For want of a nail the shoe was lost.Everybody in Wisconsin and online did a hell of a job. Pat yourself on the back, because I can't reach out and pat it enough for you.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
But now let's take time to understand why we lost. It wasn't just because of a nail. And it wasn't all the Koch Brothers. Try to remember back to early 2011, when this was the message of party insider strategist Mudcat Saunders:
In an interview with The Huffington Post, David "Mudcat" Saunders, a longtime Democratic political strategist known for his work with blue-collar voters, had a different take. Rather than worrying about floodgates bursting open, he argued that the best public relations move for the Democrats would have been to simply let Walker's bill pass and then demonize it.
"Sometimes the best punch you can throw is to let somebody throw theirs first," Saunders said. "I would have debated it forever, as long as I could have kept it going, and I would have voted against it. Let the Republicans have their way and then work on getting the state house back and the governor's mansion. But a protest, that can only work so long."
In the same Sam Stein article, he quotes an AFL-CIO official responding to Saunders' comments:
"I really do disagree with what he was talking about it," Karen Ackerman, political director for the AFL-CIO, said of Saunders' remarks. "In my experience, it is very important for people to fight back no matter what the odds are, because people start to feel empowered."Some people get the importance of fighting back. Some don't. The ones who don't... well, unfortunately, they are often the ones on the inside while the rest of us on the outside stand perplexed, not understanding the kung-fu brilliance of losing as a strategy.
Ackerman added that "all eyes are on Wisconsin."
Now, let's compare that to the strategy of the right. Their strategy was to seize the initiative, to exploit the opportunity when it's available. In Walker's case, that meant breaking up the public unions. As we all know, it wasn't a legislative cost-saving move but a political move. Disenfranchised union workers are less politically organized, less likely to be mobilized voters, a mobilized voting group disproportionately Democratic. From a pure strategy point of view, it was a good plan. They wanted to raze the ground and burn the Democratic crops, like Sherman marching to the sea.
Now, imagine if a Confederate general had said, "Sure, let that Yankee Sherman burn the crops. It's just going to make the citizenry madder at them! We might even get more recruits out of this!" That's the Saunders position.
Any Confederate general who said that would have been, of course, a moronic asshole. He could have felt comfortable sitting on his horse and pontificating that way because they weren't his crops, and they weren't being farmed by his troops. However, no such general existed, because no general was that far removed from the people he was supposed to be fighting for. The strategic implications, too, were profound. Without crops, families starve. When families starve, they have less money to contribute to the cause to pay for bullets. When families starve, they can't send their few remaining working-age men to fight for the Confederacy. Sherman understood this.
Mudcat Saunders was like that imaginary general, though. Wisconsin wasn't his fight. If Walker succeeds, eh, well, maybe the losers will become more activated Democrats. We'll give them sympathy and only token support.
Chairwoman of the DNC Debbie Wasserman-Schultz's comments just two weeks ago. Wisconsin recall: DNC’s Debbie Wasserman Schultz sees no national impact if Democrats lose:
The chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee said Friday that if Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) doesn’t prevail over Gov. Scott Walker (R) in next month’s Wisconsin recall election, there won’t be any ramifications for Democrats nationally.There are two elements to this statement. First there is the boilerplate Scott Walker is a bad man. Tea party, tea party. And then there's the, "Oh well, doesn't matter to us in the long run, anyway. It's not our crops they're burning."
“I think, honestly, there aren’t going to be any repercussions,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said in a broad-ranging interview on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers.”
“It’s an election that’s based in Wisconsin. It’s an election that I think is important nationally because Scott Walker is an example of how extreme the tea party has been when it comes to the policies that they have pushed the Republicans to adopt,” Wasserman Schultz said. “But I think it’ll be, at the end of the day, a Wisconsin-based election, and like I said, across the rest of the country and including in Wisconsin, President Obama is ahead.”
Perhaps she thought two weeks ago the recall was a lost cause and wanted to distance herself from it to save face.
Compare that to the Republicans. The title of this diary is "Why we lost; Why they won." So let's consider what was happening on the Republican side while the DNC watched all this through a telescope as if it was a hurricane on Jupiter. The Republicans mobilized, just like we did. But they mobilized their party, they mobilized their donors, they didn't do it in a half-assed cover your ass way where their ego wasn't on the line. They doubled down on Scott Walker. They showed no weakness. They played to won, and, ultimately, they won. The people on our side fighting so hard felt only a token wind at their back.
Top Wisconsin Democrats are furious with the national party — and the Democratic National Committee in particular — for refusing their request for a major investment in the battle to recall Scott Walker, I’m told.The defense of the DNC would be that: 1) They did give some money support, eventually, after saying that it didn't REALLY matter to them if Walker was defeated. They coughed that money up reluctantly after having been shamed over it.
The failure to put up the money Wisconsin Dems need to execute their recall plan comes at a time when the national Republican Party is sinking big money into defending Walker, raising fears that the DNC’s reluctance could help tip the race his way.
“We are frustrated by the lack of support from the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Governors Association,” a top Wisconsin Democratic Party official tells me. “Scott Walker has the full support and backing of the Republican Party and all its tentacles. We are not getting similar support.”
“Considering that Scott Walker has already spent $30 million and we’re even in the polls, this is a winnable race,” the Wisconsin Dem continues. “We can get outspent two to one or five to one. We can’t get spent 20 to one.”
And: 2) It really didn't matter anyway because they saw the numbers a long time ago and their crystal ball said that it wasn't winnable, so, again, why waste good money? The DNC works so hard begging for money from its donors; why waste it on dumb campaigns that don't affect those of us sitting in our plush offices directly, right this minute?
There is no such thing, really as a crystal ball. There is such a thing as a self-fulfilling prophecy. There are polls that showed it was difficult, but even the polls showed it close.
What really happened here is that there were no big DNC cronies with careers on the line in Wisconsin. It wasn't Wisconsin's money. It was their money. That's why they dithered.
For anybody reading this that thinks the Democratic Party establishment really does worry about spending money on campaigns that can't win, I have two words for you: Blanche Lincoln.
In 2010, Blanche Lincoln ran for reelection and was opposed in the primary by a more progressive (but not ideal) candidate, Bill Halter who was beating her in the polls. The DSCC stepped in and wasted money in the primaries to support Blanche Lincoln over Bill Halter, even though it was a primary -- meaning, whoever won, it would be a Democrat! Their argument for doing so at the time was that Blanche would be the better candidate in November, even though all the early polls showed Blanche losing big. And she did. She lost big.
Towards the end, as Blache's numbers plummeted, as the recriminations began, and it was hard to avoid the obvious, the Robert Menendez at the DSCC hedged on how much money he would invest in Blanche in the closing days. As Sam Seder at the time said, though:
OLBERMANN: In a bigger picture, the election cycle was obviously unfavorable to incumbents long before the last couple of weeks when the polls got so dramatic in Arkansas. Is the Democratic party, the hierarchy, now going to wish that it had not so automatically backed incumbent during the primary phase, and, as you suggest, listened to the base or just listened to what was being said about Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas?Nope. No remorse.
SEDER: I suppose, but I can‘t imagine they‘re going to admit that. I mean, the fact is that the base was basically supporting a guy like Halter not just because he was more progressive, but because they saw him he had a better chance of winning. So now they‘re stuck with Blanche Lincoln, and, you know, she‘s off voting against health care, voting against—or to maintain George Bush‘s tax cuts. I would hope they had some remorse, but I can‘t imagine they would ever express it.
And I have two more words: Ben Nelson:
DSCC Wastes $1 Million in Ads on Retiring Ben NelsonI hope we can see from this that when it comes to certain people and certain causes, the Democratic Party pulls out all the stops. They spend it in ways that are not related to any strategy of furthering progressive goals or shoring up progressive long term assets like union organization and GOTV. This isn't about strategy to them. It's about control.
By: David Dayen Tuesday December 27, 2011 11:15 am
Ben Nelson, Nebraska’s Democratic senator, will retire from the Senate next year, despite benefiting from a million dollars in early-cycle advertising funded by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
So when you look at the Republicans gleefully celebrating, give them credit, because this is a massive victory for them. They didn't just win handily. They saved a hero, a man who stood up to the unions and didn't flinch, a man who, while divisive, divided things correctly as far as they were concerned. And he's just one of many to come. Because if you can get away with this shit in Wisconsin, as mad as people were there, and if you can get away with this without the Democratic Party even really putting its ego on the line... Well, keep on going. To the sea, if necessary.
I raised the image earlier of a Confederate general on his horse on a hill watching the Sherman's Union soldiers raze the fields. Imagine now a woman, down there in the fields, her fields, looking up, and seeing that general on his horse, shrugging, saying, "I guess shit happens. Madame, you have my sympathy."
There was talk on CNN today with Democratic experts like Paul Begala addressing the issue of whether what happened today in Wisconsin would affect Obama in November. The somewhat strained consensus of the Democratic experts was, naw... Wisconsin ALWAYS votes Democratic in presidential elections.
It votes Democratic because of unions and grass roots GOTV organizing. The money and effort that they DID NOT put into Wisconsin today would have gone to strengthening and shoring up that organization. You can be quite certain that the Republicans, who busted their asses on this election, built up their Wisconsin organization. That's permanent asset-building. The Democratic Party saw no value in it.
That's why they won. That's why we lost. Koch brothers, Citizen United: all of them are less important than you really think. You can't win if your party doesn't think it's important enough to really try.