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A Strategy for Democrats in Very Red Districts

by: AndySchmooklerforCongress

Tue Jun 18, 2013 at 11:41:30 AM EDT

( - promoted by lowkell)

There are many congressional districts where Democrats have nearly zero chance of winning anytime soon. (The recent victory of the disgraced Mark Sanford in a South Carolina congressional race shows how safe a Republican seat can be.)

The difficulty of winning these seats, paradoxically, presents an important opportunity for Democrats.

In the short run, the political battle in America is over who will hold the offices where laws get made. In the long run, the battle is over shaping the public consciousness that determines to whom the people will give power.

For the latter purpose, Democrats in very red districts can make an important contribution in the battle over the country's destiny.  It's an educational role that is especially vital because our politics are broken, and while most Americans see there's a problem, not enough Americans see where the problem lies.

A candidate in an unwinnable race can focus on moving hearts and minds, at least incrementally, toward recognizing the paramount political truth of our times:  The force that's taken over the Republican Party is being consistently destructive and irresponsible.

The immediately visible problem in our politics is that nothing is getting done.  Last year's Congress accomplished less than any in memory. This year's Congress is no better.  And it's clear why.

It is well-documented that even before President Obama took office, congressional Republicans decided that their top priority was to make him fail. If nothing can get accomplished, the Republicans figured, the people would blame the president and throw him out of office.

That approach didn't gain the Republicans the White House in the 2012 elections, but obstruction remains the Republicans' main political strategy.  And their control of the House and the use of the filibuster in the Senate, enable them to cripple our governing process.

Helping people see that our governmental dysfunction is a deliberate choice the Republicans are making is a good starting place, building as it does on the concerns of citizens -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- over the stalemate in Congress.  But that's just one piece in a very big picture that Americans need to see.

AndySchmooklerforCongress :: A Strategy for Democrats in Very Red Districts

     • Income and wealth inequality are wider than at any time in living memory, yet Republicans are helping to widen that gap.

     • The country is still devastated by the aftereffects of a financial collapse, yet Republicans are working to prevent the restoration of the kinds of regulations that kept our financial system stable for seventy years.

     • 97 % of the top scientists in the climate field agree that climate disruption may pose the greatest challenge in human history, and we're already seeing costly consequences, yet Republicans have made it party dogma that the scientists are wrong and that nothing, or little, should be done.

     • Getting Americans back to work should be our top economic priority, yet Republicans block programs to add jobs while insisting on austerity policies that have thrown additional hundreds of thousands of Americans out of work.

When today's Republicans are out of power, they try to prevent anything good from being done. But when they were in power, they gave us a presidency (2001-2009) that was perhaps the most damaging in our history:

     • two wars of choice, one under false pretenses;

     • officially sanctioned torture;

     • more assaults on the Constitution and the rule of law than by any previous presidency (according to Bruce Fein, the conservative Reagan jurist);

     • an economy in the worst shape since the Great Depression;

     • the inflaming of divisions among Americans;

     • hostility toward America among citizens of nations that have historically been our friends.

Clearly, something very dark has arisen on the political right, and the nation is paying a high price for its continuing power.  

But that power derives from the people.  If we believe in democracy, we must believe that if the people saw this destructive force for what it is they would take away that power.

Democrats in very red districts - behind enemy lines, as it were - are well-positioned to tell the truth about what the once-respectable Republican Party has become.  Even while cruising to victory in their "safe" districts, party-line Republican incumbents can become the means of exposing the dishonest and destructive nature of the party they serve.  Like a combination shot in pool, campaigns against such Republicans can be a means to strike at the larger force behind.

It's not only candidates who can apply this combination-shot strategy.  Ordinary citizens - with or without coordination with a Democratic candidate-- can organize demonstrations that expose the destructive spirit that animates today's Republican Party. By getting media attention, such citizens can convey this important message to the larger public.

Even if "safe" Republicans win, campaigns against them might influence toss-up races for other national or state offices and, over time, might work to dislodge some of the entrenched beliefs that have been instilled by the purveyors of the lie.

This strategy would be worthwhile in any heavily red congressional district.  But if this approach were followed in these districts across the country, the combined force of many coordinated voices could press this powerful truth into the national discussion.  

That's the opportunity.  Can Democrats organize to seize it?

[In a subsequent post, I will provide some thoughts on steps people could take to implement this strategy.]


Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's very Republican 6th District.  He is the author of various books including The Parable of the Tribes:  The Problem of Power in Social Evolution.

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Waiting (0.00 / 0)
As a denizen of a very red area I like the strategy you allude to and would happily utilize it. I await your "subsequent post" with the steps that can be taken.

thanks, glennbear, and in the meanwhile (0.00 / 0)
I appreciate that, glennbear. And I will soon get to work on composing that subsequent post.

In the meanwhile, I'd like to encourage you to give thought on your own on how it might be made to happen, and what role you could play in getting it to happen.

My specialty over the years has been in understanding what's happening.  Secondarily, I come up with some strategic ideas, like this one.

But organizing things on the ground is something I've done a whole lot less of than a number of other people, and I'm hoping that people with a talent for that will step up and provide their insights and energies to galvanize the kinds of actions that could make this strategy succeed.

[ Parent ]
Start with letters to editors (0.00 / 0)
Start by writing letters to the editor to every newspaper in your district.  Believe it or not, people read letters to the editor and undecideds can be swayed by your letters.

Where to get material for your letters?  This diary provides an excellent starting point.  You see the bullet points in this diary?  Make those your letter; don't be afraid to attack the Republicans head-on and without mercy.  

[ Parent ]
Quite right-- LTEs are one very good tool (0.00 / 0)
They have the advantage that anyone can do it without waiting for or working with anyone else.

Demonstrations take organizing and coordination. A letter to the editor does not.

By the same token, events that bring in numbers of people have advantages of their own:  democracies are impressed by "the will of the people." Crowds have power.

In either approach, crafting the message well is important. It should point clearly toward the deep realities where values that all decent people --liberal and conservative-- share.

[ Parent ]
mommy party versus adolescent party (0.00 / 0)
Many people have seen the Democratic Party as the Mommy party and the Republicans as the Daddy party.

A more accurate framing is the Democratic party as the adult party and the Republican party as the adolescent party.
They spend money we don't have at the national level.
Instant gratification budgeting at the local level with no foresight or long term investment and planning.
Looking down and down-right being mean to the vulnerable.
Macho tough guy bravado. Private prisons. National defense waste.
Being naive and being manipulated by corporate elites.


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