Privilege Breeds Bad Campaigning
by Chris Bowers, Fri Jul 21, 2006 at 10:10:45 AM EDT
I've really been saddened, in fact, by how often, when I drill down into anti-Lamonter motivations, I find their ideological and electoral motivations, mere sandrock obscuring a core rage at this affront to tradition and orderly succession. TNR, via mcjoan: [T]he fundamental reason for Lieberman's travails--a reason that a number of the senator's friends and supporters are increasingly willing to share--is Lieberman himself. Despite efforts to imbue the senator's troubles with greater significance, in reality they are largely the result of his and his reelection campaign's own missteps--from his behavior prior to the race to his belated realization of the serious challenge Lamont posed to his continued insistence on doing things that served to anger Democratic voters. "I think it's a mess," one Lieberman friend says of the campaign. "And, frankly, I think much of the blame lies with Joe. ... It's almost like he goes out of his way sometimes to make a difficult situation more difficult." There is a connection between the sense of privilege Lieberman and Lieberman supporters feel, and between his terrible campaigning. Matt hinted at this back on Tuesday night, as has emptywheel over at The Next Hurrah. It is actually a problem that is a serious detriment to the Democratic Party's electoral success. Because so many Democratic elected officials, staffers and consultants feel they are entitled to their positions, rather than viewing those positions as something they have to earn and justify to the voters and / or rank-and-file Democrats, they have failed to develop the new, innovative campaign techniques and general political will necessary to wrest power from Republicans. Lieberman's campaign has been terrible precisely because he feels he is entitled to his Senate seat, and isn't accountable to anyone. When even having to campaign becomes offensive to you, you are probably going to suck at campaigning. By way of contrast, even though we are significantly out-resourced everywhere, movement candidates are starting to wrest power from establishment Democrats in places like CA-11, Montana, Virginia and Connecticut (and came very close in IL-06), precisely because we know we aren't going to win unless we are innovative, and unless we work our asses off. While they find campaigns offensive, we find them places into which we need to pour all of our creative energies. Thus, even with far fewer resources in every single campaign I listed above, the progressive movement candidate has performed far above expectations and, more often than not, has actually won.
Jerome and Markos wrote about this extensively in Crashing the Gate. Too many of our elected officials, consultants, advocacy organizations, and staffers feel they are not accountable to anyone. They particularly appalled when forced to confront plebian, outsider, progressive activists. Not only is this a main reason why establishment candidates are starting to fall like flies to progressive movement candidates, it is a reason why Democratic candidates in general have had so little success against Republican candidates lately. If you believe you are entitled to your position, how can you possibly hope to wrest power from a group of people--the conservative movement--who wrested it from you through a series of driven, innovative political techniques during the past few decades? If you don't like campaigns, then get out of politics. If you don't like innovations in politics, then step aside for the good of the party. If you can't handle a little competition, then you are simply going to sink to the bottom as political entrepreneurs rise to the top.
It is somewhat ironic that the pro-corporate wing of the Democratic Party is most threatened by the new, entrepreneurial spirit within Democratic Party politics. Who would have ever thought that the entrepreneurs in progressive politics would come from the left-wing? Then again, considering that our current business environment generally favors conglomerated corporate power rather than entrepreneurs, maybe it is neither surprising nor ironic. As new power centers such as the netroots, Change to Win, and the Democracy Alliance continue to crowd out the old progressive and Democratic establishment with new energy and smart political innovations, it can only good for the Democratic Party and the progressive political ecosystem as a whole. As soon as the people in leadership positions in the Democratic Party no longer feel entitled to their positions, we might just be able to once again capture the will and the innovative, fighting spirit necessary to win back power from Republicans.</Gordon Gecko>