Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Ghost Of Howard Dean

Matthew Yglesias has a provocative piece out in Vox about the underlying travails of the Democratic party. He accurately notes that Democrats tend to rely very much on retaining the Presidency and have no apparent plan to win state offices.

There is a touch of click-bait in his overdramatic funeral oration, as he relies a little too much on Democratic setbacks in 2014.  That was - hopefully - an anomalous election in terms of voter turnout.  It was one of the lowest turnouts ever.

However, he is correct that Democrats have ignored winning control of state legislatures and governor's mansions.  Howard Dean was made DNC chair after 2004 and commenced to rebuild the party with his 50 State Strategy.  The results were the 2006 wave and the 2008 wave.  After Obama was elected, he followed precedent and put his own chair in - Tim Kaine.  However, all subsequent DNC chairs have tended to focus on national elections and national dynamics, while the local parties have gone moribund.

Currently, there is a growing sense of dismay with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz as DNC Chair.  There was friction with other members of the DNC, including Tulsi Gabbard, a presumed rising star.

Perhaps this is the proper time to refocus the DNC on a 50 State Strategy 2.0.  Some of that energy was redirected into OFA, when it became Organizing For America, but there is a real need for coordinated efforts to win back control of some critical state houses.

Tops on the list should be the Rust Belt states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.  Re-invigorating unions and worker's issues in those places could help win back some working class whites, or at least enough to put a dent in Republican control of those state houses.  Yglesias mentions Wendy Davis' failed campaign to win the governorship of Texas.  That's a really bad example, as Texas is a decade away from the sort of demographic changes that could make it competitive for ANY Democrat.  Florida, however, is a great opportunity for a locally energized party to regain the critical House seats necessary to implement any meager legislative objective.

When I heard about the article from the wife, my first reaction was that winning state houses in 2016 isn't hugely important, since you can't redistrict until 2021.  I also don't think Yglesias accounts for the fact that demographics DO favor Democrats in the long run and that party identity can be set fairly strongly at a young age.  Partisanship matters and there are more future Democrats than there are future Republicans.

The challenge is to get used to winning at the state level NOW, so that you can capitalize on those wins in 2020.

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