What will it take to win?
In the blogosphere today, one of the more important discussions concerned what was needed to win in the next election. The context was whether Dean was electable and why not. Josh Marshall started it and was answered promptly by Atrios who says that this is NOT McGovern redux. But in my opinion, the one who made the most sense was Dave Johnson, who reminds us that not one of our candidates will come through the rightwing Wurlizter machine whole.
Dean another McGovern, destined to lose because of his anti-war stance?
Two words: Max Cleland.
Two more words: John McCain.
So you want to nominate a candidate who has a good military resume, because you think this means Rush Limbaugh will say good things about him? Well, guess what: IT DOESN'T MATTER. The Republicans are going to smear the candidate ANYWAY! And by the time they get done smearing the candidate YOU'RE going to be questioning whether the guy should be in office. (Admit it, it worked with Gore, didn't it? Even YOU started disliking Gore and having doubts about him, after they got through with him.) IT'S WHAT THEY DO! GET USED TO IT!
What matters is how the candidate is going to fight back. Al Gore didn't fight back. Clinton did. Dean will.
So what is going to win against these thugs? It's going be a whole bunch of people who are so motivated to vote the bastards out of office that they drag their friends and family to the polls. It will take armies of people who are willing to do everything they can to fight back and who will hold their noses (even after the candidate has been totally smeared by the machine) to support their candidate. And they will support a candidate if he shows that he is also willing to fight against this destructive administration. If Gore had fought back he would have been president. In some ways, it is not the candidate that matters, because every one of our candidates (even the worst) are better than that crew in the White House today.
Last month Grist Magazine had a special section on the election. In that section was a very good piece on a new progressive coalition that was going to work together to elect a Democrat in the next election. One of the more interesting observations in that article was how mass advertising is starting to be much less effective than previously which, fortunately, neutralizes the Bush war chest. And it turns out that the one thing that still works these days is one-on-one contact.
Not only are enviros and other progressives spending more on the 2004 election, they are also spending differently. Thirty-second television ads, whose astronomical costs devoured budgets in the past, are being abandoned as ineffectual because voters are no longer moved by them. Instead, says Pope, electoral strategists of all ideological persuasions recognize that "what works is talking to people one on one, and especially having them hear your message from their friends and neighbors."
"Unions showed in 2000 that grassroots organizing led to a higher turnout of their members, which made the difference in a number of key races," Callahan says. "The Republicans applied that lesson successfully in 2002, and I expect the White House will do the same in 2004. Our movement's focus traditionally has been grassroots organizing, and we've got to get back to that. Two-thirds of my 2004 budget is for grassroots organizing. In 2002, it was only 20 percent."
So what is going to work? A powerful and committed grassroots organization that is willing to engage one-on-one with Americans to help them understand the issues. As Dave said in a followup post:
"Getting it," in this election, means understanding the new political environment of a near-fascist right controlling the White House, the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Courts, the Justice Department, blocking any and all oversight or investigations into their abuses of power, using the FBI as their investigative arm, the military as their international enforcement arm, and the major broadcast and print media as their propaganda organ. It means understanding that smears, threats and intimidation are the favored tactic of The Party. Understanding that there is nothing The Party will not do, even politicizing the national tragedy of 9/11 and using it to justify a pre-planned war in an unrelated country, all the while using THAT to manipulate an election.
The only way to fight this is to take it on directly, and FIGHT it. Otherwise the Party machinery and the Wurlitzer will just crush you under a pile of lies and smears. From what I see, only Dean "gets it." Only Dean is willing to take them on -- head-on and directly. Only Dean is building an organization of people, ready to talk to their neighbors, going door-to-door, and organizing the public to fight back.
Our only real counterweight to this corrupt gang (and this includes all the interests that back them) is our sheer numbers. That and passion enough to make sure even independents and moderates understand what is at stake. It will be a long, nasty and dispiriting election. Yet, if we keep our eyes on the ball, we can, and will, win.