Thursday, November 5, 2015

Why Democrats lose state elections: "Republicans fall in line, Democrats either fall in love or are unmotivated early."

You've heard similar screeds before with the same theme: politics is local and Dems don't do local. And Dems don't vote.

That's one way to talk about the "why". Here's more from Chris Reeves at DailyKos.

... now is time for some frank talk about the way in which Democrats run, organize, plan and work campaigns. I hear too often "Don't talk about this in public!" "Who says this outloud!" After almost two decades of that logic, it's time to get very real about the current realities that face Democratic campaigns - and why Republicans do better than we expect at the state level.

Too many Democrats believe that being right on an issue is all that matters.

Your opponent believes that the earth is flat. You point out that your opponent is a lunatic, obviously, the earth isn't flat.

If your opponent turns out more people who believe that the earth is flat than you turn out individuals who understand it is not, the fact that he is technically wrong is meaningless. You still lost.

Democrats focus on Messianic campaigns and figureheads rather than local races.

This should be so obvious and yet, we do not take it seriously. Democrats wait for their candidate from on high to run for President or Governor to lift all candidates below them. Republicans, meanwhile, work on candidates at the smallest level, from city councils to state house to make sure they have an impact on policy on all levels to groom their candidates.

How does this pay off? It means that even in red states, where Democratic candidates may not prevail, Republicans hold onto seats because of minimal contest at the local level.

In 2000, Barbara Olson, conservative pundit toured the nation talking about the list of conservative complaints at the time. Speaking to an audience in Kansas City, she told the waiting crowd this:

Whether it is city government or state government, Republicans trust their neighbors more than DC. That's why I came to Missouri tonight. I'm confident Bush is going to win the election, but I'm telling you today that it doesn't matter unless we work tirelessly to take back our statehouses.

There has been some back-and-forth about what Dems need to do at the state level, or do differently, by the progressive pundits. Some of the debate is inspired by a gloomy evaluation by Matt Yglesias at Vox.com a while back. I blogged on that a couple of weeks ago here and AZBlueMeanie has picked up on it in a post this morning at Blog for Arizona.

Quoting Steve Benen, the Blue Meanie enters the discussion.

The list of Democratic problems isn’t short. They’ve been hurt by gerrymandering. They’ve been crushed in state legislatures. The party’s voters inexplicably refuse to show up unless it’s a leap year. The Republican "war on voting" adds a wrinkle to any attempt at a comeback. Democratic officials have plans on how to put things right, and no one can say with confidence when – or if – those plans will succeed.

But the talk this morning about Democrats facing insurmountable challenges is almost certainly overstated. The party had political capital, which it invested, and which has led Dems back to where they were before.

We’ve seen dynamics like this before; we’ll see them again.

And the Blue Meanie concludes:

I would add that the unprecedented amount of money unleashed in politics since Citizens United may very well disrupt this historical ebb and flow between the party in power. The old axioms of political science may no longer hold true.

The political system can be so overwhelmed and corrupted by the sheer force of money spent in political campaigns that it can produce the desired outcome for the Plutocrats who are overwhelmingly funding political campaigns today. They can tip the scales in their favor. With an apathetic and indifferent electorate that does not vote, the Plutocrats can maintain this advantage.

If Democrats would just get off the couch and vote, this Republican advantage could still be blunted if not reversed. Democrats need to learn to vote in every election and down ballot, not just the top of the ticket in presidential elections in a leap year.

And on that last point, I think, we are all agreed. Now what do we do about it?

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