I kind of agree with Charlie Cook (but for slightly different reasons), that the dems long-term strategy might be better served if we fail to take over. (Well, I do hope we actually win, because there is a lot at stake, but I worry an easy victory sets us up for longer-term failure.).
I simply don't see the democrats constructing an ideology, a brand, a set of policy initiatives or even an intellectual strategy that has the passion and substance to create a long-term movement.
The weakness of the "hope the gop stumbles" strategy, is that the republican party has the vision, discipline, money and power to win the following round, even if they lose one or two, while the democratic "appeasement" strategy is a slow walk to irrelevancy.
Personally, I think traditional democratic values add up to a powerful and appealing package: economic issues, health care, education, progressive tax structure, good world citizen. Here is a populist message that can be shouted with outrage, or explained in detail. As a brand, it has sufficient meat on the bone to create a real movement.
I know that these ideas are floating around within parts of the democratic party. The Progressive or Liberal brand. It just seems that they are not being proclaimed with much vigor by the "risk-averse" centrists. We're for progressive ideas, but we never define clearly and strongly what it means to be progressive. This lack of passion makes the average joe feel like maybe the dems don't really believe in these ideas, as if one politician is pretty much the same as another.
The dems don't seem to have a policy team constructing messages, producing white papers on foreign policy, health-care or the environment, that is, positioning the party with a program of: "What we would do if we had the executive office." It all seems so catch-as-catch-can. Presidential primary candidates seem to be randomly self-appointed, not strategically chosen. Maybe this what the DLC thinks they are doing?
What about a Farm Team?
The gop has a strong farm team system at the state level. Until Colorado's handsome, but not-particularly-bright, Governor Owens had some "marital difficulties". He was being groomed with trial balloons and policy support from the VRWC as a potential presidential candidate.
Obviously, Owens was chosen for his good looks, and the fact that at the time Colorado was being run by the republican party, which means that they could craft laws and messages that would build an Owens resume.
Perhaps Jonathon was inspired by the NYT article this morning. The Times pointed out that the Republicans intended the drug benefit plan to consolidate the senior vote, but its very messy roll-out is having the opposite effect. The Times suggests that democrats are hoping to make this an issue in November.
Unfortunately, simply relying on gop failure or trying to use one program as a wedge is a very thin reed to hold on to. All the gop needs to do is fix the problem, and your big issue suddenly loses importance.
The dems need to be more effective at popularizing a liberal ideology, PLUS learn to market to specific demographics. The conservative movement is really good at this. They have worked for decades to create a shift in political ideology. But, this is combined with well-analyzed demographic marketing and the clever use of wedge issues. Both strategies are useful, and you don't get the sense that the democratic party quite knows how to play the same game.
A good example is splitting conservative-VALUES voters (who by rights should vote democratic on economic issues) by fostering outrage over social issues like gays & abortion. This isn't easy because economics is pretty darned important to people. Look how extreme the rhetoric has to be in order to bump abortion from below economic self-interest to above it.
Getting back to Seniors.
Medical issues and social security rank very high on the critical importance list. Ironically because we successfully give seniors decent health insurance in Medicare, health is sort taken off the critical importance list allowing other issues (family values, waving the bloody flag, etc) to drive the voting booth lever.
The gop has shown us how to do it: Use higher-octane rhetoric, blame the gop for failing seniors, promise a better drug program with cheaper prices, without the donut hole. The gop is not afraid of spending money on seniors, why should we resist promises?... of course they made sure the drug companies got a good cut of it.
Let's operate this year as if the gop continues to stumble and the dems will sweep. Not to go all new agey on y'all, but confidence itself is a factor in creating success. We had two or three pre-successes in the past year. Once the snowball starts rolling it gathers a story line.
Charisma candidates can win even if the odds are stacked against us. What is the Obama factor? Or on the opposite spectrum, what is Olympia Snow's secret?
The super-popular mayor of Denver, John Hickenlooper, came to politics with good business credentials as a successful brew-pub owner and restauranteer. He has more of a nerdy style, not slick at all. Certainly a liberal-minded person, his business background gave him a foundation of respect and respectability.
His advertising agency, Northwoods Advertising of Minneapolis, was highly successful at crafting a campaign that turned all of Hickenloopers negatives into positives.
They had him spiffing up his image by buying a business suit at a vintage store and then riding off on his Vespa. He wore a coin changer, and faced down a meter maid like a gunslinger. Recently for a tax initiative, they had him jump out of an airplane. Memorable ads, all of them.
The point is, being an outsider can be a good thing, something that might be more true this year. Newcomers are in a position to create their image fresh and new. With a clever campaign you can get both name recognition and positive press.
I'm curious to understand more about the concept of Statistically Significant, wrt the deviation from national means when you look at cross-tabs.
Do you have some references?
I can handle the math, but I want something more applied and specific to polling and how to handle cross-tabs, not just stats-theory.
My personal experience with volunteering met similar resistance or incompetence. A friend of mine exerted a huge amount of effort, and finally got to be half-precinct captain. Even then, when she showed up first in line for the county meeting, she was 20th to sign in because the "in-crowd" had already met behind closed doors.
Your report about the difficulty of entry into the local Democratic Party has several possible interpretations (all of which I think are true):
- (1) Dysfunctional Management; long-termers just holding down a chair between elections
- (2) It is human nature to work with known factors (friends, culturally similar)
- (3) Intentional barriers to maintain control and keep out people and ideas they don't like.
Perhaps you mostly need persistence to push through barriers 1 and 2, although you can see how difficult-to-open the gates might be to busy people, different culture from present club members, minorities, less-educated.
Barrier number three requires strategy, intentionality, and knowing when to keep your mouth shut. I know, it's supposed to be democratic, but think about it more like getting a new job at a company where you have to start at the bottom rungs, perhaps even a company where you don't agree with corporate policy or the corporate culture. You're not going to change things right away, but build a resume over time. In the short term, competence, courtesy and volunteering for the dirty jobs can gain you respect.
In the medium run, generating money, voter registrations, volunteers and ultimately voters moves you up the ladder.
Speaking of resume building: Join a non-profit board with community visibility. Learn how to fund-raise. Make lots of political friends. Dress nicely. Speak articulately.
In consolidating their own base, the goop has polarized the country, which by definition creates a Democratic counter-base. Even in the absence of a Democratic party-line or in a political landscape without Democratic populist leaders, this is an inevitable consequence simply due to the strength and clarity of the right-wing rhetoric.
The stronger the polarization, the greater the outrage of those of us on the left. Look at where the action is in the Democratic base:
(1) The more the religous right cram their brand of christianity down our throat, the more it clarifies the religious-left and the non-religious, (non-christians by the way, now add up to almost 25% of the national populace and 33% in certain Western states, like Colorado, Washington, Oregon, doubling since 1990) (ARIS 2001)
(2) Self-identified "liberal-value-Liberals" have increased from 11% to 19% of the electorate in the past five years. (Pew May 2005)
(3) GWB's politics of class (i.e. every fundamental policy issue of the goop favors the wealthy or slams the poor), has fostered a greater degree of class-based ideology. Look at recent polling. In just five years, economic values have become a stronger component of the Dem-Rep split. In prior years personal income was a weaker determinant of party affiliation, i.e. there have always been plenty of wealthy democrats and poor republicans. (Pew Jan 2006)
Political calculus may lead some to think the polarization opens a space in the middle, but it is hard to get people to the polls with an appeal of "I'm not as bad as the Republicans". That is, you have to stand for something, and it is hard to whip up passion and enthusiasm in the center.
Whip the moderates up to a frenzy? Get the angry middle to the polls? They are more likely to sit out than stand up.
If Edwards can't talk persuasively about poverty, and folds under the inevitable accusations of "playing the class card", then he doesn't deserve to win the election.
The swift-boating of Kerry worked because he folded instead of standing up to the bullying. They called him out, dis-honored his veteran status, and he just stood there and watched. Where was his moral outrage? What would Murpha do? What would Reagan (the actor) or Johnson (the Texan) have done?
Them's fighting words! Being a gentleman and not fighting back, validates the wimp accusation. In contrast, If Kerry had angrily hit back at Bush in speech after speech for allowing the attack dogs off the leash to dishonor his military record, then the flip-flop talking point simply wouldn't have stuck.
Remember Lakoff's "Father of the Family" meme? The president appears presidential when he displays anger because he proves he can stand up for his (i.e. our) honor.
"Righteous Anger" is when your anger is attached to strongly held values, as in "you've crossed a line mister, and I'm not going to take it!". If people share your value, then they can agree and sympathize with your anger. For example:
We have 45 million Americans without health insurance. THIS IS AN OUTRAGE! ALL BABIES SHOULD HAVE ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE BY RIGHT, NOT BY ECONOMIC ABILITY.
This kind of value-laden, righteous anger shifts the talking point to "Republicans are against health care for babies". They call me a socialist, I call them anti-health-care-for-babies. They want to talk about budget cuts and tax breaks for health savings accounts; I say babies are our future and babies' health has NO PRICE TAG. Maybe I even start to wake up the Democratic base.
The Democrats spend too much time pretending to be strong, instead of demonstrating strength. Maybe that is why being Governor is a better platform for running for president than being a Senator.
But, imagine if Diane Feinstein had filibustered Alito because he has demonstrated a long-term commitment against abortion. Sure, maybe she would have been voted down by 61 male Senators, but it would have given her a personal affront to be used on every stump speech from now to eternity. She would have been seen as the protector of women's rights. Fast-forward to a 2012 presidential campaign where regaining the right to an abortion has become a front-and-center issue.
Voter-mining is an essential tactic at election time, but charisma and emotion often trump the most carefully laid data-mining strategy. This is why we need to know who are our sympathizers, what turns them on and why they support us.
Persuasion is ineffective if you don't know what appeals to people, and that has a lot to do with understanding their values, lifestyles, as well as political beliefs. I suspect we in the blogosphere are heavily weighted to urban, white, educated, well-off when compared to the general populace. It ain't just economic, it is a set of "psycho-graphics" as well.
The Republicans used emotion and disaggregation marketing to split conservative Southerners from the Democrats, and this is also obvious with the wedge politics of religious conservatives.
You know they pay attention to geography and demographics, but they also apply marketing strategies in detailed and specific ways targeting specific psychologies, lifestyle-identifications, values, etc.