For about six weeks this fall, MyDD ran a project called Accountability Adwatch
that reviewed and critiqued what is by far the main area of Democratic political spending: television advertising. We based much of our critique on the 2006 candidate memo
jointly produced back in August by Matt Stoller, Rich Jacobs of the Courage Campaign, pollster Joel Wright, and myself. The basic message of the memo was this: you have to talk about Iraq, you have to talk about Bush, and you need to do so in a manner that demonstrates personal toughness, not wonkiness, when it comes to standing up to Bush and holding him accountable for his mistakes. Our purpose in this campaign was that when it came to the final, two-week television advertising blitz, where a huge percentage of our past two years of fundraising was going to spent, that we would get value for our dollar.
Now that most of the ads are made and ready to air, I honestly do not know how much impact the Accountability Adwatch program had. These sorts of things are difficult to quantify. However, looking at the latest political insiders poll
, there is some indication that what we wrote seeped in to a number of Democratic campaigns and leading party officials. Look at this:What issue will most motivate your party's base
in the midterm elections?Democrats
War in Iraq: 42%
President Bush: 41%
Iraq and Bush: 8%
What issue will most discourage your base in the midterm elections?
Timidity in opposing the war in Iraq: 33%
Lack of a national message: 32%
Fatalism about Democratic prospects: 15%
Be still my beating heart! Can this really be true? Could this mean that in the final two weeks, Democrats are going to run against Bush and the Iraq war? Their biggest base turnout worry is that they did not oppose the war strongly enough? Even if "Democratic Insiders," are not getting this from the Adwatch campaign and the Candidate Memo, it certainly sounds like wisdom culled directly from the netroots. It is certainly very close to the type of campaign that I would like to run, and that MyDD and other blogs have long suggested Democrats run. Other than reading blogs, where could they have possibly received this message so quickly? Remember, this is a Democratic leadership that didn't even mention Iraq in discussing the 2006 election at this point last year
. In order for opposing Bush and the war to have become the centerpiece of the national Democratic effort this year, Democratic leaders must have had some sort of object lesson that changed their minds.
The reason that there is near unanimity among "Democratic insiders" that they have to oppose Bush and the war when, thirteen months ago, Rahm Emmanuel would not even mention Iraq when asked about the Democratic agenda
, is because of the Connecticut Senate primary. As much as I would like to credit Adwatch and the Candidate Memo, I think the only reasonable conclusion is that Democratic leaders finally learned this lesson over the summer on the ground in Connecticut. The reason that Democrats are running against the war nationwide is because Ned Lamont and the progressive movement taught them the price they will pay among their own base if they fail to do so. Everyone remembers the things that brought Lieberman down during the primary: failure to oppose the war, and inability to stand up to George Bush. The media constantly called Lamont's campaign a single-issue, anti-war campaign. Everyone remembers the Kiss Float and the commercial where Lieberman's words come out of George Bush's mouth.
Ned Lamnt's victory in that primary changed the direction of the Democratic Party in this election, and not just among a few blog fanatics. Just look at the "Democratic insiders" who took part in the poll I cited above: Karen Ackerman, David Axelrod, Dave Beattie, Andy Bechhoefer, Mitchell W. Berger, Mike Berman, Donna Brazile, Mark Brewer, Ed Bruley, George Bruno, Deb Callahan, Bonnie Campbell, Bill Carrick, Tony Coelho, Jim Craig, Jerry Crawford, Jeff Danielson, Jim Demers, Tad Devine, Monica Dixon, Tom Donilon,
Anita Dunn, Steve Elmendorf, Eric Eve, Vic Fazio, Scott Ferson, Tina Flournoy, Don Foley, Don Fowler, Gina Glantz, Joe Grandmaison, Anna Greenberg, Stan Greenberg, Pat Griffin, Michael Gronstal, Marcia Hale, Paul Harstad, Laura Hartigan, Harold Ickes, Marcus Jadotte, Steve Jarding, Jim Jordan, Gale Kaufman, Shar Knutson, Kam Kuwata, Celinda Lake, David Lang, Sylvia Larsen, Jeff Link, Bill Lynch, Steve Marchand, Jim Margolis, Paul Maslin, Terry McAuliffe, Caroline McCarley, Gerald McEntee, Tom McMahon, Mark Mellman, John Merrigan, Steve Murphy, David Nassar, Marcia Nichols, John Norris, Tom Ochs, Tom O'Donnell, Jeffrey Peck, Debora Pignatelli, John Podesta, Tony Podesta, Bruce Reed, Steve Ricchetti, Susan Rice, Will Robinson, Steve Rosenthal, John Ryan, Wendy Sherman, Terry Shumaker, Erik Smith, Doug Sosnik, Darry Sragow, Karl Struble, Katrina Swett, Sarah Swisher, Eric Tabor, Jeffrey
Trammell, Ed Turlington, Mike Veon, Rick Wiener, Bridgette Williams, and JoDee Winterhof.
By and large, these tend to not be progressive movement types. For years, many of the people on this list are the same Democrats who vehemently opposed running against the war, running hard against Bush, and even opposed the netroots themselves. They did not come to this conclusion on their own. They were led to this position by the netroots, the progressive movement, and Ned Lamont. Even Joe Lieberman is running on an anti-war platform now
, after he learned his lesson August 8th.
It was bloody, and it was exhausting, but Ned Lamont's campaign finally brought the Democratic leadership to where the netroots, and the Democratic rank and file, have been for a long time. The war and Bush are not any less popular in October of 2006, when Democrats have decided to run on Iraq, than they were in October of 2005, when Democrats thought ignoring Iraq was the best option. The difference is that the progressive movement and Democratic base taught the Democratic leadership a much-needed lesson. There is certainly no guarantee they will remember that lesson once the election is over (I give it about an even chance), and there are probably still quite a few Democratic insiders who said "Bush" because, even now, they would rather contract the plague instead of talk about Iraq. But the reason they have finally come to where the Democratic base, and the rest of the country, is on both Bush and Iraq is because of Connecticut. If Democrats win in 2006, it will be our accomplishment, and it will be Ned's accomplishment.