We haven't sworn in President Obama to his second term. Inauguration is a few days away. Yesterday, President Obama made the move to demand that his base do what is expected of them: press the fight. That doesn't just include the NRA. It's not just about gun control, it's about making the case for the soul of our country.
Bring on the whips and arrows, because I'm about to call all of you out. 2012 was a good election for us, but as someone living in Johnson County, I'm going to tell you it could have been better. And what happened in the 2012 house races is not something I want to see repeated in 2014. I look at the stat line of District3 in Kansas:
Republican Kevin Yoder Incumbent 68.5% 201,087
Libertarian Joel Balam 31.5% 92,675
When, in a district that had been held by Dennis Moore (D) for years, a district that includes one of the more liberal components of our state, democrats didn't even fight for the seat. And with all of that.. 31% of the people still voted against the Incumbent. With no campaign, no effort, no shoe leather, no voice.
Well, I've had it. Inch by inch, we're either going to fight this thing out or not. You can't win them all. But you can't win AT ALL if you don't even field someone to press the argument.
Nationally and locally, we've held onto traditional ideas that there is only so much money that can be spent nationally and we have to focus on specific races we can win. This national view has polluted the fact that all of us have a primary duty to our own districts. This doesn't mean I want you to stop donating to the national party.. it means that if you aren't prepared to donate your shoe leather, time and effort to someone in your district then you are missing out on a chance to build your party.
Let me get this point across: national party targeting of a district is a matter of complexities designed to use demographics and returns to put national money to flip, change or hold a seat. It is a time tested method to make sure that you can get wins, force another party to spend, or just make some noise.
But a big part of it is how much offense you play versus how much defense you play.
In the memo, NRCC Executive Director Liesl Hickey argues that the vulnerability of those seven Democrats illustrates the advantage Republicans carry into the 2014 House landscape, one in which a solid majority of congressional districts lean toward the GOP. That edge, she says, gives the NRCC a plethora of opportunities. “In 2014, Republicans will employ the same proven strategy that brought us such historic success in 2010 and 2012: Stay on offense,” Hickey wrote.Part of what enables parties to be on offense or defense isn't just the districts they win but it's the complete lack of fight in districts. Why is that? Because districts where there is no fight at all are bad for the national party as well.
How easy to Democrats feel it is to raise money for a national party when there are no alternatives presented locally? Find me a single district in the US where there is not a home owned by someone who is a registered democrat. Where every square inch is Republican.
So, I'm calling you out. I'm calling all of you out. Here in Kansas we had a great district fight which was lost in District-2, when Lynn Jenkins was challenged. Yes, the Democratic candidate lost but you gave students at the University of Kansas and elsewhere a chance to donate and participate in the process. No matter where you are in this country there are students, first time voters, traditional liberals who are waiting the chance to vote for someone, anyone who represents their cause. And they would rather vote for someone who will lose than vote for no one at all.
So, I'm proposing a few steps:
(1) If you are in an uncontested district, then find someone to run. This sounds ridiculous to so many of you, but part of the problem we have right now is that there is an assumption that in congressmen we are looking for only Ivy-League level genius and tons of other political service. It doesn't always work that way. In the post WWII era, many young military men campaigned and succeeded in their goals to become congressmen and senators. In the past, the idea of "citizen legislators" is part of our being, we grow up on it and we believe in it.
We have bought into the lie that it takes a big money, affluent candidate to win. Several districts in the US do require that. But that is simply not the case. This year, in Kansas District 4, Robert Tillman spent a TOTAL of $31,000. THIRTY ONE THOUSAND. He received 31.6% of the vote. A special education teacher with a Masters Degree in Psychology.
No, that's not a win, but candidates like Tillman mean something to the party. In the past 30 or more years, I've seen candidates run as farmers, small store owners, teachers. And yes, some of those have won their races. Because what it takes to win is to give it a try and to go out and speak to the public.
We have to stop buying into the idea that we have to hit the right target demographic to win. If you don't win you don't win - but getting someone out there to run is a big part of the battle. And if you can't find someone, then ask yourself: WHY AM I NOT RUNNING.
If you are in a district given up for dead, you are harming no one by presenting an argument. Fourteen years ago we rallied behind candidates for the board of education - common people no one with major political backgrounds. They did it because it was the right thing to do.
(2) Distributed Campaigning is the most effective tool small races have. So many races in the US have absolutely no money spent. In a district where a city like Wichita exists less then $100,000 was spent, total on a campaign for a house of representatives. Distributed campaigning, using the internet and campaigners from around the country to write letters, handle research and provide social media marketing works to those candidates advantage. Maybe you don't live somewhere that is a no-contest district. But your aunt in Idaho does. I don't care if the democrat in that district is down by 39 points, what harm is done by posting your thoughts about them in your facebook feed where people can see it in their district?
A very successful campaign manager told me once: "If you change one person's mind, you knock over the first domino". He was right. And even if you lose by 20 instead of 39, you gave the democrats in that district a reason to get out to the polls for measures you may care about. You influence other races from City Councils to School Boards. And if you want to build up to challenge districts and start winning you have to get the people to the polls. We need to be done with districts that are uncontested.
(3) Raise Money Nationally, Burn Shoe Leather Locally. The DCCC needs your support now as much as ever for 2014. In the next two years major issues are going to come around, and a major DCCC warchest helps keep quite a few Republicans in line. The more resources the DCCC has in it's hands, the more sabre rattling looks like a calvary charge and not one guy out on a balcony. No candidate likes the idea of going home to an emboldened and well funded opposition campaign. The more likely that is to happen, the more you can force the issue.
Part of the problem we are having right now is that many candidates have absolutely no accountability to even explain their viewpoint. Candidates who are unopposed have to reason to answer questions about their voting record. They have no reason to talk to the local papers and earn the vote. So while you're giving to the national, burn some shoe leather local. That Republican in Mississippi may be a lock to win, but get him on the record. Burn some shoe leather and force him or her to answer questions. Terrible ideas live in the dark where they can go unquestioned. Does it hurt you at all to go to the campaign events of someone you oppose to get them on the record?
Two of the most important moments in the 2012 campaign where a video tape recorded at a party with Mitt Romney, and statements on the record by Republican lunatics regarding Rape. And those were in CONTESTED RACES. There are a lot of candidates who are running uncontested, with no opposition. The people deserve to know what they think, on the record, about these issues before 2014. I'd like to see answers from EVERY house candidate running on major issues like Gun Control, Birth Control, etc. video'd and posted to Youtube. EVERY single candidate. Maybe they won't lose their district, but some of the most effective ads for other candidates is realizing what the opposition looks like.
We are a nation that is governed by the citizens for the citizens. And we, the people, deserve the answers. In every district. In every inch of this country. There should be NO toleration of candidates who can avoid speaking to the issues because they are unchallenged.
You don't need DCCC money to get a candidate on the record. You need shoe leather and a smart phone. If you don't have either, find someone who does.
(4) Before you surrender a district and decide it's not worth it Ask yourself why you can't advocate for a policy in that area. Look for any major university in that area and ask why it is that not a single young voter in that district would consider voting democrat.
Wait, you can't find a district like that? You can't find one good man or woman who would consider a run in a district where they can at minimum force their opposition to be accountable to the people they represent?
People get scared away from running because they say "I can't win". The only way to lose is to not try at all. If no one has a choice, then we have all lost.
The two Kansans who challenged impossible seats did so on campaigns of minimal money. Similar races were held all over the country. While they didn't win, they pulled more than 30% of the vote. "That's not a win" is the easy answer. But what I see in those campaigns isn't just about winning and losing, it's about party building for people who come next.
In 2014, every single house member in every single district should be held accountable to the people of their district. They should go on the record and respond to the issues of the day. No more hiding out in races that are uncontested. There should be no toleration of candidates who don't have to justify their vote. Every single Republican Candidate should at least answer the questions - on the record, by video or audio the questions that democrats care about.
And if you are in a district where you know you can't win and you aren't prepared to push back a bit then I'm ashamed of you, sorry. Writing a letter to your paper, publishing to your social media, taking an evening out to go to a campaign event of the opposition and ASK THE QUESTIONS that every citizen has a right to hear is your civic duty.
We are a participatory republic. The government is only as good as the people willing to fight for it. January 17, 2013 - We have 18 months to get together candidates. 18 Months to go to campaign events and stops. We have time to get sitting politicians on the record about issues we give a damn about.
And I'm not prepared to surrender a square inch. From the reddest of red to the deepest blue, there is no excuse for candidates who can duck their people and avoid answering the questions that mean something to us.
The NRCC says they plan to go on offense. Good for them. I do too.
9:16 PM PT: Thanks to all the support from many. I've formed a Group, Kansas and Missouri. If you're in the Kansas or Missouri area, and you want to start looking ahead, or just talk about the options in these states for the next two years, I welcome you to join or PM me and I'll add you, now sure how it works. But if I'm going to demand some work, I need to start throwing in.