Post Tragedy Observations from the Outback

Microscope Lens

My county went bright crimson RED.  The Orange One got 70.28% of the vote. [HuSoS]  Representative Joe Heck, ousted from Congress by Catherine Cortez Masto’s well organized operation in the southland, got 68.8%.  This is deep Red Country.  No surprise here, since of the 8696 voters in this outback area some 4663 of them are Republicans.   Heaven help them they voted against their own interests, without  perhaps giving the matter too much thought?

We brand things in this region – things described as having “hides” rather than “skin.”  Republican type  branding has been very successful with these folks, and it has been since the 1980s.  The packaging has been effective even when the policies were not.

Republicans grabbed the FLAG. It’s all over town. It’s Patriotic! (If not just a little bit alarmingly militaristic.)  They decried “Big Government” and “socialism” even if they really didn’t exactly understand the nature of regulation – they understood the Big Idea – not necessarily the ramifications of it. 

For example, they don’t like government regulations.  They do, however, want to drink clean water, breathe clean air, and eat in sanitary restaurants.  They don’t want “Big Government,” but they do like having a massive military system with world class armaments.  Some of the anti-government types are all for big government when it means no safe and legal abortions and birth control for women.   The point is that by speaking in broad, highly generalized, catch phrases the Republicans branded themselves with Americana in bright hues and tones.   Taken to its obvious extrapolation we get the disaster that is currently Kansas.  There are some ways out of this mess, but it’s going to take a bit of time and effort.  Some ‘off the top of the head suggestions:’

#1. Former Governor Howard Dean is correct: “Mechanics Matter.”  The recent Senate race in Nevada is evidence of that point.  Representative Heck was, quite simply, out-organized. Cortez-Masto got her people to the polls in large enough numbers to beat back Heck’s efforts. She held her base in the rurals and won the two urban counties. That takes organization.

However, organization takes infrastructure.  While the Democrats have done an exemplary job of increasing voter registrations in urban areas, they’ve not been all that visible in the rural areas. And, it’s hard to blame them. They’re fighting uphill and into the wind.  It’s going to require both a top down and bottom up effort.

Top Down – the national Democratic Party needs to focus.  They have an issue available  which should serve well to organize the opposition to the Orange One’s administration, a path suggested by primary candidate Bernie Sanders – income inequality.  There’s no reason not to grab onto this one and run, and keep running.

The Democrats also have an opportunity to re-brand the GOP.  It’s no longer the Party of Lincoln – and hasn’t been for some time.  With neo-Nazi anti-Semite Steve Bannon selected as the 2nd in command in the west wing, the argument isn’t hard to make that the GOP has become the Party of Intolerance and Bigotry.  With the North Carolina KKK holding a parade in honor of The Orange One’s election, the argument is even clearer.  There’s no reason not to grab this opportunity as well, and run, and keep running.

Third, the Democrats are going to have to address the crumbled infrastructure of its organization in rural areas.  A fifty state plan is nice, but if there’s no effort to get into the rural areas of all 50 states and build from the ground up with young people who aren’t comfortable with income inequality and bigotry, then Democrats will continue to be the urban party of “anti-elitists.”

The Party will also be best served if it has some institutional infrastructure built in.  It’s no accident that the Richard Mellon Scaife’s and Koch Brothers of this world have established national think tanks and information outlets which support conservative – and ultra conservative – causes.  The Democrats and liberals need to boost their efforts in this department.

Bottom Up – All it will take to give the GOP total control over constitutional amendments is the loss of one more state legislature.  Think about that for a moment.  This means that State Party organizations are going to have to do a better job of state election campaigning.  Better candidate preparation, including getting candidates elected to city and county positions; better candidate recruitment; better candidate support.  And this will take … money.   These things don’t happen without staff, without advertising, without press and media relations, without printing and media expenses, and all of these cost money.   Volunteers are wonderful people, but if they don’t have staff support, and media advisers, their efforts can be ephemeral.

Money, of course, is much easier to come by during presidential campaign years, but those city, municipal, county, and state elections often come in by-years.  It’s during those elections that the organization and staffing levels become crucial.  Not sure? Take a look at the 2010 and 2014 election results.  What State Party organizations should be doing right now is getting geared up for the 2018 mid-terms and any off year local elections in between national election cycles.

#2.  Focus Focus Focus.  One of the nice things about being a Democrat is that everyone has a pet project, a hobby horse, a favorite issue that is important beyond all else.  It’s also one of the party’s weaknesses.  We get distracted. We want income equality, we want a clean environment, we want a living wage, we want women’s reproductive rights, we want voting rights, we want civil and human rights … and we are all too ready to castigate candidates who don’t match our predetermined formula for perfection.

The “Democrats in disarray” theme in the national media is no accident.  We’ve squabbled about Perfection long enough to give the GOP ample time to describe us as “fractured,” “divided,” and “dissidents.”   It’s time to FOCUS.

Cato the Elder focused: “Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam” The man died in 149 BC and 2165 years later we still know that he said “Carthage must be defeated.”

What might we achieve if every elected Democrat pointed out at every possible opportunity that the wealth for the top 0.1% is increasing while everyone else is still practically running in place?  There have been some gains for the middle class, but nothing like what’s been happening for the top 0.1%.

What might happen if every elected Democrat and every local organizer pointed out that the upcoming Republican administration is associated with the KKK?

And, what might happen if we ask, and continue to ask at every possible opportunity – What was it that Donald J. Trump was so anxious to hide in his tax returns that he dropped four decades of precedent to keep everyone in the dark?

What might happen if every chance we had we asked in the media and elsewhere, what about his ties to the Russians as described in the Dworkin Report?  Exhibit 10 is the most interesting. Did we know that there are 249 registered businesses in Russia with Trump as part of the name in the documentation?  Would that help to explain:

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also said that officials had been in contact with members of Trump’s entourage. “I cannot say that all of them but quite a few have been staying in touch with Russian representatives,” he told the state-run Interfax news agency. [cnn]

It might be interesting if the public were as aware of the name of the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister (Ryabkov) as they are with “emails.”

Four points shouldn’t be all that difficult to manage.  Income inequality, intolerance/violence, tax returns, the Russian connection.  If the Republicans can manage to speak of practically nothing but Benghazi and emails for 19 months surely Democrats can keep up a chant of income inequality, intolerance, tax returns, and Russian connections for 24. 

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