"Republicans stand the chance of controlling Congress for the rest of the decade if they don't screw it up."
September 17, 2012 12:57 AM   Subscribe

"The Republicans’ dominance in races throughout the country in the 2010 elections eviscerated the Democrats’ farm teams in state after state." Former Bill Clinton political director Doug Sosnik offers an 8-page analysis of the U.S. election that discusses the likelihood of an Obama win, the chances of a complete Republican takeover of Congress, continued Republican dominance of governorships and state legislatures for the rest of the decade, and more. There's also a related slideshow.

[via peacay's comment at the end of the long DNC thread]
posted by mediareport (85 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
very interesting read! thanks for posting.
posted by sarastro at 1:10 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


On the question of which candidate people would most like to have over for dinner, Obama beats Romney by 19 points (53%/33%).

Well, yeah. Romney's not going to beat a guy who likes Ray's Hell Burger.
posted by michaelh at 1:31 AM on September 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


Interesting read, though I found myself disturbed by its optimism for the fall election. I felt better when he talked about how screwed the Democrats are at the state level.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:38 AM on September 17, 2012


The thing I think it's important to point out that he stepped over is this: the collapse of the Democratic Party in state offices and the very thin bench of potential federal candidates are directly related to each other. At this moment, it's much more important to elect Democrats to local and state office than it is to mess with the federal horserace. If you encourage high quality candidates to win office in the minor leagues, you don't have to struggle quite as hard to fill the major league bench with stars - you just promote them from the minors.

I think this is one place where the party has completely abdicated its responsibility. It's going to end in a complete catastrophe in American politics when Democrats can no longer find 537 competent people to elevate to federal office. Then they will officially look like the Republicans in every way, not because they reject competence as the GOP has, but just because they aren't cultivating it anymore.

Of course, this is me talking outta the other side of my face. Somewhere else, I did write that you'd have to be crazy in the US to run for office at all. Maybe we're already over the cliff. Who knows?
posted by kochbeck at 2:02 AM on September 17, 2012 [22 favorites]


It is awful running for office anymore. Basically you are pimping yourself out to the highest bidder. Your life is examined so closely.
If you can't live a life which will stand public scrutiny, you don't dare run.
Even if you lead an honorable life, someone will manufacture rumors and lies which look plausible.
People who should be on your side will ultimately stab you in the back.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 2:45 AM on September 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


If you can't live a life which will stand public scrutiny, you don't dare run.

I used to have a friend who always said about his younger days, with no small amount of satisfaction, "Let's just say that there are some things in my past that will forever keep me from running for public office."

Obama seems like a decent and honorable sort of guy. As was Jimmy Carter. Johnson and Nixon were criminals. Bill Clinton was far less the man of decency that Barack Obama is.

I fail to see the correlation between "decent and honourable" and "effective." Indeed, I see quite the opposite and wish that more scoundrels would run for public office.
posted by three blind mice at 3:02 AM on September 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Whatever one may think about the nutjob public face of the party, the Republicans in 2010 showed that, when necessary, they can pull-together a solid long-term-oriented strategy and carry it through. 2010 was about one thing...reapportionment. Winning state legislatures would allow them to gerrymander a solid future.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:46 AM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Great, albeit depressing, memo.

I really hope the Dems put much more of a focus on the mid-terms in 2014 than they did in 2010. In 2010, it felt like they'd turned off the lights and gone to sleep in terms of GOTV efforts (at least where I live).
posted by longdaysjourney at 4:28 AM on September 17, 2012


In 2010, it felt like they'd turned off the lights and gone to sleep in terms of GOTV efforts (at least where I live).

I worked on the same congressional campaign in 2008 and 2010. In 2008, our candidate knocked off a Republican that wasn't expected to lose, and in 2010 we fought tooth and nail against a completely insane right-wing candidate and barely won. GOTV (knocking doors and making calls) is really reliant on volunteers, and when your base is depressed that leads to less volunteers. In '08, there was a steady stream of folks walking through the door day after day asking how they could help. We hardly had to do any volunteer recruitment. In 2010, we had to call and harass those same folks from the previous cycle to get them to walk through the door, and a lot of them never showed up.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 5:26 AM on September 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Also I think a large part of the 'thin bench' problem is the fact that we have some Democratic legislators, especially in the House, that should have retired long ago. When you've got the same guy in office for half a century, you lose some dynamism and incentive for younger politicians to continue climbing the ladder, so to speak.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 5:28 AM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I fail to see the correlation between "decent and honourable" and "effective." Indeed, I see quite the opposite and wish that more scoundrels would run for public office.
posted by three blind mice


In my country Spain, we have a surplus of scoundrels in office and would be glad to send them your way for a reasonable price. Advance payment only.
posted by Skeptic at 5:44 AM on September 17, 2012 [13 favorites]


Johnson and Nixon were criminals.

Johnson deserves so much more than to be labelled a criminal.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:48 AM on September 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


IMHO, kochbeck is really right---the presidential election is important, but getting more Dems (and better still, more liberals) into local and state offices is hugely important, and terribly neglected. Not only because it's the farm team for federal office, but also because a lot of federal directives are made real at the local level, and the local people can screw it up good if they're inclined to.
The single worst decision Obama made was letting Emmanuel muscle Dean out of the DNC chairmanship (though Dean deserves a share of the blame for letting it happen). HD was the first Dem in my lifetime to have a really coherent strategy for increasing numbers in every state, but the current leadership has drifted back to its "take the coasts, beg Ohio in election years) approach.
Admittedly, a fifty-state strategy will make a lot of coastal liberals very unhappy. Getting a Dem elected in North Dakota means accepting more Ben Nelson types into the party, and paying attention when they say what they want. But it's the only way to really change the whole country.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:48 AM on September 17, 2012 [12 favorites]


More Americans self-identify as "Independent" than as Republican, or as Democrat? Wow.
posted by doctornemo at 6:08 AM on September 17, 2012


Whatever happened to the "coming Democratic majority"?
posted by KokuRyu at 6:19 AM on September 17, 2012


Despite the candidates’ respective performances and the more than $1 billion spent on the presidential election, the basic contours of the election haven’t changed since Romney became the inevitable nominee in February...
It's surprising that political consultants can say this and still rack up those big invoices... unless of course the point of spending $1,000,000,000 on advertising is to make sure that the political contours in America don't change.
While Democrats have been vulnerable on defense since theVietnam War, Obama has consistently received high marks for his handling of foreign policy.
The country is veering further and further away from the socialmovement litmus test issues that currently dominate the Republican Party. Goneare the days when Republicans used these wedge issues to put Democrats on thedefensive.
While Democrats remain vulnerableon taxes, the vast majority of Americans perceive Republicans as supporting tax cutsfor the wealthy and Democrats as fighting for the middle class.
So, now we have two parties that believe Wall Street is the engine of economic progress, health care should be run by private business interests, social insurance is too expensive for taxpayer support, and America needs a strong military to advance it's interests across the entire globe.

There is a sort of mock surprise that Obama's "people powered" campaign of 2008 failed to translate into a sea change in US politics at the local level in 2010. But the untold story was always that the 2008 campaign was pretty rigidly controlled from the top, focused on collecting dollars, and was rolled up after the election leaving assholes like Doug Sosnik to suck up the oxygen.

Sosnik is one of the people who led Clinton into the political desert of his second term... where he completely abandoned the left-wing of the democrat party to triangulate his way to continuing power.
posted by ennui.bz at 6:23 AM on September 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


I fail to see the correlation between "decent and honourable" and "effective." Indeed, I see quite the opposite and wish that more scoundrels would run for public office.

...said the Weimar Republic.

#famouslastwords
posted by incandissonance at 6:37 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


KoKoRyu: Whatever happened to the "coming Democratic majority"?

Still on its way. As a long-term, macro demographic trend that's less sensitive to the vagaries of individual election cycles. Having three federal waves in a row is rare and has a tendency to warp our memory. The Republican coalition is heavily dependent on married white males that are a shrinking part of the electorate.

Some Republicans during the Bush years, primarily the country club types, saw this coming and tried to pass immigration reform to capitalize on already existing support within the Hispanic community. It seems unthinkable now, but Republicans once won Latinos handily because they were predisposed to social conservatism (either conservative Catholics or evangelicals) and ate up the pro-business language. After the Tea Partiers, Minutemen, and frothy wingnuts took over the party and trained their fire on immigration, the Latinos were lost for a generation much like they lost blacks after the Civil Rights movement.

Same goes with Asians, though it's little noticed. Asians voted for Dole in 96 (!!) but now are a core Democratic constituency. Democrats are gaining among key groups that are growing, and Republicans have key groups that are shrinking.

But those trends take time, measured in decades, and are affected by the micro trends of individual elections and party organization. The two party system that is brought on by first past the post elections favors stability, so an "emerging Democratic majority" might be better viewed as a temporary Democratic majority that will eventually cause a party realignment to balance things out.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 6:39 AM on September 17, 2012 [13 favorites]


That Politico article ennui.bz links, written just after the disappointing 2010 election, is good if you don't remember much about Clinton's rightward lurch in the 90s, but only mentions Sosnik briefly on the first page (which is why I didn't link it in the post). I'd never noticed Sosnik's name before last night, but it doesn't surprise me he was part of Clinton's "triangulation" team that sold out so much of the left-wing platform of the party.

So "keep his political centrism in mind as you read his current analysis" would be good advice. Thanks, ennui.bz.
posted by mediareport at 6:44 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


i just want to call attention to all the political prognosticators who proclaimed the death of the gop in 2006 and 2008. the same people who argue that an incumbent sitting on unemployment north of 8% can never be re-elected. there *may* be some truth to that last one, gods help us, but what seems evident to me is that, when it comes to predicting the future, these students of election history are pulling it out of their asses.

that is all.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 6:48 AM on September 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Johnson deserves so much more than to be labelled a criminal.

He's a complex person, but reading the new Caro volume, it's clear to me that Johnson was a criminal just for the Reynolds life insurance/bribery scandal alone (not to mention Bobby Baker or election fraud or Vietnam).
posted by mattbucher at 6:51 AM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


In the wake of the 2004 election, the Democrats reformed the DNC to put it into a state of near-constant and nationwide mobilization on the state and district level in preparation for the 2006 and 2008 elections. Combined with Obama's campaign machine, this paid off in spades.

But then something really, really weird happened in 2009 which I don't think we're going to get the details about for a few years: namely, the entire infrastructure was shut down and demobilized. That left a big power vacuum for the right wing to get organized, making them look like they had all of the energy in the absence of any Democratic party activism. And that's why the Dems got wiped out in 2010. The weird thing was that it wasn't like the White House couldn't have seen that possibility coming and couldn't have realized the necessity of ensuring that there was a strong back bench.
posted by deanc at 6:54 AM on September 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


Johnson deserves so much more than to be labelled a criminal.

I think it was because he was a criminal -- and there was no doubt of that -- he was able to do the good he did do. Fundamentally, I think he realized within a week or two of him taking the oath of office that he would never win reelection. There was simply too much dirt to cover.

So, he was freed of that constraint. He didn't have to kotow to the Dixiecrats. He could work with the Republicans and the Northern Democrats. He'd lose the election, of course, but since he also knew he'd lose anyway, losing the election was no longer a risk factor.

It also helped that he was really good at backroom politics, something that was a much larger factor than it is now. The reason Newt went home every weekend, and bullied the rest of the new GOP class into the same, is he didn't want the environment that let backroom deals happen.
posted by eriko at 6:58 AM on September 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


kochbeck: The thing I think it's important to point out that he stepped over is this: the collapse of the Democratic Party in state offices and the very thin bench of potential federal candidates are directly related to each other. At this moment, it's much more important to elect Democrats to local and state office than it is to mess with the federal horserace. If you encourage high quality candidates to win office in the minor leagues, you don't have to struggle quite as hard to fill the major league bench with stars - you just promote them from the minors.


I can't express in words how correct this is. Parties have declined in importance relative to individual candidates. Candidates that used to run their campaigns largely on stable party machinery in the days of yore now have to raise money for their own campaigns. Candidate development seems to have fallen by the wayside because the parties don't have tight control of that anymore.

Your local candidates don't necessarily come from your precinct captains or ward heelers with support from the party, they have to be candidates with strong ties to money they can raise themselves. This, by itself, isn't a bad thing: the decline of party organization is sort of tied to the opening of the primary system and the fall of machines, which is definitely a net good compared to how candidates used to be selected. The trouble is that if you don't start with a pot of money, the parties won't get involved in your race with more aid. Early Money Is Like Yeast.

I've always said that politics is dirtier and more disloyal the lower you go. Local campaigns where politicians get their start (Barack Obama would still be an obscure State Senator in Illinois if the winds of fate had not blown Jack Ryan into sketchy BDSM clubs) but the competition for resources on local ballots is brutal. Local coordinated campaigns are where loyalty goes to die, and I have seen plenty of good candidates recruited into a race be left in the trenches to perish, especially in bloody off-years. Experiences like that don't help fill the bench.

Conservatives have a vast ecosystem of think tanks and other such organizations that will put promising young activists on the payroll. I think liberals don't quite have such a strong infrastructure like that (and how would they, who do you think is funding these groups?).

It all comes back to campaign finance. If you don't start with money, the party won't give you money. And because the salaries for local offices are often puny, you have to be independently wealthy to run--especially for part-time "citizen" legislatures (a farce if I ever saw one). Running for office is a full-time job that requires you to spend every weekday calling for money, is it any wonder that corporate-tied candidates are looked upon so highly in the recruitment process?
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 7:00 AM on September 17, 2012 [18 favorites]


Oh, and...

It's surprising that political consultants can say this and still rack up those big invoices... unless of course the point of spending $1,000,000,000 on advertising is to make sure that the political contours in America don't change.


It's an attrition war. The political contours in America would certainly change if one side halved their spending. All that spending opposes each other into equilibrium.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 7:08 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Three Romney advisers told BuzzFeed the campaign's top priority now is to rally conservative Republicans, in hopes that they'll show up on Election Day,
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:10 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Romney using volunteer phone banks in Utah to campaign in key battleground states.

But later this month, the campaign is expected to begin regularly busing volunteers into Las Vegas, Grand Junction and other communities in Nevada and Colorado so they can meet face-to-face with voters.
posted by Brian B. at 7:11 AM on September 17, 2012


On the question of which candidate people would most like to have over for dinner, Obama beats Romney by 19 points (53%/33%).

Well, yeah. Romney's not going to beat a guy who likes Ray's Hell Burger.
AND who brings the beer.
posted by notyou at 7:12 AM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fundamentally, I think he realized within a week or two of him taking the oath of office that he would never win reelection. There was simply too much dirt to cover.

I'd always assumed it was the war. If you have evidence of other problems, I would love to hear about it.
posted by BWA at 7:18 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


But then something really, really weird happened in 2009 which I don't think we're going to get the details about for a few years: namely, the entire infrastructure was shut down and demobilized. That left a big power vacuum for the right wing to get organized, making them look like they had all of the energy in the absence of any Democratic party activism. And that's why the Dems got wiped out in 2010. The weird thing was that it wasn't like the White House couldn't have seen that possibility coming and couldn't have realized the necessity of ensuring that there was a strong back bench.
I've been flummoxed by this, too. The Democrats turned away from Howard Dean's national strategy, which was effective, and let Obama for America wither on the vine, despite its successes in organization and infrastructure.

Too much small "d" democracy for party elites, one supposes.
posted by notyou at 7:22 AM on September 17, 2012


I'd always assumed it was the war. If you have evidence of other problems, I would love to hear about it.

From what I understand, his decision not to run for office again was because of the war and Bobby Kennedy.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:23 AM on September 17, 2012


I'd always assumed it was the war. If you have evidence of other problems, I would love to hear about it.

According to Caro's new book, Life Magazine was preparing to do a story about Lyndon Johnson's ties to Bobby Baker, who was involved with any number of corrupt activities, and even a sex scandal with ties to Russian spies. It would have been the end of Johnson politically, but Kennedy was assassinated and Life decided to pull the story. Interestingly, Caro then describes how Johnson used his new political power to silence vocal newspaper critics.

So he was definitely corrupt, but, then again, he really played a key role in implementing various Civil Rights bills in 1964 and 1965, plus the Great Society policies. So he was a great man in that regard.

However, there was also Vietnam...

It's too bad public figures can't be judged for separate achievements (and crimes).
posted by KokuRyu at 7:27 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


But then something really, really weird happened in 2009 which I don't think we're going to get the details about for a few years: namely, the entire infrastructure was shut down and demobilized. That left a big power vacuum for the right wing to get organized, making them look like they had all of the energy in the absence of any Democratic party activism. And that's why the Dems got wiped out in 2010. The weird thing was that it wasn't like the White House couldn't have seen that possibility coming and couldn't have realized the necessity of ensuring that there was a strong back bench.

Yes, what the hell happened here? It seemed like a brain dead solution, to build up Democratic candidates locally. Then it was shut down. I remember Rahm was blamed for that, since it he hated Howard Dean and he thought the 50 states plan was bullshit for some reason.

Obama's going to get a second term, but it's really odd that the DNC isn't building off his popularity and power.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:28 AM on September 17, 2012


I think it was because he was a criminal -- and there was no doubt of that -- he was able to do the good he did do. Fundamentally, I think he realized within a week or two of him taking the oath of office that he would never win reelection. There was simply too much dirt to cover.

So, he was freed of that constraint. He didn't have to kotow to the Dixiecrats. He could work with the Republicans and the Northern Democrats. He'd lose the election, of course, but since he also knew he'd lose anyway, losing the election was no longer a risk factor.


He won reelection in 1964.

I think the Caro books are painting LBJ in a much more sinister light than he deserves. Some reviews compare it to a swiftboating.
posted by gjc at 7:29 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think he realized within a week or two of him taking the oath of office that he would never win reelection.

I think you're confusing your timeline, Erico.

After succeeding Kennedy in 1963, Johnson was elected in his own right in 1964 in one of the biggest landslide presidential elections in US history, affording him the political capital to do the good that he did.

It's true he did not stand for re-election in 1968, but that was four years later. It was trying to simutaneously wage the "War on Poverty" and the War in Viet Nam and the lies, lies, lies about the latter from him and virtually everyone else in power at the time, that sank him.

It's a bit premature to say that he'd drawn that conclusion in early December 1964.
 
posted by Herodios at 7:33 AM on September 17, 2012


Obama's going to get a second term, but it's really odd that the DNC isn't building off his popularity and power.

Obama was Wall Street's guy in 2008, the whole direct to the people, OFA, get people involved directly in government through individual text messages thing was a lark, intended to be just part of a tech-savvy campaign appeal. Once the right guy was in power and ready to sign off on retroactive immunity, zero prosecutions, ramped up drone wars, infinite bank bailouts, etc, they realized how dangerous an actually engaged citizenry is to entrenched interests and shut that shit down real quick.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:46 AM on September 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think the Caro books are painting LBJ in a much more sinister light than he deserves.

Any evidence for this? Caro meticulously documents Johnson's vote fraud, bribe-taking, misogyny, ruthless humiliation of rivals and underlings and sycophancy towards superiors, strategic championing of racial segregation until it suited him to change, and much more that is, yes, sinister.

Of course he also did quite a bit of good in the end too.
posted by shivohum at 7:48 AM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's laughable to portray a colossal effort that has taken Caro more than 20 years (so far!) as "swiftboating". That said, some of my friends from Texas are definitely unhappy about the Years of Lyndon Johnson series, particularly Master of the Senate.

However, it makes one wonder how any other American president would stand up to Caro's scrutiny. His all-to-brief portraits of JFK and RFK in the latest book are fascinating, and disturbing. I would love to see someone do a similar book (or series of books) on FDR.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:52 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


After succeeding Kennedy in 1963, Johnson was elected in his own right in 1964 in one of the biggest landslide presidential elections in US history

In 1964, the radical, right wing John Birch Society (not unlike the modern Tea Baggers) engineered a take-over of the GOP and put Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater on the ticket. It would be as if Ron Paul had won this year's Republican primary and not Mitt Rockefeller, I mean Romney. (Funny how GOP politics just repeats itself.)

affording him the political capital to do the good that he did.

No sir. Whilst Johnson still benefitted from the good-will Kennedy's assassination engendered, the election, despite its result, was not received as a sweeping mandate. Recall that Nixon won a similar landslide in 1968.

Johnson achieved what he achieved through bare-knuckle politics and that's a sort of character which doesn't sell well today, but which is sorely needed.

Obama doesn't have that kind of game and he never will.
posted by three blind mice at 7:55 AM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Obama was Wall Street's guy in 2008,

Not according to anyone at the time. They were terrified of what he might do.
posted by gjc at 7:56 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Once the right guy was in power and ready to sign off on retroactive immunity, zero prosecutions, ramped up drone wars, infinite bank bailouts, etc, they realized how dangerous an actually engaged citizenry is to entrenched interests and shut that shit down real quick.

Did I miss something? Was McCain/Palin promising not to do this these things and thus Obama and the DNC 50 state were kept in place just to get him to win?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:58 AM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


More Americans self-identify as "Independent" than as Republican, or as Democrat? Wow.

Most of them are lying to themselves.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:58 AM on September 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


I am glad I'm not the only one that could see Emmanuel's purging of Howard Dean as a stupid and ultimately destructive act.
posted by Ber at 8:01 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's an attrition war. The political contours in America would certainly change if one side halved their spending. All that spending opposes each other into equilibrium.

That's easy to say but a large part of the function of saturating a media market is to make the barrier of entry higher for competitors. And then when you look at the specifics: take Elizabeth Warren for Mass. Senate, a candidate who was a lightning rod for very specific criticisms of Wall Street, but once she was blessed by the Dem. establishment she has a run a very bland and expensive campaign about "personality." if you have nothing to say, you have to say it ad infinitum in order to gain a presence. The upshot is that a campaign that could have been about alternatives to the bailout and an agenda for taking the economy away from being driven by Wall Street interests has become about which candidate you would rather BBQ with... sound familiar?

However, it makes one wonder how any other American president would stand up to Caro's scrutiny. His all-to-brief portraits of JFK and RFK in the latest book are fascinating, and disturbing. I would love to see someone do a similar book (or series of books) on FDR.

Yeah, take a microscope to the Kennedys and see how they look. I mean, take away the camelot branding and you don't need much of a microscope. Who are you left with: Eisenhower and Truman. A cardboard cutout military hero and a man who wasn't supposed to be president... twice. Look at the post-war US political establishment with a microscope and it's dirt all the way down.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:02 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Obama doesn't have that kind of game and he never will.

That's my biggest takeaway from the latest Caro book. For all the people who think Caro has done a hatchet job on Johnson, they ought to remember that Caro also points out that the Kennedy gang never, ever listened to Johnson's advice about anything, in this case how the Senate worked, and, for that reason, would never, ever push through a meaningful Civil Rights bill. The arrogance of the Kennedy clan is just stunning, and what makes it worse is that they received all of credit for none of the success.

Johnson knew how to count, and he understood how to use the rules of the Senate to get things done. One wonders what would have happened if Johnson were in the White House a year or so ago during the budget crisis. According to Bob Woodward, Obama's team didn't have Boehner's phone number when he became Majority Leader.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:03 AM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am glad I'm not the only one that could see Emmanuel's purging of Howard Dean as a stupid and ultimately destructive act.

But he's off in Chicago now, so why isn't the 50 states policy back on the table?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:07 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The OFA organization that Obama created in 2008 was never really well integrated into the Democratic Party itself. Part of it is the natural tendency of party leaders to want to hold on to power, keeping the rabble away from seizing their county and state committees, but a lot of it was that many Obama volunteers weren't Democrats at heart.

They were Obama supporters at heart, and a great deal of them simply vanished in November 2008 despite hounding and recruiting from the better-organized county committees. They weren't terribly interested in becoming precinct captains or county committeemen, and you can't change a party until you start controlling the county parties. When the midterms and off-year elections came around, the Obama 2008 volunteer recruitment lists were about as good as dirt.

Sure, internecine backbiting scared a lot of them away, but the Obama campaign created a separate and parallel organization dedicated to him, how easy do you think a transition would have been? Even now, the OFA people are often different than the Committee people.

Some of them came back this year. Many of them were one-offs that did their One Presidential Campaign in their lifetimes and will never be seen again. A small portion stayed on and became integral parts of the party organization. But a party organization is a different task than a campaign organization, it takes loyal Democrats, not just loyal Obama supporters. The enthusiastic team leaders for Obama were not always the same people as the precinct captain who knows every street in their turf and how many Democrats there are.

Loyal Democrats will work for every candidate on the ticket, and hate infighting. If your loyalties are to your candidate first, you will happily drop downtickets into the abyss.

The demise of the 50 state program was more damaging than the uneasy OFA-Democrats relationship. It was working. A great deal of our 2006 and 2008 success was due to macro trends (anyone could have won a race in a decent district with a wave like that, and many did), but we were seeing new precinct captains and the like.

There isn't, shall we say, a lot of indoctrination in the Democratic party (on balance a good thing, but it leads to things like this.) The old joke has truth to it...I am a member of no organized party. I'm a Democrat.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 8:09 AM on September 17, 2012 [11 favorites]


Soooooo... let's say Obama wins. How much does he have to win by before a coattail effect is seen and will that effect be relatively equivalent across all downticket races and if so, how much does he need to win by to shore up the senate and regain the house? And what are the chances at the present moment of that happening?
posted by peacay at 8:21 AM on September 17, 2012



I've been flummoxed by this, too. The Democrats turned away from Howard Dean's national strategy, which was effective, and let Obama for America wither on the vine, despite its successes in organization and infrastructure.

Loss of control. In 2008 there was the possibility that the Democratic base would finally become a proper mass movement/party once again, threatening the power of those who control the party. Obama was there to hijack this movement for his election and once he was in the White House, the party elite made sure to shut down the infrastructure which threatened them.

What you have to understand about the Democratic Party is that a) institutionally it agrees with about 90-95 percent of what the Republicans do when in power and b) rather stay the eternal second party than relinquish control over "the left" or risk becoming an effective opposition party and styming their opponent's agenda, when so much of it is their own. The Democratic strategy since at least Nixon has been to get the voters so fed up by Republican mismanagement and corruption that they flock to the Democrats again, then do some damage limitation before the Republicans do a come back and the cycle starts again.

If you're a leftwing activist the party forever looks to be shooting itself in the foot, ineffective in opposition or power, crippled by a "minority" of centrist interests which surely, one day now, will disappear. The reality is that the centrists have always been in power in the party and the left wing is only tolerated.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:22 AM on September 17, 2012 [12 favorites]


Conservatives have a vast ecosystem of think tanks and other such organizations that will put promising young activists on the payroll. I think liberals don't quite have such a strong infrastructure like that (and how would they, who do you think is funding these groups?).

The late, lamented Steve Gilliard (who, not coincidently was one of the smartest leftwing Democratic bloggers and who died in poverty of a kidney disease) had that as his hobby horse, that the Democratic party and its sponsors just didn't offer the same sort of wingnut welfare the right did.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:25 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Most of them are lying to themselves.

That line has always really bothered me - not least because it erases the importance of self-identity to things like donating and volunteering - but rather than get into it, I'll just quote from the article Pope Guilty linked:

Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary's College of Maryland...says independents who say they lean toward a particular party — especially those who favor Democrats — are actually more likely to switch sides from one election to another.

"In any given election, yes, they do vote like people who say, 'I'm a strong Republican' or 'I'm a strong Democrat,' " he says. "But if you follow them across time, they are less loyal to that party from election to election.

Eberly says this behavior accounts for the frequent power shifts in Congress. "The fact that [independents] from one congressional cycle to the next will switch their support adds to the instability in politics right now, where one party cannot hold onto power for much more than one or two election cycles," he says.


The jury's kind of still out, and while it's easy to understand why party officials might feel good about blithely dismissing the millions of people who consciously choose to not identify with either major party as "lying to themselves, end of story," that's never seemed very smart.
posted by mediareport at 8:26 AM on September 17, 2012


Eberly says this behavior accounts for the frequent power shifts in Congress.

Except that it is far more likely that the power shifts in congress can be accounted for by shifts in turnout of the respective party bases rather than "independents" who are either too embarrassed to admit their party affiliations or not very engaged in the first place.
posted by deanc at 8:59 AM on September 17, 2012



In 1964, the radical, right wing John Birch Society (not unlike the modern Tea Baggers) engineered a take-over of the GOP and put Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater on the ticket.

In the movie version, maybe. In real life, nothing remotely like this occured. Goldwater had been laying the groundwork for a run for president since the late 1950s. In 1964, he was endorsed by former president Eisenhower. The John Birch Society as such was no more a factor that was the DAR.

affording him the political capital to do the good that he did.

the election, despite its result, was not received as a sweeping mandate.


Correct, which is why I wrote "political capital" not "sweeping mandate". The former being a minimal requirement regardless of what the president wears on his knuckles.

Recall that Nixon won a similar landslide in 1968.

In 1968, Nixon barely defeated the sitting VP, H3, with Wallace a spoiler.

1972 was the landslide, against the weak and disasterous campaign of relative unknown Eugene McCarthy. Which makes Watergate all the more pathetic.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:06 AM on September 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


rather than "independents" who are either too embarrassed to admit their party affiliations or not very engaged in the first place.

Maybe. But how do you get them engaged? Surely not by ignoring their own definitions of themselves. Since when has that been politically wise? It's strange to me that dismissing what people say about themselves only seems to be the norm among party political operatives when they're talking about voters who identify as independent. Everyone else gets pandered to explicitly and often, but it's like the majority of voters who now self-identify as independent are some kind of invisible third rail your candidate is never, ever supposed to talk about, let alone directly address as such.

Weird.
posted by mediareport at 9:11 AM on September 17, 2012


rather than "independents" who are either too embarrassed to admit their party affiliations or not very engaged in the first place.

Maybe. But how do you get them engaged? Surely not by ignoring their own definitions of themselves. Since when has that been politically wise? It's strange to me that dismissing what people say about themselves only seems to be the norm among party political operatives when they're talking about voters who identify as independent. Everyone else gets pandered to explicitly and often, but it's like the majority of voters who now self-identify as independent are some kind of invisible third rail your candidate is never, ever supposed to talk about, let alone directly address as such.


Don't confuse more Americans self-identifying as independent, and more VOTERS self-identifying as independent. Elections are swung on independents and getting out the vote. Anyone who ignores one versus the other is usually the loser.
posted by gjc at 9:22 AM on September 17, 2012


It's strange to me that dismissing what people say about themselves only seems to be the norm among party political operatives when they're talking about voters who identify as independent. Everyone else gets pandered to explicitly and often,

Uhh.... don't we have annual events of trying to form a party of or movement of a "middle way" that will "ignore both extremes"? This was the concept behind "Unity 08", "Americans Elect", and others. Don't politicians sometimes obsess over attracting "swing voters"?

In fact it's just the opposite-- the number of true "swing voters" is very, very small. People vote because they have a strong opinion about something. The big "swing elections" like in 2006, 2008, and 2010 happened because one side had a highly motivated base and the other side had a highly depressed base, not because there was some big switch in so-called "independents" who would have otherwise voted for the opposite party.

I'm not a politician, so I don't personally have to pander to someone's self-perception (which may be politically necessary), and that's not what I'm trying to do here. What I'm trying to do is point out what the dynamics really are.
posted by deanc at 9:24 AM on September 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


LBJ was the lying, bullying, amoral, womanizing sonofabitch that we're glad was actually on the right side at the right time when Civil Rights for minority races hit America's fan.

And I'm not sure he was on the right side for the right reasons... but I don't care, since the Civil Rights Act is bedrocked in law and he's dead.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:07 AM on September 17, 2012


And I'm not sure he was on the right side for the right reasons... but I don't care, since the Civil Rights Act is bedrocked in law and he's dead.


Every single American with a shred of decency towards the common man should be eternally grateful for LBJ.

Without the Immigration Act (Hart-Cellar) of 1965 and the Voting Rights Act, there would be no President Obama. End of story.

No hero is perfect. He may have sent tens of thousands to die in Vietnam, but LBJ has saved or improved hundreds of millions of lives since through those pieces of legislation. FDR gave us Social Security, but interned the Japanese Americans. These are the contradictory legacies of men.

Defending the legacy of LBJ is hardly a winning or motivating issue this year, but liberals would do well to remember that the very fact we have a chance at all to win any elections is through the minority vote that Hart-Cellar and Voting Rights brought on. Without those two pieces of legislation, the minorities that helped push Obama over the top would be wasting away in the villages they would have escaped, and America would be a bible-thumping bastion of backwards white men.

Medicare, a program that has given millions of years of extra life to seniors all across the nation is only LBJ's second greatest achievement after the Civil Rights bills, and it will almost certainly perish if Republicans take full control.

People wonder why I'm a liberal Democrat. Because if it wasn't for them, I would be nothing.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 10:21 AM on September 17, 2012 [19 favorites]


Doug Sosnick is a really smart guy and this was pretty interesting to read. I think he's dead-on about the lack of a bench for the Dems and Hollywood Upstairs Medical College pretty much nails why that is. Since the 90s (and maybe earlier), the GOP has done a much, much better job recruiting, training and supporting candidates and activists at the local level. A lot of it comes down to money - there's just a lot more money on the conservative side than the liberal side. But I also think that Democrats have more of a tendency to build the party around charismatic personality at the top of the ticket (Clinton, Obama) than the GOP. Like the saying goes, "Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line."

Another thing to remember is that a thin bench can have long-term implications if it's not corrected - but it's also a potentially short-term problem. Sosnick points out that a lot of the GOP's current local strength comes from having incorporated the Tea Party movement - but the GOP didn't so much co-opt or declaw the movement as it did absorb it. And the fact remains that the GOP is going to have a harder and harder time winning majorities as the nation's demographics change unless the party really does some house-cleaning on its more extreme socially conservative factions (not to mention the outright bigots). And that's hard to do when you've recently revived your party's strength based on the support of those very factions. For instance, there's increasing buzz about Texas becoming a swing state - it's not likely to happen anytime soon, but it will happen if the GOP continues to be hostile to Latino voters.
posted by lunasol at 10:55 AM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


No hero is perfect. He may have sent tens of thousands to die in Vietnam,

While I agree with your assessment of LBJ (and I'm not even an American) I think the Indochina bombing campaigns were a greater crime than the draft.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:08 AM on September 17, 2012


What I'm trying to do is point out what the dynamics really are.
Those dynamics that you speak of... they're like a gas or liquid: they take the shape of whatever container they're in. Trying to identify them as having a single, factual shape or consistency is invalid on it's face.

A more realistic view is that every election cycle is vastly different. At certain times disenfranchised voters stayed home, at others they show up in great numbers.

I think the ironic corollary is the concept that more than 90% of the time in the past 100 years the American people vote one party into office during a presidential election, and then a completely different party into office during the mid-term cycle.

And the Obama for America thing... at some point in time the key individuals had to focus their efforts on running a federal office. A number of potential cabinet positions were turned away because of that "transparency" thing that Obama was big on at the time. So the number of big names/management types was limited. But I believe the concept was for the local offices to be up and running on their own, but that never happened. It was like a sunflower that grows and grows in the sunlight, but once the light itself shines on something else the flower dies quickly.
posted by Blue_Villain at 11:18 AM on September 17, 2012


I'm not a politician, so I don't personally have to pander to someone's self-perception (which may be politically necessary), and that's not what I'm trying to do here.

Yeah, I think we're talking a bit past one another, deanc; I'm mostly just curious as to why so many political consultants seem so bent on denigrating registered independents as "myths" instead of running with the category as a way to excite folks who'd ordinarily be in their base. Does that make sense? I concede you're absolutely right that candidates do better to excite their base than alienate it while chasing after that small sliver of true swing voters. Funny how that's not what I'm seeing as centrist Dems consistently do the opposite in so many Congressional elections.

(sidenote: I don't think scam outfits like Americans Elect really count here; who the fuck knows what that was really about but thank god it's over.)
posted by mediareport at 11:23 AM on September 17, 2012


Do the Republicans really have a deeper bench at the moment? Their last few presidential primaries haven't exactly shown much. This is a party that's still dragging Tim Pawlenty around as if he's in some way the future of something. Who's on tap for 2016? Paul Ryan, I guess. Jeb Bush? Marco Rubio? Chris Christie? God help us, Bobby Jindal?

Even in lower-level races, the party's obsession with absolute adherence to an ever more conservative doctrine is hurting them with people like Todd Akin and a few others who are primed to blow Senate races in what should be a safe Republican state. The Tea Party Movement almost certainly cost the party Senate seats last time around, even if it helped gain seats in the House.

Now, that's not to deny that the Republican Party has focused a whole lot more on local and state races to their great benefit, and I am a big fan of the 50 State Strategy. However, I'm not seeing a whole lot of great results for the Republicans in terms of the people at the very top of the party structure. Maybe I'm underestimating them and overestimating the Democrats, but, again, this is a party that's had two humiliatingly bad Presidential primaries in the last 4 years.
posted by Copronymus at 11:28 AM on September 17, 2012


Yeah, I think we're talking a bit past one another, deanc; I'm mostly just curious as to why so many political consultants seem so bent on denigrating registered independents as "myths" instead of running with the category as a way to excite folks who'd ordinarily be in their base.

In short, because "Independent" is catch-all. They have very little in common with each other. Hardly a group that can be specifically motivated. It'd be quite inefficient compared to base mobilization. Puncturing the myth of the independent voter is more about putting to rest the idea that you should or should not do things because The Independents, a Group, are going to Like or Dislike it. Independent as an identity is by definition a negation instead of an affirmation. They don't get treated as a group because they are not a group.

Example: What do Independents think about Obama on gay marriage? Who cares?! That's a base mobilizer, and Independents dont have special issues they like as a group.

You obviously need both mobilization and persuasion, but mobilization is efficient. Persuasion doesn't help you very much if your floor is too low because your base is staying home.

Independents are no more a cohesive group than "non-fish" are a proper biological grouping of marine animals.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 11:30 AM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Do the Republicans really have a deeper bench at the moment?

Think a little longer term. Republicans have wide majorities in state legislatures, even in deep blue states.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 11:32 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Romney using volunteer phone banks in Utah to campaign in key battleground states.

This isn't a good move. It only serves to bring his Mormonism in as an issue. Conservative Christian evangelicals have, so-far, managed to ignore it, but if his campaign begins to look like a run for a "Mormon" presidency, there may be a big backlash among the more strident evangelicals.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:17 PM on September 17, 2012


Loss of control. In 2008 there was the possibility that the Democratic base would finally become a proper mass movement/party once again, threatening the power of those who control the party. Obama was there to hijack this movement for his election and once he was in the White House, the party elite made sure to shut down the infrastructure which threatened them.

No. What happened was Obama won. Once Bush was no longer president a significant chunk of all those volunteers let out a whoop of celebration and decided, "you know what, I've spent 8 years being angry every damn day, and I'm done with it." It's amazing how many people I know went from being ultra-informed about the political situation to barely knowing what was going on.
posted by aspo at 12:45 PM on September 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


Doug Sosnick is a really smart guy and this was pretty interesting to read. I think he's dead-on about the lack of a bench for the Dems and Hollywood Upstairs Medical College pretty much nails why that is. Since the 90s (and maybe earlier), the GOP has done a much, much better job recruiting, training and supporting candidates and activists at the local level. A lot of it comes down to money - there's just a lot more money on the conservative side than the liberal side. But I also think that Democrats have more of a tendency to build the party around charismatic personality at the top of the ticket (Clinton, Obama) than the GOP. Like the saying goes, "Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line."

but as has been pointed out above, this is not news. Howard Dean's "50 State Strategy" was the raison d'etre of dailykos for years. but, people like Sosnick and Rahm Emmanuel have a sneering contempt for the "activist" base of the Democratic party. Even a center-right politician like Dean couldn't make headway because local party building for the Dems would give power to people the top consider to be worse than the tea partiers: antiwar/peace, free mumia, antinuclear, organic food, etc...
posted by ennui.bz at 12:57 PM on September 17, 2012


Why the Republicans Will Never Change, Cont'd.
posted by homunculus at 1:02 PM on September 17, 2012


Back to the Future
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:33 PM on September 17, 2012


I wonder sometimes if Democrats are perhaps a little overly optimistic that the demographic shifts in the ethnic makeup of America will always benefit them. Or, maybe I should just say that perhaps Democrats should take care not to take this for granted and continue work to work to be the party that best represents the interests of our growing non-white population.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:48 PM on September 17, 2012


Related: An Obama Supreme Court Versus a Romney High Court.
posted by ericb at 1:57 PM on September 17, 2012


One of the first things that disappointed me with Obama was that he did not find a place for Howard Dean. Dean's 50-state strategy was brilliant, he did so much for the party and then he was kicked to the sidelines, not once but twice. Back-room disagreements are one thing, but his contributions should have been acknowledged. Apparently, he's too much of a threat to the entrenched party power structure.

I wonder how health care might have gone if he had been the champion and public face.

He's been a good soldier tho - whatever personal disappointment he has had from this slight, he's out there stumping for Obama again.

I have great respect for him. When he asks for money, that's something I always consider.
posted by madamjujujive at 2:01 PM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dean's 50-state strategy was brilliant

And he was the first Dem I can recall who'd refuse to be drawn into the "some are saying . . . How do you respond?" type interview questions that only Dems seem to get asked.

My heart soared like a hawk when he'd say, "I don't respond to hypotheticals, Judy. If you have a statement from an actual person, I'll be happy to give my opinion of it."

Let us have more of this, please.
 
posted by Herodios at 2:22 PM on September 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


Romney Tells Millionaire Donors What He REALLY Thinks of Obama Voters: When he doesn't know a camera's rolling, the GOP candidate shows his disdain for half of America.
posted by homunculus at 2:29 PM on September 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


Wow homunculus, that's a stunning video.
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 2:48 PM on September 17, 2012


I feel like this is a little bit like the "clinging to guns and religion" statement that dogged Obama during the last election. Except meaner. And without the "yeah, but it has lots of truth to it even though it doesn't sound flattering to hear it" bit.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:49 PM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it

We call them "red states." They're happy to take government handouts while bitching about big government and demonize the blue state coastal elites that subsidize them.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:10 PM on September 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


I like the part where he says it's too bad he wasn't born Hispanic. Holy shit.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:24 PM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Romney Tells Millionaire Donors What He REALLY Thinks of Obama Voters: When he doesn't know a camera's rolling, the GOP candidate shows his disdain for half of America.

The video is also being discussed in this thread.
posted by ericb at 3:32 PM on September 17, 2012


Thanks, eric. It's hard to keep up with all these threads. Heading over....
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 3:44 PM on September 17, 2012


Romney Tells Millionaire Donors What He REALLY Thinks of Obama Voters: When he doesn't know a camera's rolling, the GOP candidate shows his disdain for half of America.

Current headlines on Fox News:

Intel Source Challenges Obama's Account of Deadly Consulate Attack

Social Security Errors May Cost Taxpayers Millions

City Floats Plan to Purge Downtown of Pooches

Treasure Trove of Gold Found in Dead Man's Home
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:01 PM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


rather than "independents" who are either too embarrassed to admit their party affiliations or not very engaged in the first place.

That's a textbook example of psychological projection. I would further note that voter independence straddles other parties besides the two majors, and also comment that the American voting system favors only two parties, which is a stealth form of centrism. State laws also give incentive to party affiliation depending on open or closed primaries structures.
posted by Brian B. at 4:08 PM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


take Elizabeth Warren for Mass. Senate, a candidate who was a lightning rod for very specific criticisms of Wall Street, but once she was blessed by the Dem. establishment she has a run a very bland and expensive campaign about "personality."

Elizabeth Warren Moves on Up
posted by homunculus at 12:34 AM on September 19, 2012


I present the Obama-Romney Presidential Debate Drinking Game
posted by exogenous at 1:24 PM on October 1, 2012


« Older Celebrity Pu$$y (SLTumblr)[via]...  |  The Monkees' 1968 film 'Head'... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments