The Case for Frost

[Disclaimer: I posted this on dKos last night, but some people over here had also been pressing for an argument FOR Frost (rather than against someone else) so I thought I would repost it here...the link to the dKos diary is here].

So you want the case for Frost:

Here is a man who shares our core Democratic values*, understands how to organize and win*, and is a phenomenal fundraiser**.  And as a REFORMER, Martin Frost is the ONLY individual in this race with a record of taking the reigns of a moribund political operation (the post-1994 elections DCCC), turning it on its head, and guiding it to clear and decisive victories over the course of two election cycles.

But for some strange reason, people on this blog view him as the enemy.  Tom DeLay is our enemy.  Karl Rove is our enemy.  George Bush is our enemy.

Martin Frost is our best ally--our best leader--and the only choice for DNC Chair should we hope to secure a base of voters greater than that now enjoyed by the Republican Party.

There was a wonderful, if upsetting, article in the New York Times Magazine back in December.  It focused on the Presidential race in Ohio and the work ACT and MoveOn performed.  The article is nothing but laudatory of their efforts; indeed, they not only met but exceeded all of their vote goals in the state.  So why, then, did we lose--not only Ohio, but the country?

We lost because our base is not as large as the Republican base.  Turnout no longer wins elections for Democrats.  Every model created by political consultants over the last 25 years has to be tossed out the window.

So what does this mean?  It means we have to start converting voters.  We need to take moderate Republicans--and by this I mean independents who have voted Republican in the last few elections--and make them feel comfortable voting for a Democrat.

Martin Frost, without ever sacrificing his Democratic credentials (see below), has been doing this for nearly 30 years.  No he didn't win in 2004 (no Democrat can win the Texas 32nd as it is currently drawn, sadly), but there is a reason he ran 8 points ahead of Kerry--he knows how to organize, he knows how to campaign, and he knows how to talk Democratic issues with people inside AS WELL AS outside the Democratic base.  In short, he is a moderate voice with a liberal agenda.

[Now I know someone is just gearing up to write some misinformed diatribe about a tv commercial, but I can't fathom how anyone who actually watched the ads, saw the debates, read the papers, or even vaguely understood the issues at hand honestly thought Martin Frost "supported" George Bush.  One vote?  Yes.  And why did he highlight it?  Because it helped eludicate just how much of a far-right nutjob his opponent (Pete Sessions) actually was.  You may not like this kind of politics, but its smart strategy.  Noting that Pete Sessions was more extreme than, say, Dennis Kucinich wouldn't work.  Everyone knows that, and in uber-Republican North Dallas they think that's fine.  But if you make it clear that Pete Sessions is more extreme--and in this case dangerously more extreme--than George Bush (in he and Dick Cheney's old neighborhood), that's saying a lot.  And it gets people's attention.  That's how you win races: you exploit your opponents weaknesses within the context of your playing field.]

Anyhow, I digress.  Martin Frost's biggest campaign issues were child safety (he wrote the Amber Hagerman Child Protection Act), clean air (boy I hope we all like that here), and an opposition to the National Sales Tax (which Frost--and all us us, I hope--viewed as a REGRESSIVE tax that harmed those who could least afford it).  

Two of those issues are core Democratic principles: we believe we are stewards of our environment and have an obligation to protect it for future generations, and we believe that a progressive income tax allows us to live in a fair and just society.  The third issue (first on my list), is a non-partisan issue--but Frost was able to speak authoritatively on it, and at a time when Democrats are losing millions of married women with children to Republicans it is important to be able to do so.  Something out there is giving people the impression that Democrats and Democratic values are antithetical to creating a safe and secure environment in which to raise a child--especially in vast middle of the country where we are losing.  This is but one example of how Frost can--and will--develop a strategy to speak to and appeal to marginal Republicans just looking for a reason to vote Democratic.

So enough on issues.  He is a Democrat.  A strong one.  The assaults on his Democratic credentials (DINO, Republican-lie, etc) are disgusting, and they stem from either a) a lack of knowledge by the writer or b) a thinly disguised effort to spread misinformation about Frost for the benefit of another candidate.  So what about reform?

Fair question.  The party is broken.  Fixing it won't work.  It must be remade.

Martin Frost, as I note at the beginning, is the only candidate in this race with a record of doing just that.  He went into the DCCC at its lowest point in 50 years.  In both 1996 and 1998 he raised record sums of money and won back 14 seats in the House--a tremendous feat in an era when finding 5-10 competitive races in the entire country is nearly impossible thanks to safe-district gerrymandering on the part of both parties.

He did this not by following the status quo, but by recreating the DCCC.  What did he do?

[This took some research, so thanks to the Frost website for having this information.]

-Changed the idea that one, national message was how you win elections.  Frost, against the advice of Washington insiders, conducted regionalized and district specific polling to craft messages that spoke to their target audience.

-Was the FIRST DCCC chair to hire staffers to target base voters during non-presidential elections, and the first to hire Hispanic media consultants.

-Reorganized the DCCC by separating fundraising and political strategy.  This division of labor clearly worked, as the DCCC won races and raised $80 million dollars.

As for what he will do as DNC chair, I think its similar to what everyone is proposing:

-50 state strategy that puts money in the hands of state and local parties.
-Ending the consultant culture in DC in favor of going onto the ground and understanding what voters really want.
-Supporting candidates in races at every level of the ballot--from county clerk to president--to build a real Democratic power base.

As for Frost's belief in the grassroots, I can speak to that from personal experience.  I live in the 32nd district, and Frost people came by my house no fewer than 3 times.  I was called more than I can count.  And my yard sign was replaced (twice) even before I knew it was stolen.

Frost also knows the importance of protecting our Democracy--protecting our vote.  I spoke with a friend of mine tonight (you all inspired the call) who volunteered for Frost as a poll watcher on election day, and she mentioned that Frost not only had poll watchers at every precinct but also brought in an election law lawyer to train poll watchers for all Dallas precincts--inside and outside the 32nd.  This is the kind of organization and forethought that we need in a DNC Chair.

Anyhow, this is way to long and admittedly disjointed.  I guess it was more stream of thought than in should have been, but it's late and I don't have the energy right now to organize it.  If you want to hold that against me, I understand.  Just don't hold it against Frost.

NOTES:

*A representative sampling of his most recent voting scores proves:
*AFL-CIO:  93 percent
*Human Rights Campaign:  88 percent
*Leadership Conference on Civil Rights:  92 percent
*League of Conservation Voters:  85 percent
*NARAL Pro Choice America:  100 percent
*National Hispanic Leadership Agenda:  83 percent

**Led Democrats to seat gains in 1996 AND 1998 as Chairman of the DCCC...only chair in the last 10 years to do this.  Also has a 13-1 record of his own in Congressional races.  Only loss came when Tom DeLay illegally gerrymandered him into a 65% Republican district.

**Raised highest total of any 2004 Congressional candidate, and shattered ALL previous DCCC records in 1996 and 1998.

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Comments

7 Comments

If you want to convince people
that Frost is for reform, you are going to have to do more than say ditto when it comes to the ideas expoused by others. Point to specific past actions that show that he gets it. Also, it would probably go along way if the candidate himself were communicating this to the DNC voters and also blogland. Where was his public statement of his canidacy outlining why he is running? Where is his passinate plea that he is the guy who really wants this job? He should be allowing interviews by people like mydd.com and others. Being in touch with the common man really means getting in touch. I don't care about his approval ratings by liberal groups. If I were voting, I would want to see that he has a track record of promoting organizational approaches that will grow the party. Show that to people. Some helpful observations.
by bruh21 2005-01-25 06:34AM | 0 recs
Did you read the post???
Point to specific past actions that show that he gets it.

"He did this not by following the status quo, but by recreating the DCCC.  What did he do?

[This took some research, so thanks to the Frost website for having this information.]

-Changed the idea that one, national message was how you win elections.  Frost, against the advice of Washington insiders, conducted regionalized and district specific polling to craft messages that spoke to their target audience.

-Was the FIRST DCCC chair to hire staffers to target base voters during non-presidential elections, and the first to hire Hispanic media consultants.

-Reorganized the DCCC by separating fundraising and political strategy.  This division of labor clearly worked, as the DCCC won races and raised $80 million dollars."

by DemDog 2005-01-25 06:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Did you read the post???
Yes I did read the post
by bruh21 2005-01-25 07:02AM | 0 recs
You presume too much
So what does this mean?  It means we have to start converting voters.  We need to take moderate Republicans--and by this I mean independents who have voted Republican in the last few elections--and make them feel comfortable voting for a Democrat.

The assumption that Frost is the only candidate for DNC Chair who can make Independents and moderate Republicans feel comfortable voting for Dems is just wrong. Howard Dean is just as capable of reassuring red state voters that the Dems are on their side. In fact, Dean is the only candidate who can disarm the "liberal America hating Demorats" theme that Limbaugh and Hannity and Scarborough pitch every week.

Howard Dean is not a liberal. Howard Dean is a slightly left of center moderate. The more the American people see of Howard Dean the more difficult it will be for O'Reilly and Hannity to demonize liberals. The way for the Democratic party to win back the center is not by running to the right. We win back the center by taking back the national dialogue on issues from Limbaugh and Scarborough.

Making Frost DNC Chair will give the impression that conservatives are right on the issues and liberals are wrong. That will make it more difficult for centrist Democrats to win, because Frost will define the center and anybody left of Frost will become an evil liberal from hell. Frost is exactly the wrong choice for DNC Chair.

With Howard Dean as DNC Chair any candidate to the right of the right wing characterization of Dean will automatically become a centrist. That is how we take back the middle and attract independents and moderate Republicans. Roemer and HRC automatically will become right wing Democrats, which is as it should be.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-01-25 07:12AM | 0 recs
Turnout
"Turnout no longer wins elections for Democrats" is a statement not supported by the facts. A closer reading might be that turnout does not automatically win elections for Democrats but it is a strong indicator. Yes, turnout went up in 2004 and we still lost but those staTES WITH THE HIGHEST TURNOUT pretty much met 2 criteria: they had a tightly contested statewide election (8 of 10, the exceptions being Vermont and Connecticut) and they went Democratic (again 8 of 10 with Kerry just losing Iowa and Tom Daschle just being nipped in South Dakota's senate race).

The next 14 states split evenly between Kerry (Massachusetts, Washington, California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Illinois) and Bush (Ohio, North Dakota, Missouri, Wyoming, Florida, Montana, and Idaho).  Only two of the Democratic states were "battlegrounds" vs. 4 of the 7 GOP states).  Montana, however, had closely fought races for Governor and the state legislature despite going easily for Bush.  In summary, these were either Democratic states OR battleground states.

But while 15 of the 24 high turnout states went for Kerry, Bush took 22 of the remaining 27.  All five Democratic localities (Maryland, New York, Rhode Island, DC, and Hawaii) were basically uncontested and at least 3 of them (Maryland, New York, and Hawaii) have Republican governors in heavily Democratic states).  Fully fifteen of the bottom 17 turnout states went for Bush with the exceptions being mini-Democratic strongholds in DC and Hawaii.

I would suspect that lower turnout states have greater barriers to voter participation including limits on voting by ex-felons, frequent "pruning" of voter registration lists (definitely include NY there) and arcane election laws devoted to maintaining the status quo.

If we want to win states in the mountain west for our 2004 election, the key is eliminating barriers and getting a bigger turnout in places like Colorado (27th), New Mexico (37th), Nevada (40th), Texas (45th) and Arizona (50th).  Maybe that is why Bill Richardson doesn't want the last election probed by recount rather than any other reason.

And yes, we lost Senate seats in low turnout Kentucky (31st), Oklahoma (32nd), Alaska (35th), North Carolina (38th), and South Carolina (47th) as well as in higher turnout Florida (16th) and South Dakota (5th).

The turnout data is available at, of all places, the Des Moines Register site.  Looking for a link between turnout and election results will otherwise yield data on recent elections from 1994 to 2002 but not the most recent one.

by David Kowalski 2005-01-25 07:18AM | 0 recs
Thank you, excellent post...
You make a very good case. This is pretty much what I had in mind when I said something to the effect of "make the case for your guy rather than trashing mine." Thank you.

We have a couple fundamental differences in viewpoint of what needs doing and that explains our difference of opinion in which candidates are best for the job.

In any previous year I'd have been happy to have Martin Frost as DNC Chair. As your post, and his record, shows he has a very impressive set of credentials and would probably be very good at the job. But... we differ... here...

"Martin Frost is our best ally--our best leader--and the only choice for DNC Chair should we hope to secure a base of voters greater than that now enjoyed by the Republican Party."

Coupled with a later statement...

"So what does this mean?  It means we have to start converting voters.  We need to take moderate Republicans--and by this I mean independents who have voted Republican in the last few elections--and make them feel comfortable voting for a Democrat."

... and your statement about the "smaller democratic base," appears to imply you believe in the "move to the center" approach which echoes Frost's own comments when he was running against Pelosi for House Minority Leader. I strongly disagree.

I think Frost is a fine and capable man but I don't think the kinds of things you listed constitute what I think of when I think of reform. They constitute competent and capable leadership (something I value HIGHLY) but not reform.

Reform begins and ends with empowering people in the party and the government. Us, We the People. That is where the problem is. That is where the solution is. That is the only reform that matters. If he comes out with a plan for how he intends to empower We the People in the party and the government then I will be all ears. I haven't heard that yet and that is what counts for me (that and the competence and capability to actually succeed in executing the plan).

Thank you again for your post. This is good stuff.

Peace,

Andrew

by Andrew C White 2005-01-25 07:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Thank you, excellent post...
Thanks for reading, Andrew, and thanks for your kind commments.

There is one part of you comment I want to (and think I can) respond to:

... and your statement about the "smaller democratic base," appears to imply you believe in the "move to the center" approach which echoes Frost's own comments when he was running against Pelosi for House Minority Leader. I strongly disagree.

I don't necessarily think Frost will move us any further to the right.  As I say, he is a moderate voice with a liberal agenda.  

I think this is an important distinction to make, because I truly belive we do not have to sacrifice our core Democratic principles in order to appeal to people in the center (or even center-right) of the political spectrum.

Take, for example, HRC's comments about abortion.  She stood firm on her commitment to a woman's right to choose--a firm Democratic principle.  But she also talked about how we need to try to limit the number of unwanted pregnancies--something we all (including Republicans) can agree on.  

Anyhow, one example of being a moderate voice with a liberal agenda.

[But please don't construe this as suggesting MF and HRC to be one and the same.]

by DemDog 2005-01-25 08:06AM | 0 recs

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