Before there was Daily Kos Elections there was a brilliant blog started by David Nir that with great skill and immense dedication by David Nir and his co-blogger Jame L, Chrisitunity, and JeffMD filled the vital niche of downballot election coverage. What I loved about the Swing State Project was its activism (read: support for the idea of the 50 State Strategy and the need to run Democrats everywhere) and willingness to let candidates actually campaign before writing them off. We all knew that certain races were more difficult than others and we lived in a fact based world and us readers (lurkers like me) and active commenters were mainly numbers junkies (I have for more 10 years experience crunching precinct level returns local, state, and federal candidates and many others here had much more experience than me). But...and here is the important part that is missing these days...we gave candidates a chance to campaign before writing them off and we worked together to push the envelope of which voters were hearing the Democratic case.
Daily Kos back in those days was also on the same page. Markos and the other front pagers were and I believe still are committed to expanding the map of where the Democrats were competitive and aided the victories on red turf of Stephanie Herseth (SD-AL), Bem Chandler (KY-6), and Jon Tester (MT-Sen). We also had a lot of close calls over the years in very red turf such as OH-02 where Paul Hackett (D) lost to Jean Schmidt (R) by 3,785 votes in a district where Bush beat Kerry by 92,350. Now before people say "but Paul Hackett was in a special election and Kerry sucked"...1) Paul Hackett's campaign in 2005 set the stage for Victoria Wulsin (D) losing to Schmidt in the 2006 general by 2,517 votes and 2) Obama lost this same district in 2008 40% to 59%. If we show up with good candidates and run good campaigns we can do much better than the pure Presidential numbers indicate.
Yes, it is hard and not very common to break the standard party performance, but it can be done. But you need to show up, which means you need to recruit quality candidates and let them have time to prove themselves to donors and supporters before they are written off. The numbers are a tool not unbreakable law.
This week Liz Cheney announced a primary challenge to Sen. Enzi in WY. In just the latest comment writing off a race before it even got started the DKos Elections Digest post said "Of course, Democrats have no hope here regardless of what transpires in the primary" Now there is no doubt that WY is a tough state for Democrats, but as recently as 2003-2011 WY had a Democratic governor that was twice elected statewide. Also in 2006 Gary Trauner (D) came within 1012 votes of defeating the incumbent congresswoman Barbara Cubin (R).
With the potential of a nasty Republican primary and someone as polarizing as Liz Cheney possibly being the GOP nominee, why not wait and see and maybe even do some candidate recruitment before writing the race off?
This is just one example of an attitude I feel has become constant in the last couple months. Let's stop ourselves before we start acting like the old DC pundits that we all thought were idiots back in the days of the Swing State Project. I use to be a fervent reader of Roll Call and The Hill back in early 2000s, but there was a reason I was more impressed by David Nir and his amazing fellow bloggers. They gave candidates a chance, they really delved into the nuances of races, and they knew that though numbers mattered so did campaigns and there were active efforts to alert readers of upcoming filing deadlines and candidate vacancies so we could recruit candidates everywhere. Now that was a vital service to the liberal cause.
In part because of their effort (and definitely not because of Rahm Emanuel and other DC numbers focused operatives) the Dems were able to catch the 2006 and 2008 waves. It takes a while for a wave to emerge and candidate filing deadlines happen in many places well before there is clarity that there will be a wave, but we need quality candidates on the ballot to give voters a choice if they decide they want to vote for change.
Let us give voters that choice. Let us go back to our roots of the Swing State Project and Daily Kos of old and use our electrons to advertise ballot vacancies and filing deadlines so local activists that are newer to activism than we are can do candidate recruitment in their area.
Let us do this for state leg races as well. A lot of harm is being done by Republicans at the state level. Smaller districts are easier to door knock and take less money. Let's not write off retaking the NC state legislature for example just because a horrible gerrymander. Instead let's give local activists the tools to recruit, fund, and run quality candidates instead of writing them off and telling their potential supporters there is no hope.
Our words matter and have impact.
At one point I was inspired by Swing State Project to run for city council in my home town. I knocked on doors, got volunteers to help, and I doubled turnout and won by 21 votes. It was a traditionally small turnout election but in the 5 weeks between me filing and the election I did all of that. It was partially inspired by my experience as a lurker on Swing State Project. Let us give others that inspiration and encouragement and watch the impact we are having by writing off districts so quickly.
If we never try to communicate to voters in a given area they will never hear our side, they will become more and more Republican, and then at the next redistricting there will be an even bigger set of of conservative areas to dilute the newly drawn districts.
And a final word about numbers...women are around 50% of all voters in most districts in the country. Given the War on Women, so powerfully demonstrated by Kaili Joy Gray, let's give voter in every district a quality alternative in case they have had enough of the War on Women and all the other extreme behavior of Republican elected officials. This means giving candidates a chance to prove themselves before they are written off. Let's also use our megaphones to advertise filing deadlines and ballet vacancies. Let's encourage people in communities all over the country to run whether she is a recently retired Marine or he is dad active in his kid's PTA, not discourage them or undermine them before they are given a chance.