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2018: Year of the Post-postfeminist DFL

by Invenium Viam on June 29, 2018 · 0 comments

Where the boys are
Someone waits for me,
A smiling face, a warm embrace,
Two arms to hold me tenderly…
Connie Francis, 1960

 

In early February of 2016, Gloria Steinem and Madeline Albright told young women that it was “their duty to support Hillary Clinton” in her presidential campaign.

 

“We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it’s done,” Ms. Albright, the first female Secretary of State in US history, said of the broader fight for women’s equality. “It’s not done. There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”

 

A day earlier, Ms. Steinem had stumbled badly on the HBO series Real Time with Bill Maher when she suggested in an Overtime segment that younger women were backing Mr. Sanders just so they could meet young men. “When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie,’ ” she said.

 

Those remarks drew an immediate, widespread and hostile reaction from young women across the country.

 

“Shame on Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright for implying that we as women should be voting for a candidate based solely on gender,” Zoe Trimboli, a 23-year-old from Vermont who supports Mr. Sanders and describes herself as a feminist, wrote on Facebook. “I can tell you that shaming me and essentially calling me misinformed and stupid is NOT the way to win my vote.”

 

Word. Keeping it real myself, I have to admit to a brief moment of schadenfreude. Having gotten an earful a time or two for insensitivity to the challenges facing women in a patriarchal society, most recently from my wife and daughter over the recent revisiting of the Bill Clinton / Monica Lewinsky scandal, I was kind of happy to see a feminist leader of the stature of Steinem get flamed. If anyone should get a pass for saying or doing something stupid, she should. They’re probably going to erect statues of Steinem in campus quadrangles around the country. Books and plays will be written about her life and leadership. They’ll name high schools after her. And after she passes, a movie will be made of her life and struggles entitled simply, ‘Gloria.’

 

The most I’ll ever get is an epitaph on a headstone that reads, ‘He tried hard not to be an sh*thead.’ Unless I outlive my wife and daughter, that is. Not likely.

 

As a political junkie, I noted this kerfuffle at the time as a potentially significant event demographically. After all, young women among the Mil-Gen′s who were voting for the first time in 2008 supported Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton. Later, in 2016, polls showed they strongly supported Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton, prompting the reaction from Albright and Steinem and the counter-reaction just described. I began to wonder if these facts were a bellwether of an attitudinal change in gender relations; hence, a change in gender politics. I wondered if they weren’t early evidence of a post-postfeminist ethos forming among young Democrats.

 

Then came the revelations about Trump the pussy-grabber and serial womanizer. Then came the Women’s March. Then came Cosby, Weinstein, Lauer, Roy Moore, Louis CK, and dozens of others. Somewhere in there came the accusations locally against Rep. Tony Cornish, State Senator Dan Schoen, and US Senator Al Franken. All of which fit perfectly with the focus of Fourth-Wave feminism as defined by feminist writer Prudence Chamberlain: economic and social justice for women and opposition to sexual violence and sexual harassment. Nope, I thought, 2008 and 2016 were just the anomaly of two charismatic male candidates opposed by a uninspiring female candidate with a militant sense of entitlement and a caustic demeanor on the stump.

 

But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

 

Getcha Mojo Below the Fold, Moe

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It’s almost election day

by Eric Ferguson on October 19, 2015 · 4 comments

No, I didn’t plan to publish this a year from now and get the date setting wrong. Most of us actually do have an election coming up. This year. In just over a couple weeks in fact. Nov. 3rd is actually an election day, the off-year election, except I hate and wish to banish that phrase “off-year” as there is no such thing — even for those of us who actually don’t have an election, there are things to be done. Call it an odd-numbered year, and then consider something more odd: that we have to plead with frequent-voting Democrats to vote.
 
Normally I wouldn’t be asking the readers of a liberal blog just to vote. Delay that. In an even-numbered year, I would’t be asking readers here to vote because voting could be safely assumed, and the appeals would be to get down to your local campaign office and help knock on doors, or something else useful. Not that I’m not making such an appeal, but the fact is when it comes to local elections, Democrats have a tendency to skip them. It’s anecdotal, but I’ve heard people who never miss a midterm say they just don’t care about city council or whatever is up this time. The terrible levels of voter turnout in odd-numbered years (for present purposes, I’m including even-numbered year elections that happen in odd months) suggest that the anecdotes are right. A lot of Democrats just don’t care.
 
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(We’re still having a problem with comments uploading correctly. I will manually upload any comments on this, so they will appear, sooner or later. – DB)
 
Sarah Lahm’s conspiracy piece about “billionaire and TFA” money flooding in to support Don Samuels in the Minneapolis School Board race went national last week. Washington Post columnist Valerie Strauss (a staunch opponent of ed reform) reprinted Lahm’s original piece from “In These Times.”

A few days later, some Minneapolis voters woke up to find Lahm’s article tucked inside their screen doors with this helpful note, “I noticed a Don Samuels lawn sign in your yard. This may be information you need to make a more informed decision.”

Key word here is “informed.”

Which is sort of funny because Lahm’s piece is so loaded with factual errors, omissions and conspiracy theories, I scarcely know where to begin. It mirrors the stuff we progressives roll our eyes about when we hear it coming from Fox News.

Here are four things wrong with her piece:

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Mike McFadden

 

In his latest television ad, Mike “Nutshot” McFadden attempts to heap scorn on Senator Franken for “missing the mark.” It looks to me like yet more evidence that McFadden’s campaign is Not Ready for Prime Time.

 

The ad portrays a Franken look-a-like replete in suit and tie attempting to back the family boat into the water, failing repeatedly, knocking over garbage cans, while others are waiting impatiently and shaking their heads. The subtext reads contempt: Pity the Fool. Of course, Mighty Mike gets it on the first try. ‘Cuz he’s no fool.

 

Or.Is.He? If the ad’s intended audience is boat-owners, he may be on to something. Minnesota has more boat-owners per capita than any other state in the union. But to my knowledge boat-ownership has never been identified as a persuade-able voter demographic. Maybe I’m wrong …

 

No, I think he actually missed the mark himself. It appears that the ad is appealing to those viewers who dislike Coppertone®-tan Presidents, dislike Obamacare, dislike votes on higher taxes (never mind that the House GOP majority makes those votes moot), and dislike bespectacled Jews in suits trying to back boats.

 

If that’s the demographic he’s appealing to, I’ve got a newsflash for Team McFadden. Those guys are already voting your way. You’re wasting the old man’s money. Why not give the money to me and I’ll pass it on to a worthwhile charity — it’s better spent.

 

Also, I thought McFadden was supposed to be a smart business guy. The smartest move he could make right now would be to six his ad agency and find someone who knows what the hell they’re doing.

 

Mike, you need to widen your message, starting right now, and begin appealing to moderates, or your campaign is DOA on Election Day. Time is short: early voting begins in five weeks.

 

As the ad says, “Here in Min-ne-SO-ta, there’s a right way and a wrong way.” Looks to me like you picked the wrong way. Pity the fool.

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Registering new voters is probably the best way to make the elephant unhappy, given that non-voters who turn into voters tend to vote for the donkey. I’m the chair of the DFL of SD63, where we just completed a voter registration project. We were looking not just to register voters, but we wanted to learn about unregistered persons like where in our district they live, whether they’re eligible, why they don’t register and how to persuade them. We figured the high turnout of a presidential election would reduce the number of unregistered people to it’s lowest point, so we would be looking at the people least likely to vote, and skipping the relatively easy registrations of people who vote regularly, but moved between elections.

 

We registered some new voters, we learned quite a bit unregistered people in our district, and we learned how to learn about them. What we learned will make future voter registration efforts more effective, and will help with canvassing in general. I wrote a report for our senate district, and I’ve combined our forms, scripts, and instructions into a kit which is available to any other DFL unit that wants it. Though what we learned about the unregistered people in our district applies specifically only to our district, anyone can take what we did and learn about their own district.

 

So what did we learn about unregistered people, and how did we do it?

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Republicans plan to challenge on ground game

by Eric Ferguson on April 13, 2011 · 0 comments

Republicans will try to overcome their disadvantage at the ground game.

“We’re taking a top-to-bottom look at the turnout program and all the pieces that are in the turnout program and figuring what works, what doesn’t work and what’s outdated,” said [Republican National Committee Political Director Rick] Wiley, who served as an RNC regional political director during the 2010 cycle. “Right now, we’re getting outhustled on the doors, there’s no doubt about it.”

The targeted states don’t include Minnesota, according to what Wiley told the reporter. We’ll see. Each year, Republicans hope this will be the year they finally won Minnesota, and they get close enough to make that hope reasonable. I don’t see them just conceding the state.

I really, really hope the 50-state part of this can be taken literally:

The Obama campaign already has organizers on the ground in all 50 states through his grass-roots volunteer group, Organizing for America. Obama campaign spokeswoman Katie Hogan said the president’s campaign team expects to field at least as strong a GOTV operation as it did in 2008.

“The OFA field program will continue their work of building neighborhood teams and grass-roots organizers across the country in support of re-electing President Obama to a second term,” Hogan said.

I just hope in all 50 states, OFA and the Obama campaign realize every state will have some close races, where that extra 2% matters. If Obama goes from 41 to 43% of 57 to 59%, big whoop. It’s about how the top of the ticket helps down the ballot. As I hope we’ve learned, those legislative races matter. It’s not just about president, not just about swing states and swing districts. Look at the attacks on the rights of people who tend not to vote Republican in state legislatures all over the country.

Certainly don’t assume we’re so far ahead on the ground, we can just count some extra percentage to our turnout. The MNGOP makes an effort, even if other state parties are just catching on.

And if the Republicans want my advice on what they’re missing … never mind. Silly idea.

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What’s the agenda for the next two years? Updated

by Eric Ferguson on December 27, 2010 · 3 comments

UPDATED

We need to decide our agenda for the next couple years. Wait, did I miss the election? Am I unaware that Republicans won majorities all over the place, and Democrats will be unlikely even to get a committee hearing, let alone pass anything?

Actually, I did notice that. However, I noticed something else. The DADT repeal merely appeared to take about four days. It actually took something like four days plus 17 years. The Consumer Financial Products Board that was included in the big financial reform law wasn’t suddenly dreamt up in the conference committee, but was worked for by consumer advocates well before the financial crisis made it possible.

Though I hope it’s clear where I’m going, I’ll spell it out just to be sure. Almost every item in our agenda took years, maybe many years of laying the groundwork by making the case, persuading a few more people, taking incremental or local progress where we could, in preparation for the time when passage into law became truly possible. It might seem like mere cleverness to say passage of something took ten weeks — and ten years, but that’s really how it works.

So OK, I get it, the Republican majorities, with little agenda beyond rolling back what Democrats just did, means we’re going to be playing a lot of defense, and refighting fights we hoped were done. That doesn’t mean we don’t refine and push our own ideas for that next time circumstances offer a chance to actually do something. So back to my original question: what should be on the agenda?
In putting items on the agenda, be idealistic. Think years ahead, because this is what undergirds our day to day political fights. The items that follow are in no certain order, merely the order they came to mind. Mostly. Sometimes there’s a good reason to put something first, like a time crunch, or something where we don’t need to get past the Republicans.

Hang on, didn’t I just say, at the start of the very same paragraph, time to think idealistically and years ahead? Sure, but that doesn’t mean I’ve lost all sense of short-term practicality. There’s nothing wrong with pushing some items to the top because of a present opportunity.

For example, the item we have to put at the top is Senate reform, specifically the filibuster. This isn’t merely because this is what renders the Senate dysfunctional, and the dysfunctional Senate is behind just about every legislative problem this concluding Congress ran into. This is an example of a time crunch, because the filibuster can be changed when the Senate adopts its rules at the start of the new Congress. This is the only time the rules can be changed by majority vote. Otherwise, a supermajority of 67 is required. In other words, we have only a week and a half on this one, which strikes me as a really good reason to put it first.

There’s a reasonable counter-argument, that Democrats might want the same ability to stop the Senate cold when Republicans have a majority, as they likely will after 2012 (an issue of almost all of that year’s seats being held by Democrats). However, it serves Republicans better than Democrats, or rather I should say conservatives better than liberals, which explains how dixiecrats used the filibuster for a long delay of civil rights. Conservatives want to do some things, but generally, they just want to stop other people doing anything. Liberals usually want to do things. Change is usually pushed by liberals and resisted by conservatives, so the filibuster, though not a one-sided tactic, definitely serves one side better than the other.

And this is our chance to change it, perhaps even our last chance for many years. So, this goes first.

An example of not needing Republicans is the wars. In theory, Congress’ power to declare war means it could try to order the president to continue or start a war he doesn’t want to continue or start, but while the president has the veto pen and can claim the commander-in-chief power with the nation at war, and with Republicans thinking Congress should get nothing to say about war (at least when the president is a Republican), I don’t see that happening. I do expect Obama to come under pressure to renege on the status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government (let’s give credit, Obama has kept the agreement, and withdrawn US troops on or a bit before each deadline) and keep troops in Iraq after the scheduled departure at the end of next year. Obama may come under even greater pressure over Afghanistan, which is a hotter war and where we have no formal timetable negotiated with the government (Republicans hated the timetable for withdrawal, but it sure seems our troops in Iraq are getting shot at a lot less). Republicans will object to ending the build-up in July, and object to the plan that seems to be in the works to have us out sometime in 2014. Our job is to provide the counter-pressure needed to get us out of Iraq at the end of next year, to end the build-up in Afghanistan as planned, and withdraw in 2014. Having the White House means that while persuading Republicans would be helpful, we can get this done without them. We do need to have Obama’s back when he’s pressured to change his plans.

One more thing before getting all listy on you: I have no problem with pushing an agenda item ahead because a constituency feels neglected or taken for granted. Two that immediately come to mind are Hispanics and organized labor. Immigration reform got somewhere, but the serious effort didn’t come until the lame duck session. Labor especially has a case for feeling neglected since EFCA (Employee Free Choice Act) did get stuck behind a bunch of other legislation, and didn’t even get through committee if I’m not mistaken. They may well feel that’s precious little return for all those hours on the phone bank. Neither EFCA nor the DREAM Act, nor probably any similar legislation, is going to be reaching the president’s desk (or governor’s desk, to the extent these are state issues) but we need to try. It’s really about showing a couple constituencies that their issues are being attended to, and about the long-term persuasion need to build support for passing these at some time. Besides, who knows, maybe some swing-district Republicans will decide voting for these would be helpful getting reelected. Won’t know unless we try. So, legislatively, I suggest to congressional Democrats that these be the first two items worked on.

That suggests something else: it makes sense to put something at the top of our priorities because there might be enough Republican votes to pass it, despite the Republican majority.

So here are more possible items, and now they really aren’t in any order. I’m sure I’m leaving off something, and to a degree this is brainstorming. Anyone has anything, make free use of the comments.

Unemployment compensation reform (I don’t plan to explain each of these, but I will say we need to rethink how unemployment insurance works);
Marriage equality;
Age discrimination;
Regulation of greenhouse gases;
Alternative energy development;
ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act, protecting against discrimination for sexual orientation);
Infrastructure repair;
High-speed rail development;
Mass transit development;
US military involvement in Yemen and Pakistan;
Closing Guantanamo Bay prison;
Ending detention without charge or trial;
Investigation of Bush era war crimes;
Prohibition on naked shorting of derivatives (CDS’s — this needs explaining, please go here.);
Income tax progressivity;
The mortgage crisis (I’m ready to admit HAMP didn’t work, so how about letting bankruptcy judges rework mortgages?);
Trade deficit;
Reviving US manufacturing;
Accessibility of higher education;
Educational achievement gap;
Medicare for Everyone;
International disaster relief planning;
Net neutrality;
Wildlife habitat protection;
Felon voting rights;
Campaign finance reform (DISCLOSE Act);

I just want to stress, before anyone asks why this or that got moved to the top or bottom, these are not order of importance, alphabetical order, or the order the darts landed, and clumping of similar issues is purely a matter of one issue reminding me of something similar. The idea is to get to where we have ideas ready to go when the opportunity arises. This is the application of “luck is when opportunity meets preparation”.

Update:
I told myself I wasn’t going to go back in and add more items, but I’ll make an exception for something that should have been obvious, given we just had another statewide recount and plurality governor. It’s time to try IRV at a statewide level. All implementations of it, at least in this country, have been in non-partisan local races (someone correct me if that’s wrong since there might be an instance I haven’t heard of), so it would be an experiment. However, since Republicans believe Horner cost the election for Emmer (I’m skeptical of that, but as long as they think so…), this might be one of those instances where we can get enough Republican support. “Might” — I’m hardly counting on that. We’re more likely to find ourselves fending off photo ID for voting and protecting election day registration. There’s also a case for reforming voter registration as a higher priority.

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TPT On Your Radio Tonight, Friday, December 10th!

by TwoPuttTommy on December 10, 2010 · 1 comment

Ladies and Gentlemen, yours truly – the ol’ TwoPutter – is guest hosting tonight’s “Matt McNeil Show” (again!) on AM-950 KTNF, The Progressive Talk Station!  The show runs from 6:00 to 7pm.  So, tune in your radio today to AM-950, or listen live on your computer, here.

Hot topics include the current status on the Bush Tax Cut Extensions  (if you haven’t called Senators Klobuchar (202-224-3244) and Franken (202-224-5641), call them NOW!!!); Governor-Elect Mark Dayton; and changes in DFL Caucuses in St. Paul.

And as always, we want your calls!!!  Call 952-946-6205 with your thoughts and opinions!

I’ll be joined in-studio for a discussion with special guest Arron Olson, President of Minnesota Young DFL about the above, and more; State Rep. Paul Thissen will call-in for a discussion of changes down at the Capitol.

So, again, tune in the radio today to AM-950, or listen live on your computer, here.

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Independent groups and duplication of canvassing

by Eric Ferguson on November 15, 2010 · 14 comments

My mom received these two doorhangers on election day. Bear in mind they were dropped at the same house. Look for one key difference:

What I hope sticks out is that they have different polling places. The one on the left is correct and came form the DFL. The one on the right was from an independent group. However, recipients had to look closely to notice that. What was apparent was the request to vote for Dayton, and the echo of Dayton’s “Better Minnesota” slogan. The reasonable assumption is the DFL dropped two of these, and got one wrong.

The DFL has gotten polling places wrong in campaign literature, but at least it took the heat for its own mistake rather than someone else’s. That’s no suggestion of malfeasance or serious neglect, since I expect all that happened was some well-meaning volunteer at the independent group strayed out of their assigned streets, or someone mismarked the map. In fact, the misinformation isn’t really the main point.

Even if both had been right, what was the benefit of dropping two at one door? Independent groups are duplicating the DFL’s canvassing efforts, and even when the information is correct, duplication is wasting volunteer time, and maybe even annoying the people we’re trying to reach.
Everyone who helps with the ground game eventually runs into someone who complains they’ve been contacted a bunch of times and they’re so annoyed, they might vote against the Democrat just in spite. I expect some of those threats were carried out. I had that experience when my senate district party set up a table at a neighborhood festival, and I innocently asked a passer-by if she was registered. I got a good chewing out over how she had been called 15 times, always when she was making supper. I know she hadn’t been called 15 times by the DFL, but assuming her number was literal, I could well believe she was on not just the party’s calling list, but multiple independent groups as well. She had no idea this wasn’t always the DFL. She knew she was called repeatedly on behalf of DFL candidates, and drew the reasonable conclusion that these were idiots who wouldn’t stop calling.

Even if the potential voter isn’t annoyed, once the party had called her, what was the benefit of the other 14 calls? Let’s say a reminder on election day is useful — what is the benefit of the other 13 calls? None. Those were 13 calls that could have gone to 13 other potential voters. Even just the two doorhangers on election day could have been one doorhanger on double the doors.

I write this to plead with independent groups to stop the duplication of efforts. I realize they can’t coordinate with political parties. That’s why I’m putting this in a public forum instead of contacting anyone directly: I don’t want to run afoul of election regulations and make my senate district’s dinky treasury an actual negative number, so I certainly get that independent groups can’t call up the DFL and give them their volunteer lists, or arrange who will cover which areas. However, they don’t have to.

I get that there are state and local parties that don’t get the need for a ground game, and in such places, I’m glad the independent groups step up. With parties that have strong ground games of their own however, don’t duplicate the effort. Use publicly available information to direct your volunteers to assist the parties. Give them the web sites for signing up, the publicly available phone numbers, etc., so that volunteers’ efforts won’t go to contacting the same few people over and over. A whole lot more people can be contacted once. Look at the congressional and legislative races that were lost by close margins, and think of those volunteer hours being available to scrounge up some more Democrats who vote irregularly, or persuading some undecideds who are going off nothing but attack ads for their information and don’t hear a contrary argument.

We will never match the money of the independent groups supporting Republican candidates, but we can make a lot better use of volunteer time by avoiding duplication.

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Observations on the election

by Eric Ferguson on November 6, 2010 · 2 comments

TonyAngelo wrote his “brain dump”, so I guess I can dump my brain too.

Maybe that didn’t come out as I intended. Anyway, I’m not going to try to connect everything into some grand theory of everything, but I’ll share what I’m thinking, what I’ve noticed that I think is worth noticing,  but I’m not going to go into too much detail. Some of these don’t have more than a paragraph worth saying, and some need posts all their own. I certainly don’t have the time to write them all, so anyone else, feel free to take off on something, elaborate or disagree as you see fit.

We’ve had a year of doom and gloom before election day, and a lousy election day. Much of what follows will only add to that, so I’m going to start out with something positive. Otherwise, these might be in no particular order

Demographic trends remain in our favor
New voters have leaned Democratic for several elections now, and leaned heavily for three at least (not sure about 2004). People who vote for the same party their first several elections tend to habitually vote for the party thereafter, so winning immigrant and young voters so resoundingly is building a permanent advantage. We’re doing well among groups increasing a portion of the population, while Republicans seem to be banking on appealing to bigotry. Long term, I’d rather have our problems than theirs.

OK, on to the less happy parts.
The stimulus was far too small
I’m going to contradict myself right away, because I’m putting this first on purpose, and I’m going to elaborate a bit, because this is where the election lost. This campaign was essentially about compensating for this mistake.

Economists who pushed for a stimulus said there was $2 trillion lost in the recession, but the administration and Congress tried to fill a $2 trillion hole with only $900 billion of dirt. It was kept under the $1 trillion mark to avoid scaring conservatives who don’t get basic economics or history.

Those economists pushing the stimulus made clear that spending to create jobs and stop state and local governments from laying off workers was more stimulative than tax cuts, yet a third of the stimulus was tax cuts. The tax cuts were done in the most stimulative way, but after including tax cuts for the political benefit, Congress and the president undersold them so much, most people still think taxes were raised.

Then the too small stimulus was further reduced in response to Republican attacks. The Republicans attacked the stimulus by attacking individual projects with gross mischaracterizations, so in an attempt to mollify conservatives of both parties, the attacked projects were dropped. The stimulus was cut to roughly $720 billion — yet no conservative votes were coming, and thus the pattern of this Congress was established.

The stimulus saved or created roughly 3 million jobs and stabilized the economy (along with the financial bailouts) when it looked headed into the second Depression. Unfortunately, it’s hard to explain what amounts to alternate history when the economy remains stagnant, and saved jobs just aren’t visible like created jobs. A proper sized stimulus, with job creation instead of tax cuts, would have meant not just stabilizing the unemployment rate, but lowering it. For all our talk about bad messaging, falling unemployment would have made it easy: “unemployment is falling”. That would have been just about the whole campaign, all we’d have to say, while Republicans would have had to explain how they got it wrong. Instead, we had the explaining to do, and Republicans had the easy message, “unemployment is staying high”.

A big enough stimulus, and our discussions of message mostly go away. An attempt at a big enough stimulus, and the blame at least gets shared. That said, we should acknowledge having the stimulus at all was as politically courageous as it was economically obvious, and a lot of Democrats took a risk by backing it. OK, the rest of these will be much shorter.

Tip O’Neill was wrong
Democrats are fond of repeating that quote by Tip O’Neill, “All politics are local”. He was wrong, or at least the application of his wisdom was wrong. Midterm elections have been nationalized a bunch of times, and attempts to localize races never works. Democrats learned a lesson from 1994 that they should not be caught unaware again, but localizing each election was a disaster. October was actually pretty good, with the effort to energize the base and push GOTV, with some themes finally being found, but the rest of the campaign was horrid. I was mystified at why the campaign was taking so long to get started until I learned to my horror in late September that this was a deliberate strategy.

I recognize that the unevenness of the bad results argues a bit against me. Democrats had a really good day in Delaware, California, Massachusetts, and Hawaii.

Defying your own president never works
Running against Obama, and Pelosi for that matter, seems to have worked for almost nobody, judging by the radically reduced number of blue dogs. It didn’t work for Republicans to run against Bush either. Democrats ran against Clinton in 1994 and Carter in 1978. It never works, and I suspect it drags down other candidates of the same party.

The enthusiasm gap was spotty
It’s true we had a drop-off this year, but I’m not at all sure it wasn’t normal for midterm elections. Republicans were unusually energized, but waiting upon polls on who turned out, I suspect we matched them by the end, at least in Minnesota, and probably in states that had decent nights. I also suspect we benefited from a slight enthusiasm gap the last couple elections, but I’m more of a mind that swing voters all swung one way each of the last three elections. On the other hand, the gap appears real in some states, and I’m thinking of Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida particularly.

The base versus swing district dilemma
Our efforts at GOTV in heavily DFL areas increased turnout enough to win statewide. However, in legislative races, while that strategy does increase DFL candidates’ margins, increasing the winning margin from 70-something percent to 80% doesn’t actually win more seats. We actually won more congressional votes, all districts together, but that didn’t save the 8th. We lost the legislature by just a few votes, and take out the districts where we didn’t put up a candidate (more on that in a moment), we actually got more votes. Proportionally, the legislature should be a narrow majority, but we have districts, not proportionality.

I call this a dilemma because if resources had gone into legislative and US House races, we might have scrounged up a few more DFLers and persuaded just enough swing voters and saved our majorities. However, the price of retaining Jim Oberstar might have been Gov. Emmer. Somehow, we have to figure out how to do both and not make it an either/or situation.

By the way, this seems like a national pattern. Lots of state Democratic parties have exactly this problem of holding densely populated base areas that make them competitive statewide, but unable to win a majority of districts. We’re typical.

Revive the 50-state strategy
Now about that not running candidates in some states and districts: we can’t have that. Even a token candidate has a shot if something weird happens like a safe incumbent has a scandal. Had we had candidates in the districts where we had none, they would have been squished, but at least we’d have had a minuscule shot. Howard Dean’s goal was to build state and local parties enough that we wouldn’t even leave legislative seats uncontested, let alone US House and Senate seats. That’s how surprising wins were pulled off the last couple elections. More on Dean’s successor in a bit.

Microtargeting
I recall hearing in 2004 that Republicans supposedly boosted turnout through microtargeting, which meant appealing to potential Republican voters in Democratic precincts where the Republicans had no hope at local offices. Scrounging out those few Republicans helped at the state level, which helped Bush. I’m not sure I buy that they got more than token votes that way, I have other ideas on what happened in 2004, but it seems plausible and worth trying. It also sounds tough. You can’t just knock on every door and figure most of the votes are Democratic. It means somehow figuring out who might be the Democrats in, a purely random example, the exurbs at the southern end of CD8, maybe by knocking on lots of doors where the canvasser is told to get lost.

If you know why that particular use of “a purely random example” was snark, you might be a politics geek.

The wrong chairmen are being pressured to go
Michael Steele has been permanently embattled as RNC chair, even though he told Republicans some thing they needed to hear, but didn’t want to. Some have come down hard on DFL chair Brian Melendez. I’m not one of them. The chair who does need to go is Tim Kaine. He showed poor judgment taking the job while he was a sitting governor, both full time jobs. The 50-state strategy seems to have fallen away, and this election we even had a senate seat go unchallenged. As a public spokesman, Kaine is so horrible, he was claiming right before the election we would keep the house. That tells me he thinks his job is to go on interviews and speak utter nonsense. It also tells me Dean’s success didn’t register much at all. Kaine has to go.

A candidate won with seemingly no campaign
Getting very local here; Minneapolis school board candidate Rebecca Gagnon won an at-large seat with no staff, no lit I saw, no yard signs, a minimal web site, and the endorsing convention deadlocked so she didn’t even have a party endorsement. She did however help with canvassing, spending enormous amounts of time on the phone or at doors, impressing people one at a time and even in a city this size, that worked. I’m not at all sure that it has any bigger meaning, but it is interesting.

Voter intimidation seemed not to work
We don’t know for sure of course, but anecdotally, it seems not to have kept voters from the polls. Turnout was down, but it seems no worse in targeted precincts than elsewhere. Given that Dayton did a bit better than Hatch in base DFL areas, it backfired if anything. On a related note…

Where was the voter fraud?
OK Minnesota Majority, tea parties and their ilk, where was the fraud? You had volunteers all over watching for it. The incidents of over-aggressive poll watchers suggest the problem wasn’t passivity on your part. Where was it? Guess I managed to sneak my illegal aliens past you as usual, and it is usual — you’ve had challengers at DFL precincts for many years, and you still can’t produce any evidence.

Maybe Republicans have seen the light on touchscreen voting
The complaints from Nevada that Angle voters saw touchscreens changing their votes to Reid sounds like each election since they came into use, except it was always Democrats finding their votes changed to GOP, and we got no love from the GOP in our complaints. GOP, do you finally get why these things are a dreadful way to vote? Why we always suspect these machines when they produce statistically unlikely results that go against us? Maybe this is one election reform we could actually agree on.

The blowback on health care reform was predictable
Maybe someone can explain why conservatives go so nuts over health care reform. They always have, and I have no idea why every time there’s an attempt at health care reform that gets any traction, they react like we’re trying to turn them into gay Franco-Mexican Muslims whose guns were taken away. Not only did we just suffer blowback over Obama’s reform, but the same thing happened in 1994 when Clinton got close, and in 1966 over anger about the passage of Medicare. Even FDR, with all the big ideas he turned into law, thought health care reform was too much. Does anyone have enough insight into conservative psychology to explain this?

Macacca moments mattered a lot less
In  case that’s obscure, think back to 2006, when Sen. George Allen called a Democratic tracker of Indian descent “macacca”, which caused a flurry of research until someone found it was a racial slur used by French North Africans, like Allen’s mother. Allen’s reelection turned from in the bag to narrowly lost. Our own Michele Bachmann had 2008 in the bag, until her call to investigate other congressmen for being “anti-America”, and suddenly her race was close.

This year though, there were loads of macacca moments, moments of craziness, and clear stupidity, and it didn’t matter. Now matter what crazy or racist candidates said, after the primaries, the polls of these candidates’ races hardly moved. If the self-inflicted damage wasn’t done before or very shortly after the primaries, it didn’t matter. It’s like voters’ minds were made up so early that anything new they learned during the general election campaign was ignored. So I’m going to contradict my “no particular order” statement again, because…

Attack the crazy, and early
It seems like Democrats who demurred from pointing out the stupidity, or waited too long, suffered for it. If they waited until October, there was such a flood of stupidity, it was hard to get press and voters’ attention. Tarryl Clark wasn’t going to win no matter what, but she diminished her chances with the localization strategy that shied from the crazy. Emmer defined himself with the $100,000 waiters, and partly recovered, but he was already defined in mid-Summer (no, I don’t think the drunk driving ads helped at all). In fact, MNGOP morale sunk for a good reason, because this was where Emmer lost the election. The lesson is point out the nuttiness and ignorance, and do it early, even before the Republican primary.

Where were the $100,000 waiters?
OK, I’m putting one more in order. Why did the attacks on Emmer not go after the $100,000 waiter remark and the institution of the tip penalty? Even DFLers cringed at the drunk driving attacks, and voters were allowed to forget how out of touch Emmer is with working people. That was the biggest messaging error of the gubernatorial campaign.

Poll the legislative races
My first job out of college was sitting at a phone bank, conducting the DFL’s internal polls, and a lot of the questions were about legislative races. I don’t know how much that cost or if they were cost effective, but considering how the legislative losses sneaked up on us, we should consider polling those races.

Negative ads have diminishing returns
Is there really a value to seeing the same attack ad for the 15th time? I question the conventional wisdom that negative campaigning always works. After the attack has created a campaign issue, it seems the law of diminishing returns kick in. This is one of those topics worthy of its own posts, so I’ll just refer again to that Texas Observer article I keep mentioning on grassroots campaigning, which was able to do some comparing between spending the same money on ads or canvassing.

The media have started 2012 presidential campaign already
It could be worse. I distinctly recall in October 2006, some media outlets spent more time on the 2008 presidential race than on the midterms that were a few weeks away. Still, it’s only November 2010. Press, please stop for a while!

Special elections are special
I mean they aren’t predictive. Scott Brown’s win was supposed to herald Republican competitiveness in blue areas, but Republicans went 0-for-Massachusetts. Democrats tried to counter the spin by a special election win in John Murtha’s district. Right — and how did things go in Pennsylvania? The DFL had a long winning streak over the last decade in legislative special elections, so we should have been untouchable in legislative races — maybe not.

Bye Bye Blue Dogs
We rightly mock the GOP for its ideological purity, and the permanent disadvantage they’ve inflicted on themselves. I see the value of someone who’s with us just 75% of the time over a Republican, and it’s good we accept a diversity of ideas — up to the point where someone starts screwing over other Democrats and hindering the party’s top priorities. Many of the conservadems took advantage of the inability to pick up any GOP votes to make stupid or petty demands, even being willing to join GOP filibusters instead of just voting no. Blue dogs and conservadems took a shellacking much worse than Democrats in general, and while I hate losing the majority, sorry, but I simply will not miss you Evan Bayh, Bobby Bright, Blanche Lincoln, Jim Marshal, and Parker Griffith. You were more hindrance than help. If that sounds a wee bit petty on my part, tough. You weakened or blocked legislation thereby damaging your whole party, and I’m glad most of the damage was inflicted on you.

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