No matter which state you are in yesterday, for many of you the pain of losing elections was real. There will be talk about what happened, why it happened, and how we fix it. These are discussions that must happen. In a year where ballot measures to increase the minimum wage won in conservative red states, candidates ran from progressive issues like Usain Bolt dashing for a powerbar.
For the last few years, progressives have been fed the message: we have to triangulate to win, be a Republican with just a twist here and there. What we've learned over the years, in multiple states and in multiple races is that the strategy of being a bland candidates afraid to stand on issues, running parties that don't focus on local communities doesn't make us members of the Democratic Party, it makes us members of the Donner Party.
Over the last few months, you've seen the emails from the DCCC, heard from state parties "DOOM" "GLOOM" "IT'S OVER" "THEY ARE VAMPIRES" "WE ARE DESTROYED" (Only one of these is fake, feel free to guess), but now I want to tell you Democrats in red states that suffered setbacks something: You are now the party. You should be excited. This is your chance to change the message of what the democratic party is.
Numerous Democrats, even the old guard of the party, is waking up to what we were saying here years ago: the more you act like a Republican, the less people want to go vote for you.
So, now, I want to talk about positively about how you - progressive Democrats - should be excited about what happens next.
In Kansas today, I've been called a lot of things. I think "Secret Republican" is the current meme. That's OK, because what I'm here to tell progressives in Kansas is that a loss in 2014 opens up very real opportunities for us - and the same is true in other states. We have to be excited and we have to be ready - no doom and gloom stuff.
Elected (D)s in these states need PROGRESSIVES now more than ever.
One of the problems with the Democratic parties in many red states is that they are afraid to act like Democratic parties. They don't form open resistance or they try to backpedal on issues. They do this because they are playing for an election and donors.
We say: that's OK, they want to win. Wipeouts in the ballot box after this strategy give us a chance to say to them: you have tried it your way, let's try something different.
In many red states, Kansas included, we've tried this multiple times. Kansas was stagnant in (2012 - Though Jan Pauls effectively admitted this year she went Republican during this period, a loss of 1) and again in an off year (2014 - a loss of six). With two periods of failures under the belt, Democrats need progressives now more than ever - their ability to raise money and funds from middle of the road democrats is fading away.
If you're in a Red state right now - or a state with a Red State legislature, now is your moment to find representatives and say: No excuses, we have to be VOCAL opposition. You barely won playing it your way. You have NOTHING to lose - except mine and every progressive's donations to your campaign - if you don't.
I've spoken to a few of the Kansas House members already who are with me - let's make noise. I spent some time today talking to house members from other states who also agreed with me - it is time to make noise.
Republicans, who will feel their power because of wins will want to reach out with legislation. Here in Kansas, they have already brought back up the specter of HB2453, the Turn Gay Away Legislation. Fine. No hiding out this time - I expect every Democratic Representative to jump up and be furious. Because they NEED us.
Old Excuses No Longer Fly
One of the greatest excuses of red state Democratic parties, and the national party, is that all of us who believed in the Howard Dean idea of getting the message out all the time in every district were fools. That targeting areas we could win would work. The problem was, that method has resulted in continuous losses since Obama took office, and because we don't message where we don't think we can win.. well, we don't win there. (SURPRISE!)
This also meant that Democrats didn't message on 'controversial' issues. This summer, in Kansas, progressives took over the state platform committee and wrote one of the most progressive platforms in Kansas history.. and almost every candidate ran away from it. It didn't help them. Don't accept the idea that 'we've been told this works and'.. we are a party that believes in SCIENCE. There is no scientific proof available that shows this as a strategy works, in red or blue states.
We are a meritocracy..
This is the one progressives should love most: we are a meritocracy. We are a party that wants our elected officials to actually work and not be placeholders on our message. After wipeouts in many states, we are down to districts that are fairly reliable democratic no matter what we do. Districts that significantly favor Democratic candidates.
What does this mean? It means none of those districts should be held by Democrats who are not progressive Democrats. For some in Kansas that may be hard. It means that in two years, Progressives have to be prepared to primary our own sitting legislators - and let them know immediately that we will do it.
Defeating a (D) who does not represent (D) values in a (D) safe district is an easy decision to make. Someone in our state party leadership told us today, after reading through some thoughts yesterday "We have got to get rid of the houseplants if we want to keep donors." BINGO.
Progressives are now in the driver seat of which Democrats represent us - and we have to make that very, very clear.
The Message the Progressives Hurt the Party is OVER
For the last few years, I've heard in several states that progressives were asked to be 'quiet' or 'silent' on issues, as their approach would hurt the party. It is difficult to look at the turnout models now and assume it was progressives who hurt the party.
No, it's the lack of real interest. Progressives have been portrayed by state party leadership in multiple states, not just Kansas, as being "the people who can screw all of this up". Speaking to Steven Rosenfeld (Alternet/Salon) a few weeks ago, he advised me that there is a real risk that Democrats try to become even more moderate. It is hard to imagine more moderate then refusing to comment on how you feel about the president or how you feel about a gay marriage court case.
What is a fact is that Progressives were the only one this year who provided backbone of actual support - and going forward, we are the only group that provides support that really matters...
Progressives Put their Money Where Their Mouth Was
There are too many who like to think of Progressives as the people who hurt the party. Sorry, progressives were the major donors in races nationwide. including Kansas.
I'm going to break this down, because I am keenly aware many Kansans right now, especially party cheerleaders, have said "what did these people contribute."
DailyKos alone directly contributed:
More than $130k dollars to Jean Schodorf by my count. (ActBlue figure)
More than $24,000 to candidates that I promoted directly here.
Funding through other Kossacks for Davis also brought in a few hundred thousand through various groups.
While I hope I played a role in influencing the decision to back Schodorf, I can directly say I helped candidates achieve these goals:
Sherow raised $85,000 in 2 months, after being told by the party he should quit.
We held fundraisers and support, bringing in slightly less then a hundred thousand for Davis Docking.
We put more than $200k into groups helping to raise awareness in Kansas.
Untold value in media inches.
I've been asked: well, what did progressives get out of this? In fact, today I was confronted with the question, "as a consultant, how much money did you make this year?" So..
My wife & I directly donated a significant sum (she has asked I not share, but I'm sure someone could run reports and probably will at some time..)
I racked up 118,240 Miles of driving on two vehicles over 14 months.
I spent $22,815 in expenditures in filming, documenting and trying to make sure I had taken a real effort to fix things.
I received about $3k in pay for work done, including commercials created (thank you, Justice and so many at DailyKos for helping with those), website work, and reimbursable for hotels.
I bring this up not to crow about funds injected into the party - most of it was funds raised through others who were willing to take my phonecall and listen to me pitch them a red state.
The reason why this matters is because in the end, we are the ones who fund the party - and we are the ones who provide the fuel that keeps our parties going. Democratic parties that found themselves wiped out need us - they need our money too much.
Now is the time to press home that point: Our money isn't freely given to placeholders and those not willing to work on progressive issues. You have nowhere else to go in red states. You've tried it for a while your way, Kansas, Iowa, Arkansas. You ran from Progressive issues and you got spanked.
Now, you need to come back to us for money.
There is nothing wrong with progressives expecting to put some strings attached.