As I showed in my diary yesterday, the Democratic lead in total congressional votes in 2012 was a tiny lead in historical terms. The gerrymanders make winning a majority in 2014 harder; they are nowhere near enough to make it impossible. The sort of wave we saw in 2006 could sweep the Democrats into a comfortable majority. The House Republicans have a record, and the record is -- while it has been bad for the country -- a wonderful set of targets.
But that sort of wave cannot be generated by the professional Democratic politicians. It requires persuasion, and we, the writers and readers of Daily Kos and other Democratic activists, must do the persuading. And, we must do it before the campaigns officially start.
Now canvassing is critical, and there is a time for canvassing. Before canvassing time, however, there is a lot we can do. (Then, too, when you are campaigning for the candidate, the campaign must decide the message, and they are well-advised to accentuate the positive of the candidate. In the ideal world, we would have the negatives enough in people's minds before Labor Day that the campaign wouldn't have to mention them. That hasn't happened in my experience, though I think it might have in 1932. Still, let us have that as our goal: to get out the wrongs of the Republican incumbent so clearly that his Democratic opponent need not even refer to them.)
When I post about LTEs (letters to the editor), I get comments that those are old fashioned. That is fine, so long as you have a more modern way of getting your message out. (And, no, Daily Kos does not count. That is preaching to the choir.) I have posted more than 400 comments on the Washington Post blog. That has its advantages and disadvantages. There are hyper-local blogs with the general name of Patch; I'm not certain of the effectiveness of those, but you certainly should investigate whether there are any in your area. And, of course, social media is the new place for editorial comment.
We have many places to attack Republicans.
It seems to me that almost any Republican House incumbent has:
1) Voted to shut down the government, and then voted either to reopen it or to keep it shut down. (Check on which, if he voted to reopen, then he admitted that his first vote was simply a gesture that cost the taxpayers billions. If he was intransigent, he would have kept us out of government services for the past months.)
2) Voted to repeal the ACA. The candidate who is running has to defend the whole complex bill. But the incumbent who voted for repeal voted against each particular provision. You can attack him on any one of these provisions.
3) Voted for the Ryan budget, Medicare vouchers and all.
4) Refused to sign the petition to raise the minimum wage.
5) Refused to sign the petition to vote on the Senate immigration reform bill.
Can you influence voters? Not if you keep silent. Where voters are can be represented in 2 dimensions. Conservative to liberal on the horizontal and likeliness to vote on the vertical. (People with strong political positions are fairly likely to vote.)
A B C D E
F G H I
J K L
Where A is certain to vote Democratic, E is certain to vote Republican, O is definitely not going to vote, and the letters in intermediate positions have intermediate opinions.
Persuasion works, when it works, not only to move people along the top, but to move them up the left side of the triangle or down the right side. People who want an excuse to avoid the work of persuasion pretend that the aim is to move someone who is at E to A. That is extremely unlikely to happen, especially with a single LTE or blog post.
The Republicans who pass laws to suppress the vote are more realistic. They don't try to make it impossible for likely Democrats to vote. They simply put obstacles, often a set of minor obstacles, in their paths. They don't aim -- in the past 50 years -- to reduce the Black vote to 0. They aim to cut it by a few percentage points.
Similarly, if you point out how Congressman Jones has voted to restore the pattern of insurance companies' cancelling policies for preexisting conditions just when their customers really need the coverage, you are not going to persuade a life-long yellow-dog Republican to campaign for the Democratic candidate.
You might make the Republican's brother in law, who isn't much interested in politics and generally follows that guy's advice, to skip this election because "They're all just as bad."
You might make the guy who was going to skip this election because he had all these hospital visits take the time to go vote out that bastard who threatened his health.
You might make Jones spend precious time at his next town hall defending his votes instead of spreading innuendoes against his opponent.
That is the point of the voice of the people. I can't write enough to make much difference. Neither can any one person reading this post. If enough of us do, we can.
This is already a long post, but head below the jump to see some examples of how to get the word out on your selected Republican incumbent on the "repeal Obamacare" votes.
The first point is that acting alone is fine, but if you can get a group to coordinate, it is better. One of your group writes a LTE or blog post saying:
"Rep. Caputo voted dozens of times to make Black-Lung compensation smaller and harder for West Virginia miners to receive."
Somebody writes back denying that her votes against the ACA meant that she opposed the provision making Black-Lung compensation better.
Another of your group writes:
"Rep. Caputo's supporters deny that she meant to reduce Black-Lung compensation even though she voted repeatedly to reduce Black-Lung compensation. They want you to pretend that when she voted to repeal the ACA, she was really voting to replace it. And since no replacement bill has reached the House floor, the imaginary bill that they are pretending she voted for might be imagined to contain provisions retaining the compensation levels set by the ACA. As long as you're pretending, you can pretend anything."
Now, Black Lung isn't an issue in the Chicago suburbs, but you can find the issue which resonates with the electorate you are trying to influence.
And that is the point of negative needle jabs. We don't have to argue for the entire bill and its thousands of pages. When the Republicans voted to repeal it, they voted to repeal each and every provision. Find a provision, and stick the House Republican you choose with his vote to repeal that provision.
How do you choose a Republican congressman? If your district elected a Republican, you should probably write against him. I assume that the majority of dKos readers have Democratic representatives.
While some of us may feel we have influence in the towns we've moved away from, I'm going to assume that living close to the targets makes us more influential. I would balance closeness to you with closeness of the last election.
While there is no perfect choice, neither is there a bad choice. Choose one, and go after him. Talk to your political friends about what you have done to pin the Republican's votes on him. Try to enlist them in the battle.
Similarly, it is better to hit a Republican on an issue which will resonate poorly than to wait until the one which will resonate perfectly appears to you. Hit him early and often on what matters to you.
It is easy to argue which votes make the Republicans most vulnerable. I'm quite willing to bow to your expertise on the race you have chosen. I know that others nearby will disagree with you. Wonderful! Let them write LTEs on the issue that they think is most important.
Having said that, here are some issues on the ACA.
Anyone who has voted to repeal has voted to:
1) Allow Insurance companies to spend less than 80% of premiums on payments for treatments.
2) Remove payments for preventative care from policies.
3) Allow insurance companies to try to find a pre-existing condition when they are faced with catastrophic illnesses. The ultimate example was the company who decided they didn't have to cover a woman's breast cancer because she had had adolescent acne.
4) Cut kids under 26 from their parents' policy.
5) Put lifetime caps on payments, so that babies born with serious conditions run out of treatments before they can enter school. Or so that if you really need the insurance, you soon don't have it.
He also has voted to open the can of worms that took Congress most of 2009 to negotiate.
He is flogging that dead horse rather than dealing with the serious problems facing the nation.
"Repeal and replace" is a slogan to fool people who have forgotten their high-school civics courses. In fact, Congress does not have to repeal a law to replace it. The new law takes the place of the old one. If Jones had wanted to replace the law, he would have waited for the replacement to be on the floor.