Let me begin by saying that I agree with nearly everything that Congressman Grayson said and agree particularly with his comments that House Republicans are Neanderthals. I agree that someone who stands up and defines the Republican House Caucus for exactly what they are is an incredibly valuable thing. But at the same time I worry about campaign giving which depends almost completely on emotional response and which then leaves the donor nearly powerless over what happens to that money and which does nothing to solve what at this moment is the Democrats current biggest problem when it comes to the 2010. It is also important to look into the facts which surround every race, from the money dumped on Congressman Grayson, or Rob Miller who is challenging Joe Wilson in South Carolina’s second district.
For instance, what percentage of Congressman Grayson’s donors knew that he is a massive self-funder who gave himself more than three million dollars for his 2008 race. This does not automatically mean he should be forced to self-fund forever, or that he isn’t worthy of donations, but it does raise the question at least slightly.
When the money simple rains onto incumbents it distorts the system. It is more than likely that amongst the something like 100 democratic candidates running in either open seats or challenging incumbent Republicans there is another Alan Grayson, or Carol Shea-Porter , or David Loebsack who given the nature of the race they are running, are only that 100k, or so away from being for real.
As a first step, might I suggest to Congressman Grayson, that in response to the outpouring he has received his campaign committee goes out and finds ten strong house challengers who are progressive champions and gives them the maximum allowed by law. This will run him at most half, of what he has raised from the progressive blogosphere and will strengthen his influence far more than simply keeping it for more television ads in his own district. If he announces those ten, we can have a multiplier effect, and truly strengthen our hand. It isn’t perfect, but it is a start.
While this would be a good start is doesn’t address the bigger problem of how dollars often spent in ways which don’t strengthen the progressive movement or deal with the big problems we face. One such potential instance is the nearly $ 250,000 being spent on T.V. ads attacking Max Baucus and Olympia Snowe on Healthcare and the Public Option, by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America. Don’t get me wrong I want the Public Option but it seems that either efforts are playing into the very same game that we don’t want to play.
This is because I don’t think Olympia Snowe will vote for the kind of bill that we want to see. It seems unlikely that she will be truly willing to be the only Republican willing to break with her entire caucus. While I would love to be able to put her seat into play in 2012 the total failure to touch her much more conservative counterpart in 2008, it seems like a pretty remote possibility. The White House in searching for Bipartisanship is focusing on her, but when we play along we raise her importance and that is bad.
The Baucus ads are also somewhat questionable, first of all while not facing the voters again until 2014, it is unlikely these ads will have an impact on his re-election efforts. In general I take him at his word that he supports a public option but feels constrained by needing to get 60 votes in the Senate. While I agree this is a somewhat lame answer, the reality is that for rural red state Democrats, in a 60 plus Democratic Senate, the sixty vote rule is the an important defender of their power, and thereby the power of their States. This is a complicated internal fight, where I agree the White House in facts holds more cards than does either Baucus or Harkin, as does the Progressive Block in the House. Hoping to improve Baucus’s behavior with T.V. maybe a good idea but might not be.
The major problem with issue ads, is that they quickly disappear, and it is very difficult to pin people down on their support for particular legislative tools. We know, what we mean, but the broader audience probably doesn’t, as can be seen by the very different answers you can get when asking about the Public Option.
The big structural problem.
Going in 2010 we as progressive face a serious structural problem. It can be described best as a Demographic gap, and it something that gets whispered about but never discussed openly nor is much of a cure sought or hope made in that effort. In 2006, which was a very good Democratic year, the gap persisted. The 2006 electorate was much older and much whiter than the 2008 electorate. It is because of this and this alone that Republicans are in serious contention for making serious gains in 2010, gains which if made will be difficult to change in 2012, because of the way the Senate Map exists. On a national level, in 2006, the electorate was 12% under 30. In 2008, it was 18%. In 2006 the electorate was 10% African American and in 2008 it was 13% African American. Given how those groups voted in 2008, that amounts to a nearly four point swing to Republicans in 2010 before anyone even changes their minds.
In two of the three most endangered Senate seats, the problem is even worse. In Connecticut in 2006% the electorate was 8% African American , in 2008 12%, Latino’s were 5% in 2006, and 8% in 2008, under 30 was 18% in 2008, and 10% in 2006. In Nevada in 2006 African Americans were 6%, in 2008 10%, Latino’s in 2006 12%, in 2008 15% under 30, 2006 12%, 2008, 17%. With the 2008 Electorate, Dodd and Reid are on much firmer ground, with the 2006 electorate they face much scarier races.
While obviously a win on healthcare with a public option would be very helpful, and might even have some dent on fixing this Demographic problem, this problem needs to be tackled much more carefully, and obviously the formula of the past, particularly relaying on T.V. Ads[ far and a way still the biggest campaign expense for both production, consultant fee’s and of course the air time itself.] is wrong. We need to experiment in new and different types of infrastructure to tackle this problem, and between Grayson, Miller and the ads on Baucus and Snowe. The progressive blogosphere spent nearly a million dollars,[depending how you count Miller even more.] Without spending a dime on the most pressing problem. A million dollars is a lot of money in politics if it is spent wisely, but when it is simply handed over to campaigns with no future accountability, and in potentially inefficient ways, It is a shame because the problems we face from a policy perspective comes from spending advocacy and campaign dollars inefficiently and worse playing the game of those who rig it so we never win.