April 27, 2004
Exchange program

Last week, I received an email from Jesse Lee of the DCCC asking if I'd like to participate in a blog exchange program, where I posted something there and he posted something here. I agreed, and this morning my guest appearance was published on the Stakeholder site. I also received Jesse's reciprocal post in my inbox, which is beneath the More link. It's a good look at how the national Congressional races have shaped up so far and where they'll be going from here, so please take a minute and check it out.

Look for more of these blog exchanges between the Stakeholder and progressive bloggers in the future. I think it's a great way for the DCCC and national Democrats to interact with their base, and I hope to see some good conversations get started. This is the kind of thing I like to see groups like that do with blogs, for it's exactly the sort of thing that blogs are well-suited to do. Kudos to the DCCC for thinking outside the box, and here's Jesse's post.

Massive and genuine thanks to Charles for diving into this blog tour experiment with us. You can check out his post on our blog re: the Texas circus here.

Charles was curious to know exactly what we do behind the scenes over here, and we’re happy to oblige.

It’s probably best to start with a case study. On February 17th there was a special election in Kentucky that was fairly well covered in the blogosphere, where we helped get Democrat Ben Chandler elected in a district that went 54-42 for Bush in 2000.

During this off time before June or so, our focus is largely on taking these special elections, so it was a pretty serious battle down there between ourselves and our dark-side counterpart, the NRCC. When the race began, the GOP thought their best bet was to portray the race as a referendum on Bush. We ran down the entire timeline in this post soon after the election, but on 12/16/03 Kerr announced proudly, “she wants to bring in national GOP leaders, including President Bush, to campaign with her.” A week later, the Lexington Herald-Leader ran a story entitled “The Third Name in 6th District Race: Bush,” and Kerr posted the story on her website where it remained throughout the campaign. Then she went too far. She ran an ad that closed with the words, “They’re cut from the same cloth. While others attack the president's economic program and his fight to protect our national security, Alice Forgy Kerr stands with President Bush.” That ad did virtually nothing for her positive ratings, but her negatives shot up, and whereas we had tread softly on the question before (it was “Bush Country” after all), we pounced on her after that. Every press release and PR campaign we dished out called her “Rubberstamp” Kerr, the reputation stuck, and she was all but cooked.

What finally brought us over the top was the targeting of anti-Bush base voters with television commercials, and a series of nine poignant anti-Bush print pieces that were mailed or hand-delivered to voters’ homes. On the weekend before Election Day, we organized a massive GOTV program, with more than 550 volunteers dropping literature, knocking on doors, making phone calls, and staffing visibility points. The end result was that a primary projected to have as little as 10% turnout instead brought 35%, along with a 12-point landslide Democratic win deep in a state the GOP had attempted to claim for their own.

The reason this “case study” is important is because this year is a unique one for us, and that race was a kind of trial run. The country is largely polarized, with the Republicans having created an alternate universe of right-wing propaganda to insulate their supporters from the truth about their corruption, portraying critics as “unpatriotic,” etc. Take this Washington Post account of a typical resident from Tom DeLay’s home district:

“Time for the news. Some people get their information from the TV networks or the paper. Stein starts with the Drudge Report Web site, where he scans the headlines and clicks on one that says, ‘Rallying Cry For Dems: Vote Bush Out of Rove's Office.’ ‘This is the kind of stuff that pisses me off,’ he says. ‘They don't give Bush the respect he deserves. Not only because he's president, but because he's a helluva good man.’ Next he goes to a Web site called WorldNetDaily.com. He clicks on an article that says, ‘Poll: Bush's Approval Sinking,’ but dismisses it as untrustworthy when he sees the poll was done by CBS. ‘Of course I have a suspicion of CBS,’ he says. ‘Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw -- they don't have any credibility with me.’”

The GOP has leveled an unflinching campaign to marginalize anybody who even mentions their shortcomings, and clearly this has included a largely successful attempt to discredit legitimate news sources and replace them with their regurgitators. In truth, it has been an assault on the free press itself, attempting to replace it with a well-financed GOP propaganda machine. Being that the free press is really the only guardian against manipulation of the public, this is an extremely dangerous power grab.

It also forces us to put more energy into energizing the base, even if we would rather use our resources addressing the nation as a whole. If the highest-rated cable news network will not allow our message through without distortion, our efforts become far less fruitful. Unfortunately for the GOP, however, our base is ready to rock, and when they had a chance to send a message in Kentucky, they seized it.

This year every Republican Member of Congress has made himself a square target, as virtually none can claim to have been anything but a rubberstamp for Bush and DeLay. They did so thinking the President’s approval ratings would keep them safe, but with poll numbers falling, and over a dozen investigations chomping at Bush and DeLay’s feet, their decision to abandon their responsibilities may come back to haunt them- in fact, we will make sure it does. The key to our success is to be nimble, able to allocate resources quickly and in rapid response as strategic “linebackers” for every one of our candidates, and holding their opponents accountable for their records and campaigns. First off, though, is taking South Dakota’s At Large for Stephanie Herseth.

Our ultimate goal will be to take the 12 seats necessary to put Tom DeLay back in the minority (assuming he’s not in jail), and let Nancy Pelosi take the helms as the first female Speaker in history. One of them will set the legislative agenda for the 109th Congress - is there any fight more worth fighting this year?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 27, 2004 to Election 2004 | TrackBack