I participated in a DCCC blogger conference call last night with DCCC Chair Rahm Emanuel. DCCC is an important component if we are going to take back the Congress and it is good that the DCCC is active with the blogging community.
In the call Rahm repeated that they feel they have limited resources and must choose carefully which candidates to support. To them this means it is not a good use of resources supporting candidates in districts that have often voted largely Republican in the past. (Also it isn’t easy recruiting candidates to run in such districts.) So they are saying that it is just a fact that you won’t win the election in such districts so put the resources where you can win.
I understand this concern, but I think it’s a strategy that eats the seed corn. It’s looking for short-term results but with a long-term cost. As a result of this approach the numbers for next election will be even worse, and so on after that.
I have experienced this before. At the Democratic Party “Campaign Academy” I attended traditional Democratic strategists taught campaign planning as analyzing precincts according to how many “base” voters there are, and figuring out the costs of finding them and getting them to the polls. You add up your available resources and calculate how many calls and door-stops you can make with those resources (there are specific formulas for this) and plan your campaign around that. You ignore precincts that don’t have a high enough base turnout, and ignore anyone who is not a regular base voter.
This turnout strategy is based on assuming that there is a Democratic majority in place, and you will win if you can just get enough of them to show up. It was a good strategy because that used to be true, so it worked. (And I think it’s the only way to run a localized campaign.)
This is a pragmatic strategy that says you have to accept the “facts on the ground” and work with them. To Washington professionals those facts include a “conventional wisdom” belief that “the public” has “moved to the right” so you have to move to the center, and a bunch of stuff like that. It does NOT take into account HOW the public was moved. And it certainly does not address how to bring the public back.
It’s not true anymore that there is a Democratic majority in place, and I think maye the traditionalists don’t realize that – or don’t know any other way to operate. To my mind this is similar to the AFL-CIO split, where the AFL-CIO wants to keep working to get a shrinking membership to the polls, and do lobbying, while SEIU and others want to put the resources into growing the membership again.
That’s where I’m at on this. To me this is about accepting the facts on the ground vs changing the facts on the ground. Getting out the base vs growing the base. If you put resources into districts that you might not win, you are growing the base. You are informing the local electorate. You are changing minds. You are laying the groundwork for winning that district the next time, or the time after that.
I agree with everything Bob Brigham writes at Swing State Project about the call:
Here’s what was missing. Had the DCCC had a call with bloggers two years ago, the exact same conversation would have occurred. “The same, just better” is not a valid slogan.
I’m holding out hope for Emanuel. I’m waiting to be inspired. But nothing leads me to believe that the DCCC realizes the importance of investing early and running full campaigns. Everything still seems based on the last two weeks and 30 second ads.
But that isn’t what Democrats need as a Party, especially in congressional races. We need to talk to everyone. Voters deserve a choice. Let’s involve all of America when we reform the Culture of Corruption. Technology has circumvented geographic distance, people have free cell phone evenings and IM and email. People talk and we need them talking about the Culture of Corruption – everywhere.
Corrupt Congressmen have been known to live outside of swing districts. Let’s put everyone on notice, it is time to do the possible instead of just better than before.
Howard Dean’s 50/435 strategy is a longer-term strategy of working everywhere to educate and change people’s minds. It might take more election cycles, but it is a strategy for growth. It understands and leverages the concept of an involved netroots.
Update – DCCC thinks I got it wrong, and Jesse e-mailed “Rahm definitely did not say that this meant leaving traditionally Republican seats out of the equation.” My grammar was bad, I did not mean it to sound like that was a quote.