Lessons from California

Just stumbled across this months old post by Raven Brooks, Top 5 Lessons at Netroots California, and the successes and failures of 2010.

Two key takeaways from his takeaways:

The first session of the day featured a great presentation by Seiji Carpenter at David Binder Research and Bryan Blum at the California Labor Federation filled in a lot of detail on some innovative things labor did this cycle. You can find Seiji’s presentation here and I’d encourage you to page through it. There’s a lot of meat to this presentation, but I wanted to highlight a few things.


* The campaign and IEs were able to focus on key demographics. They prevented Whitman from building a base among women. Undecideds moved toward Brown. Latinos came home to Brown and turned out in record numbers (a special shout out to SEIU’s Cambiando campaign here). Working class voters favored Brown. And in a historic shift Asian Americans overwhelmingly broke for Brown.

* Labor ran a program called Million More Voters that was intended to target voters with similar qualities to union members, and they identified 2.8 million people. Asian Americans were more than twice as likely to be targets so they invested a lot of time in researching those communities, something that hasn’t been done on a large scale in California before.


A wide spectrum of organizations put in a lot of voter contact work here, made some impressive new moves this cycle, and increased funding for these activities.

But this has been a debate that’s raged on for a while in California. Most of the money spent in campaigns is for TV time. Our consulting class makes big money pushing this tactic so it’s hard to advocate change and more effective uses of that money. I think this election began to show the effectiveness of field operations in California in ways other cycles haven’t. Some of the biggest wins here were won without large budgets for TV.

With Brown (and Reid in NV), mid-summer criticisms seemed warranted.  Both campaigns were getting rolled by opponents who repeatedly self-destructed and were allowed to regain footing.  But, as Brooks writes, we were wrong.  Reid's margin was ludicrously slim, considering the opposition, Browns much better.  But both went old school, and won.

California will be 2010's story of progressive organizing success.  A relative success?  Sure.  Flawed?  Brooks describes a lack of coalition between orgs, and the familiar clash of independent field organizing and the consulting culture permeating campaigns.  But there big wins in defeating Prop 23 and protecting redistricting reform.

There's no revelation here, but it's somewhat comforting to be reminded there's always a simple truth at play, regardless of the odds: Talk to more voters, and win.


California Regenerated

William Bradley serves up an expansive campaign diary style recap of Jerry Brown's win against Whitman in California. 

...the story as told in the cut-back conventional media is on the under-cooked side.

Which is not surprising, since virtually all the state and national press early on anointed Whitman as an unstoppable high-tech juggernaut of a campaign run by the best consultants in the business. Up against poor old Jerry Brown and his ragtag little band. When in reality, it was Ali-Foreman '74 all along, with what I called Brown's Zen rope-a-dope approach unfolding as anticipated.

Jerry Brown ended his campaign and began his gubernatorial transition in the place where he regenerated as a political figure: Oakland. If you want to understand the stunning Brown comeback, you'll understand the significance of Oakland as its nexus.

... In all, a fitting symbol of regeneration both for a city and for a politician...

One race I couldn't help myself from following.  In ways, the archetypal battle between the corporate-backed superfunded candidate who wanted to "run California like a business," and the quirkly, admitedly flawed underdog, speaking often about "rebirth" and "renewal" in a decidedly hokey fashion. 

No doubt my impression is oversimplied, but I'm certain the conventional wisdom circulating about the race misses the mark much further.

CA Democratic Party fundraiser Wade Randlett, for example:

Brown beat back the national conservative wave with a message that "I will be a frugal governor who will make hard decisions, who won't tax people without their approval," Randlett said. "It was a moderate, centrist message" that exit polls show played especially well with Latinos and women voters in California.

Party conditioning at it's glaring worst.  Any Democrat who won in 2010 obviously ran center, with a moderate message.

But Brown only tracked center on two points: promising "no new taxes (without public approval)" and endorsing pension reforms, vaguely stating he would like "other concessions" from unions as well.  Outside of that, Brown ran more often as a progressive.  More from Bradley:

"I want the people of California to know we will have times that are tough, maybe a year more," Brown cautioned his excited supporters in his victory speech. Then he gave the uplift. "I take as my challenge a common purpose based on a vision of what California can be. I see California leading in renewable energy, public education and an openness to every person."

Brown beat back the "national conservative wave" by saving his money until the end, running smart -- The Twins! -- and -- whether he truly will be as Governor or not -- walking and talking like a progressive, without apology.  No doubt he did appeal to moderates in contrast with Whitman's reach for the Tea Party on issues like immigration and social services, but to say this was the deciding factor in Brown's successful campaign largely ignores the majority of what was presented to California voters on the ballot.

Brown didn't win the middle by speaking to them only as a moderate.  He won them by default while campaigning foremost for his base, careful not to throw them to the wolves in search of centrist appeal.

There's a lesson in there somewhere, I'm sure...



New challenges and new hopes- immigrant voters hold their own in the elections

From the Restore Fairness blog-

As election fever passes and the nation takes stock, one thing becomes clear – even as Republicans have taken control of the House and Democrats remain strong in the Senate, no one can afford to ignore the immigrant voter.

This election wasn’t about immigration – much of it was dominated by the issue of jobs and the economy. But the issue of immigration, even if it wasn’t front and center, did play a crucial role in winning Senate seats. In California, Meg Whitman’s strong anti-immigrant stance yielded no results, while in Colorado, Senator Michael Bennet received support from Latino voters, and in Nevada, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s positive stance on immigration brought in Latino voters who formed 16% of the entire electorate. In an analysis on the Washington Independent-

“Harry Reid beat out Sharron Angle (R), who ran a campaign that relied heavily on anti-illegal immigration rhetoric, and immigration hawk Tom Tancredo lost the race for Colorado governor… Angle claimed Reid supported a number of policies to help illegal immigrants and seemed to be attempting to capitalize on ethnic fears in ads that showed angry-looking Latino men set to dramatic, if untrue, statements. Tancredo also campaigned largely on immigration policy… Republican Meg Whitman lost to Democrat Jerry Brown. Whitman tried to reach out to Latino voters after her primary, but was hindered by allegations of mistreatment and illegal employment by an undocumented maid who worked for her for almost a decade.”

In a poll conducted by Latino Decisions with the support of National Council of La Raza, SEIU, and America’s Voice, among Latino voters in 8 states, they found that when asked whether the issue of immigration was an important factor in their decision to vote and in their choice of candidate, 60% of Latinos said it was either “the most important” issue or “one of the most important” issues, staying ahead of other important issues like education, taxes, and housing. In Nevada and Arizona, two of the states with the most polarizing immigration debates going on at the moment, sentiments were even stronger. 69% of Latino voters in both Arizona and Nevada said the immigration issue was one of the most important factors in their decision to vote, and who to vote for.  In Arizona, 40% said immigration was the single most important issue in their voting decisions, and 38% in Nevada said the same. Moreover, a high percentage of Latino voters said that their decisions to vote and who to vote for were also motivated by divisive immigration debates, and especially by anti-immigrant and anti-Latino sentiment expressed in the electoral campaigns of candidates like Sharron Angle and Tom Tancredo.

The election results, particularly the Republican take over of the House, will have deep consequences for the future of immigration policy. With Lamar Smith, R-Texas slated to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee overseeing all immigration issues, and Steve King, R-Iowa heading the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law, pressure for “increased border security and enforcement actions targeted at undocumented immigrants in the workplace” will increase. Mr. Smith’s track history around the issue of immigration over the past few years does not yield a pretty picture, with him supporting Arizona-Style Immigration Enforcement, measures to ending birthright citizenship and a push for mandatory E-Verify regulations. And judging by last weeks request by seven Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee asking Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to “detail exactly how much funding” would be needed to “ensure that enforcement of the law occurs consistently for every illegal alien encountered and apprehended”, a strong pushback from Republicans in both the House and Senate would not be surprising.

But instead of running away from ugly bills, we need to confront them. Because looking at 2012, it is clear that no one, Republicans or Democrats, will be able to win an election without the strength of the immigrant voter, and particularly the Latino voter supporting them. Be it in California, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Nevada, this election has shown that in races with the Latino and immigrant vote, one can create victory and show strength.

It’s time to listen and stay fixed on the goal with a clear, progressive call for change that respects due process and fairness for all.

Photo courtesy of www.fronteras.org

Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org




There’s Gotta Be a Morning After

  • Barack Obama is a wretched excuse for a president and leader of the Democratic Party. Nevermind this nonsense about a blanket “anti-incumbent” fevah. This was a repudiation of our party’s leaders and their policies. Instead of offering voters anything in the way of changed course—mortgage moratorium? Timothy Geithner’s head?—the White House decided to essentially ride out the clock. The thing about congressional politics is this: most representatives are hack politicians—one way or the other. Not every Democrat that voted for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, corporatist health care “reform,” etc., was Barney Frank or Obama. That is to say, left-wing agents of finance capital. The vast majority of these folk merely toe the line. Consequently the onus is on this president and he sacrificed a great deal of decent people last night. Many of them would have been willing to go down for a hell of a lot more than Mitt Romney’s health care plan. This man has to go.
  • A Republican rout of 60+ seats in the House of Representatives will probably retire Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Mrs. Pelosi was—nay, is—a tough broad, a trailblazer and a savvy operator. Over the past two years, her considerable talent has been in the service of either flawed or outright failed policies and that’s regrettable. I continue to regard Mrs. Pelosi as a relatively decent establishmentarian who would have been fantastic if given a real Democratic president on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
  • Grandpa Edwin is Governor of California again. Ironically, I suspect the failure of Proposition 19 will engender the least bit of griping from the progressive base. For all intents and purposes, ganja is already legal in the Golden State. There isn’t much either Gov. Brown or a Gov. Meg Whitman could have done to arrest the systemic problems the state faces otherwise, so it’s a wash.
  • Florida’s Marco Rubio bested both Charlie Crist, the orange governor who pole-vaulted to independence, and Rep. Kendrick Meek, the good guy. Once again President Obama disgraced himself. (Granted, Mr. Meek was an early, enthusiastic and loyal supporter of Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2008.) There wasn’t any reason to believe Marco Rubio would lose in either a two- or three-way race and many of us said so. Kendrick Meek may be a meek, small-time politician, but there’s no reason why Gov. Christ had to siphon as many Democratic votes from the Democratic nominee as he did. Meek’s supposed vulnerability was an entirely self-fulfilling prophecy. Barack Obama’s condescension towards the only possible black U.S. senator—aren’t we supposed to care about that kind of thing?—was stunning. “Don't say I never gave you anything,” Obama quipped after buying Kendrick Meek a sandwich while in town for a token visit.
  • In 1952 Barry AuH2O ousted Senate Majority Leader Ernest McFarland in Arizona. Harry Reid managed to avoid the same fate. This is a crowning achievement, to be sure, but pales to the point of transparency in comparison with him making a liar out of Jack Landsman. The latter was quite certain the harlot from Reno, Sharron Angle, would dispatch Mr. Reid electorally. Guess that “2nd Amendment” solution is back on the table, eh?
  • What else can possibly be said for our patron saint Russ Feingold—murked last night by a random reactionary named “Johnson” or some such? Ultimately Sen. Feingold has no one to blame but himself. In conservative districts around the country, numerous Democrats took the extraordinary step of running against their own House speaker or professing support for John McCain in 2008. And it was necessary. For his part, Russ Feingold should have thrown in with the left opposition to Barack Obama months ago. Obama and Feingold are not the same kind of liberals, but he nevertheless allowed himself to be caricatured as such. Instead of going out like a boss—a fitting end to the lone dissenter against the Patriot Act in October 2001—Russ Feingold went out like a punk, carping about outside expenditures, as if anyone cared about process. I want to believe he’ll be back in some fashion or another.

US Mid-Term Elections Campaign Reader


Meg Whitman Coughs Up Another $13 Million
The Sacramento Bee reports the former eBay CEO Meg Whitman upped her personal contribution in her attempt to win, or is it buy, the Governorship of California by another $13 million bringing her total out-of-her-own-pocket investment to a cool $104 million. Attorney General Jerry Brown's campaign had $23 million in the bank as of June 30.

Florida GOP Gubernatorial Primary Poll
A new poll by the St. Petersburg Times gives Rick Scott, the former Columbia/HCA CEO, a ten point lead over Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum.

Despite lingering questions about his business record and a Medicare fraud scandal in his background, the former health care executive has a 10 percentage-point lead over rival Bill McCollum ahead of the Aug. 24 primary in part because voters see Scott as the candidate who can best pull the economy out of the doldrums.

"Whoever's better on the economy is going to win this thing," Ipsos pollster Julia Clark said. "I would be happy to put money on it."

The statewide telephone survey conducted for the St. Petersburg Times, Miami Herald, Bay News 9 and Central Florida News 13 shows Scott with 42 percent support, McCollum 32 percent, 3 percent favoring another candidate and 23 percent undecided, even after the two men and their allied groups have spent a combined $47 million on TV ads.

The poll of 602 registered voters was conducted Aug. 6-10 by Ipsos Public Affairs, a nonpartisan research company based in Washington, D.C. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points overall and 5.9 percent for questions asked of Republicans.

The Times's poll also previews the three way race in the general election come November between Rick Scott, Democrat Alex Sink and independent Lawton "Bud" Chiles. Scott leads Sink, 30 percent to 29 percent with Chiles garnering 14 percent. A quarter of the electorate is still undecided. 

Meanwhile the Orlando Sentinel reports that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink is launching her first TV buy next week. Sink has raised $7.4 million. Sink has largely sat on the sidelines this summer while Republicans Bill McCollum and Rick Scott have combined to spend $47 million so far. Sink made a $853,000 TV ad buy. Sink's ads will run in Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, West Palm Beach and Tallahassee starting Monday through the August 24 primary.

As of August 1, Scott had spent $25.2 million on winning the Republican primary for governor, not just shattering the record set by Charlie Crist in a general election but also breaking the $24.9 million state spending cap. In the last two weeks, Scott has spent another $9 million. In addition to the $34 million Scott has spent, his affiliated 527, Let’s Get to Work, has spent more than $30 million in advance of the August 24 primary. The Florida Independent has more on the record amounts being spend in the Sunshine State just to win the GOP primary.

Mark Dayton, The Early Favorite in Minnesota
For someone whose political career was deemed at an end after one rather ignominious term in the Senate, Mark Dayton is enjoying quite the revival to his political fortunes. After narrowly winning the Democratic-Farmer-Labor primary, Mark Dayton has vaulted to an early lead in the Minnesota Governor's race. A Rasmussen Reports poll finds Dayton with 45 percent of the vote compared with 36 percent for Republican Tom Emmer. Tom Horner of the Independence Party trails with 10 percent; another 10 percent are undecided. More on the race from the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Bill White, "I'm in It For Texas"
Here's an ad that the Bill White campaign has been running now for about two weeks. It's a 60 second spot articulating his vision for Texas.


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