2006 Midterm Convention

It's not really a news topic at the moment, but I think my earlier Midterm Convention post deserves some renewed discussion. Some commenters saw the convention idea as a non-starter, but a majority seemed to be behind it, at least if done right. Probably the most prevalent concern is that the convention would present a party that isn't unified. It's an understandable concern, but the GOP and their media allies don't need us to have a convention to push that nonsense.

With everyone's thoughts and concerns in mind, I've had some thoughts as to what a basic framework for such a convention might look like. First, I feel the need to address some of the more legitimate worries. In all likelihood, a midterm convention in 2006 would not get the wall-to-wall coverage afforded a Presidential nominating convention. But that's fine -- we don't need massive media saturation. The most important thing is that the convention is covered by the wire services and the networks and that a broadcast feed is made available. I also totally agree with everyone who's afraid that a unified message must be maintained. But despite the differences within the party, I think it's quite possible to focus on a core progressive message that binds all of the candidates together.

One of the other things people brought up was that midterm conventions have been proposed and held in the past, with varying results. In both 1974 and 1978, the Democrats held midterm conventions. During the 1974 midterms, Democrats gained a whopping forty-nine net seats in the House and three net in the Senate. But then in 1978, the Democrats lost fifteen in the House and three in the Senate. But neither midterm election happened in a vacuum. Watergate was the issue in 1974, massively hurting the Republicans. By contrast, Jimmy Carter's approval ratings were incredibly low in 1978, making it a tough time to be a Democrat. The reality is that, no matter what happened in the past, 2006 will be a completely different story.

Taking all of these factors into account, here are a few key suggestions I'd make in planning the 2006 midterm convention....

Introducing our candidates...
This shouldn't just be a convention for incumbents or the familiar faces. Candidates at all levels should be profiled and allotted time to speak. Even if no one's watching on C-SPAN or MSNBC or whatever network is giving the convention limited coverage, the feed will be there for local media outlets to run on their evening/morning news programs. Criticizing the GOP and making grand pronouncements about world issues should take a back seat to what each candidate is doing to make his or her district a better place in these profiles and speeches. Viewers, listeners, and readers should come away wondering what their Republican incumbent or candidate has done for them lately. Forwarding a larger worldview is fine

Making the case for our platform...
Much in the same way we're going to sell the candidates, let's sell the platform. No wonky lectures, but rather punchy Oprah-style pieces on real world problems and our real world answers to them. Though there may be differences on small issues, the convention should present the platform as part of a larger, comprehensive vision.

Show that we're a big tent party...
If candidates want to stray from message, let them. We need to show the American people that we're not a party of strict ideology and loyalty, but rather a broad-based coalition of like-minded progressives interested in making the world a better place. If that means pro-gun Paul Hackett speaking back to back with pro-gun control Louise Slaughter, that's fine. As the netroots have shown, we're not afraid of debate or dissent. Just make sure the focus is on each candidate making the positive case for him or herself and tying it all back to the larger narrative vision of the party platform.

Not just a cheerleading session...
Minimize the good-times musical acts and confetti. That's great for a nominating convention, but that's not the point here. A 2006 midterm convention won't be a vacation or the type of back-patting session one finds at an annual sales meeting. Fun is fine, but hard work should be the cornerstone of the convention.

Democrats in action...
Hold real breakout sessions for activists. Some of these will be working groups and some will be panel discussions. These won't really be media events, but media will of course be allowed and invited to cover them. The message to the grassroots is that the party cares about outreach, education, and training. The message to voters back home is that the party is hard at work.

No cost to the host site...
This is crucial. If the entire convention is not paid for up front, with every and sandwich accounted for, guys like Bill O'Reilly will come down on us like a sledgehammer. There are definitely questions as to where to hold a convention like this, with issues like security costs and accessibility to be considered. Still, full financing is even more important.

Run a tight ship...
Kill the meme that Republicans are the responsible managers and Democrats are disorganized hippies. The obvious differences between the management of the Clinton and Bush administrations are proof that this is not at all true. Even if only subconsciously, the way the convention is run will send a strong message about the way the country is going to be run under the Democrats.

Be honest...
There is a certain amount of gimmickry inherently involved in something like this. But for too many years, polls have shown that the American people agree with the Democratic Party on the issues facing the country, and yet we've lost ground. Holding a midterm convention is recognition that we need a radical new approach to sell our agenda to the people. And since it was Walter Cronkite -- one of the greatest living observers of American culture -- who first proposed the 2006 midterm convention, we really ought to give it a chance.

So those are some of my initial thoughts on what the 2006 midterm convention should look like. I'd love to get more input on this to see what you all think should be accomplished with a convention. If something like this is going to happen, it's not going to be because some blogger said it was a good idea. It'll happen because you demanded it.

Tags: Democrats (all tags)



Other than on blogs, how much interest is there
in the Democratic leadership for this idea?
by bruh21 2005-10-23 10:55PM | 0 recs
and the point of this would be
Part of the problem in the party is the leadership itself. They want to control everything but don't seem to have the skills or the will to run a unified campaign as was shown in the 2004 where we didn't just lose the presidental election we lost seats on a number of levels because of the one minded focus of the last campaign. The party as a whole does not seem to have an operation plan for how to work outside a city, or highly congested suburb, or if it doesn't it's not very good.
by orin76 2005-10-23 11:10PM | 0 recs
Re: and the point of this would be
While the current leadership leaves a lot to be desired, perhaps the "problem" lies with the diversity of the Democratic Party and the willingness to at least allow other points of view to be heard. And this is what makes the party look like they have no cohesive plan or program. But, this is what should make the Democrats a more appealing choice as well as a great "selling tool" in any mid-term convention. Certainly, there are differing views on the Republican side, but a small group, such as the neocons, control everything and will not allow dissent.
by blogus 2005-10-24 03:10AM | 0 recs
Re: and the point of this would be

All I see from the leadership is ineptness. Case in point was this weekend's talking heads, other than Dean there was no unified disciplined message! Everyone's response should have been exactly the same "GOP culture of corruption". I think a mid-term convention would only be constructive if we had party discipline not a slew of individual candidates and presidential wannabees. Otherwise, it would be a disaster of conflicting message and disorganization laid bare for the country to see.

by Citizen80203 2005-10-24 08:26AM | 0 recs
Dem leadership
OK, most of you are much more in tune to who exactly pulls the strings in the Dem leadership--what's this comment and similar about?

I thought things were supposed to be better now that Howard Dean is the party Chairman.  He seems to be moving to the 50 state strategy.  People sure were excited here when Dean became party leader.

So are the "leadership is inept" comments about Dean?  Or about Pelosi and Reid?  Or others?

by The lurking ecologist 2005-10-24 10:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Dem leadership
Dean's fifty state strategy is an "idea" only. The DCCC is hardly on board, although they seem to at least have modified their approach.

As for the leadership, I am behind Dean, but he has no real power. Pelosi is doing a decent job but she lacks the power to enforce discipline. Reid on the other hand is inept on most issues.

The above aside, the real power of the party is the marquee names of Biden, Clinton, Liberman, ect. Too many chief wannabees. Until the DINOS are put on notice, there will be no real party discipline.

by Citizen80203 2005-10-24 10:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Dem leadership
The 50-state strategy is more than an idea. The DNC is placing paid organizers in every state. This will help in several ways:

-Some states have little or no paid staff, and most have no paid staff focused on grass roots organizing. The DNC-paid staffers are mostly organizers, but some are doing communications or handling other necessary tasks. The influx of paid staff should make the parties more effective and professional.

-Because the DNC is paying and training the organizers, but the state parties are hiring them, there's a natural conduit to working together better and improving communications.

Many state parties had really atrophied over the past 20+ years to the point that they're ineffectual. Because of this, candidates didn't find the local parties to be helpful and consequently don't pay much attention to their platforms.

As Dean builds grass roots small-dollar donations, the party and its politicians may (I hope) become less dependent on corporate contributions and the politicians may become more responsive to grass roots activists.

It will take time to organize everywhere, but that's the goal and progress is being made. I always liken changing the Democratic Party to turning a barge: it's a tough thing to do, but if we all get at the same end and paddle hard, we can do it.

by Jenny Greenleaf 2005-10-24 11:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Dem leadership
Yes just what we need more paid incompetence interfering. As, I said in my prior message they are simply highing the good old boys and girls that don't know what they are doing to strong arm the locals into following their failed policies
by orin76 2005-10-24 11:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Dem leadership
by orin76 2005-10-24 11:58AM | 0 recs
Re: 50 state strategy
SO far the 50 state strategy has given kickbacks to the offices of state house and senate Democrats from city districts. By hiring their workers to run this program on the local and state level workers that have no idea how to run a campaign in a rural,exburban or Suburban area.

They are working to prop up at the last min the incompetent  county and state Chairs that are about to come up for election. Who have screw up for the last 4 year and that should be voted out of office. SO we are stuck with them for another 4 years.

The Young Democrats have used the money they have been given to bring to interfer in state and local campaigns and then bring in city people to do door to door only to insult the locals, throwing them into the republicans laps who know better than to do this.

They are using strong arm tatics to force well connected but unelectable canadidates on local area.

Interfering with local elections, that they know nothing about or how to win.

If people in the DNC thought this was a good Idea then I wonder what they are smoking up there

by orin76 2005-10-24 11:43AM | 0 recs
Re: 50 state strategy
I don't understand what you're saying here.

As far as I know, the hires are being done locally. In Oregon, we plan to dedicate half the resources to organizing outside the Portland Metro area.

We are cognizant that sending eyebrow-pierced city folks into rural areas to do door-to-door can be counterproductive. Dean also gets that--he talked about it in terms of Ohio 2004.

I agree that the leadership of many state and county parties should change. That's only going to happen if people join up and elect new leaders. Are you a member of your local party?

by Jenny Greenleaf 2005-10-25 09:26AM | 0 recs
Re: 50 state strategy
Yep and so far I've seen more of the same.
by orin76 2005-10-25 09:56AM | 0 recs
Re: 50 state strategy
It is quite easy to say that in Oregon where the party actually works. Unforuntaly in states where the party doesn't work all this is doing is reinforcing the same defective party structures from the ground up. Yeah they are being hired locally or put up for chosing locally by the same chairs and state chair that should be voted out. The Same good old boy/girls type the power brokers in the party are trying to foster to take over them that have no real new ideas but know how how to stroke the right person's ego.  The problem with croyism you think your people are the best people or simply they will be the easiest to control.
by orin76 2005-10-25 10:27AM | 0 recs
Re: 50 state strategy
Before anything like this will work nation wide the party needs to do several things.

  1. Get rid of Croynism

  2. We have to reginate the Moderates and conservatives in the party. When the activist base of the party is made up mostly of a minority group in the party this doesn't work. It's not simply about how you dress or what body Jewelery you have on. It's about the culture of the area. Sending a democrat that is dressed up but sounds no different and cannot relate to the person on the other side of the door is no better than sending the person out with all the body Jewelry on. When I go out ok I get called "the Democrat" but they know I understand them. Just because you live in said neighborhood and you are active does not mean does not mean you are not the minority among democrats in said neighborhood.

3.We need to start running candidates that reflect the areas we live. Unforuntaly what is happening is the activists in the party are forcing forward unrepresentive candidates that can't win. Then they are complaining about how there are so many elected democrats that don't reflect their view. This is because the Democrats that can get elected are the ones that are too moderate for this taste but have the money to run a campaign from their own pocket. Then are able to get out the moderate and conservative democrats and moderate republicans and winning.
by orin76 2005-10-25 12:18PM | 0 recs
Location of convention
As has been mentioned before if we do this it should be in a red state- Houston, Dallas, Denver,Charlotte, Jacksonville, Nashville, an Ohio city, Etc.

How about holding 4 or 5 mini conventions in different parts of the country on different topics. Perhaps one a week. Eg. Foreign Policy in Dallas, Energy  Policy in Denver, Economic policy in an Ohio city, etc.

We would get good regional coverage. It would spread out for a month of coverage.  

by judson 2005-10-24 04:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Location of convention
I would prefer a solid purple state like North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Florida.  Carry a few extra seats because of the bucks the convention would bring into the state.  Maybe hold it in the red part of the purple state..
by Robert P 2005-10-24 05:18AM | 0 recs
Re: Location of convention
Somewhere with a lot of competitive House seats: Charlotte, Columbus, Tampa, or something along those lines.
by lorax 2005-10-24 08:06AM | 0 recs
What will it do?
One of the constant Republican lies is that the GOP is the party of ideas while the Democrats have no ideas.  A convention would show that Democrats are the party of ideas and also the party of the people, or at least 98% of them.Republicans are in fact the party of a few, failed ideas while we are the Party open to new ideas and new people.  The Republican ideas have been hashed and rehashed for 25-40 years and seem to fall, such as the do, into four categories.  

  1. Taxes are bad.  We are the party of lower taxes and we will do that.  What they don't tell you:  nearly all of the tax cuts will be for the benefit of the very richest and all the program cuts will be at the expense of the great bulk of the people.

  2.   Government is bad and inefficient.  In most programs, government is by far the most efficient way to do things.  Compare the administrative costs of social security and medicare to similar costs for pensions and HMOs.
Hmm, 3% compared to 20%.  It is the unregulated market that turns out to be inefficient and ineffective.

  1.  The military is good and an unlimited amount of money should go for military procurement (the contractors).  We don't say this, but we will shaft the actual members of the military and will get very little bang for our buck from the contractors.

  2.  Business is good and should be unregulated but people are bad and need to be contantly regulated to do what we want.  The inconsistency in this is staggering.  Businesses have been regulated for thopusands of years because they need regulating.  Otherwise, greed will act to see that business will not be honestly conducted.  The Sumerians knew that in 4,000 B.C. and everybody else from the Romans to the Middle Age guilds to our Founding Fathers came to the same conclusion.
by David Kowalski 2005-10-24 04:50AM | 0 recs
Alias 78
78 should be aliased out. The prev. convention is a better predictor given 78 was due to a huge flux in gas prices blamed on the incumbent which was at that time a democratic president, Jimmy Carter.

Also the grassroots campaign to get the GOP into the reagan years was full bore and they'd pretty much dominated everything underneath the activist line. Finally in 78 you had a very touchy situation in Iran building... not too many people were going to back the dems that year.

by turnerbroadcasting 2005-10-24 05:00AM | 0 recs
Sounds like now
Except substitute Bush for Carter and change the N in Iran to a Q.
by Geotpf 2005-10-24 12:52PM | 0 recs
82 midterm turned into Prez cattle call
Don't forget the '82 midterm convention, held in Philly. I was a volunteer there, and my memory is that the press totally focused on the presidential nominees to the exclusion of anything else. Mondale, Glenn, Kennedy were the big-names at the time, and the candidates pulled out all the stops to shows who was doing the best. I remember the hall being plastered with Kennedy/Nuclear Freeze posters at one point.

Holding a convention is very expensive, and I'm not sure the money can't be better used elsewhere. And we know the press will concentrate on the presidential race - which would actually distract from the issues we need to focus on in 2006.

by msn1 2005-10-24 05:31AM | 0 recs
Re: 82 midterm turned into Prez cattle call
That is my memory too.  It was really just a warmup for 1984.  That is how the press reported it, and that is how they would report it again.

The real problem is what what the delegates do?  One answer would be to draft a platform.

And that would inevitably turn into a fight over Iraq.  

by fladem 2005-10-24 07:41AM | 0 recs
Re: 82 midterm turned into Prez cattle call
so part of it is keep those currently holding office and not up fro re-election away from the mike.  This means Biden, Kerry, Vilsak, Warner, Feingold (shame), and several others.

However it means H.R. Clinton gets to speak.  Hmm, we'd need to put somehting on her to focus only on her senate re-eection platform.  Maybe she can speak on night 1 at 1 pm when n one is watching.

Not to offend anyone but she would change the focus of the message.

by Trowaman 2005-10-24 09:52AM | 0 recs
What judson wrote, above.  In the alternative regional conventions could run concurrently, given the resources @ democratic headquarters, including a complete professional broadcast television studio.  

Coupled with their network capabilities, shouldn't be too hard to set up videoconferencing links as well.  Not to mention real-time blogging, and online referenda.  

by rba 2005-10-24 05:44AM | 0 recs
This is why we lose
This is crucial. If the entire convention is not paid for up front, with every and sandwich accounted for, guys like Bill O'Reilly will come down on us like a sledgehammer. There are definitely questions as to where to hold a convention like this, with issues like security costs and accessibility to be considered. Still, full financing is even more important.


Geeesh...get over it... if we were the party of Mother Theresa assholes like Bill O'Reilly would still make up shit because THAT IS THEIR JOBS.

I am sick of Dems making policy and managing the party based on "WDTRT" W hat D o T he R epublicans T hink"... this mindset has created a fiasco that has left Reid with egg all over his face.

Remember this shit...Miers must be a good choice because the Gopers are crying in their teacups. who the fuck cares about alligator tears...

So if you are already basing a mid-term convention on WDTRT then fucking forget it... that was the whole Boston Convention... The idiot Kerry had a fucking GOPer vinette every 15 minutes... a lesson in utter stupidity and those squawking at framing... that was the epitome of reinforcing the oppositions frames.

Show that we're a big tent party...
Sounds like yet another play for anti-choice in the Dem party. What part of... WOMEN WILL DIE... IF ROE IS OVERTURNED... don't you guys understand??? Or is women dying just not "important shit" to you?

by Parker 2005-10-24 05:47AM | 0 recs
Re: This is why we lose
While I, for one, don't give a damn about what Bill O'Lielly or Pillhead Limbaugh or any of those other idiots think, showing that your a "big tent" party doesn't mean you accept any notion of overturning Roe. Nor does it mean giving in on any of the other basic principles associated with the Democratic Party. You can acknowledge another person's point of view, which may be contrary to yours, as long as they can respect yours.    
by blogus 2005-10-24 06:30AM | 0 recs
Re: This is why we lose
If only the so-called "pro-lifers" truly respected life... but KNOWINGLY that they are willing to put thousands of womens lives in jeopardy is not for "LIFE"... they are for death and destitution.
by Parker 2005-10-24 08:58AM | 0 recs
Re: This is why we lose
Your correct, in that the hard core "pro-lifers" will never, ever allow another point of view. But there are a lot of people out there that, while they may oppose abortion for themselves, they don't oppose another persons decision. That's what choice is about and I could work along side that person under the Democratic "big tent."
by blogus 2005-10-24 12:51PM | 0 recs
A convention is an enormous undertaking, even without the bells and whistles of a nominating convention. Do you really want to divert DNC staff and financial resources to a convention? Spend the millions (and yes, it will cost millions) of dollars on electing congressmen, senators and governors. A convention sounds good in theory, but from a practical standpoint, put the resources in the states on the ground, like Gov. Dean is already doing with the 50 state strategy.
by nascardem 2005-10-24 06:26AM | 0 recs
spend the money more wisely
What a waste of dough that would be.

Honing a better media strategy/message and then working on getting all dems to repeat that message is the smarter play.

Why waste money on a midterm convention, when the GOP is at war with us?

by Sam Loomis 2005-10-24 06:42AM | 0 recs
A new message for the Dems
is my suggestion..since they are still fumbling around for a message. Lay out an 8 year plan for improving the infrastructure of our country by building roads, bridges and sewers and safe cities. Talk clearly and simply about honesty, integrity and cleaning out the cronies appointed by Bush.

I support a mid-term convention without any candidates. Think more, campaign less.

by easystreet 2005-10-24 07:47AM | 0 recs
The party last held a mid term convention in 1982
It was dropped becasue of hogh cost and no one follwed it, I doubt that will change, at this time it is hard enough for people to follow the regualar conventions so I doubt they will bring it back.  However I do think the party needs to look at ideas on getting out a message.
by THE MODERATE 2005-10-24 08:26AM | 0 recs
Re: The party last held a mid term..
Today there is C-Span.
by aahpat 2005-10-24 08:57AM | 0 recs
I seems that points
  • Making the case for our platform... and
  • Show that we're a big tent party...
are contradictory or at least conflict each other.  How can we (if possible) allow for both.  Or better yet should be allow for both?
The statements
Though there may be differences on small issues, the convention should present the platform as part of a larger, comprehensive vision.

We need to show the American people that we're not a party of strict ideology and loyalty, but rather a broad-based coalition of like-minded progressives interested in making the world a better place.

conflict each other.  How can we both have a unified vision and still allow for differences of opinion with a broad-base of ideas.  Its a noble goal but practically I think we need to tighten our control on platform issues and have differences play out only on a local level.
by IrnBru001 2005-10-24 08:28AM | 0 recs
You can't
always expect to have troops if you are not always trying to rally them. Conventions rally the troops.
by aahpat 2005-10-24 08:56AM | 0 recs
Please post this message on liberal web logs.
Please post this message on liberal web logs.

Stop the Republican Party by boycotting the companies that contribute to the Republican ERRORISTS


by maximus7 2005-10-24 08:57AM | 0 recs
A suggestion
A digital convention for the general election  in September with state threads and so much video feed that C-Span will have to take some of it.
by aahpat 2005-10-24 09:01AM | 0 recs
Yes, do it
Do Democrats want to play up the congressional elections as a national contest, as much as possible?  If not now, then never, right?  Would holding a convention be an important part of a strategy to bring this about?  It seems to me that it would.

Yes, I can see that doing the convention would defeat its own purpose, and then some, if it turns into a showcase for fighting out differences.  But that's actually part of why the idea appeals to me.   The risks of a high-profile failure may hang over the enterprise.  But isn't everyone pretty hungry, at this point?  Nobody wants to blow the opportunity that circumstances have created.  And if we think a national message would be useful, then we'll need to run risks of some kind to hash it out and put it forward.

(Seems to me this notion holds true for any of the presidential campaigns that might want to try to exploit the venue.  It should be clear (and can be made clear) to everyone involved that anything hurts if it doesn't help the party as a whole going into the races.  Nobody should want to be held responsible for getting in the way of the common effort.)

If we can't prevail upon each other to work together, so we can win together, at this point, then what does that say about the party?  (And, not that this would happen, but if we can't even hold together a pre-election gathering of ourselves, what do we think would happen if we actually did win, say, the House?)  If we're unwilling to risk the big tent by taking it out and pitching it in public, then the tent isn't worth anything.

by nandrews3 2005-10-24 10:29AM | 0 recs
Re: Yes, do it
It seems to only make sense that a mid term convention would be to focus on the congress. Deliniate the differences between the Democrats and Republicans in Nov. 06. Highlight the candidates in ways to help them all see winning characteristics shared between them.

Another consideration:

Depending on how the G. Gordon Liddy's of tomorrow matriculate this week as indictments are announced, the Plame issue will carry into congressional politics for the next two years. But especially into the elections. Congressional oversight hearings will abound making new daily TV heroes and villians among both administration and congressional committee members involved.

by aahpat 2005-10-24 12:04PM | 0 recs
A March Caucus is already in the work!
Democratic Congressional candidates will meet in DC March 14, 15, & 16.  The first one was in Sep.  All candidates are welcome & encouraged to attend in March.

There's also an online discussion group for Democratic candidates.   The candidates' landslide needs national communication.  Everyone needs access to everyone else.  This group does just that.

If you're a Democratic Congressional candidate, consider signing up for the NovemberVictory online discussion group to network with other candidates.  Also, think about attending the caucus in March!

by Philosophe Forum 2005-10-24 05:02PM | 0 recs


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