Friday, November 10, 2006

Random thoughts on the election

We obviously have a lot to celebrate this year, both in Vermont and nationally, and we should. We should also take this opportunity to learn from what happened, and to try to figure out what to do next time. I have several thoughts about this and I'm sure I'll have more. Still, here's a start:

1. The Fifty State Strategy worked. It was just a few months ago that I was asking whether the Fifty State Strategy was nuts, and now here we are, winning Senate and House seats all across the country. It certainly appears that Howard Dean was right in arguing that we should be building the Party and contesting elections all over the country.

But . . .

2. The Fifty State Strategy worked. Look around at the winners, and we can just take the last two who were declared, Jon Tester and Jim Webb as examples, and we see that a lot of the new Democratic Senators and Representatives are not the kind of Democrats that we here identify with. The D's will organize both houses of Congress, and get all the committee chairs, but liberal Democrats won't necessarily be happy with everything they do. Among other things, this will mean we need to keep the pressure on them. It also means, of course, that the wingers who keep claiming that the Democratic Party has been completely taken over by bomb-throwers whose politics run from Howard Dean to Fidel Castro have always been either lying or self-deluded.

3. Rove isn't as smart as everyone claims. Sure, the wingers were all over the place in the last few weeks before the election, proclaiming their confidence that the R's were going to hold the House and the Senate. That was clearly just spin, and there is no way that they actually believed it. On the other hand, they didn't fire Rummy until the day after the election. This seems like pretty good evidence to me that they either thought they were going to win, or they thought they had a good shot at it. If they thought they were going to lose they would have had to figure that firing Rumsfeld might help, and yet they didn't do it.

4. John Odum was right about what it would take to defeat Douglas. The problem was partly that the Parker campaign didn't do it, but partly that there was't enough time. Douglas has held statewide office all but two years since 1980, which means he had many years to give people the impression that he was a reasonable, moderate guy. Maybe that used to be the truth, but the new Douglas, Douglas 2.0--gubernatorial model, is entirely different. He is not either moderate or well-intentioned, and his competence appears limited to campaigning. If you talk to almost anyone who works in state government, at any level, they can tell you how his appointments have weakened the administrative agencies and have often been at odds with the mission of the agencies themselves. We have two years to get the truth out, but it's not going to happen if we wait until 2008.

5. is great, and needs to get even better. Moveon members made literally millions of calls across the country to mobilize support for Democratic candidates. This is a tremendous grass roots resource, and we need to strengthen ties between the Democratic Party and They clearly had the message that we've always needed that you can't stop campaigning until it's over: on Tuesday night, probably after midnight, I logged on and they were having me call Alaska to get supporters. I thought this was just great.

On the other hand, they seemed to be a bit lacking in the LOS research. Even on Tuesday the scripts I was getting for calls were persuasive scripts, whereas here in Vermont we were doing purely GOTV calls to known supporters. It's hard to believe we were going to change anyone's mind on their way out the door to vote, so the last day push should have been all GOTV. Maybe that's one of the next steps.

6. Racism still works. If you ever have trouble remembering how low the Republicans can go, remember what they did to Harold Ford.Iknow that Hillary Clinton's people are terrified of Barack Obama because they think the South will stop the bleeding on Super Tuesday if she loses Iowa and New Hampshire, but the continued willingness of the Republican Party to make vicious racist attacks when it suits their purposes should be a cautionary note against overconfidence.

I'm sure there's more, but that's what's right at the top of my head.

Good work, everybody!


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