The Importance Of Swing Activists

Matt already posted on this on the front-page, but I would like to chime in and expand on those thoughts. Moved from breaking blue--Chris

So, as Matt already noted, in true DLC-nexus fashion, anto-democracy Stuart Rothenberg predictably thinks that Democrats are smart for ignoring their progressive activist base, and instead catering to "swing voters." As Matt points out, this doesn't make much sense, since the only polling on the subject shows that Iraq capitulation actually hurt Democrats.

However, leaving aside actual polling numbers for a moment, there are other reasons why catering to mythical, center-right swing voters and other 1990's chimeras should not always be the number one priority of the Democratic leadership. For one thing, swing voters don't contribute money, they don't volunteer for campaigns, they don't challenge right-wing media narratives, they don't keep Democrats active and energized to vote, and they don't expand the electoral playing field. Rather, these are tasks all carried out by the progressive activist base that Rothenberg thinks has "nowhere else to go" and which the Democratic Party "risks very little, at least at this point, in disappointing." The fact is that the resources and political machinery Democrats need in order to win elections are derived, in large part, from its progressive, activist base. Further, for all of the reasons mentioned above, which I outlined in more detail for an article for the Democratic Strategist), the rise of the progressive movement is the main reason that the Democratic Party has closed the resource and political machinery gap on Republicans since 2002. Thus, alienating that movement is extremely high-risk for Democrats, since participants in the progressive movement may not be swing voters, but they are certainly swing activists. Losing our support can be very dangerous.

Take the 2000 election as an example of this. Had that activist base not been alienated in 2000 as a result of 1990's DLC-nexus triangulation, Al Gore would have won the presidency without any Supreme Court cases or hanging chads. And I'm not just talking about Naderite voters when I make that claim, as virtually every progressive now understands that third parties do not lead to politically effective outcomes for progressives. Rather, I'm talking about the lack of activism progressives undertook on Gore's behalf, including the massive fundraising gap he faced, the anti-Gore media narratives that went virtually unchallenged, and the relative lack of boots on the ground for his campaign. The 2000 election showed that there are lots of places for progressive activism to go besides helping Democratic leaders we don't like all that much, including primary challenges for candidates like Donna Edwards and social justice movement work. Apathy doesn't work for progressives, but in the 1990's most progressive activism went to the social justice movement rather than electoral politics. Channeling some of that activism to electoral politics would have swung the 2000 election no problem, and as such we wouldn't even be in Iraq now.

Finally, that the progressive activist base was right on Iraq from the get-go actually points to another area where ignoring the progressive, activist base poses a risk for Democrats. We have a tendency to be correct on things like the Iraq war turning into a disaster, and ignoring us can not only lead to gaps in electoral resources and machinery, but also to horrendous, destructive public policy. As such, it would be wise for Democrats to take actions to ensure not only that progressive activism and resources keep flowing in their direction, but that progressive policy ideas do as well.

Doug Schoen To Democrats: Cave On Iraq

It is nice to see Democratic consultants trying to divide and undermine Democrats in the ongoing battle with Republicans over Iraq. I mean, we wouldn't want a united party of anything during this fight, because I can't possible imagine that would help us:
A dangerous game of 'chicken' for Democrats

By Doug Schoen | April 23, 2007

DEMOCRATS and Republicans in Washington are headed toward a showdown. At issue is how to provide an additional $100 billion in supplemental funding to support American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Congressional Democrats are intent on passing legislation that will include a requirement -- or at least a call -- to bring the troops home next year. President Bush insists he will accept no such provision, even if it means vetoing legislation that would provide badly needed money for the troops in the field. The American people, he maintains, will fault Democrats if that happens.

In short, the politicians in Washington are playing a high stakes game of chicken -- one whose outcome will change the balance of power and have a profound effect on the 2008 presidential elections.(...)

Democrats should not be misled by polls showing that most Americans support the idea of cutting off funding for the war unless benchmarks of success are reached. Of course they do, in the abstract. But Bush's counterargument -- that Democrats are prepared to undermine troops in the field -- will be a powerful one, in part because it is far more concrete than Democrats' complex, poll-tested plan.

In short, Democrats would do well to compromise. If that means accepting a "clean" supplemental funding bill, so be it. While Democrats must continue to criticize the prosecution of the war and the Bush administration's failure to promote political reconciliation, they should also recognize that the public has not yet elected a new commander in chief.
Democrats are "playing chicken?" They should "compromise" by doing exactly what Bush wants--pass a "clean" supplemental bill? They will be blamed for abandoning troops in the field? They should ignore polling showing public support for timetables and withdrawal? This is so anti-Democratic, it is barely even triangulating. This is basically just a stream of Republican talking points on Iraq that seeks to divide the Democratic Party, sprinkled with a few neo-liberal hawk talking points like "Democrats must continue to criticize the prosecution of the war" without ever mentioning that the war was a bad idea or that withdrawal is a good idea.

The regularity with which DLC-nexus Democratic consultants publicly triangulate against their own party and attack Democratic Congressional leaders while employing Republican talking points is a constant drag on our electoral and legislative efforts. The lack of disclosure in these attacks, and the complete lack accountability these consultants face for such attacks, is particularly grotesque. For example, in the recent past, Doug Schoen has publicly attacking MoveOn.org and defended Fox over the Nevada debate, without disclosing that he is a paid commenter on Fox News, and also posted anti-Democratic messaging on Medicare drug benefits without disclosing that the polling information he gathered for the article was commissioned by pharmaceutical companies. Schoen seems to basically exist in order to provide anti-Democratic messaging in public on any major political battle Democrats currently face, often without disclosing his conflicts on interest on the matter. Shouldn't there be some form of reprisal for this behavior in terms of lost business among Democratic campaigns, or at least in the form public smackdowns from prominent Democrats for his regular lack of disclosure and divisive anti-Democratic messaging? Do we just let our consultants run wild and never hold them accountable? It certainly seems to be the case, and the tacit approval that many leading Democrats give to such behavior by continuing to hire firms like Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates despite Schoen's actions demonstrates that it probably won't come to an end anytime soon. Right now, attacking and dividing Democrats is a profitable business for Doug Schoen, and for several other "Democratic" consultants as well. As long as that is the case, expect DLC-nexus consultant attacks against Democrats to continue unabated.

Update: Commenter tgeraghty directs us to a recent post by Matthew Yglesias on this very subject.

Two Roads Diverged In the Woods for the DNC...

... and we choose the one that led us out of the wilderness.

I generally despise Robert Frost, but quoting him here seems relevant, given several stories today surrounding Howard Dean, Harold Ford, Iraq and fundraising. First, remember how, in the wake of historic Democratic victories last November, James Carville became the front-man for an anonymous group of rich donors, narrow-targeting television consultants, and ultra-conservative Democrats who wanted Harold Ford Jr. to replace Howard Dean as DNC Chair:
Some big name Democrats want to oust DNC Chairman Howard Dean, arguing that his stubborn commitment to the 50-state strategy and his stinginess with funds for House races cost the Democrats several pickup opportunities.

The candidate being floated to replace Dean? Harold Ford.

Says James Carville, one of the anti-Deaniacs, "Suppose Harold Ford became chairman of the DNC? How much more money do you think we could raise? Just think of the difference it could make in one day. Now probably Harold Ford wants to stay in Tennessee. I just appointed myself his campaign manager."
That is how the Democratic Party was run in the recent past: to appeal to large donors as much as possible. Further, before the grassroots and the progressive movement starting taking an ownership role, it led to statements like this becoming the face of the Democratic Party:
Former Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr., the new chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), yesterday said he does not agree with efforts by Congress to set a deadline for U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq.

"I think most Americans want to win, they don't want to see us leave early, and if we leave prematurely, we may create a broader set of conflicts and invite a bigger problem in that region than before leaving," Mr. Ford said.
With Ford as DNC chair, we would have been regularly treated to statements that contradicted the hopes and beliefs of somewhere between 95%-99% of the Democratic Party's rank and file, not to mention the work of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Instead, without Ford, we are treated to statements like this:
The Democratic-controlled Senate ignored a veto threat and voted Thursday for a bill requiring President Bush to start withdrawing combat troops from Iraq within four months, dealing a sharp rebuke to a wartime commander in chief.

In a mostly party line 51-47 vote, the Senate signed off on a bill providing $122 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also orders Bush to begin withdrawing troops within 120 days of passage while setting a nonbinding goal of ending combat operations by March 31, 2008.
I'll take the latter, thank you very much. A Democratic controlled congress voting to end the war rather than Democrats out of power trying to forge their way back in by appearing identical to Republicans--that is not even a choice. Lots more in the extended entry.

There's more...

Signs Of Democratic Party Aristocracy

In the spirit of Joe Klein's piece where he defines left-wing extremism, I would like to write about another political type who actually has a significant amount of power in this country: the Democratic Party Aristocrat. Such a person exhibits many, but not necessarily all, of the following characteristics:
  • Views primaries against incumbents as "purges," especially when they come from the left. All Democratic Party officeholders should receive their party's nomination by right of possession.
  • Thinks the war in Iraq was managed badly, but ultimately wasn't a bad idea.
  • After reading one too many Mark Penn polls, makes up imaginary friends like the Baileys as the gold standard for the average American voter.
  • Constantly argues that we should end the circular firing squad and focus our efforts at Republicans, while simultaneously triangulating against left-wing strawmen.
  • Believes in concepts like the "radical middle," or that American is fundamentally a moderate country, even though most people who consider themselves moderates are actually just low information voters and non-ideological.
  • Considers Fox News to be a conservative, but still legitimate, news outlet. Will gladly go on Fox News to reach out to new voters.
  • Believes cutting the defense budget is political suicide, and should not even be discussed lest Democrats look weak.
  • Finds GLBT issues to unbelievably radioactive, and tries to steer the most cautious course possible in this area.
  • In terms of cults of personality, hates Howard Dean and joined the efforts to derail his presidential campaign / try and push him out of the DNC; loves Joe Lieberman and decried the efforts to try and knock him off; is interested in Michael Bloomberg's potential presidential run and subscribes to his newsletter.
  • Thinks that the blogosphere, You Tube, MoveOn and other netroots developments are fundamentally negative for the Democratic Party. Such institutions are filled with a new generation of dirty fucking hippies who will lead the Democratic Party over the cliff of unelectablility due to our ignorance, foul mouths and unwavering adherence to a far-left ideology.
  • Thinks that dissenting from the great, all-powerful left makes you a rebellious, cool "outsider."
  • Considers the conservative rise in elected power from 1978-2006 to be a natural result of the country turning to the right and which can be countered by turning to the right ourselves. Does not believe that the massive conservative political machinery constructed over the past few decades played a major role, or that progressive political machinery must be constructed to counter it.
  • Thinks that all options must remain on the table against Iran, including the use of nuclear weapons, because threatening a pre-emptive nuclear strike against a relatively powerless country you are not at war with makes you look tough on national security issues rather than absolutely insane.
  • Argued for censuring Bill Clinton as a political necessity despite his 60%+ approval rating, and against censuring George Bush, Jr. as a political necessity, despite his 35% approval rating.
  • Considers those who oppose completely unregulated trade to simply be rubes, even if they are also part of the "radical middle" that must be courted at all costs.
  • Speaking to the Democratic rank and file, rather than to swing voters, is fundamentally a waste of resources.
  • Running a fifty state strategy and spending money on field or internet instead of only and ever focusing on TV ads in swing districts is a waste of resources.
  • Even though he lost an open seat in an overwhelmingly Democratic year, believes that Harold Ford Jr. is the model for the future of the Democratic Party.
  • Won't read this post, or catch The Simpson's reference in the Michael Bloomberg joke above.
Anyway, those are a few of the many characteristics that are often found within the aristocratic wing of the Democratic Party. I am sure there are more. Fundamentally, these are people who believe that they saved the Democratic Party from itself in the 1990's and early part of this decade, even though outside of presidential elections it was the worst electoral run for Democrats in seventy years. Still, as saviors of the party, that anyone would dare challenge their supremacy is, in and of itself, offensive and destructive. The dirty fucking hippies need to all shut up, serve as useful strawmen in triangulation formulas, and do as they are told. The last thing we need is a repeat of 1972, which will undoubtedly happen if they are not in charge of the Democratic Party anymore.

Media, Republicans Finally Waking Up To Giuliani As Frontrunner

Pollster.com has a great piece showing media myopia on the horserace for Republicans. The media establishment has long labeled McCain as the Republican frontrunner, even though the facts have consistently shown otherwise:
Since November 2004, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has consistently lead Arizona Senator John McCain for the Republican presidential nomination. Giuliani has lead in 46 of 57 national polls since then, with 5 more polls tied. McCain has lead in only 10.5% of all polls. In the last two months, the size of that lead has increased substantially.

Despite this consistent polling result, newspaper stories have overwhelmingly referred to McCain as the "front runner", while seldom saying the same about Giuliani. Sine May 1, 2005, 555 articles in Lexis/Nexus's database of US News have mentioned "front runner" and McCain, Giuliani or both in the same sentence. In 65% of these article, McCain is connected to front runner, while Giuliani's name has not appeared. Only 10% of articles mentioned Giuliani but not McCain, while 25% of articles mentioned both.
And that's not all. Here are the facts of the Republican horserace:
  • As already noted, Giuliani has consistently led in national polls, and his lead has increased substantially of late.
  • Giuliani has also consistently led the Republican field in polls of Iowa, holding increasingly larger leads in the last five polls from the state.
  • Giuliani has pulled ahead in New Hampshire, after McCain led the state by nearly thirty points as recently as ten months ago.
  • Giuliani crushes McCain in terms of insider support, as does Romney. McCain's favorables among Republican insiders is actually a paltry 56-38.
  • Giuliani is far ahead of McCain in terms of favorability ratings among the Republican rank and file, according to Gallup.
  • Giuliani crushes McCain among the Republican netroots, for whatever that is worth (struggling to find a good link to an online straw poll for Republicans).
  • The long-term trends for McCain in primary states he won in 2000 are horrendous.
  • After consistently holding large leads for nearly two years, McCain has fallen behind Edwards, Clinton and Obama in terms of head to head national poll trends. By way of contrast, Giuliani still leads all Democrats. (source).
Now, you may ask, why do I care that the media has been reporting McCain as the frontrunner when Giuliani is actually ahead? Who gives a rat's butt if the National Journal still mystifyingly has McCain at the top of their 2008 Republican rankings? I care for two reasons. First, as an election analyst, I despise inaccuracy in the horserace narrative within the media. Second, as a progressive political activist, it has not been hard to miss that the media establishment has raised McCain onto a cult of bi-partisanship pedestal, much like they did for Joe Lieberman. That John McCain is the most popular Sunday talk show guest shows just how much the punditry elite loves the guy. Conservative faux mavericks like Lieberman and McCain are the ideal politicians for many uber-rich donors and members of the punditry elite, even tough neither politician has no actual base of support among anyone except for the most low information voters. This is going to sound out of character for me, but the truth is that I just hate these politicians, hate these pundits, hate their coded language, hate their faux rebellion, hate their entire political machinery, and want to see their golden boys exposed for the frauds that they actually are.

And now, for McCain, it has finally happened. While there was a tremendous media will to deny the obvious fact that he is not the Republican frontrunner, and to deny that his campaign is not actually seriously crashing, people are finally waking up to it. The time to take down Rudy Giuliani instead is finally among us, but before that was done is was necessary to crush McCain first. The way the media elite loved this guy and set him up as a populist champion even though he was anything but, made him far more dangerous to a actual people-powered movement than any other candidate. But that is all over now--McCain has been exposed. This guy is not going to win the Republican nomination, and when he retires in a few years we won't have to put up with him anymore.

John McCain is a faux independent who panders to conservatives to increase his political standing, and never really stands against Republicans and conservatives when it counts. However, because he talks a good game along these lines, he has been held up as a DLC-nexus Golden Boy, as the last vestige of a now long gone era. The time for politicians like McCain was in the 1990's and earlier, back when low information voters ruled and back before the people-powered movement. That time is over now. It has been a pleasure to help take McCain down a couple of pegs, and I am glad that someone else is going to be the Republican nominee. Whether that person is Giuliani, Romney, or Fred Thompson, we have a lot of work to do altering the public image of each of those candidates now. When it comes to defeating McCain, as far as I am concerned it is time to declare victory and move on.

Update: Republicans feel pretty much the same way.

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