On Monday, Al from The Field posted this diary recommending quarantine for the "Chicken Littles." I recommended and supported that diary, because I thought it was well written and dead on.
On Wednesday, a first time diarist had this diary rocket to the top of the rec list with a portion saying that the diarist would automatically hide rate any comment that was seen "useless" remark about what Obama should or should not be doing. That got me thinking...this is not a good trend.
By Friday, I've gotten to the point where I've done a 180 from where I was Monday, and think it is time to address this stuff here and now.
I'm regretting being so full-throated in my endorsement of Al's diary on Monday, because now "Chicken Little" has become an ad hominem attack on anybody who might question the Obama strategy in the slightest. I've worked plenty of campaigns, and seen the ins-and-outs of supporters and activists who can see no wrong in their candidates or campaign operations. Those on the inside have a word for those type of people as well:
Kool Aid Drinkers.
Here's the deal. I'm not about to call anybody here a Kool Aid Drinker, any more than I am going to call out somebody as a Chicken Little. The fact remains, like every campaign, Obama is doing some great stuff, and Obama is lagging behind in some stuff too.
It's not being a Chicken Little to notice where Obama has been lagging behind. And it not automatically concern trolling to be critical of that lag, ask questions, and offer constructive critiques.
Most of this is centering around the ad war. A lot of people think the ads suck. OK, fair point, if that's what you believe. Doesn't make you a Chicken Little. Nor does it make you a Chicken Little to say, "I think Obama should do X." Sorry, it doesn't.
The typical response to a lot of this is "What the hell do you know? You're just a blogger. Shut up and move on." Guess what? A lot of us have a hell of a lot of experience working campaigns. Some of us even got paid for it from time to time. Hell, Joe Trippi, who blogs here frequently, even said this morning on the radio that Obama needs to hit back harder on the ad front. Is he a Chicken Little too?
From my own personal experience, I'm a vet of a campaign that has some similar dynamics to Obama's campaign. In 1996, I worked on the first Congressional campaign of the late Julia Carson in Indianapolis. She was trying to become only the third African-American to be elected in a majority white district. Her opponent was a long time friend from the Indiana State Senate, Virginia Blankenbaker.
Carson and Blankenbaker had a "gentlewoman's agreement" to run a positive, issue-oriented, honorable campaign against each other...similar to what I'm sure the understanding was between Obama and McCain earlier this year. That eroded when Blankenbaker aired her first ad...a negative piece on Carson's crime record in the State Senate.
For awhile, we scrambled. We wanted to get on the air first, but Blankenbaker beat us to the punch, and now the question was whether to do the positive "introduction" ad we had planned, or hit back hard on Blankenbaker's negative ad. We debated what to do. Ms. Carson and I were for staying positive. Our media consultant, our pollster, and the rest of the campaign said a response was needed or we risked being defined on the issue.
Turns our Ms. Carson and I were wrong, and they were right. After our response, the polling indicated that the crime issue was neutralized. Blankenbaker continued to run negative ads, many of them featuring a confused looking Carson. It made Julia livid, because it was a crystal clear attempt to play the race card to her. And we continued to hit back on those ads, as well as run much more positive ads that stayed "above the fray."
So it is possible to fight and run a positive campaign. And more importantly, you have to wage a campaign on all fronts. Saying "don't worry about the ads...we've got the ground game" doesn't cut it. In that race in 1996, people on the ground told me all we have to worry about was GOTV to turn out the base. Bull. That was critically important, but each and every poll showed us down right until Election Day. We needed the ad game, the GOTV game, and the persuadable voter ground game, canvassing, phone banks, the whole nine yards...ALL of it...to pull off a 5 point win. We turned out our base African-American vote, to be sure, but we also performed very well in precincts that we targeted as persuadable...better than we expected in fact.
My point? Not once during that campaign was I afraid to speak my mind when I saw things going awry. And nobody here should feel it either. I realize that we're not part of the Obama's teams inner circle, but Obama has made has said this campaign is about US more than once. If that's the case, then we need to speak up without fear of being attacked by others. And helping to figure out the best way to get there is not a vice.
Remember, Obama has said that he wanted to get a margin that was big enough so this election can't be stolen. And I think what people are really scared of is that this election is getting close to stealing mode. That's a legitimate concern from my vantage point. Especially when (excuse my "concern") nary a word from the campaign has come out yet with respect to voter protection, and what the plan is this year.
Just like Obama has said, we ALL love this country. We ALL want change. We ALL want to win. And the vast majority of us are putting our time, money, energy, blood, sweat and tears to the effort.
So, let's lead by example and stop attacking each other. If we want to be the change we seek, we start in our own house. Thanks for listening.