November 11, 2004
In order to be on message, we must first have a message

Greg has a long open letter to Harris County Democratic Party Chair Gerry Birnbirg regarding the importance of having a good message to bring to voters in every election. I strongly encourage everyone to read what he says and think about what it means. Democrats are engaging in a much healthier overall dialogue about what went wrong this year than we did in 2000, and we need to get everything on the table.

It's important to realize that a strong and clear statement of principles and philosophies can and should bridge disagreements about specifics. Greg favored the invasion of Iraq; I didn't. Greg is pro-life; I'm emphatically pro-choice. We're on the same team because we trust that the underlying precepts of the Democratic Party and the people who belong to it will guide us to sensible answers for tough issues on which many principled opinions can coexist. That kind of trust is what we need from more people, and the only way we're going to get it is to help them understand who we are, what we believe in, and how they can expect us to act when something we haven't already discussed comes up. Ezra talks about how the Republicans have done this and how it benefits all of their candidates, and I talked about the Republican Party's "brand identity" after the 2002 debacle.

A couple of specific points to address:

In the 2000 election, the precincts composing West U & Bellaire garnered 30% of their vote for Al Gore and 32% for Jim Dougherty as District Attorney. In that same election, however, Eric Andell essentially tied his opponent (winning West U outright). Now, there's some apples and oranges involved, I realize. But did Andell have a better GOTV effort in that campaign? Of course not. He had a better message. Why ignore what works?

This is a good example of what we're talking about, though it's also a pretty good instance of what Ezra means when he talks about Democrats having to recruit good candidates who can overcome the party's overall lack of identity (and I mean that as no knock on Gore or Dougherty). Message isn't everything, of course. I'd argue that Chet Edwards' message wasn't substantially different from Max Sandlin's, or Arlene Wohlgemuth's from Louie Gohmert, but Edwards won while Sandlin got whipped. Still, even though Sandlin couldn't win despite having a good message, there's no question that Edwards couldn't have won without one. Compare Edwards' performance (and for that matter, State Rep. Robby Cook's) in Brazos County to the statewide races for an illustration.

People cannot vote for a Democrat if they can't see one. If we cede Kingwood because it's 20% Dem base simply isn't enough to effect any electoral outcome, then what good does it do if we chase 2-3% more votes in Fourth Ward when the other side has just been offered a free grab at 100% of those voters left behind? As a case in point, I fault Charlotte Coffelt for the campaign strategy she went into the campaign with moreso than I do for actually jumping into the race at all. In fact, I find absolutely no fault with her running at all. If I take your views to heart, however, then we have no business fielding a strong candidate (or even A candidate) in those types of races. My own preference is to field a candidate in every race. Believe me when I say that it is increasingly becoming a point of concern and questioning outside of this corner that the party fields fewer candidates than the Libertarian Party.

Amen and hallelujah. I can't stress enough how vital it will be to get a viable Democrat on every single stinking ballot in 2006. Not just because we'll need that 20% of the vote in Kingwood as part of the big picture in capturing county- and statewide races, but also because nowhere is it written that the right candidate, with the right message, can't win in Kingwood or Clear Lake or The Woodlands or any other Republican stronghold. For crying out loud, if Wyoming and Oklahoma can elect Democratic governors, if Montana can have Democratic control of four of the five top statewide offices plus the state Senate and nearly the state House, then we can do it, too.

And the time to start recruiting candidates for every single stinking one of those ballots is right now. Everyone is in a what-can-we-do-now mood, so why not strike while that iron is heated up? Hubert Vo has set the example for all of us. We need to start following it.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 11, 2004 to Election 2004 | TrackBack

We might start by rejecting our opponents' terms of debate, as in "Greg is 'pro-life.'" Now really Charles, are you implying that you are "anti-life?"

There is no shame in framing the issues objectively. Greg shouldn't object if you said, "Greg opposes abortion rights" or "Greg believes abortion should be illegal" or even simply "Greg is anti-abortion." But "pro-life" is a propaganda term whose sole purpose is to implicitly endorse abortion opponents' belief that abortion is murder. If you disagree, you shouldn't use the term.

"Pro-choice" is a propaganda term too, but it's less objectionable because abortion opponents really are "anti-choice;" they don't believe women should legally have that particular choice.

Posted by: Mathwiz on November 11, 2004 4:50 PM

I should add that I agree with you: Democrats need to contest every race, from the top of the ballot to the bottom, because they all reinforce each other.

As for "message," the term "pro-life" is just an example, one I picked only because you used it yourself. I realize neither party is completely united on any single issue like abortion or Iraq.

BTW, Greg's conservative Democratic views would seem to be a natural match for most of Texas. Would he consider running for something himself?

Posted by: Mathwiz on November 11, 2004 5:06 PM

"BTW, Greg's conservative Democratic views would seem to be a natural match for most of Texas. Would he consider running for something himself?"

Suffice it to say, but I think there are a wide array of other considerations that go into running for office. Few of which I think I possess. Then again, if you're able to write a $5,000 early check for 2006, email me!


Posted by: Greg Wythe on November 11, 2004 5:15 PM

Then again, if you're able to write a $5,000 early check for 2006, email me! ;-) - Greg

What do you think we are, Greg... Republicans? :)

Greg, you're not the same flavor of Democrat that I am. I would have trouble with an anti-choice position in a Democratic candidate. But based on what I've read, on your site and elsewhere, you are soooo much better than anything the R's have to offer, that if you ran for any office, you'd certainly have my vote. That still doesn't mean I can come up with five grand... :)

Posted by: Steve Bates on November 16, 2004 12:10 AM