Which one are you working for?
by Tom Sullivan
Those of us already pondering how to approach 2106 campaigns follow in Robert Woolley's footsteps. The strategist for Woodrow Wilson's 1916 presidential reelection campaign originated using message control, targeting, and opposition research, say Washington Post's Dan Balz and John Maxwell Hamilton of Louisiana State University and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Campaign technologies have changed more than many tactics, they argue.
But to fight its way back after a disastrous 2014, Democrats will have to do better than more of the same in 2016. The left will have to step up its game, writes Sean McElwee. Much more than a standard bearer, the left needs a movement:
The left must remember that leaders do not make movements; rather, movements make leaders. Instead of vacillating from one hero to another, the left must create a formidable power base from which to both defeat Republicans and shift Democrats to the left.
Turnout increases with income, McElwee writes, which leads Democrats to target higher income voters groups that do turn out. This compounds with them favoring policies that appeal to higher income voters, leaving poor non-voters even less incentive to go to the polls.
Mass mobilization of core constituencies is the first key to winning. Problem is, the very solutions McElwee offers are the ones Republicans -- now in control of roughly 70 percent of state legislatures -- are systematically targeting: eliminating same-day registration and expanding ID requirements. Not to mention eliminating or shortening early voting.
Party leaders cultivating more progressive candidates would help, especially more workers and African American candidates to help boost turnout among the half of Americans with working-class jobs. "The good news," McElwee reports, "is that research suggests that people of color are actually just as likely as white candidates to win: the problem is that they often don’t run."
Obviously. But there's a reason for that besides old-boy gatekeepers among Democrats' leadership. Money.
Legislation and regulations aimed at getting money out of politics is another obvious solution McElwee offers (like same-day registration, etc.) that both lower barriers to entry and tend to favor the left's base voters. But we have a chicken-and-egg problem. If you expect to pass them, you have to have control, but how do you get control unless you pass them?
But McElwee nails the master solution, saying, "a progressive America will require work." Working Families Party and groups such as New York Communities for Change have busted their tails to advance just the kind of policies that benefit Democratic constituencies and candidates. I can't count the times I've heard from a disgruntled progressive, "We need a third party in this country." My response is always the same.
"I can name a half-dozen third parties off the top of my head. Which one are you working for?"
Sadly, that usually ends the conversation.