I know we are depressed about the losses in the recall elections in Wisconsin. But I want to channel my inner Pollyanna and bring you the silver lining in the gloomy clouds of this election year post Citizens United. Here is the good news. Wisconsin progressives, liberals and Democrats will not have a lull between elections. How is that good you ask? Let me tell you about our experience in the Ohio's second congressional district after the Kerry defeat. Follow me down past the orange winding flourish that substitutes for a road around here.
The Democrats in 2004 in OH 02 were not that well organized but the ones that were around worked on the Kerry campaign. Late in the game, the Kerry campaign opened offices in the counties outside of Cincinnati and it brought the progressives together. As we were licking our wounds, feeling very depressed about another four years of W, Rob Portman was tapped to serve in the administration. So there would be a special election very early in 2005 for a congressional seat in OH 02.
The group did not have time to disband. Lo and behold we had a candidate that had a lot of appeal and a fighting spirit - Paul Hackett. Paul Hackett, an Iraqi war vet, intelligent, tall, good looking lawyer with a beautiful family and a Democrat! He fought back when attacked. What a concept! The heavens were shining on us, everyone in the county Democratic parties fell in love with Paul and worked like crazy to get him elected.
But alas, it was squeaker (Blackwell was still in charge of Ohio elections), Warren and Cleremont counties elections were rather troublesome in their procedures. But a Democrat came within a few votes of winning.
Again, the Democrats had no time to disorganize and disband, we had the 2006 election to work on and we had Howard Dean giving respect to the county parties. Even the Ohio Democratic Party was kind of supporting our neck of the woods. We had a really good state slate and the congressional district that had a great chance of winning. Heck, we even had people willing to run for the state legislature. That hadn't happened in ages.
We had a big primary in 2006 with 5 candidates for the 2nd as I recall. It was very civil and Victoria Wulsin, a pediatrician and public health expert won the primary. The other candidates got behind her the next day. Quite frankly it was kind of fun watching the republics in their circular firing squad in both primaries. Oh there was a big kerfluffle over Hackett running for senate when Sherrod Brown stepped in instead of running for representative, and some bad blood over over the ODP deciding to run a candidate against an Indian American in the primary because they thought he couldn't win state wide election (Subodh Chandra and the ODP's pick Marc Dann which that turned out to be a really bad decision on the ODP's part).
Both left a little bad blood between the local Democrats in the 2nd. It wasn't bean bag. But due to new blood in the leadership of the county parties and tons of progressives fed up with republic corruption, we had a ground game that was second to none. We became national media darlings. We were ground zero for swing states, the big change in voter attitude towards the Democratic party. The three major news networks did pieces on our little county party, a crew from a Japanese television network came and even Matt Taibbi from The Rollingstone magazine was at our little headquarters observing the 2nd district campaign and writing a hilarious piece of the 2nd race.
A big part of volunteer turn out was the fact that we did not have the chance to disband in between elections. We got good at GOTV. We were in the habit of working nonstop on all the blood, sweat and toil that goes into elections and running a party. We won all but one of the state administrative positions. We came within a hair of winning the 2nd. It put the fear into the hearts of Republicans, cleaned up county elections and we made them spend money big time on seats that they never had to defend. We made friends and had fun. We stayed together and engaged. That is the biggest lesson to take away from all of this. Don't disband. Keep the gang together no matter if you have to throw a party in a local park, grill hotdogs and charge 50 cents as an excuse to get together.
So Wisconsin liberals, progressives and Democrats, take heart. The work you did on these recall campaigns was not for nothing. You took back the state senate. It made you all bond and gave you experience. So now, you have your organizations in place and your ground game is phenomenal. Do not disband. Go forth and win. And for godsakes, put Howard Dean back in charge of the DNC.