Thursday, November 09, 2006

You Can't Always Get What You Want

But you might find, you get what you need.

So true.

Although our guy Charlie Brown didn't quite make it, the beginning of the end of our national nightmare is exactly what we need. It's a new dawn, at long last. The unanimous positive reaction coming out of Europe, to the election and to Rumsfeld's departure, is validation I'm personally very glad to see. I almost feel like traveling overseas again.

But first, here's a post mortem on the Brown campaign. I'll try not to bring down the collective high we should all otherwise be experiencing and deserve.

NOTE: I am definitely not speaking as an insider - I have no inkling of what anyone formally connected with the campaign feels about any of this - these are solely my personal impressions. Their value are equal to everything else I've ever written here: meaning, of no value whatsoever, but I enjoy myself!


Charlie's showing is genuinely significant.
He was only 3.5 percentage points shy of victory, in a three-way race in the reddest of red CA districts. Remember that he has never run for any political office before. His opponent was deeply entrenched, in a heavily gerrymandered republican district. The odds were classic CHARLIE BROWN(tm) odds - Lucy and her football were ever present, waiting to trip him up.

But the steep odds were matched by an incredible number of fellow Linus's.
The grassroots support was extraordinary. I've been through a few of these and Charlie's supporters were tireless and committed. The fundraising went well. He had somewhere around 1.3M$. Doolittle had something shy of 2M$ - not enough of a difference to say we were heavily outspent. Charlie had the endorsements of every major district newspaper, including the Sacramento Bee, with the exception of only one (that being the inaccurately named Mountain Democrat - their hard right conservative editorial staff never swayed from the RNC party line). Both the DoJ and the FBI are investigating Doolittle. He is the only representative to be implicated in both the Abramoff and 'Duke' Cunningham scandals. Doolittle should have been recognized by honest conservatives as corrupt; or, at least as damaged goods who won't be doing much for the district, from here on out.

So what went wrong?

* Smear
There's no getting around the fact that the district is conservative. Doolittle went negative. Almost absurdly, people bought into the standard republican line that all Dems - including Charlie - don't 'support the troops.' It fell on (enough) deaf ears that Charlie, his father, his wife and now his son are all vets. In fact, Jeff is scheduled to return to Iraq for his 4th rotation in December.
Doolittle made a big deal of how he and not Brown was the real supporter of the troops - yet Doolittle has the second worst voting record in the House on Veteran's issues. Doolittle's campaign painted Charlie as an ACLU card-carrying, Cindy Sheehan loving, and Nancy Pelosi lock stepping l-i-b-e-r-a-l. The traditional right is as obstinate as the traditional left. If they suspect yer a leftie, yer a Commie Pinko Fag. There's no room for nuances, little consideration of individual merits and attributes. If he can be squeezed, however disingenuously, into The Liberal Template, enough will vote blindly against that template. How do you influence and change such mindsets? Without compromising your principles, which Charlie nobly refused to do, you have to be a seriously gifted persuader. More on that, later.

* Turnout
Although the numbers aren't official yet, I heard more than one person say "I don't vote" or "they're all bums" or some other such cop-out for not voting. There's something about living in a rural district that tends to disenfranchise the population from the process. Although the days of true frontier independence, real living off the land, are long gone even out in the sticks, rural communities do maintain an affinity for that mythology. It's a self-generated illusion, whose only validation is that it's usually a longer drive to your nearest polling place than, say, in San Mateo. Both campaign bases definitely did turn out in good percentages, but that annoyingly persistent Silent Majority is still with us. Nationwide, I've seen one turnout estimate for this mid-term: about 40%. Good, but not good enough. The irony and disappointment of it is, Charlie could have definitely appealed to the 'independent, self-made, free-thinker.' Actually, the Libertarian candidate did fairly well in the district, without lifting a finger: he received ~5% of the vote. That's not saying the Libertarian vote would map 100% to the Dems. Obviously, they're more conservative than progressive, as a rule. But there remains an untapped voter base still out there, awaiting the next opportunity.

* Voter suppression robo-calls
Related to turnout, the district was seriously targeted by the RCCC with ethically challenged robo-calls. They seem to have been sinisterly directed at elderly constituents. The calls would come in multiples, late in the evening. They started off innocuously, with repeated mentions of Charlie by name, describing where he stood on the issues. You had to listen all the way through before you heard the calls were sponsored by the RCCC. Most people hang up on these calls early. And therein, the damage is done: you're woken up repeatedly in the course of an evening, hearing only 'Charlie Brown this, Charlie Brown that.' I personally spoke with two elderly folks, who said they were very upset with the late-night calls and consequently would not vote for Brown. Doolittle and the RNC have both said they had nothing to do with the calls, but the House RCCC didn't. If the terrorists hate us for our freedoms, the RCCC abuses us with those freedoms.

* The Party's Cautious Support
It's well understood that of the two major parties, the Democrats are far less organized and centralized. Yeah, yeah, we're a big tent and it makes us...blah blah blah. It's hard to quantify if nationally known speakers stumping for your candidate help turn out the vote, but Charlie didn't get the top-drawer love. Next door, in CA CD#11, Bill Clinton came out for McNerney. Why didn't Bill stop over one day for Brown? Doolittle had both Bush's, Cheney, Guiliani and (I think) McCain. Brown got Haskell, Wesley Clark, Max Cleland & Joe Wilson. Great Americans all, but where were Bill and Al?

* Charlie the Regular Guy
Part of Charlie's endearing quality, in my opinion, is his unpolished and plain speaking manner. He comes across as a real guy and not a politician. But in the political arena, politicians do tend to thrive. Persuasion is key and being a vibrant, dynamic speaker is generally an asset. Whether or not he didn't drive it home with some potential supporters, we'll never know. But perhaps it wouldn't hurt to work a bit on his public speaking, before the next run.


Anyway, change is happening all across the country and that includes CA CD#4. It's less red than it was before this mid-term election. Doolittle isn't out of the woods yet either - more than one time in the past few months I've heard that the Attorney General is sitting on 3 sealed indictments until after the elections. Who do you think is going to be on the receiving end?


Blogger jefe said...

Dude! thats a crap load of words you just used there...

12:09 PM  
Blogger deano said...

Simply because you have mastered the art of blog-brevity, it's not nice to gloat. ;~>

Besides, I needed to purge. Now, I can get on with my life!

1:19 PM  

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