While there have been a number of postmortems of yesterday's election in TX-28, I want to offer one more look at what happened because I think understanding past netroots efforts and how we judge success will help us refine our game for the big one: whoopin' Joe Lieberman.
One of the problems with the effort in Texas is that the dynamic advanced so that people were only judging success based upon the election results. If Ciro Rodriguez won, or forced Cuellar into a runoff, then we won. That didn't happen, so we lost.
Only judging success by what happens on Election Day is a major problem for the Democratic Party as a whole. Too often, our side will compromise best practices and/or principles in a short-sighted effort to try and win the next election. We are told that we need to compromise this one time
because the upcoming election is too important, probably the most important election every. Last cycle it was beating Bush, this cycle it is getting subpoena ability, next cycle it is returning a Democrat to the White House, the cycle after will be about re-districting. In fact, each election is the most important ever.
This dynamic is playing out in DC as we speak. Senator Reid and Representative Pelosi think this is the most important election ever, and they are trying to force Howard Dean to quit investing and start spending in a way that appreciates their belief that Election Day is everything. Meanwhile, Dean realizes that even if this strategy were to work, we would still be losing over the long haul. With his 50 State Strategy, Dean is shifting the evaluation metrics from battlegrounds on Election Day to everywhere on every day.
Last summer in Ohio, the effort for Paul Hackett was a success before the polls opened. Hell, I remember Tim touting the success two weeks before Election Day and the the expectations game was positioned in a way that realized our goal was to do better and learn new tactics which is why everyone viewed it as a victory. Similarly, if building solidarity was viewed as important was winning, the TX-28 was a success as it was the first time all three branches of the netroots were focused on the same goal. The problem is that goal was to win, which didn't happen.
So we didn't kill off Cuellar, but we gave him an ass whooping where none was expected and made him sweat.
I think the first and last parts of that are correct, but I think the middle part is open for discussion. How much of an ass whooping did Cuellar really get? Sure he was linked to Bush, but Cuellar loves Bush so did that really hurt him? In fact, I wouldn't be surprised in Cuellar views yesterday's vote as a vindication, considering he did better across the board. Look what his campaign is saying today:
"It's a clear and convincing Cuellar win," Cuellar spokesman Colin Strother said Wednesday morning.
Now back to Joe Lieberman. How should the netroots define success, based only on the election results or based on what happens each and every day until August 8th? I suggest the latter.
The goal in Connecticut shouldn't be to beat Lieberman but to demonstrate that there are severe consequences for acting like Joe Lieberman. The chances of winning the election aren't good, but the potential to punish Lieberman is very real. By judging success every day, Lieberman's best case scenario is to pull a Pyhrric victory where morning after quotes like Strother's would look very out of place.
Many of the postmortems have also looked at timing and entering early from a fundraising perspective. But the intrinsic value of the blogs isn't funding, but communication. Focusing on whacking Lieberman every single day plays to the strength of the netroots, and judging by Dan Gerstein's reaction to Howie Klein, is what worries Lieberman the most.
Yes, we need to help provide Ned Lamont the money to present a positive message to Connecticut voters. Hopefully, DFA and Moveon will stand in solidarity for a united netroots trifecta. But the primary focus should be a constant effort to communicate why Lieberman is such a putz.
This effort could be considered a success before the first ballot is cast. Regardless of whether the voters punish Lieberman, he should be punished. If the goal of the netroots is to provide this punishment, then can will be victorious.