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Kos' commentary today:

Obama Super PAC starts its own Operation Hilarity

[ ... ]

Of course, I realize that this makes some of you squeamish, and if you live in one of those states and don't want to participate, you don't have to! (We also stopped fundraising for it, focusing instead in message mobilizing.) But there's too much at stake to worry about idealistic notions of what democracy should be. Luckily for all of us, Team Obama isn't restraining itself based on such idealism. They're playing to win, and this latest action is essentially strategic vindication for Operation Hilarity.

From the NY Times piece on 2/18/12:
Democrats for Santorum?

There is dissent in the Kos kingdom.

When Markos Moulitsas, the founder of the liberal blog Daily Kos, proposed that Democrats vote for Rick Santorum in open Republican primaries, many of the site’s 1.6 million monthly readers protested.

[ ... ]

In an e-mail, Mr. Moulitsas wrote that most of the resistance was coming from idealists “who somehow see voting in open primaries as underhanded.”

“It’s not, of course,” he added, “but there’s a liberal sense of fairness that oftentimes gets in the way of hardball politics.”

(Emphasis added)

Kos, in your response to the NY Times, your reasoning was that the motivation for the push back was mostly about idealism.

In today's post, you suggest it was about squeamishness and idealistic notions.

While I'm kind of happy to see that you've dropped the talk about pearl clutchers, getting the vapors, idiotic ideas, delicate sensibilities, perfectly pure vows and fantasy unicorn ideals, based on what I read in the NY Times and in today's post, I disagree with your analysis of reasons for the strong opposition to Operation Hilarity.  

There have been 186 diaries (and more that were not tagged) written about the topic since you announced it and most of them were in opposition, so I know you have been offered a lot of commentary and reasoning, and that doesn't even take into consideration the thousands of comments on the subject.  I've read a lot of the diaries and comments and my impression was that most of the opposition was based on things other than squeamishness and idealistic notions and instead talked about things like:

- risk / reward
- better uses of resources
- not fixing something that isn't broken (they are already sinking themselves)
- danger to vulnerable communities and segments of the population
- foolishness of the idea
- energizing the Republican base
- backfiring

In addition to all of that, I didn't find the parallel between what the Super PAC / Team Obama is doing in Michigan and what Operation Hilarity proposes to be that strong.

Personally, I am not so squeamish that I would not consider crossing over to vote on the other side in an open primary if I thought it was a brilliant plan and was being done for a really good reason, that the chances for a good outcome were optimal and that the risks were justified by the reward.  But I don't see any of those things in Operation Hilarity.

Democrats have many advantages over the Republicans during this primary season for a lot of reasons.  One reason is that they have held a ridiculous number of debates, and it hasn't gone particularly well for them, and despite all that, they keep digging.

But another important thing is that their base is divided, depressed, demoralized.  Give them a bunch of liberals seriously messing with their primary enough to change the outcome and you could achieve what the Republican party can't seem to do no matter how hard they try right now -- to fire up their base.

A Selection of Diaries in Opposition to Operation Hilarity

The above is just my opinion and though I did see a lot of others who felt the same way, let's look at some of the other popular reasons why Operation Hilarity was rejected based on diaries and comments that got a lot of support.  This is not scientific, but I still think it is worthwhile for the purposes of illustration.  I chose some of the early and highly recommended diaries in opposition to the plan.

Example Diary 1

Democrats Voting for Santorum? The Joke's On You (w/poll)

by Eric Stetson (302 recommends, 1533 people voted in the poll)

His main arguments were:

1. It will make Democrats look bad and accomplish nothing, since Santorum has a very good chance to win the Republican nomination anyway.

[ ... ]

2. If Santorum wins the Republican nomination, he will be a tougher candidate for Obama to beat than Romney would be.

[ ... ]

3. A strong showing by Rick Santorum is bad for America. This man with backward values based on a narrow interpretation of Catholic religion will be getting more airtime and be taken more seriously by the media if he does better in the primaries, and especially if he actually becomes the Republican nominee for president. [ ... ] Conservatism is not going to go away. But it could be redefined, for good or for ill, depending on which candidate becomes its standard-bearer. Do we really want the philosophy of Rick Santorum to come to be seen as the next incarnation of conservatism in America?

The poll results:


Example Diary 2

The main argument in this diary is that we should let the clowns self destruct and use our resources on some other constructive projects that have good potential. It's not about squeamishness or idealism.  It's very practical and unsqueamish.

Okay, not that I want to dis Kos...

by mole333 (312 Recommends, no poll)

but I have to say that there are SO MANY better things we could put our time and money into right now than playing games with a Republican Primary that has already, without our time or money, become an embarrassing circus for the Republicans.

Let them tear themselves apart and let's take those $5+ donations Kos wants directed to this silly lark and channel them into some seriously effective efforts instead. Let's not mess with them. Let's prepare the ambush for when they come to after their primary and realize we are ready for them...

My take: why bother messing with the Republican primary? This would be effort and money MUCH better spent on things like...

Supporting Progressive Majority Candidates...
[ ... ]
Supporting the Wisconsin State Senate candidates in the upcoming special elections...
[ ... ]
Supporting Alan Grayson...
[ ... ]
Orange to Blue 2012...

Example Diary 3

OllieGarkey argues that the risk to LGBT community is too high and that it is unthinkable to help this bigot build a platform in any way.

Operation Hilarity is a REALLY DANGEROUS Idea
by OllieGarkey
(517 Recommends)

When running a political op like the one you discussed (and indeed, it could have some potential benefits) you failed to ask yourself the most important question:

What's the worst thing that could happen as a result of this? How likely is the worst-case or other bad-case scenarios to come about?

Well obviously, the WORST case scenario that could result from something like this is President Santorum. Though thankfully, Santorum has a bishop's chance in hell of getting elected nationally.

But there's one other kind of blowback you can expect if an op like this is successful.

You're going to give one of the most vicious anti-gay zealots this country has ever seen a platform. You might even get him into a vice-presidential slot. Romney-Santorum is a marriage made in hell. It fixes Mitt's problem with evangelicals.

[ ... ]

In addition to the fundie GOTV efforts, you're going to see a huge rise in anti-gay sentiment across the country.

There are gays and Transfolk I know, friends of mine, who live in the south. I am not exaggerating when I say their lives will be threatened during a Santorum ascendancy. If this operation is successful, it will help Santorum rile up every single southern nutjob who thinks the gays are part of Obama's secret commie army, and that they're out to rape good Christian children. Anti-LGBT sentiments would run even higher than they do now. You will see an increase in the already constant violent attacks on LGBT folks in fundie areas across the country.

It is incredibly selfish for this community to potentially put some of the most vulnerable people in this nation in a dangerous situation.

Example Diary 4

Operation Hilarity is bad for President Obama
by FishOutofWater
(547 Recommends)

FishOutofWater says that the situation is already optimal and talks about how Operation Hilarity could backfire on President Obama.

Independents are abandoning the Republican candidates because one of them is a cold vulture capitalist with the charisma of a turnip, the second is a rube who believes women should be barefoot and pregnant and the third is a huckster on his third marriage.

There is absolutely nothing we can do to improve the situation. It's already as close to perfect as it could possibly get.

[ ... ]

What we could do is make Romney look better to conservatives and independents. How? By giving him excuses. By making it seem like liberal Democrats are trying to sabotage him. By getting Obama dirty with stupid pet tricks.

Remember when Rush Limbaugh tried to prolong the Democratic primary between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama?

How did that work out for Republicans?

Fish also offers some on the ground history from North Carolina and another strong argument that has nothing to do with squeamishness or idealism.
The primary here (in NC) is one of the reasons President Obama won North Carolina. If the primaries had ended early Obama would have never had the opportunity to generate so much enthusiasm so early in North Carolina. He developed a political machine here for the primary that gained the strength in June to win the general election in November.

Extending the primaries could help Romney gain strength too.

Example Diary 5

This diary might partially fall into what kos calls "squeamishness" and idealism but it's also a strong argument from a Michigan resident and insider on Michigan politics saying that it's unnecessary and a waste of precious resources on a race where Santorum was already gaining.

So now we're subverting democracy? Count me out of Operation Hilarity.
by Eclectablog (664 Recommends, no poll)

I am astonished at this. It's beyond the pale. We're not only better than this, we KNOW better than this. This will accomplish nothing. The GOP is doing a fine job of imploding on their own. A misguided attempt by the most powerful progressive website in the world doesn't change that equation at all.

By launching this, you remove yourself from any future debate about whether it's okay or not to interfere with another political party's elections. And THAT is a huge mistake.

And, Michigan? Really? Are you guys aware that Romney is tanking against Santorum in Michigan already? Two polls have him well behind. Why spend precious electoral financial resources on something that's already happening?

Comment Examples

While there were many good and well supported diaries, there was also a treasure trove in the many, many comments that gave a strong sense of why people opposed Operation Hilarity, and these diaries and comments continue still. There were several clear themes that came from the comments.  I'm not sure that I have the most indicative comments here, but I will offer some that I remember which support those themes.
Research has shown a correlation . . . (3+ / 0-)

between campaigns for antigay marriage amendments and an increase in HIV transmission among gay men in the states where the campaigns occur.  (I know.  I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating.)  So there is certainly data indicating that the kind of uptick in homophobic/transphobic rhetoric that occurs in such campaigns has harmful effects.  It is depressing to see people, even front pagers, suggest that such things are simply collateral damage we'll have to deal with.  

by FogCityJohn on Wed Feb 22, 2012 at 02:39:29 PM EST

This is my principle concern. (24+ / 0-)

I can't remember when an election's down ballot races were more important during the primaries.  

In 2010 the Blue Dogs were decimated in the House.  Although Democrats lost the majority, the overall balance of the caucus improved.  Now, in a number of states, the primaries will determine which Democrats will get to run in the general next November.

[ ... ]

by LeftOfYou on Thu Feb 16, 2012 at 10:40:01 AM EST

I don't know man. (7+ / 0-)
[ ... ]
In other words, they start finding out we're screwing with their election process it could be a rallying point. We could be stirring up their base. Firing them up to support whoever wins just to show us Libs. As it stands right now, it seems half on either side of the GOP rift won't show up to support the other's candidate. Do we really want to give them a reason to unite?
[ ... ]
by Pescadero Bill on Thu Feb 16, 2012 at 10:22:17 AM EST
A few months ago you thought Bachman would be (75+ / 0-)

the nominee.

Things will not look in November like they look now.

Should President Santorum be inaugurated, you will be remembered forever as the man who was too clever.

This is just dumb.  Drop it.


by petral on Thu Feb 16, 2012 at 02:35:57 AM EST

Whether or not this is ethical, the problems (46+ / 0-)

it could cause for the Dems are what really scare me.
First there's the blowback as the the Republicans can use this to hype outrage and shift the anger from each other to us. I'm not worried about Daily Kos going under like Acorn, but I am worried about us being a convenient target that unites these guys just at the moment they're shredding each other.
[ ... ]
Second, the Republicans will use this to justify voter ID laws. Of course it's legal. Of course it has nothing to do with voter fraud. But that doesn't mean it can't be easily twisted into a basis for claiming that Democrats are trying to steal the votes.
Third, it looks bad in the media and makes Romney a more sympathetic character, a victim of the terrible Progressive machine.
[ ... ]
by Tamar on Thu Feb 16, 2012 at 02:42:54 AM EST

Voting for bigots encourages bigotry. (89+ / 0-)
[ ... ]
I am not a weenie.

But a lot of vulnerable kids are placed in danger by Santorum and Bachmann and their ilk. Last week, even Howard Stern of all people was discussing the link between these homophobes and the bullying and suicides of teens. He called Santorum and Bachamann the "two worst people in the planet."

Rather than voted for, Stern says Santorum and Bachmann should be "drummed out of the country," "spat upon," and "ignored, shunned, and treated as a lunatics."

Sorry, I think this is badly conceived and a really bad idea. If Santorum is still viable in May, that will all but assure the NC anti-gay Constitutional amendment is approved.
[ ... ]
by Scott Wooledge on Thu Feb 16, 2012 at 02:47:28 AM EST

And Ron Paul? (43+ / 0-)

I'm afraid I'm still scratching my head about this one.  We had one diary after another about how it was abominable even to say that Ron Paul might be correct about certain policy objectives (e.g., ending the drug war) because this amounted to helping Paul gain a platform for his other views.  (As I recall, Meteor Blades even wrote one of those diaries.)  And this was true even if one made clear that one wasn't endorsing Paul and that one condemned his other views.

Yet somehow this fastidiousness has now deserted us.  Whereas with Paul, it was all or nothing, with Santorum, well, not so much.  So the site which could not abide someone saying, "I think Ron Paul is right about ending the war in Afghanistan," is now calling on people to actually go out and vote for the most outspoken homophobe among the Republican presidential hopefuls.  
[ ... ]
by FogCityJohn on Thu Feb 16, 2012 at 02:51:08 AM EST

you are wrong Kos... (30+ / 0-)

...and not because it breaks some sort of rules.  It is wrong because it is a stupid idea that gives the republicans a distraction and a rallying point in an otherwise dismal primary campaign for them.  Not only that but it damages the sites brand, now I know it is your site to piss away as you please, however others have invested a lot of time and effort in making this place what it is and a place that can be powerful if used well.  This is not a good use in my opinion.
[ ... ]
by delver rootnose on Thu Feb 16, 2012 at 03:06:07 AM EST

I just think it's tactically stupid. (62+ / 0-)
[ ... ]
I really don't understand why you would want to incite demoralized conservatives to activate. As the GOP primary process has dragged on, the turnouts have consistently declined, as the base realizes just how weak its candidate pool is.

I can guarantee you that the loudmouth media giants of the right will use this idiotic campaign to fire up the base and boost turnout to drown out any influence your prank will have on the process. And that voter enthusiasm will carry over ot the general.
[ ... ]
by Bob Johnson on Thu Feb 16, 2012 at 03:06:53 AM EST

I just read a quote from Napoleon (35+ / 0-)

    Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake

That's what Operation Hilarity does.

by plf515 on Thu Feb 16, 2012 at 07:16:23 AM EST

Today's Parallel is Weak

Just one more point I'd like to make:  In today's approach to persuade the DailyKos community to support Operation Hilarity, you use some of the same memes about being fighters, putting aside idealism, etc. although with fewer insults.  But the big thing today was about convincing the community that Team Obama's Super PAC is going forward with the same strategy (or a very similar one) that you proposed.  This just isn't accurate.  The parallel between the operation described in today's Washington Post and the one laid out in Operation Hilarity are not very similar at all.  So this is a very weak argument.  They are proposing attack ads against Mitt Romney, their assumed opponent in the general.  You are proposing getting Democrats to go and vote in open primaries to change the outcome to a Santorum win.  Two entirely different methods.  

Washington Post today:

Obama allies attack Mitt Romney in Michigan

Allies of President Obama are wading into the Michigan GOP primary, attacking former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney on one of his weakest points in the state.

A new Priorities USA ad hits Romney for opposing the auto industry bailout, a position the candidate has struggled to explain as he campaigns in the home of the U.S. auto industry.

Kos' post today:
Luckily for all of us, Team Obama isn't restraining itself based on such idealism. They're playing to win, and this latest action is essentially strategic vindication for Operation Hilarity.

[ ... ]

Obama's Super PAC is now engaging in Michigan, attempting to weaken Romney for the benefit of the GOP's own SNL Church Lady. And as much as the Super PACs might pretend that they operate independently of their candidates, they don't. Priorities wouldn't be hitting Romney in Michigan without the tacit approval of Team Obama.

(Emphasis added)

I have to agree with many of the commenters in today's post that this is a real stretch and not a good way to convince the community to change their minds about Operation Hilarity.
I can´t see how this is like Op. Hilarity (86+ / 0-)

Just an ordinary attack on Romney, who Obama will probably face in the general.
by Mariken on Wed Feb 22, 2012 at 11:55:15 AM EST

But Team Obama is NOT engaged in their (52+ / 0-)

version of OH. They're not telling Democrats to vote for Republicans, they're trying to influence Republicans to vote (or not vote). There's a difference.

by ontheleftcoast on Wed Feb 22, 2012 at 11:55:34 AM EST

Not the same thing Kos (28+ / 0-)

This is a negative ad on Romney from the Democratic position. Either Romney is the nominee or not, it works. They are not pumping up Santorum.

by ddn on Wed Feb 22, 2012 at 11:57:44 AM EST

Nice try Kos, but no they're not (33+ / 0-)

In fact, they've been attacking Romney since they think he's the most likely candidate.  They've now begun to attack Santorum, too, as it looks like he might actually be the nominee.  But unless I've totally missed something, they're not urging anybody to vote for Santorum, much less urging Democrats to do it.

by leevank on Wed Feb 22, 2012 at 11:58:44 AM EST

This is not like Operation Hilarity (34+ / 0-)

and frankly you do a disservice to President Obama and his administration by writing this and implying that it's similar. President Obama would not intentionally put LGBT kids in harm's way and incite violence and terrorism against us.

And this is coming from someone who is a known critic of him. I think this post goes way too far.

by Scottie Thomaston on Wed Feb 22, 2012 at 12:00:18 PM EST

Running an ad against the potential... (32+ / 0-)

...general election camdidate is nothing like Operation Dumbo Drop. This constant justification is beneath this website.

by JeffLieber on Wed Feb 22, 2012 at 12:09:23 PM EST

Lolwut? (18+ / 0-)

C'mon Kos, this is a stretch. This is not a strategic vindication of OpHilarity.

If OpHilarity had been to run TV and Web ads criticizing Mitt? I would have supported it.

Criticizing Mitt != Supporting Santorum in an open primary. These are vastly different tactics, one of which isn't remotely unethical.

by OllieGarkey on Wed Feb 22, 2012 at 12:10:49 PM EST

Not near the same thing... (21+ / 0-)

Operation Hilarity said to donate for ads to tell Democrats to vote for Santorum, PrioritiesUSA is not doing that at all, but rather running attack ads against Romney.

If you wanted to run attack ads against Romney than I don't think anybody would have had issue with it.  

PrioritiesUSA isn't explicitly saying "Hey Dems, let's screw with the GOP primary, so cross over and vote Santorum".  They're saying "Hey Michigan voters, here is why Romney sucks" and then letting the voters decide for themselves how to vote.  

by Jacoby Jonze on Wed Feb 22, 2012 at 12:11:22 PM EST

Facepalm. (23+ / 0-)

Seriously, this is getting absurd. As others have pointed out, this is NOT like OH and no matter how many times you try to push it, most Kossacks have already spoken against this. You're not going to win them over, especially by calling them weenies, or trying to pretend that this is just like that.

P.S. I am not a crackpot.

by BoiseBlue on Wed Feb 22, 2012 at 12:17:03 PM EST

I'm not seeing the strong parallel.  The vindication?  I'm not seeing that either.

And even if it was a good parallel, Obama2012 / Team Obama is very capable of coming up with idiotic ideas too.  I mean, if we are talking about idiotic, remember this?

Top Obama adviser says unemployment won't be key in 2012
President Obama’s senior political adviser David Plouffe said Wednesday that people won’t vote in 2012 based on the unemployment rate.

[ ... ]

“The average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP or unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers,” Plouffe said, according to Bloomberg. “People won’t vote based on the unemployment rate, they’re going to vote based on: ‘How do I feel about my own situation? Do I believe the president makes decisions based on me and my family?’ ”

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