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Sunday, August 14, 2005

2006 Congressional Races

Posted by Bob Brigham

After reading the shitty-ass Weekly Standard piece, I think I should clarify my stance on how I believe that the best case scenario for Democrats in 2006 congressional races will happen independent of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

For the record, I don't hate the DCCC. But I'm going to operate upon the assumption that they will only come through with last-minute, major ad buys in certain districts. That is not what Democrats need in 2006. But if the DCCC can't handle more than 50 challenger races, then I don't want to force it upon them. I believe Democrats need to fight in every district, that can't happen from the current culture in DC. The only way that works is if Democrats in every district decide they need to fight. That is who I hope to convince, not some incumbent protection slush fund in DC.

Yes I am a blogger and yes I do my best to coordinate bloggers on certain issues. But what I am about to say is from my keyboard to your screen – my voice only…

This debate has received a lot of attention: the Washington Post, the New Republic, CNN (Play of the Week), the L.A. Times, the Hotline, and now the Standard.

And I have written about it a good deal: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

So let me write about it a little more, in reference to the Standard story:

CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR BILL SCHNEIDER is many things, but a dispenser of new and original insights he is not. So when even the avuncular cable analyst noticed the rise of the left-wing political blogs last week, it suggested that the ascendancy of the liberal blogosphere has gone from conventional wisdom to cliché.

I'm hoping somebody from the Weekly Standard can post a link in the comments to the story that showed they "got it" because I seem to have missed it.

Hackett also turned out to be an unlikely hero for the left-wing blogs. In spite of being adamantly for gun owner's rights, unequivocally against pulling out of Iraq until victory is achieved ("We need to get it right, and we need to do it now," he said), and repeatedly disparaging his opponent for supporting Ohio's tax-raising governor, the left-wing blogs who typically loath centrist Democrats adored Hackett.

One paragraph, so much misinformation. Hackett was the perfect hero for the left-wing blogs because he understood the importance of straight talk and bold action and standing proud for his beliefs. Yes, Hackett believed in the 2nd Amendment, which jives well with most bloggers' view of supporting rights. How can we support all rights if we don't support those in the Constitution? The Standard conveniently leaves out the FACT that Hackett was opposed to the needless "war" in Iraq. And of course the blogs cheered Hackett for tying his opponent to the Ohio's most corrupt Republican. The blogs hate the DLC and Hackett was the most anti-DLC candidate I have ever seen. He stood proud for the people and the netroots rewarded him.

So profound was their affection for Hackett that a "blog swarm" developed on his behalf. It would not be overstating matters to say that the blogs, led by Bob Brigham of Swing State Project, put Hackett and the 2nd District race on the metaphorical political map. While the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) ignored the race, Brigham and other bloggers indefatigably raised funds, volunteered time, and spewed rhetoric on Hackett's behalf. Their efforts put the seat in play, and shortly before the election, the DCCC finally entered the fray on Hackett's behalf.

It actually would be overstating matters to say I lead the blogs. Tim Tagaris was doing all of the nationalization that needed to be done and OH-02 blog had been doing all of the localization.. In fact, I only went into the district to relieve Tim when he needed to go to a wedding.

In the aftermath of a shocking election night, one that was widely described by left-wing bloggers as "colossal" and "tidal," Bill Schneider bestowed his "Play of the Week" award on Brigham and his peers. The only downside from the Democrat party's perspective is the inconvenient fact that Hackett lost.

No, we won. It was a 70-30 district, we beat the spread by a healthy margin. Democrats need to stop judging success on Election Day, we need to judge success every day.

FOR THOSE WHO VIEW POLITICS THROUGH a Manichaean worldview where winning and losing is paramount, the fact that the Democratic party lost the election would be proof positive that the entire episode fell somewhere short of perfection for the left. Indeed, no less an authority than James Carville (who raised $100,000 for Hackett with a single appearance) suggested in an interview that the celebrations might best be deferred until there's an actual victory to commemorate.

Carville can kiss my ass – Hackett won every day I was on the ground. Democrats need to stop listening to the pundits and focus on winning every precinct, every district, every state – every single day. Every time Democrats compromise to try to win an election, we lose in the long run.

But bloggers and other analysts have been eager to extrapolate the results of Ohio 2nd District (Hackett lost by about 4 percent) out to the 2006 midterm elections--and beyond. Whether or not such inferences are warranted is an open debate, but not a particularly interesting one.

Actually, it is a very fucking interesting point, which is why Dean Barnett wrote this story (but his view helps explain why he never even bothered to call me prior to filing).

But even if the race was a one-off outlier, it still heralded the arrival of two important issues that are likely to be with the Democratic party for the foreseeable future. The first is whether mainstream party outlets like the DCCC can maintain relevance given the competition they receive from the blogs. The second is whether, given the blogs' growing influence, Democratic candidates will be likely to practice the brand of politics that appeals to the bloggers and their readers.

This might be the best paragraph in the story. But it isn't about competition with the blogs because there is not a zero-sum game. The DCCC has the relevance they choose and they have decided that they can only handle 50 serious challenger campaigns. That leaves 180 seats that can provide relevance to individuals willing to fight.

THE INTRAMURAL SCUFFLE BETWEEN the blogs and the DCCC would be hilarious if it did not hold such potentially dire consequences for the Democratic party. In the Hackett race, the bloggers who got involved proved themselves to be much savvier readers of the political landscape than the pros at the DCCC. While the DCCC was still considering the race hopeless, blogger Bob Brigham accurately perceived the effect the Hackett/Schmidt dichotomy would have on the race's dynamics and knew the battle was winnable.
We weren't savvier because we fought, just more relevant. The savvy points were awarded because bloggers didn't rely upon 30 second ads…but could cover the cost of Hackett have 25% more gross points of ads on the air.
So while Brigham got involved and ultimately blazed a trail that would soon be followed by other, more prominent, left-wing blogs like the MyDD.com and Daily Kos, the DCCC remained on the sidelines. When Hackett went on to lose the race by fewer than four points, the blogosphere's rage against the DCCC for staying out of the action until the final few days was palpable.

Again, Bob Brigham led the charge, rather colorfully expressing his anger.

I call it like I see it and the DCCC fucked up.

The DCCC responded to Brigham's tirade on their website, where Jesselee offered an irrelevant, ad hominem attack on Brigham in which she accused him of lying on national television. Subsequently, Jesselee made a rather pathetic effort to assure the hip blogging community that the DCCC is as cool as the other side of the pillow, exclaiming that, "The DCCC is rocking right now like no other." For his part, Brigham has responded by repeatedly demanding that DCCC chair Rahm Emmanuel resign.

The last line is a total fucking lie that my lawyers will be looking at on Monday.

CLEARLY THE DCCC AND THE BLOGOSPHERE are going in different directions. The DCCC is a typical establishment political outfit that, while it supports liberal politicians, operates in a fundamentally conservative manner. As Donna Brazille observes, "The DCCC is understandably cautious in where it spends its limited money and time." Of course, caution is hardly the blogosphere's calling card. But the results of the Hackett race will doubtlessly serve to elevate the blogosphere and diminish the DCCC's prestige. The race would never have been competitive if Hackett had not entered the good graces of the blogosphere and received the hundreds of thousands of dollars it raised for him.

Pretty much.

What's more, at least in this race, bloggers such as Brigham were more insightful than the pros at the DCCC. If Brigham's influence does expand, he'll deserve it. He understood the situation before anyone else did: If the DCCC had listened to him and poured resources into the race before the 11th hour, it's quite possible that Hackett would have won. It would not be surprising if Democratic candidates queuing up for the 2006 elections were paying attention to who the Democratic king-makers (or near-king-makers) really were.

This is the type of bullshit that happens when a reporter never picks up the phone. My whole point is that we need to fight everywhere, how can I be a king-maker if I'm saying everyone can make themselves king??? Anyway, you'll see much more on this in the near future, we need to Leave No District Behind.

WITH AN INCREASING LIKELIHOOD that Democratic politicians might play to the blogs, it makes sense to ask what kind of politician and what kind of politics will appeal to the liberal virtual masses. On this score, Paul Hackett provides an invaluable case study. Hackett was definitely a moderate. He never promised an end to the war in Iraq and never adopted any truly "progressive" causes. While he didn't say, "Read my lips--no new taxes," he did repeatedly belittle his opponent's tax-hiking ways. One would have to scan his website rather aggressively to find any mention of the fact that he is Democrat. Yet the left-wing bloggers loved him. Why? While Hackett shared little with the liberal blogosphere in terms of substantive positions, they did have one thing in common--a mutual fondness for bilious and spiteful rhetoric. While some may cherish Hackett's bluntness, the attorney's choice of words at times made him sound as though he was channeling Michael Moore. During the campaign, Hackett referred to President Bush as a "chicken-hawk son of a bitch." Later, Hackett posited that the president posed a greater danger to the United States than any other threat.

I never found a position I disagreed with. Again, some crappy reporting fails to mention that Hackett opposed the war (yet re-uped). And while Hackett called Bush a "chicken-hawk" (he is), it didn't end up in the same quote as his I'll die for the SOB line

While just a few weeks ago it seemed that liberal bloggers wanted Democratic politicians to mirror not just their rhetoric, but their substantive politics as well, the Hackett campaign suggests something else entirely: In spite of being a moderate, bloggers fell in love with Hackett based on little more than a shared fondness for juvenile insults and a mutual loathing of George W. Bush.

Kiss my ass you lazy fucking reporter, next time pick up the fucking phone before you make a complete ass out of yourself.

The irony of the blog litmus test is that Hackett clearly fails it. A Google search of his website shows that nowhere on the site did his campaign use the word "Democrat." (The only mention of the term on the site is within 19 previously published articles that were laudatory of the candidate that the campaign chose to republish.) As a matter of fact, his campaign's chosen slogan was "Not just for the Red. Not just for the Blue. But for the Red, White and Blue." That sounds an awful lot like the kind of triangulation that would win an approving nod from Dick Morris. What's more, his televised commercials also conspicuously omitted any reference to his party affiliation--which further suggests that Hackett was less than fully "proud to be a Democrat."

Of course, a real reporter would have seen the Hackett effect coming before the election and headed to Ohio. Once there, a real reporter would have seen every single interview include a question about Hackett's Party being a liability and every single answer was not a pivot to better ground, but a long-winded explanation of how proud Hackett was to be a Democrat. This is bullshit reporting from a lazy reporter.

Whatever their faults, organizations such as the DCCC owe their existence to an ideology. It may be a rickety, tottering ideology--but it's something. The shift from the DCCC to the blogs may signal that the Democratic party will no longer even pretend to be a party of ideas, but will instead become a party of oppositionism somewhat akin to Great Britain's current sad sack of Tories.

The DCCC is about ideology? Everyone reading this who has ever encountered the DCCC is laughing right now. There are great ideas, and you can find them on the blogs. In fact, a great idea that doesn't end up online is nothing.

Posted at 12:52 AM in 2006 Elections - House | Technorati


My experience with the DCCC here in NJ's 7th Congressional district is the exact opposite of the "too late to the party" story that is out there. In our case they were too early in 2000 (endorsing in a PRIMARY!) and then abandoned the primary winner, and in 2002 and 2004 they promised incredible support that never materialized.

So when the DCCC says your district is targetted, ignore it. If the money and boots and ads and organization shows up, that's a major bonus.

But don't expect it to. Do the work yourself, and then if the DCCC shows up you will have MORE than you need to win. Don't do the work and the DCCC will never show up, and you will have nothing.

Posted by: njdem [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 14, 2005 09:52 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Good work guyz..and Brigham

Dems Should Modify '55 Percent Rule - EDM

In the wake of Paul Hackett's near upset in the Ohio 2nd district congressional race, Ron Brownstein's latest LA Times column, "Campaign Battlefield May Grow," features an interesting discusssion about Democratic strategy in upcoming congressional campaigns. Brownstein's column centers on the debate between internet activists and Democratic Party leaders over how much money should be invested in races in GOP stronghold districts, which Hackett's campaign suggests may not be so far out of reach for aggressive Dem candidates.

Both sides offer compelling arguments, which are well-presented by Brownstein. But Hackett's near win does indicate that the "55 percent rule," in which the Democratic Party withholds significant cash from races for districts the GOP won in the previous election with 55 percent of the vote, should be modified.

Meanwhile, The internet activists, led by Swing State and Kos won't be sitting around waiting for the Party to embrace their broader vision of electoral victory. Instead, they will be raising serious dough for more dark horse candidates in the months ahead --- one more reason why 2006 is shaping up as one of the more interesting congressional campaigns in a long time.

Posted by: John McCutchen [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 14, 2005 04:52 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Hey, said my name is called disturbance

Left out the best, and in fact, only good part of the TNR piece...

    On Election Day, the bloggers' "war room" consisted of a dark corner of the Goldminers Inn, a dank dive bar in Batavia, Ohio, where four twentysomethings quaffed cans of Miller Lite and ruminated about their growing role in Democratic politics. The leader of the group was Bob Brigham, who blogs for a site called Swing State Project. After raising a six-figure sum for Hackett, Brigham had flown in from San Fancisco and "embedded" himself in the campaign, riding in Hackett's small convoy from event to event in baggy blue jeans and faded red canvas sneakers. "We're three times as relevant as the dccc. And you can quote that!" he told me between sips of beer. "It's a sea change in Democratic politics. I see Al From and I see a hearse. This is the future. We're way ahead of the curve." Brigham proceeded to tell a strange tale, wherein Donnie Fowler, a onetime candidate for chairman of the Democratic National Committee, allegedly threw a punch at him. Did it land? "Hell, no! I'm virtual!" The spirit of the Dean campaign was alive and well.

Posted by: John McCutchen [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 14, 2005 04:57 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

As some people have talked about here it is important for us to do the work to win ourselves in each and every district. However, there are many districts out there that are winnable that the DCCC has not focused on, and if there is going to be a true attempt to win back the House in 2006 they need to focus on those races. Whether or not they do that remains to be seen. I think one thing is clear though, any candidate in an untargeted district who wants to win needs to embrace the internet, and needs to do so in a way that allows everyone here to take part in the process. It is my hope that you will see a number of candidates take that approach, truly engage the internet community, and come out on top because of it.

Posted by: JDF [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 14, 2005 11:13 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Frank Rich

Mark mentioned Rich in a comment to Brigham's "Weakly" Standard post but for some reason I could not post a follow up comment there.

So I will do so here.

Reed Hundt over at TPMCafe says Read Rich, and speaking of rich in the pos,t he also raises the question of permanent bases in Iraq - a long sought after GonzoCon plum...make that plural

Then, in so many words he asks the really tough questions..

Where's the national debate?

Where are the fucking democrats?

Well Biden was blustering and bloviating again with MeToo McCain ("let's throw some more American bodies on the pyre..Let's make the pyre higher") - the Bobsie Twins do the Talkies, there was obviously no great national debate yesterday...

The Democratic "leaders" are either in hiding or in checkmate and with Clinton doin Rodney King, "can't we all just along", the chances of a great national debate on permanent bases in Iraq (TIME NOW buttwipes) are slim and none.

Except for Ron Brownstein:

Concrete Speaks Louder Than Biden Bloviates
Permanent U.S. Bases in Iraq? Experts See a Political Minefield

August 15, 2005

President Bush and his top advisors have never said the United States wants to establish permanent military bases in Iraq. But they have never ruled out the possibility either.

Should they?

Larry Diamond, a former consultant to the U.S. occupation authority in Iraq, thinks so. In fact, he considers it a crucial step toward ending the insurgency.

Diamond is an expert on promoting democracy and the editor of a respected journal on the subject. Though he considers himself a Democrat, he works as a senior fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University. There he came to know Condoleezza Rice during her time as a Stanford professor and administrator.

Bush took a similar line in January in an interview with Arabic television. "That's going to be up to the Iraqi government," the president said. "[It] will be making the decisions as to how best to secure their country, what kind of help they need."

Leaks from the Pentagon have deepened the uncertainty. In May, the Washington Post reported that military planning did not envision permanent bases in Iraq but rather stationing troops in nearby Kuwait. But the report noted that the Pentagon was also planning to consolidate U.S. troops in Iraq into four large fortified bases.

On the theory that concrete speaks louder than words, critics see such work as a sign the administration is planning to stay longer than it has acknowledged.

John E. Pike, a defense analyst at GlobalSecurity.org, points to another indication. Although the United States is systematically training Iraqis to fight the insurgents, he notes, the Pentagon has not taken key steps — like making plans for acquiring tanks or aircraft — to build an Iraqi military capable of defending the country against its neighbors.

The most ominous, and perhaps most likely, possibility is that insurgents and Islamic extremists will wage war against an Iraqi government allied with the United States whether we stay or go.

Permanent U.S. bases might stoke the fire, but it is probably too much to hope that it will burn out without them.

8265. jexster - 8/15/2005 7:55:13 PM

Dan, I like the cut of your jib

Re: Read Rich (4.83 / 6) (#52)
by Dan K on Aug 14, 2005 -- 02:41:07 PM EST

We Democrats cannot shirk the onerous task of facing up to our internal predicament, and dealing with it. While there are several importantly different points of view on the Iraq war, these are the big two:

There are Democrats who favor the decision to go the war against Iraq, but simply object to the poor planning of the invasion and mismanagement of the occupation.
There are other Democrats who think the decision to go to war was wrong, and that the war was both strategically stupid and criminal.
These are two dramatically different points of view, reflecting two very different conceptions of the future direction of our party and our country, and of the proper role of American power in the world. There is simply no point in pretending that they are just two slightly different variants of a single anti-Bush critique. There is also no hope of uniting the party behind a unified foreign policy agenda so long as this deep philosophical split remains unresolved.

When elections roll around, I am a loyal Democrat. I voted for Kerry and campaigned vigorously for him, despite my grave reservations about his foreign policy. In fact, I have never voted for a Republican or Independent in my entire life, at any level. But in the periods between Presidential elections, I have no compunctions about fighting vigorously against other Democrats over the future of the party.
For me personally, the mobilizing event came when Peter Beinart penned his famous "Fighting Faith" article in The New Republic. Beinart called for a purge of the party's antiwar wing, analogous to the post-WWII purge of the Wallace wing of the party by the Democratic Cold Warriors. Michael Lind has also written recently about drumming the antiwar "radical left" out of the party - expressing himself in openly contemptuous and hostile terms.

These are fighting words. And I have no intention of begging off this fight and standing by while the purge moves forward. This is a momentous, unavoidable, historical battle for the future of the party.

To steel our resolve and boost our morale, progressives can look to our fellow-Americans in the other party for inspiration. When their centrists told them for years they must moderate their views to compete with the Rooseveltian consensus, some went in another direction. Eventually they won the day, and spearheaded a vital, and ultimately very dangerous, cultural movement in a hard rightward direction, a movement that has swept Republicans to power across the country, and has begun the process of rolling back decades of progressive achievements. We are not going to turn back this right-wing tide with the sweet and ineffectual whispers of moderate centrism. We are not going to recover the deep, sustaining tradition of progressive patriotism by aping the right's neo-imperialist chauvinism or peppering our speech with shallow militaristic loan-words from the right-wing lexicon. Nor are we going to win by adopting an ugly right-wing populism and calling it the "Radical Middle"; that is not winning the war - it's surrendering.

I'm not in favor of purges and witch hunts. But people like Hilary need to be lead to a back seat. The currrent leadership of the Democratic Party needs either to be replaced by the leaders of a neo-progressive movement, or to join the movement themselves. The goal of neo-progressive foreign policy is a vital new internationalism, establishing strong new institutions of international law and governance to manage and defuse conflict, promote disarmament, combat environmental degradation and promote global prosperity in an increasingly multipolar world, a world whose burgeoning populations are right now poised for decades of bitter conflict over dwindling resources and space.
The foolish and dangerous movement of post-Cold War American triumphalism must go, along with its completely unrealistic assessment of the scope of US power; its supremacist delusions about a perpetual US hegemony that doesn't even exist now; its romantic unilateralism; its crusading ideological assertiveness which seems shriek that the only good government is American government; its pathological jingoism dressed up as healthy patriotism; and and its contempt for any law, global constraints and international decisions that are not dictated by the United States, or do not serve its immediate or short-term interests. It is time to end decisivley the remaining grasp of this crowd on our foreign policy. And that means we must also defeat the influence of the Democrats who supported it, whether they were enthusiastic and knowing participants, or merely useful idiots.

Hey! Said my name is called disturbance
I'll shout and scream, I'll kill the king, I'll rail at all his servants

Posted by: John McCutchen [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 15, 2005 03:13 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I hesitate to throw more gasoline on Brigham's fire...Allah knows he's hot enuf...but what the hell

Ari Berman's View of the Demos' Worldview

Just appeared in the Nation today

There's an approach which says, 'Let's raise the stakes and call,'" says former Senator Gary Hart, a rare voice of principled opposition in the party today. "That if Republicans want a ten-division Army, let's be for a twelve-division Army. I think that's just nonsense, frankly. It's stupid policy. Trying to get on the other side of the Republicans is folly, both politically and substantively." If Hart is correct, then why does so much of the Democratic strategic class march in lockstep?

Posted by: John McCutchen [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 15, 2005 03:39 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment