Electoral success does require winning 51% of the vote in 51% of the districts. The South as a region is an important factor for the Republicans to regain power.
But, in the metaphorical sense, there are a lot of "southern republicans" in other states. In particular, there are whole swaths of Mid-Western and Western states which live by "southern-republican" values and vote similar to the South.
In the demographic dimension (in contrast to the geographic implication in the label "republican South"), there are a lot of "southern republicans" with strong minority power in purple or pink districts. This gives power to the GOP extremist-base, even in a purplish state like Colorado. You'd think Republicans in Colorado "should" move back to the middle, but middle-of-the-road Republicans have no place to go... so a lot of them are going over to the Dems.
This isn't necessarily a good thing, as it pressures the Democrats to move to the center. The Democratic politicos in Colorado are pretty centrist, even if the Democratic base is pretty liberal.
I don't think we can depend on "shoulds". I mean, Chafee "should" still be Senator, instead he has become a Democrat.
As you say, moving back to the center makes sense before the Party dies completely, and I would never underestimate the higher-forces that pull the Republican levers. But, their right-wing has been ascendent so long, that it has become the main power center in the party.
It isn't just in Kansas. The Colorado Republican Party is dominated by the wingers, religious and paleo. The three remaining US reps in Colorado are from the most extreme side of the GOP. How is the Republican middle supposed to regain ground, when so much of the carnage from the 2006 elections is chopped-up moderate Republicans.
It may seem that Bush doesn't care about the 80% of the populace who opposes his war, but it is important to notice what he hasn't done. No talk of a draft, no huge increase in the military, no real action about putting the country on a war footing. Bush had his big chance to remake the military 5 years ago, when his war mongering was popular. He is still dangerous, but his options are a lot more limited now.
Here some more silver linings:
(1) We've won the PR battle with the public. Opposition to the Iraq war has won the hearts and minds of the general populace. Waving the bloody flag is a tried and true manipulation tactic, but it has become a whole lot harder with 75% is against the war.
(2) The failure in Iraq decreases the likelihood of other interventions. A ground invasion of Iran (as I worried about above), is less likely to happen. I assume that our military has learned at least some lessons from this. On the dark-side, this weakness may make the alternatives (bombs, missile strikes, sabotage, and blockade) more likely.
(3) The stress on the soldiers themselves is a strong force against more interventions. How many deployments before the soldiers themselves start going AWOL en masse?
Let's say the US pumps 20k, 30k or 55k more troops into Iraq. (The mis-information and trial balloons are all over the map, so you KNOW they are planning something). I tend to believe in the upper end. This will exacerbate the anti-war factors above.
How do we take advantage of this?
I think we should look to the military establishment to start winding things down. We know the White House, the Neocon Strategists and the Republicans aren't going to back off. The "liberal, but not irresponsible press" isn't going to stop playing soft-ball with Bush. Congress isn't about to impeach or (as some suggest) cut off funding. A lot of Dem politicians are just going to go sideways.
Tactically, we can do a few things to push back.
(1) With a Dem win in Congress we can hold hearings and investigate. Follow the money! Call high-level military in to advise and suggest policy changes.
(2) Wrap the Iraq fiasco and foreign intervention memes on the Republicans. We oppose the war; let's get them to support it, so there is no question who
(3) Run a drive to recall hard-line politicians who support the war, in particular one named Joe. Win or lose, it would make some big noise.
Maybe all this talk of escalation and increasing the size of the army is to flush out any remaining critics of Bush-Cheney-neocon policies, within the administration, military leadership and Congress. It forces the Dems to go along or go out on a limb, leaving them vulnerable to White House chainsaws. The levers of military policy are all pretty much held in the White House. I understand the Dems nervousness about taking strong positions about the war when they can't really do much about it.
I don't see Bush backing down on this. By right-wing logic, if Bush is to gain a legacy at all, he needs to double down and pull off a win. Wimping out at this point would be very bad for his ego.
Either that or double-down means intervention in Iran.
Glenn Greenwald lists the reasons why Bush may be bat-shit crazy enough to launch strikes in Iran, not to mention the fact that so many of his inside-advisors have long listed Iran as the problem.
Possibly, (as the NYT reports) shipping new aircraft carriers and planes to the area is just sabre rattling, but it is notable that Bush announces this just as we see student activism and internal opposition speak up in Iran. If there is one thing guaranteed to reinforce Iran's leaders, it is noisy threats from the US.
This was an election in which the anti-Bush feelings probably gave every Dem a +5 advantage, yet Madrid lost.
I'm not sure, but it seemed to me that Madrid was one of those safe, established party candidates who came up through the system. The Party saved the NM-01 race for her, and called in the consultants. In the West these are often decent, honest politicians, but are too used to pandering to the center and to the polling micro-targets instead of standing up for something.
In the absence of insurgent candidates party-annointed candidates just don't have the chops to excite the base or perform well in the campaigns.
States which have higher than average hispanic populations include a few with Republican tendencies, notably Nevada, Arizona, Texas and Florida. I'm not sure that a democrat could win Texas, but if so, they would need to rely on the latino vote plus turnout.
The latter is the difficult nut to crack, as hispanics often vote at half the rate of other segments of the population. Anger about anti-immigration rhetoric and its racist under-pinnings may be the key to waking the sleeping giant. But, he would also need to be credible on other issues of interest to hispanics. Fortunately, these coincide with the populist economic issues (aka traditional Democratic values) we are hearing so much about these days: Education, Health Care, Minimum Wage.
Richardson grew up speaking Spanish, and has great contacts internationally, in particular in Mexico where his father was a banker for Citibank. If anyone can recreate a foreign policy of multi-lateralism and regain the trust of the world, maybe it is Richardson.
To me this makes him the ultimate centrist-establishment candidate, perhaps even more so than Clinton, and a hell of a lot more so than a right-winger like McCain. Even though my preference is more progressive, but I'm not using the establishment label in a negative way, just a fact.
I agree that the experience as a Governor and proven popularity in a state-wide election are very useful things to have on your resume.
The early messaging from the various candidates is kind of important for fixing their image in the public mind. However, they don't really know which ideas or issues will be front and center once we get to the primary and general seasons.
So Edwards talks about helping the lower half, Gore about the crisis of the Global Warmin, Clark and Richardson speak strongly about the war, Clinton tries to emphasize her establishment credentials and to innoculate herself from being labeled soft on terror, etc.
Of all the early positioning, I like Edwards focus on populism the best. First because I agree on moral or philosophical grounds. It speaks to the traditional Democratic base, it speaks to the broader populace that is left behind on health, insurance, retirement, jobs, etc, and it can be used as a gentle persuasion or handy weapon in a bar fight.
But populist rhetoric is also useful because it is flexible. It can track changes in public awareness, or translated to different audiences, issues, specific policies or talking points. Reagan was a populist, and knew how to promise hope to segments of the populace that would never agree with his actual politics.
As an issue, the Iraq war is a battle-axe, but not very adaptable
I'm pretty sure that all the king's men can't put Humpty Dumpty won't be put back together again. But, Iraq policy is directed (if not managed) by the Bushies. Who knows, maybe the double-down enables a partition of Iraq and the US retreats to Bagdad and Kurdistan. Or maybe Bush goes up to 200,000 for 18 months in order to drop back down to 100,000 for the election. Or maybe they sabotage Iranian oil fields during the primary season and all the candidates scurry for war rhetoric.
The point is that you can't guess the moves in a fixed chess game when you aren't the player. You know that McCain was tipped off about the troop increases ahead of time, so you can anticipate that Bush policy coordinates with the approved candidate.
Obama and generational stereotypes? It doesn't make sense to me.
People think in categories and stereotypes, but this doesn't always help with explaining things, especially when applied to political issues or candidates.
The boomer generation was not monolithic culturally or politically. The shallow consumer-cultural components (rock music for example) might have been widely shared, but the boomers as a generation never really shared a broad agreement regarding structural change, politically or economically.
We have all those sixties images of long-haired protestors, but in fact, that was a vocal minority, concentrated in the middle-class and at the colleges. Even in those supposed hotbeds of radicalism, many college students were normal, traditional, 'Mericans, interested in dating, careers, nice cars or stereos, church, etc, especially when the Vietnam war didn't impact them personally. (There were only a few years when the draft was actually hard to avoid. I'm 51, so I was close enough to worry about my draft number, and become politicized by the war, but they stopped taking people the year before I hit 18. The war didn't have the nearly same impact on my younger brother.)
The cultural divide that has been exploited most effectively by the Republicans as well as the press, is not generational. Instead they use differences between the classes as expressed by cultural stereotypes. The latte-swilling volvo-drivers vs the real-working-guy, or the traditional "normal" family in the heartland vs the San Francisco Liberal. Lots of code words to evoke homophobia and racism.
These cultural stereotypes are based in the culture wars of the sixties generation and they continue to do service for the Republicans in order to demonize those Libruls as the belonging to some other tribe.
We suffer from huge weaknesses in the VLWC, especially with the media part of the conspiracy. Al Franken does a very creditable job as a progressive radio host (although I feel he could talk a bit less and let his interesting guests carry more of the show).
What percentage does Air America add to each campaign in its media markets? Maybe we can't look at it in isolation. AA is one in a set of essential institutions that get out the progressive message: AA, plus Community Radio plus political blogs, plus Move On, plus local political groups, plus pressure on the editors at MSM. All parts are important.
Do we suffer a dearth of good, progressive candidates? Well, maybe, but surely Minnesota has someone we can support. If not then that speaks more to the lack of our Farm Teams, and I would suggest that Al Franken could have far more impact if he used his efforts to create 10 or 100 mini-Als instead of one Senator.
As a media personality Al does far more for progressive causes than any single Senator. Please stay where you are doing more good.
In a NYT Op-Ed piece, K. Daniel Glover, editor of National Journal's Technology Daily, did what he could to paint the netroots as just a collection of bought-and-paid-for shills. The gist of the piece is that the bloggers complain about the corruption of money on politics, but they are just as quick as anyone else to go to the well. They use my place on Bill Winter's staff as an attempt to prove this.
2) This story shows a basic misunderstanding of the internet. The print media thinks it is somehow like their top-down corporate world of editors, publishers, and high barriers to new voices.
That is why they need 'influential' bloggers who are tied to important sites. For instance they note that I write HeadingLeft, which is no doubt [snark]highly influential [/snark], but I doubt very many people have ever read it. I hardly update it at all. I am much better known for being a small part of much larger sites like SquareState.net and DailyKos. I am not a solo blogger leading a heard of followers. I am one of a community of writers who can each call bullshit on one another and has the same opportunity to have their voice heard.
It isn't a top down thing at all. It is a community group like any other, and if a candidate hires someone to advise them on Latino issues, or on GLBT issues, or on issues affecting the disabled, they do not have to find an 'influential' transvestite who wants to sell out and sway the opinions of lesser transvestites. They just find someone in that community who already supports them and that they trust, who will share with them some insight on the challenges and issues that are important to that constituency.
When politicians hire bloggers, they are not buying positive coverage from a seemingly unbiased source. Look at my writing about Bill Winter from before he and I had even met. I was a highly opinionated and partisan source, and made no secret of it. Bill didn't have to pay me if he wanted good coverage. He already had that from me, Johne, ColoradoLib, and everyone else on this side of the Tancredo Wall. Bill hired me to help him better hear our community, not to better speak to it. When running for office, he did not have time sift through all of the sites, figure out who was who in the rapidly changing land of screennames, and get to the conversations where he needed to participate. Nobody had to bribe me to think Tancredo sucks. Bill paid me to stay on top of the internet side of his campaign, watch the web for things of interest, and to help navigate him around the trolls.
Denver is a whole hell of a lot cheaper than NYC. I think the per diem is likely to be half the price of NY, if not better.
Decent hotels run $80 - $120, although you know they'll jack up the prices that week. Foodies will find truly great dinners with $20 entrees. We're not such a cowtown, anymore. People coming should take an extra week for a Western vacation.... Mountain Hiking, Hot Springs, Mesa Verde or Santa Fe, perhaps.
Since I do event organizing in the area, I have contacts with the hotels. I'll promise to set up a decent group deal for people if we get the conventions.
The other cost of all those 70% safe seats is that the winner is determined in the primary, not the general. CW holds that this favors the more extremist voices in the party, those with a hard-core left or right-wing base. While I can think of many Republican candidates fitting this explanation, I'm not sure it describes more than a few Democrats.
The 70% gerrymander really favors the establishment candidate irregardless of ideology. Even when the incumbent retires, the party insiders have a lot of advantages in nurturing and funding the annointed successor. Insurgents (in this case I'm thinking of liberal democrats) have the difficulty of running against the party. It is true that succeess in the primary, gives them the same leg-up.
I've increasingly found MyDD to be the most useful blog for my interest, which is gaining a better understanding of "the political situation" and the various elections/activities across the country. WRT the past cycle, MyDD impressed me in two categories of projects: things that no one else was doing, and things that significantly added to the momentum of other projects. This is tied to the role of MyDD, and where it fits in. I mean, we don't have the readership of Daily Kos, but we are at least as important in creating BW for our audience. Our audience includes activists, campaign volunteers and workers, and mainstream press.
(1) Ad watch. You know, I didn't personally track these articles, but I don't think anyone is holding the ad agencies' and consultants' feets to the fire. Money ill-spent is just wasted.
(2) Act Blue. "Money doesn't talk it swears". If we can deliver votes and money, then we are inevitably significant to the political process. Combining with Daily Kos and many other blogs, a call to Act Blue can shift significant cash in one day to key campaigns. This tie-in between information and advocacy to cash contributions and votes turns us into a significant player, like Move On, Emily's list, or any of the larger single-issue advocacy groups. Hmmm. Anybody keep a summary list of how much came from where?
(3) The two (?) polling projects really interested me. Did they have an impact? I'd like to think that they high-lighted the importance of Iraq. But, perhaps more imporant was the fact of doing the polls, analyzing the results and publication. It is like MyDD were a magazine or newspaper, with the readership journalists, campaigns, activists.
The forecasts. I know much effort went into them, but ehhh. I personally liked them because I'm a data geek, but I don't think they were significant mainly because there are already so many other forecasts out there. What did they add to the national dialogue, or even the blog dialogue for that matter. Did they help our our understanding? Mystery Pollster aka Pollster.com blew everybody out of the water by the end.
MyDD (and some of the other blogs) were extraordinarily helpful with something we can't get in our daily newspapers, political magazines or Al Franken or Terry Gross or even our local blogs: MyDD is uniquely able to create of name recognition, early notice, early funding, creation of buzz and awareness on new candidates. Especially in the recent election which had such a rapid expansion of vulnerable seats. The BUZZ was nicely tied in to the Actblue pages.
Second. We were pretty effective this past cycle at creating candidate buzz and seed money. This has begun to have a significant effect on the MSM. I know it might not seem like it, as there are still so many clueless journalists, not to mention reactionary publishers.
All year I noticed the stain of BW creeping into articles and op-eds here and there. I would bet that if you surveyed the readership you would find a large number of journalists. It makes sense. We have well-placed writeres in every political district if not in the campaigns themselves. Journalists are news junkies like any political activist. Their nature drives them to track stories like a hound dog.
Finally, The 50 state project. We provided major cover for Dean in the face of demands to satisfy short-term tactics.
Remember a sense of Perspective
Although I feel we have significance in terms of influence (if nothing else, our readership is well-placed), the blogs are really a very small segment of the voting public. We can creat buzz, and shift early money, but we don't directly affect very many people. It is similar to the situation of party activists vs the primary voters. An insurgent candidate might be able to do very well with the high-information, passionately political people who attend party caucuses, but that same candidate can fail in the broader forum of party voters at the primary.
What does this mean in practice? We are only one force with a little bit of influence on what happens in the Democratic Party. Even growing 10-fold we can't change things by ourselves. We have to think about our allies, and how we relate to them.
These planks are fairly clear and easy to state. To go meta on you, I'd like to see them framed better in the sense of how they fit into the Democratic Narrative, that is, "What we are about as Democrats, why our proposals will help you personally, and what you can do to help."
I'm a hierarchy-category sort of thinker. I can't remember details worth shit, so I need more of a power-point structure: 3 value statements, 3 planks, 3 details. Arrows tying things together, and don't forget the closing, now that they are persuaded.
The Democratic Party stands for working people and the middle class. That is why four main parts of our 100 hour plan address the middle-class squeeze of the past six years. We propose to:
- increase the minimum wage by $2.10 to $7.25/hour for those on the lowest rungs of the ladder,
- guarantee easier and more affordable access to health care by extending medicare to all children and youth below age 18, and making prescription drugs cheaper,
- cut college loan interest in half, and
- guarantee the solvency of social security by adding $100 Billion to the SS Trust fund in the next 2 years.
Please support Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats 100 hour plan by _____.
There is still one thing missing in the way you present these 100 planks (parquet squares?). Persuasiveness means tying the benefit directly, concretely and explicitly to the individual.
The primary key to persuasion or closing a sale (i.e. getting someone's vote) is to realize that it is all about the benefit to the buyer, not the seller. Engineers and policy wonks are by nature and training very poor at sales because we get bogged down in talking about the features and details, things that the buyer is only partially interested in. Talking about features takes the focus away from what the buyer really cares about, which is what's in it for them.
One spectacular little book that can teach you be more persuasive is a slender little volume called "Soft Selling in a Hard World" by Jerry Vass. The value of this book is that it shows you how to become more skillful at identifying benefits to the "buyer" and how to tie them to what you are "selling", whether it is a used car, your next big idea to the boss, your next raise, or Pelosi's plank number 16 to your stupid brother-in-law over Thanksgiving dinner.
I've noticed that the emails I get from Move On are particularly good at making me feel the personal benefit of clicking on the extra $100 to make a difference.