At the risk of sounding melodramatic and of telling some in the Netroots what they may already know, I think it's necessary to highlight something that may not be adequately clear to many here in Left Blogistan: We have a nearly unprecedented opportunity to SWAMP the Republicans--but only if people will commit to getting off the blogs, and on the ground for significant portions of the next 15 months.
Now, don't get me wrong: most people who have read my posts over the last couple of years know that I tend to be a blog triumphalist: I know that simply electing Democrats doesn't solve everything, that the media must be held accountable for progressive electoral messaging to gain traction, and that, as Al Gore says in his must-read Assasult on Reason, blogs on the left and right create a much-needed two-way conversation between the government and the people--a conversation that has been sorely lacking for almost a century.
That said, however, there have been three recent events that have changed my perspective and priorities in a large way. These events are the reason why I haven't been around the blogs as much over the last few weeks, and why I haven't slept more than 6 hours in I can't remember how long. These events have crystallized a cold, hard fact to me that makes me giddy with excitement and drunk with the passion to evangelize everyone I can to understand the following fact: This election, in 2008, we have the opportunity to crush the Republican Party in a way that may not be repeated in our lifetimes--but we need your time and volunteerism to do it.
The first of these occasions was attending training sessions put on by Democracy for America here in Orange County. A two-day crash course in the nuts-and-bolts of running a successful electoral campaign, this training is the best money and time that I can remember spending anywhere. DFA is also conducting training at YearlyKos--something people may want to consider doing as part of their stay in Chicago.
Among the many key points impressed upon me at the training was the cold, hard mathematical realities involved in running a campaign: everything--and I do mean everything--comes down to a simple calculation of
- Votes needed
- The time to persuade and GOTV
- The money to persuade/GOTV them with
- The people to do the persuading/GOTV
Once you figure out how many votes you're going to need to reach 52% based on previous comparable election and where those votes are, it's really just a simple math problem of volunteer hours, number of volunteers, and amount of money to spend on reaching voters. It's really that simple. Sure, a candidate like Paul Hackett who runs a true grassroots populist campaign can gain traction and do better than the numbers would indicate, and a corrupt Republican can do worse, and one major gaffe can throw everything off. But in most cases, it's just a matter of of time, people, and especially money.
The second key occasion was mentioned by Markos on the dKos frontpage just yesterday: The GOP money advantage has all but disappeared in 2008. I cannot begin to express how important this is. Throughout the past several decades, the Republicans have had weaker positions and an uphill road in convincing the American people of electing politicians actually contrary to their own self-interest. Pulling that off requires an extraordinary amount of time, money, volunteers and discipline--and in that respect, Dems actually have it easy: all we have to do is go out there and tell the truth, and we automatically tip the playing field in our favor. Even so, the Republicans have largely been able to overcome this disadvantage by doing two things:
- Organizing an army of volunteers through churches and other conservative organizations, while weakening our own organizations such as unions
- Taking the time to build their party infrastructure all across America even when it wasn't campaign season
- And most importantly, outspending Democrats by factors of 2-1, 3-1, 4-1 and more during every election cycle
Now, everything has changed. As of today, the DCCC has over 10 times as much cash as the NRCC. In 2006, the NRCC had a $40 million fundraising advantage over us. As of today, the DSCC has almost 4 times as much money as the NRSC. In 2006, the DSCC did better, but not by a factor of four. And this year, the RNC's advantage over the DNC is shrinking--and will be almost entirely spent on the Presidential election. As Markos says,
Making matters worse for congressional Republicans, the RNC, which was able to focus on House and Senate races in 2006, will be refocused on its usual mission in 2008 -- the White House. So while the RNC was able to make up some of the 2006 shortfall experienced by their Senate committee, and the smaller than usual advantage by their House committee ("only" a $40 million advantage), they can't be expected to make up this year's dramatic shortfalls while still focusing on winning the presidency.
Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidates are showing that their own fundraising negates the necessity for leaning on the DNC.
Meanwhile, Howard Dean's 50-state strategy is building the local parties, as well as concentrating on doing some important behind-the-scenes work, such as getting our voter files up to speed with those of the Republicans.
The third event to change my perspective has been working on the Ron Shepston campaign against Dirty Gary Miller in CA-42. The amount of complacency and corruption that has taken hold of the Republican party in many of their "safe" districts like Miller's is absolutely unbelievable. Most people in these areas (unless they're dominated by SBC evangelical Christians) hold centrist or even progressive values--they just haven't been given the opportunity to consider voting for a real Democrat who shares their values. Ron Shepston--and many other candidates like him--can definitely win if we pull together and provide the support they need, because the traditional advantages that the Republicans have used to crush great candidates like him are disappearing fast.
The conclusion is inescapable: as Democrats, we are drowning the Republicans with our fundraising. All the issues are lining up in our favor. The American people are with us. Every time the GOP opens its mouth, it is on the defensive. We are poised to make substantial gains in the Senate. Our presidential candidates are far more inspiring than theirs.
All we need is the time and volunteers to get out there and canvass, phonebank, drop literature, etc., to make the final push to convince wavering voters--those undecideds and leaners we call the 2s, 3s, and 4s--to get out there and vote for Dems in '08.
And it's NEVER too early to volunteer. If you have a candidate in your area facing an uphill battle against a GOP incumbent, or a candidate in your area facing a tough re-election battle in a conservative district, get off the internet for a minute and figure out how much time you can schedule to volunteers for that candidate over the next 15 months today. Some candidates may even have tough primary fights and may need all the support they can get right now. But in any case, contact your local candidates today to ask them what you can do to help provide them that crucial time and volunteer help they need.
And then when you're done, get back online and keep holding the media and the government accountable to the people. Because this election is an opportunity like we may never see again in our lifetimes.
Also at MLW