families—on Tuesday night. According to exit polls, Black women, Black men, Latinas, and a near-majority of Latinos who voted turned out in solid numbers for Davis…
 
The story does not begin and end with “men” and “women”; we have to look at which men, which women—particularly if the Democratic Party is ever going to decide to come out fighting hard on issues like immigration reform and moving the gamepiece aggressively forward, rather than backward, on reproductive rights.
(RH Reality Check)

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Looking at what happened in biggest races

by Eric Ferguson on December 4, 2014 · 0 comments

voters2If you want to look at 2014 most high profile elections mostly in one spot, David Jarman at Daily Kos has a bunch of them collected in one spot. There are some common themes, hopefully not surprising if you’ve been doing your election analysis reading, but if you’re surprised, just keep quiet and no one will know.
 

One theme of course is drop-off Democrats, but the drop off was hardly even from one state to another. It was generally worse where there was no hotly contested top of the ticket, but as we’ve face-palmed about since months before election day, there were Democrats who gave their base nothing to vote for.
 
One prime example is the US Senate election in Virginia. It meshes with another theme you’ll notice following Jarman’s links, the rural/metro* divide. Much as we worry about MNGOP success at playing up a rural/metro divide, the DFL is doing great winning white rural votes compared to other state Democratic parties. Virginia Democrats basically have Richmond and the DC suburbs, and that’s it. Sen. Mark Warner won by a squeaker instead of the predicted blowout because he didn’t get the memo. He devoted his efforts to winning rural voters he wasn’t going to get, and he mostly ignored Fairfax County. This is analogous to Al Franken putting his efforts into winning CD6 by claiming to be nearly a Republican while blowing off Hennepin County.
 
What scares me as I write this is that there are still Democratic candidates and campaigns that don’t get where their voters live and the need to get them to vote. Maybe they didn’t learn from studies showing politicians assume voters are more conservative than they actually are. I just don’t get how anyone can still not get that winning statewide means heavy GOTV in heavily Democratic areas. Maybe Warner made the common mistake of assuming the last election predicts the next one, in that he had previously won the rural southwest while losing the reddish DC suburbs. But this is a different year, and both regions had flipped. It’s the same sort of mistake as those who assumed Al Franken and Mark Dayton were in for tough reelections because they went to recounts last election.
 
Speaking of bad strategy, there was one link that illustrates why I have such reluctance about donating to the DSCC and DCCC. Though this one is specifically on the DSCC.
 
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Election 2014: My sloppy, half-baked assessment

by Dan Burns on December 3, 2014 · 1 comment

voters2It was indeed a bummer, nationally. I thought we’d end with 48-49 in the Senate, not 46, and that we’d certainly at least boot Tea Party governors in Maine and Florida. But it did take Minnesotans – enough Minnesotans, that is, not all, by any means – two terms of Gov. Pawlenty to realize that it’s really better to have a superior quality of politician, and human being, in the governor’s office. And if 2011 is any guide, the left blogosphere will continue to be dominated by over-the-top doom and gloom at least into the middle of next year. I’m not here to be part of that. We’re nowhere near high enough yet, in collective political IQ in this country, to where Democrats, much less progressives, can reasonably expect to win ‘em all. Note that important long-term trends, potentially positive for progressives though it will take a while yet, didn’t change.
 

While in many respects I’m certainly a nerd, I’m not very into academic types talking about “political narrative” and “messaging.” (I’m not saying they’re wrong; it’s just not my thing.) I’m suggesting a more fundamental explanation: our voters simply weren’t irritated/annoyed/angry enough to turn out.
 
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Minnesota looking more like the rest of the country

by Eric Ferguson on November 26, 2014 · 2 comments

Minnesota has been something of an outlier compared to almost every other state. Most states have Democratic cities, Republican rural areas, and competitive suburbs. We have long flipped those last two. This last election though, the state house election looked pretty typical of what might be expected in almost any randomly chosen state.
 
This raises some questions, namely:
— Is this trend of reddening rural areas and bluing suburbs really happening here? Didn’t I just say it was, one paragraph ago? I actually have my doubts, about which more later.
— Why is this happening? I won’t actually spend much space on this because there seem to be multiple plausible explanations, which can be simultaneously true, so it’s more complicated than can be dealt with here.
— How do we respond?
 
I used this chart repeatedly in that series on Democrats needing to do better with white voters, but that was nearly two years ago, so here it is again:
 

 
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Was it political cowardice or bad strategy?

by Eric Ferguson on November 21, 2014 · 6 comments

announcement of Donald Rumsfeld's resignation
UPDATE: Heard from the Speaker of the Minnesota House, sadly shortly to be minority leader (replaced by this guy), and looks like some state-specific comments of mine might not hold up. Details here.
 
When Pres. Obama announced his support for net neutrality right after the election, I thought I understood how Republicans felt when Bush Jr. forced out Defense Sec. Don Rumsfeld right after the 2006 election. Well, that was nice, but couldn’t you have done that before we got toasted in the midterm election?! Of course my first response to Obama’s announcement was to be glad he came out so strongly on the side of the angels, but my next thought was to recall an image of Rumsfeld’s resignation being announced. Why not do this before the election, and maybe save some seats?
 
The silver lining of an election loss is it makes us more likely to consider our assumptions. We may not even realize we’re making assumptions. The assumption in this case is the spinelessness of Democratic candidates and elected officials. We in the Democratic base have pleaded for more spine for I don’t recall how long. Back to the 80’s maybe? The 70’s? The 90’s at least. Election after election, but especially during midterms when there’s a Democratic president, we see one self-defeating move after another. The seeming political cowardice wasn’t just on the part of Obama, despite my reaction to the timing of his net neutrality announcement, and despite his failure to do anything on immigration until last night, which I blame for the lower than expected (lower than expected by me anyway) turnout among Latinos. I’m inclined give him a pass on the timing of his strong stances on global warming since those likely had to wait for summits in China and Australia, though that doesn’t explain other Democrats not running on it.
 
Nor do Obama’s decisions excuse Democratic candidates who avoided him during their own reelections, and the many who avoided other Democrats at all, as if they weren’t running on a ticket. There were exceptions: Minnesota’s statewide candidates very much ran as a ticket, campaigning on the Democratic successes most Democrats rarely mentioned, for example; but in general, Democrats ran every-candidate-for-themselves with campaigns focused on appeasing, if not conservatives, then those mysterious centrists.
 
But was it really cowardice? I’m asking the base to question our assumption of gutlessness. Maybe this was strategy; lousy, awful strategy. If that’s the case, if spine isn’t the problem, then no wonder our appeals for political courage seem to achieve so little. We’re making the wrong demand.
 

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sadclownSo they took the Minnesota House back by 5 seats, on the “strength” of about 51% turnout, the lowest since 1986. In an election where, nationwide, old people, and hardly anyone else, turned out as if it meant something. (Which it does, but, convincing our voters of that…well that’s our #1 problem. Has been, for a long time, now.) In Minnesota, we could well end up with supermajorities, or close to it, in both chambers, after 2016. In particular, Al Franken’s romp over Mike McFadden – who was supposed to be a strong candidate, you know, a Romney-esque “centrist uniter,” – makes clear just where the MN GOP is as far as legitimate, long-term competitiveness. That would be “nowhere.” Their only chance to come back from nowhere is for sane Republicans to take back the party from the Tea Partiers, theocrats, and Paulbots, and convince voters outside of their base that, having done that, it just might be safe to vote Republican again. Assuming, on the basis of absolutely no evidence, that that process has even started, how many election cycles will it take? Three? Five? Ten? And their base voters heading for the pearly gates, and not being replaced, all the while.
 

The other huge loser in all of this is Minnesota’s corporate media, which was all but overt in its support for Republican candidacies, especially Stewart Mills III in MN-08. What was left of their reputation for consistently worthwhile political reporting and analysis has sunk like the Pequod, and with about as much chance of raising it, anytime soon.
 
Also like the GOP, they do have a legitimate, if difficult, option. Currently, corporate media’s positive political coverage, in Minnesota and everywhere else, is split roughly evenly between corporatists and the right wing. In order to much better reflect where the overall public is actually at, they could just move the space they give to right-wingnuts now, over to progressives. That, too, is really about their only chance, for the long run.

 
There’s a Catch-22. The real purpose of corporate media’s political “reporting” is to promote corporatism. Their current approach works well for that, albeit to an ever-shrinking viewer/reader/listenership, because in their current split the corporatists look pretty good, compared to the ranting freaks of the hard right. Those same corporatists won’t look good at all next to intelligent, knowledgeable, articulate progressives telling it like it is. Hence, the dilemma. But that’s their problem.
 

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Here it is.
 

scan0002

Michelle MacDonald was endorsed by the Minnesota Republican Party essentially because she’s a crazy extremist, and the GOP has long since been taken over by crazy extremists, and such a combination leads to obvious results. Subsequently, an eminently well-qualified, sane and rational, Minnesota Supreme Court justice got an election challenge that ended up way too close for any measure of comfort.

 
I don’t know of any easy fixes for this.
 

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