Monday, July 24, 2006

Is the Fifty-State Strategy Nuts?

I was recently in Virginia for a wedding and I had a conversation with my brother-in-law about what I thought of Howard Dean. He was asking me, and he didn't express much surprise at my statement that I couldn't stand him when he was governor because he was too conservative, even a DINO--my brother-in-law already thinks I'm a left-wing wacko.

No, what he was interested in was what I thought of Dean as national party chair, and the fifty-state strategy in particular.

I told him I'm in favor of it. I really do think that we need to reach out to people who should be our allies all across the country. In fact, we can't afford not to. I told him how I really appreciated the principle behind Dean's statement that we should be the party of the guy with the Confederate flag bumper-sticker on his pickup truck: not because we can support or even tolerate such expressions of racism, but because I think most of us agree that these expressions of racism are partly the result of feelings of frustration and marginalization that have come from economic inequality, lack of opportunity, and lack of access to real power.

My brother-in-law thinks this is a pipe dream. His reaction is that the South is gone for us, and there is no way we're ever going to get it back.

A story in today's Post demonstrates why that's not true. The story's called "Rethinking Red States", and it shows what a big difference can come from even small realignments. Look at four Southern states: Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and North Carolina. As recently as 1994 the Democratic Party had the majority of the Senate and House delegations of these four states, and now we don't. If we could get back to where we were in 1994 we would have a majority in the Senate and we would make steps toward taking back the House.

Are we going to do this?

We don't know yet. Still, it's important to realize that we don't need to take over Mississippi, Alabama, and the other states of the Deep South--really dominate the region, the way the Party used to--to improve our position on the national scene. We can get some of these seats back, and we need to do just that.

What does this tell us in Vermont?

Look around the state. In Washington County, for instance, we have several legislative races in which the Republicans aren't fielding a candidate; there are one or two where the Republicans have a candidate and we don't. I'm sure the same thing is true across the state, even if there are some write-ins to fill the slots.

My point is that we have to do more than win our local races. Even in uncontested House districts we have important Senate elections to win. Even in safe Senate districts we're running statewide elections for Governor, Lite-Gov, Senate, Congress, and the other statewide offices. What we need to do in Vermont is the same thing Dean has shown us we have to do nationwide. It's not a fifty-state campaign in Vermont, it's a fourteen-county campaign.

Hard work wins elections. The R's haven't forgotten that, and we sure can't afford to.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this story reveals why the 50-state strategy makes sense:

It puts you in position to take advantage of opportunities.


July 26, 2006 9:10 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

50 State is vital, and it is long term. We need to field candiadtes at every level, all across the country, even if they lose and lose and lose at first. This is how the GOP did it post Nixon.

Thoughtful stuff

-Steve in GA

August 11, 2006 5:36 PM  
Anonymous tom mcc said...

I disagree with the title DINO, just as it bothers me to hear Republicans to refer to RINOs. If US parties were extremely orthodox in their politics, it might make sense. These perjorative terms, however, only serve to reflect that the subject of the conversation disagrees on some point(s) with the speaker, and I believe that US political parties are and should be more pragmatic than that.

August 15, 2006 10:47 PM  
Blogger Jack McCullough said...

I can understand that. Still, you agree, don't you, that there are certain positions, or certain collections of positions, that you could take that would clearly place you outside of the party you claim to be a member of. Like that right-wing wack job Zell Miller, perhaps?

August 16, 2006 12:13 AM  

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