Then You Win

I was up in New Hampshire yesterday with college age Sierra Club activists, doing a back and forth debate/discussion with the Sierra Club President, Lisa Renstrom, over the issue of their embracing partisan politics, and advancing the progressive movement ahead of their own single-issue advocacy. I laid out the argument that single-issue advocacy was something that seemed to work in a previous time, but not in today's partisan atmosphere, and that if a substantive, transformative change in environmental policy was to happen, it would occur because the millions of environmentalists decided to join the netroots/grassroots activists now taking over the Democratic Party. I quoted Krugman's channel of CTG tough love. Lisa countered that social movements do not make up political parties, but impact them, and she effectively made the case that environmentalists can drive the public debate at the state level in a non-partisan manner. I totally agreed, but believe that that impact can be overtly partisan, and that a distinction must be made between the state, more local level, and the federal races.

Having become just another lobbying group instead of a movement, the Sierra Club(to their credit, the locals stayed out of this one, but they are supporting Chaffee in RI, even worse) and the many single-issue groups like them, NARAL, League of Conservation Voters, Planned Parenthood, AFL-CIO, SEIU, CWA, NALC, NAGE, Food and Commercial Workers, Teamster's, Firefighters, Carpenters, Postal Workers, IBEW, Human Rights Campaign, etc., found themselves aligned in the minority alongside Joe Lieberman on Tuesday night. Lieberman's problem wasn't policy, it's that he's not been a part of the solution--the movement of change that forms its base with people of progressive values, not issues.

We are becoming strong enough in primary numbers to defeat the politics of old in the Democratic Party. But we cannot defeat the conservative ideological movement if they are united, and we are not; if they are modern and we are stuck in the methods of the past. In a nutshell, I argued that to win elections and transform the landscape enough to enact a broader environmental policy initiative that addresses issues such as global warming, every progressive individual, group, and organization must work together in the same vehicle. Sure the Democratic Party has been busted and broken in the past, but lets rebuild it and ride it to get there.

Then I drove down to Meriden, CT to watch Ned Lamont's victory speech (I arrived 10 seconds before Ned began speaking) and celebrate afterwards with everyone gathered (the highlight being the 5 gallon champagne bottle brought out by Bill Hillsman and watching Tom Mattzie try to pop the cork).

During Ned's speech, Matt Stoller started the "Bring Joe Home" chant that was an interlude between the chants of "Common Good" and "Swan-ee", and before "We Do To" wrapped it up. It was a chuckle-bringer to see Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson doing bookends behind either side of Ned Lamont up on the stage (Jesse threw confetti on Al, and whenever Ned would deliver a good one-liner, Al would give Jesse a `not bad' heads-up nod). Even though I don't imagine that their savvy getting-in-the-lens is what the Lamont team had in mind for showing the CT evening news crowd, Al & Jesse were three moves ahead of the Lamont stage advance, lol.

Seeing Jackson up on the stage backing Lamont, it's easy to imagine how this might be viewed this as a victory of some sort of a "New Left" contra the DLC (Jackson's old nemesis from the 1980's-90's). And sure, the DLC doesn't have a winning template for Democratic electoral victories at the national level--but neither does labor, the single-issue groups, our national Democratic organizations, or Jesse Jackson, for that matter. It makes just as little sense to single out one single-issue group as it does the DLC in describing the new intra-party machinations at work.

Some think it's all about the war. And certainly there is the issue of Iraq, and the stance there, of enabling Bush instead of promoting a substantive distinction. And notice how Leiberman almost won this election off of the strength of finally starting to distinguish himself from Bush in the last weekend--too late too little, perhaps. Still, the media swing that Lieberman pulled off at the end of the campaign made this race 10 points closer than it was a week ago. Their bringing those `low information' voters to the polls was impressive. Despite that, and because ~45% of those elibible voted in the primary, Lamont won because he was getting informed voters to the polls-- those among the 22% of Democrats that tune into the blogs (of whom 99% vote).

Other's think it's all about partisanship, and there's no denying that Bush-Rove has set the table on which politics happens today. Partisanship is enough to form the backbone of opposition, but being "counter-Bush" alone is not why Ned Lamont won.

Strong stances over Iraq and partisanship are both values that work politically today. To get to why Lamont won is going to take some digging. Maybe looking to the results from the Courage Campaign polling provides a template for understanding the results; where we see a lack of identity with single-issues for voting, and instead see a stronger identification of underlying values is at play. Being able to identify with something larger, which leads in a different direction, and involves a meta-identity for people to belong to with their vote, is probably near what is happening.

The message that voting for Ned Lamont meant a different direction got through, and he successfully (unlike what the Democratic Committees have done) framed that change within a broader set of values instead of a laundry list of issues.

I'm now heading over to the Makor lecture at 8 pm this evening in NYC (35 W 67th St) to be on a panel with Ari Wallach, Karen Finley, Matt Bai and Matt Taibbi, speaking about where the Democratic Party is heading.

I think we got a clear indication last night of where it's going in terms of the intra-party debate. Now if we are going to move further, beyond the base turn-out politics of the `06 mid-terms, and into an `08 governing majority, with an agenda of transformative policy changes, it means the progressive organizations and groups will have to join the people whom are already in the movement.

Tags: movement politics, Ned Lamont, Sierra Club, single issue groups (all tags)

Comments

34 Comments

Who is this

"Jerome Armstrong"?

They just let anyone post on the front page now.

by NCDem 2006-08-09 11:29AM | 0 recs
Re: Who is this

Chris and Matt hired a new front-pager.. some author.  

by Winston Smith 2006-08-09 02:23PM | 0 recs
Addendum

Jerome,

If the liberals fight - we will win.
It happened in world war II, it happened during the great depression, and it happened even during the clinton administration as so many of us streamed out onto the net + rebuilt americas economy.

If the liberals fight, American wins.

by heyAnita 2006-08-09 11:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Then You Win

Read an analysis that discusses the political strategy ramifications of the Lamont win and how the Democratic position on Iraq will be a key to success in November...here:

www.thoughttheater.com

by Daniel DiRito 2006-08-09 11:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Then You Win

OT:

Is there any way to determine the total amounts both candidates spent on the primary?

Lieberman always says Lamont outspent him (implying he "bought" his victory).  How would one go about compiling the spending reports to determine if Joe's characterization is accurate or not?

Sorry for being off topic but the posters here are, in my opinion, the most likely source for a definitive answer to this question.

Thanks

Aaron Adams

by adaplant 2006-08-09 11:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Then You Win

Lieberman always says Lamont outspent him (implying he "bought" his victory).

JoMo's campaign manager was going on last night about Lamont "spent his own money" as if it was dirtier than JoMo's corporate bribes.

by Sitkah 2006-08-09 12:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Then You Win

...he successfully ... framed that change within a broader set of values instead of a laundry list of issues...

Do you have any good examples of this, anything that can easily be repeated by the rest of the party?  Or was this more a matter of tone and attitude?

by Mark Matson 2006-08-09 11:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Then You Win

Jerome,

I haven't read your book, so you can tell me to RTFB if this is something you've covered.  But all the issue groups are non-profits, generally 501c3 with a 501c4 and 527 attached.  If they went from doing issue advocacy to partisan activity, they would kill their exempt status.  

Do you know of any legal strategy or theory that would keep the exempt money flowing while allowing a transition to more hardball partisan politics?

by dansomone 2006-08-09 12:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Then You Win

Only one legal theory has been shown to allow this: IOKIYAR!

Really, the right-wing non-profits do this all the time.  What's the status of Focus on the Family, the NRA, the US Chamber of Commerce, Southern Baptist churches?

What's that, you wanted a legitimate legal theory?  Well, I'm not the guy to help there.

by randompost 2006-08-09 12:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Sierra Club

Sierra Club's tax exempt status was stripped by Richard Nixon--as part of his campaign to "screw" his "enemies."  So they are free to be as political as they want to be.

I e-mailed the chair of the Connecticut SC last month about the need to endorse Diane Farrell and he responded that their by-laws and rules on endorsements require them to look only at the scorecard (which we all knew) but he also seemed to "get it" that this was a problem.  Perhaps Jerome's work in NH indicates that Sierra Club is finally figure out that it is against its interests to enable Republican control of Congress.

by KernBlue 2006-08-09 12:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Sierra Club

no, it's tax exempt, as of 1996.

See Sierra Club, Inc. v Commissioner, 86 F 3d 1526 (1996)

It may have lost tax exempt status sometime in the past, but as of the late 90s, it has been tax exempt.

As for the NRA and some of the other groups, well, lets just say that I don't think that the club for growth really cares that much if they are tax exempt.  The whole "resources up the wazoo" thing make it a bit less important.  I have no idea how those that are exempt manage it, though.

by dansomone 2006-08-09 03:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Sierra Club

Well I'll be a suck-egg mule, as Red Barber used to say.  Thanks for the info.

by KernBlue 2006-08-09 08:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Then You Win

the Sierra Club and the many single-issue groups like them, NARAL, League of Conservation Voters, Planned Parenthood, AFL-CIO, SEIU, CWA, NALC, NAGE, Food and Commercial Workers, Teamster's, Firefighters, Carpenters, Postal Workers, IBEW, Human Rights Campaign, etc., found themselves aligned in the minority alongside Joe Lieberman on Tuesday night.

Ever since 2004 when Dean lined up virtually every big Democratic special interest and liberal endorsement possible, and then got knocked out in the first round, I've seen endorsements as not only useless, but harmful as well.

In the name of good government and good policy, all corporate and special interest monetary relationships should be done away with, or shunned (If they want to exercise their  Constitutional right to talk to an officeholder later, that's fine, but don't let be based upon a relationship of indebtedness.)

But nowadays, they should be shunned for political reasons as well since most people seem to no longer trust special interests of any kind nor support their endorsements.

by Sitkah 2006-08-09 12:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Then You Win

he's got JOEMENTUM

by heyAnita 2006-08-09 12:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Then You Win

"JoMo" for short.

by Sitkah 2006-08-09 12:47PM | 0 recs
How do you get that win?

MyDD did a good job on CA-50, analyzing the message and what worked.
What worked in this race?  Reading all the live blogging, I was impressed by the ground game, the thoroughness of the Election Day support, the co-ordination between traditional grassroots building and electronic sophistication.

As someone in the middle of a tough Statehouse fight to retain control here in Colorado, I would love a solid after-action analysis by those on the ground in Connecticut from the national and local bloggers.  How can we replicate the strength of this campaign to build the November tidal wave for Dems around the country?

by NeoLeftist 2006-08-09 12:06PM | 0 recs
Re: How do you get that win?

if you are in a state house race, you should spend every last cent you can on field organizing. low information races (hell, even high-profile ones) are all about field...

drop me an email (in my profile) and I would be happy to help with your field/tech stuff.

by steveolson 2006-08-09 07:08PM | 0 recs
Amazing OpEd Piece at Time

Democrats are actually fairly united on the Iraq War in their opposition to it -- which is actually where most Americans are right now. And though many Senators are not as full-throated in their opposition as the base of the party, you don't see any successful challenges being made against other Senators who aren't ready to bring the troops home.

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/ 0,8599,1224552,00.html?cnn=yes

by heyAnita 2006-08-09 12:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Then You Win

he successfully (unlike what the Democratic Committees have done) framed that change within a broader set of values instead of a laundry list of issues.

Exactly. I was just talking to a friend about this this morning ... it's not the laundry list of issues that's important, it's the values that inform the ends which we seek.

Although I'd argue that it was as much a rejection of a set of values (Lieberman's and the GOP's) as it was a positive endorsement of values. No real harm in that, but what I read the message as is: "Senator Lieberman, you have sold out our values for too long. It's time to assert some Democratic values."

Now, it's up to us to extend that message into a more cohesive narrative of values. Lamont began it, I think, or at least took it up from Dean and others, but now the party needs to extend it and make it as clear as the "family values, strong military, and small government" mantra that the GOP rode to power. After all, the Christian Right really only stands for the first, but they work for all three (if you take "small government" to mean "low taxes" which is what the GOP strategically has made it mean). The Democrats need Labor, for example, to think the same way. And the Democrats need to give Labor a reason to think that way. It's a two-way street.

by BriVT 2006-08-09 12:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Then You Win

you don't see any successful challenges being made against other Senators who aren't ready to bring the troops home.

I think that's because until recently few thought they could be challenged. But what happened last night is a wakeup call for everyone.

It's too late to mount challenges against bad Democrats now (although Tasini is trying to hold Hillary accountable). But in 2008 it would be great to have something like Dean's 50 state plan in place to challenge in their primaries each and every "Democrat" who governs with Republicans and against The People.

by Sitkah 2006-08-09 12:56PM | 0 recs
Interest Groups Need to Get A Clue

Sounds like an interesting discussion in NH yesterday.  Single issue interest groups had their zenith of power in 1987 when they defeated Robert Bork.  It appears to have been downhill ever since.

In many ways, the world has passed them by.  A new progressive movement seems to be coming together and it is much less parachoial, broader based and more cohesive.  When was the last time a progressive single issue interest group impacted a major election?  Maybe 1992 and the year of the woman?  It is time for the Dem Party to move away from these groups and move on to the next paradigm.  I hope this is the next step of Howard Dean's now that the 50 state strategy has been implement.

by John Mills 2006-08-09 01:01PM | 0 recs
Winning is its own reward


A rag tag group of people, firing at the column moving in a straight line.  Or, a polished group of slick people wearing their red color with pride?

Look at how the GOP is trying to tell the redstates what to think. That is the second part of this victory: to see how desperate the GOP is to try to control what is thought about, and said, and done.

A bona fide chance to take America back.
That is what is at stake.  And it will not be over until people like Joe Lieberman, turn towards the light.  Lets sum it up.

I teach my children that America isn't going to hurt people, tie them up to car batteries, or shoot them. I don't use so many words, of course.

I teach them that yesterday was about winning, plain and simple. They are seeing from a very early age the positive results of voting.

There is a great stability to democracy, and the principles of liberty and freedom that our founding fathers enshrouded into our land. We are a safe haven for justice, liberty and things that don't go bump in the night.

Whether it was lieberman supporting telco bills, underhanded deals by texas oil people, or wars of aggression and violence - to make yourself believe you are being attacked by people from Iraq, takes too much energy and finally the GOP machine that was so carefully built

Is falling completely apart like a burning man in the desert.

I love the smell of napalm in the morning..

by heyAnita 2006-08-09 02:16PM | 0 recs
Sore loser law in CT

Jerome, if you're on the ground in CT, I have a housekeeping question:

Are Dems in CT talking with their legislators about revising election law to prevent future sore loser candidacies like Joe's present one? (Is the legislature still in session?)

Seems like a no-brainer, and an easy way for them to show that they believe that the state's nominating process is not a toy for narcissists.  

One would hope they're appalled at what they're about to be subjected to, and would like to make sure it doesn't happen again...

by DFLer 2006-08-09 02:18PM | 0 recs
Single and multi-issue organizations

I had a conversation with a senior Sierra person in SF post Chafee, and his contention was that "our endorsements have to mean something" - they have to have a legitimate mechanism for rewarding those who vote well.  This is a legitimate point.

But I think single issue organizations can coexist with a new brand of partisan multi-issue coalition/organization.  

I certainly agree that rigorous but measured partisanship, emodied by candidates like Ned Lamont, is the necessary short term direction.   Someday bipartisanship of days of yore may return; but that day is nowhere in sight.  

by Andmoreagain 2006-08-09 02:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Single and multi-issue organizations

What meaning do Chaffee's votes have when he casts a single vote for Republican leadership each session?  What good is endorsing someone who enables people who don't agree with you to keep power?

An endorsement has to be about more than just someone's record, it should be about who will advance your campaign the most.  I can see the endorsements for Lieberman; he's been a reliable vote for most of these people for a long time, and he supports the leadership that would best help advance their ideals.  The endorsements of Chaffee are more troubling to me, and now that Lamont has beaten Lieberman in the primary, I would hope that they switch their endorsements to the person who is guaranteed to support the Democratic leadership.

by Phoenix Rising 2006-08-10 10:47AM | 0 recs
didn't SEIU-1199 back Lamont?

this ny daily news story was linked on Kos a few days ago

http://blogs.nydailynews.com/dailypoliti cs/archives/2006/08/nedmentum.php

"Ned-Mentum
I'm told that the powerful SEIU Local 1199, which likes to be with a winner, is backing Ned Lamont over Joe Lieberman.

It's a break in labor's ranks, a sign both of Lamont's momentum and of the intra-party scrap to come."

by aenglish 2006-08-09 06:05PM | 0 recs
Re: Then You Win

One of the sweetest things I've seen today was a quite subdued Joe Trippi on Countdown harking back to how it all started with Dean. Many references to Dean today, god bless him. Anyway. . . Trippi said quietly, 'it's three years later and they're not laughing now'.

And speaking of subdued, Carville was some early morning picture himself on CNN in the AM. He's seen it - the zeitgeist that is sweeping from coast to coast today.  One of the best days I can remember since that brand name in a suit stole the election six years ago. I wept and wept as testimony was given about disenfranchisement and chads were counted - or not.
'By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes' and it did come - worse even than I feared.
 I'm just so very happy that I've lived long enough to start to see the up side of 'what goes around, comes around' begin for Rove and Bush and all their enablers - like Lieberman.

by rodean 2006-08-09 06:23PM | 0 recs
Jerome, I hold a lot of respect for you

especially with this phrase:

The message that voting for Ned Lamont meant a different direction got through, and he successfully (unlike what the Democratic Committees have done) framed that change within a broader set of values instead of a laundry list of issues.

And yes, there is much to be done to turn the committees around...just another fight in bringing progress.

by Lizzy 2006-08-09 07:53PM | 0 recs
Surely You Jest

Jerome, you can't honestly say that it is better for the Sierra Club to abandon trying to influence both parties and to throw in totally with the Democrats, can you?

This gives the Democrats license to abandon the environment at will, just as 30+ House Democrats did last fall in backing the Pombo bill which would have gutted the Endangered Species Act.  

This gives license to Ben Nelson to abandon his party on every significant environmental vote because, gosh, he's from Nebraska, and we can't possibly expect people from Nebraska to vote for someone who might support the environment.  

(And if you don't think people make that kind of argument on this site, check out the responses to my previous comments).

Your argument on single-issue groups and bipartisanship would make a lot more sense if we could count on the Democratic caucuses to do the right thing consistently on issues like the environment.  But purging Lieberman is just a start, and until we rid ourselves of the Bush-loving hypocrites like Ben Nelson, we have to accept that sometimes the Republicans will outflank us on some of our signature issues.  

BTW, the reason the Pombo amendment didn't become law is because Chafee killed it in committee.  This doesn't excuse the Sierra Club's endorsement of him (I would vote for Whitehouse if I lived in Rhode Island), but it does explain it a little better.

by rayspace 2006-08-09 07:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Then You Win

Congratulations on your attractive and user-friendly website. Thank you for providing a visitor's book - very impressive

siteshow

by siteshow 2006-08-09 10:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Then You Win

To make some clarifications:

1: Neither Sierra Club nationally, nor the CT Chapter has yet made any endorsement in the CT Senate race either for the primary or general.

2: Sierra Club is a 501 c4 with an affiliated 527 and PAC.  Sierra Club used to be a straight c3 tax-exempt organization but was stripped of that status in the late sixties.

Dave Willett, Sierra Club Press Secretary

by sierrapress 2006-08-10 10:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Then You Win

And Dave, can we at least point out that it was a Democratic President (and one of my favorites) who stripped Sierra of that status? (LBJ).  This from a President who also signed the Wilderness Act.

The specific incident was the Sierra Club's fight against a proposal to flood a large portion of the Grand Canyon.  The Club ran an ad in the NYT asking "Should We Also Flood the Sistine Chapel So That We Can Get A Better View of the Ceiling?"

If I were half as smart as Jerome, I would think this would mean that the Sierra Club should not beholden to either party, but hey, what's the Endangered Species Act among friends?

by rayspace 2006-08-10 09:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Then You Win

Yea, and if we go back even further, the Democrats supported slavery.... what's the poinbt--moving forward in a different direction together is the point.

by Jerome Armstrong 2006-08-11 02:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Then You Win

Correction noted, thanks.

by Jerome Armstrong 2006-08-11 02:55PM | 0 recs

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