Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Getting The Vote Out EVERYWHERE Matters

I have to say: Finally.  I've been blogging about this for years.

Somebody else is paying attention to the real problem we're having with elections in our country.

The problem we've been having when the Democratic Party ignores its' responsibility to run candidates and challenge seats everywhere at the state and Congressional levels.  Take it, Matt Yglesias at Vox:

...The presidency is extremely important, of course. But there are also thousands of critically important offices all the way down the ballot. And the vast majority — 70 percent of state legislatures, more than 60 percent of governors, 55 percent of attorneys general and secretaries of state — are in Republicans hands. And, of course, Republicans control both chambers of Congress. Indeed, even the House infighting reflects, in some ways, the health of the GOP coalition. Republicans are confident they won't lose power in the House and are hungry for a vigorous argument about how best to use the power they have.
Not only have Republicans won most elections, but they have a perfectly reasonable plan for trying to recapture the White House. But Democrats have nothing at all in the works to redress their crippling weakness down the ballot. Democrats aren't even talking about how to improve on their weak points, because by and large they don't even admit that they exist...

I keep thinking back to when Howard Dean - having been embarrassed off the stage by the mainstream elites in 2004 - got control of the Democratic Party chair and initiated a 50-State Strategy to motivate down-ticket campaigns and challenge more seats.  It energized the base, won a lot of local elections, and helped break Republican control of Congress in 2006.

For some asinine reason, the current Democratic leadership dropped that idea by 2010.  And the nation's been screwed again as more state legislatures were abandoned to Republican control.  I spotted over a third of state legislative seats here in Florida in 2014 were NOT EVEN CHALLENGED.  The rampant gerrymandering might be an excuse, but the failure of nerve by Democrats to even TRY in likely districts is inexcusable.  As Yglesias notes:

The worst part of the problem for the Democratic Party is in races that are, collectively, the most important: state government.
Elections for state legislature rarely make the national news, but they are the fundamental building blocks of American politics. Since they run the redistricting process for the US House of Representatives and for themselves, they are where the greatest level of electoral entrenchment is possible...

Those gerrymanders exist in the first place because Republicans draw the maps and screw the Democrats as much as possible.  It becomes a self-defeating problem because Democrats aren't even directly challenging it.  The party and their supporters may try for other ways to break those gerrymanders, but as long as there's a Republican-held state legislature that profits from their own map-making nothing will get fixed.

Another problem - one that Yglesias does not directly note - is that the Democrats are failing to build up a farm system of young and rising talent that at the state level would build up to Congressional elected officials and higher offices.

And this lack of activity at the state and local elections hurts voter turnout period.  As Digby herself notes:

If 80 percent of life is just showing up, Howard Dean had it right with his 50-State plan. Mark Warner got close when he told Yearly Kos in 2006, "[W]e cannot just go after 16 states and then try to hit a triple bank-shot to get Ohio or Florida." Of course, Warner meant Democrats should field a presidential candidate that could compete in 50 states. What Democrats need to do instead is strengthen state parties and compete down-ballot in 50 states. Dean understands this. If you don't show up to play, you forfeit. While we bicker about Hillary vs. Bernie, the GOP shows up to play in states where the DNC doesn't dedicate resources the way Dean wanted to.

This should be a no-brainer.  It worked in 2006 and the Republicans themselves pursue state-level motivations to win local seats.  But the Democrats keep proving themselves unable or incapable of making the same moves to recruit local talents to run for office and thus encourage local voters to support them.

A perfect example I know was the Florida Congressional District 13.  For 2014, the Democrats could have placed a reasonable candidate to challenge a vulnerable district that covered South Pinellas County with its urban and moderate population.  Yet the state-level party failed to recruit anybody and in fact fought against potential local candidates:

Ed Jany, the Marine and former police officer hailed by national and state Democratic leaders as an ideal challenger to newly elected U.S. Rep. David Jolly, dropped out of Pinellas County's 13th Congressional District race Tuesday...
Jany entered the race at the last minute, after Democrats aggressively moved to keep a prominent African-American minister from St. Petersburg, Manuel Sykes, out of the contest. In a statement, Jany said he realized he does not have the time to run for office...
The 13th Congressional District, which includes much of Pinellas County, is one of the most competitive in the country. But it appears now that Jolly will walk into a second term without a serious challenge...
In one of the other twists noted in that previous article, Jany turned out not to have been a registered Democrat nor a resident of that district at the time the party tabbed him to run.  The party was so desperate to find an appealing centrist candidate that they ignored common sense and tried to push the envelope hoping no one would notice...

It's as though the Democratic leadership is afraid of their base.  Yglesias thinks it's overconfidence at the national level - "hey if we can get Obama elected we can win with anybody for the Presidency and let the Republicans flame out" - that's hurting the Democrats.  I think it's fear.  The party leadership flinches whenever they get bullied by the Republicans and the national media about being "librul" to where they avoid the appearance of pandering in that direction.

There's a logic to that, sad to say.  If you look at the Republicans themselves: with that party, they stoke their voter turnout for local elections by bringing up appropriate Far Right candidates to fill those seats.  While they win those elections, they have the bad habit of promoting crazy-wingnut types who turn toxic at the national level.  There's a reason the GOP House is full of Far Right radicals now looking to tear everything apart.

The Democrats fear their own wingnut faction of Far Left: however, rather than address or confront that fear, the DNC tries to mollify by sticking to centrist-moderate candidates who don't appeal as well to the base, and fail to stir up enough interest to get the voter turnout.  Which becomes the self-defeating problem we as a nation (not just Democrats suffer because of this) face today.

The Democratic party leadership needs to cowboy up, as it were.  They need to trust the local organized voters in their own party to find local candidates willing and able to make the time - and deal with the stresses - of running for those state and Congressional seats.  Even if the best-possible candidates are Far Left tree-hugging pro-people safe-sex anti-war single-payer-healthcare types.

Every race should matter.  Every vote should matter.

1 comment:

dinthebeast said...

Yeah, even though California is a foregone conclusion (that I happen to agree with) at the presidential level, I still get to vote for Barbara Lee and the local races...

-Doug in Oakland