Friday, June 08, 2012

21st Century Campaigning, We Don't Know the Rules

Did you know there were unwritten rules of election campaigning?

There are. And everyone holds them sacred and inviolable. If you break them, you will be taken to task.


No. That's bullshit, I'm kidding you. There are no hard and fast rules that aren't enshrined in law, then worked around by a team of lawyers.

Still...Democrats seem to think there are unwritten rules of campaigning...

One thing I remember hearing as a rule of national campaigns was:
Party leaders are not targeted by opposition leaders.
I heard that a lot.

Then in 2004, Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle was beat in South Dakota. It was the first time a Senate leader was beaten since 1952. Bill Frist, Daschle's opposite in the Senate actually came to South Dakota and campaigned against Daschle. It was a break. More it is a sight of how the political game had changed in the 21st century. Republicans are ready to push the bounds to take power. Democrats needed to counter.

So, Daschle lost and was replaced by John Thune. You may recognize the name as he's a member of leadership in the Senate, and talked up at times as a possible vice presidential candidate. In the wake of the '04 campaign, I would have hoped lessons were learned and party leaders would be targeted in elections and some effort, any effort, would be applied to challenging them. 

2010 came, Democrats were at risk and needed to rally. John Thune was on the ballot again. And standing against him was...No one. Thune, a Republican leader in an important election year ran unopposed. 

What? Why? Now, I understand that South Dakota is red. I know that Thune has good poll numbers. To run against him would be an uphill battle, heck, it would be quixotic. But no alternative? As a Democrat, you went to vote and saw no option to at least register your dislike for Thune. It is galling. 

Is it a matter of throwing money way on a lost? Herseth-Sandlin was fighting to keep the House seat, and they likely wanted plenty of cash and focus for that. I appreciate that. But, what would the barriers have been to just nominate someone to just stand in on the ballot? No major ad campaign, just some signs, some speeches, and make it clear where Democrats stand and why people need to vote with the Democrats. Heck, it would be one more people to get out and vote against her Herseth's opponent. But, no. SD Democratic Party just rolled up that year on that seat. And they also lost the House seat.

It never makes sense to let a challenge to your opposition pass untried. But Democrats do it all the time. 

In 2010, Justin Coussoule decided to run against John Boehner, Republic leader in the House. An Iraq vet, and West Point grad, he wanted to take Boehner on. The Democratic Party leadership couldn't stand it, and did their best to pretend he didn't exist.

David Feldman (at @david_feldman_ on Twitter), on his podcast and radio show, talked with Howie Klein of Act Blue about this. Klein talked about how Boehner is the person who got Coussoule any real attention that year, complaining about how he was being targeted. Some liberal groups were interested in helping, but the party structure meant to assist was AWOL. The DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) ran events in and around Boehner's district, didn't bother inviting Coussoule. That's how serious they were about staying away from the leaders.

Meanwhile the various Democratic senior chairs in Congress in 2010 were targeted, some defeated.

I can only hope at some point Democratic bosses wise up. They're political fighting style is far different from than of the Republicans. Democratic leaders seem to keep thinking Republicans have agreed to not kick them in the balls. Republicans just shrug and kick us in the balls. Republicans are targeting legislative leaders, and having success. Boehner had some vulnerabilities, but DCCC was uninterested.

New leadership? New party bosses? New something, and soon.

We need to learn our lessons, get out, and get involved.

So does the whole of the Democratic Party.

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