Monday, November 08, 2010

Democrats Need to Aim Low

At every political level, Democrats need to think smaller (at the policy level, they actually need to think bigger and establish clear differences between themselves and the GOP). The DNC, for example, over the next decade, needs to have two big goals - re-elect Obama and win state legislative seats.
The other stuff - Senators, Governors, Congresspersons - that's all the sexy stuff, but Dems need to focus on the scut work, the down ballot stuff that allows for future shifts.

At the local level, the Pinellas DEC shouldn't even be thinking about taking back Bill Heller and Janet Long's state house seats, nor Charlie Justice's state senate seat. They shouldn't be thinking about Harris' old county seat.

The only thing they should be thinking about are upcoming municipal elections.

Let me explain:

When the GOP won big last week, they won at a crucial time. Between legislative chambers they flipped and governor's mansions they took, they will control the outcomes for a significantly higher number of congressional seats in the upcoming redistricting process.

And there is, for Democrats, simply no way around this. Even if another Democratic wave should come along and sweep them back into power down the road, the underlying issue will remain.

There's an old saying, "it's not about who casts the votes - but about who does the counting." These days, it's not about what voters want, so much as who draws the lines.

Of course, in Florida, we recently passed Amendments to make the redistricting process open, impartial and transparent (not that Tallahassee won't still try and subvert that process), but nationally, the best thing Democrats can do to improve the long term odds of success is to start building state legislative majorities ahead of the 2021 redistricting.

Locally - and this is something I have harped on in the past - Democrats need to stop shooting for moon. Putting untested candidates up for county and legislative races that cost at least $150,000 to run is not a good way to win. Right now, too much of the Democratic bench consists of well meaning and hard working people who have neither an electoral base nor experience. This is especially true in the northern part of the county.

The failure to systematically organize and canvass for candidates for city council and mayor in cities like Dunedin and Clearwater represent the biggest failures of the last couple of years. In 2009, for example, a single mailer to Democrats and a concerted effort to institute volunteer phone banks and some canvassing for Deborah Kynes could have provided the the less than 200 additional votes she needed to win. It wouldn't have been as sexy as cheering for Charlie Justice in an uphill fight against Bill Young's millions, but would have been something where the DEC's limited resources could have made a difference.

You may complain that many of these local races are ostensibly non-partisan - I say, that when you have a mano y mano and there is only one Democrat in the race, then the DEC can fairly step in.


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