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Excuses are like shitty state party organizations

by: Eric B.

Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 17:17:31 PM EST

So, Democrats rolled a giant dump truck of money up to Jase Bolger's district -- spent in a race by they way they expected to lose -- and doused it all in lighter fluid before setting it aflame. Meanwhile, Mark Brewer blames redistricting for the Michigan Democratic Party failing to win anything Tuesday night.

"I don't think funding was the thing that you can point at when it comes to the legislative races," Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer told reporters Thursday. "The districts are biased in favor of Republicans. It's kind of their firewall when all other things are failing them."

Kind of like in 2006 and 2008 when Democrats won and retained control of a Republican-drawn legislative map.

That said, we do know that in 2006, more people voted for Democratic state senators than Republican; and we also know that Tuesday night more people cast ballots for Democratic state representatives than Republican. It's a mostly meaningless number for a few different reasons, but it does suggest that gerrymandering makes it harder to win.

By the way, I caught this tidbit in Teh Demas' latest column.

As Romney advisers dejectedly told the New York Times today, the Obama campaign found voters in Florida they "never knew existed."

A good organization led by good people finds voters no one else knew existed. A lousy organization rooted in a long-dead past is led by a guy who blames gerrymandered districts for losing everything.

Eric B. :: Excuses are like shitty state party organizations
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I saw today that there were 26 competitive state House races this year - and Democrats won a grand total of five of them.

Five. In a good year for the top of the Democratic ticket.

Had we won even half of those races, we'd be the ones with the 59-51 majority.

Of course, that's not the only missed opportunity. Connie Kelley got 45% fewer votes than Obama. Which means 45% (actually probably more than 50%) of all Obama voters didn't know that they also needed to vote for Kelley for Supreme Court (in addition to McCormack). The drop-off between the presidential vote and the Supreme Court is usually significant - anywhere around 25-35% - but this was ridiculous.

The latest numbers show that Kelley missed 2nd place in the Supreme Court 8-year term race by only 120,000 or so votes - less than 3% of the total number of votes for President.

Both the State House and State Supreme Court were supposed to be top priorities for the MDP.

What happened?

Overall, this was a good year for the Democratic ticket. The President was re-elected, Democrats gained seats in Congress, and every Democrat running statewide for partisan office won (except for two of our 'nonpartisan' Supreme Court candidates). But here in Michigan, the success of the statewide Democratic slate can be more attributed to Obama's coattails (not to mention gaffes by Romney and Hoekstra) than to anything the MDP did.

In a year like this, we should have won both the State House and the Supreme Court. We also should have gained one, maybe even two or three Michigan congressional seats. The fact that we didn't is the result of a lack of discipline within the MDP. They have made significant missteps, they have not done enough to focus on winning elections, they have failed to build a decent farm team, and instead of recruiting good Democrats to run for office, they have bent over backwards to try to prevent good Democrats from running for office.

And I am wondering if we Democrats might be shut out of any control of anything for several years to come (possibly 2018 or even 2022).

By the way, the same article says Brewer plans to run again. We all know what that means: He will almost certainly win without opposition. That doesn't mean I will support him, however. He has to earn back my confidence, unless he wants me to shout "NO!" from the top of my lungs during the voice vote to re-elect him.

Now on Great Lakes, Great Times, Great Scott: Cotter vs. Jesus and Reagan

Slight correction
Let's be clear, the Dems picking up even less fewer seats, porportionally, than our dems picked up in our state house, points to the national ticket being strongly in the sense that only those at the very top (president and senators) felt the win.  This was not a good year for the national party, either, and in some cases worse than a lot of the state parties.

[ Parent ]
I disagree
I think there are two, and maybe three, reasons we didn't take back the US House:

1. Incumbency, which brings with it name recognition and a financial edge;
2. Gerrymandering (remember, we're not the only state with a government completely controlled by the Party of Palin); and
3 (maybe). Super PAC money - at least that's what I've heard.

As for the Senate, well, states obviously don't get gerrymandered... and the Obama ground game certainly helped us win a few key Senate races, including in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Virginia. Because of that, we gained two seats from Republicans. Not bad, considering we were expected to lose the Senate until just a few months ago.

Now on Great Lakes, Great Times, Great Scott: Cotter vs. Jesus and Reagan

[ Parent ]
I missed a few words in my original post, not that I'm sure it changes much.  So, I'll simply reiterate that you can't call Michigan's house results dismal and not look at the national House of Reps and claim the results to be any better.  They weren't.  Incumbency and gerrymandering are issues in both state and national elections.  The national Dems did shitty in the House, period, and if our results in the state house are to be blamed on the state party, than the results in the national house are to be blamed on the national party.  Not trying to be bitchy, but I feel you're taking out anger on the state party because of your own loss, instead of recognizing there is A LOT of blame to go around to a lot of parties, and even despite the problems we made some inroads that Dems running for congress didn't make nationally.

[ Parent ]
I understand what you're saying, and national party organizations do not get let off the hook for me either. (I miss Howard Dean - but that's another rant, LOL!)

I would reiterate what I said both in this and in the other thread from Wednesday - that Brewer et. al. have made a number of missteps that have resulted in wasted resources, missed opportunities, and alienation of rank-and-file Democrats. Given the closeness of some of these races, these missteps have may well have cost us the House and/or the Supreme Court.

My opinions on these matters are the culmination of a few years of frustration with MDP leadership, starting with the 2008 primary and continuing from then. We ordinary Democrats don't seem to have the kind of voice at the state level that we should be having. And what's worse, I know a few people who have left the MDP because they feel like their involvement wasn't worth a darn.

Changing the subject a tad: Democrats (and Republicans too) want to have a "name on the ballot" for each race, even where they know they won't win. The 72nd is the 16th-most Republican district in the state - one Democrats couldn't win if the Repubs had nominated Jose Valverde or Claude Lemieux. I agreed to be the "paper candidate" here. I'm actually surprised I did as well as I did - 38% - and I assure you that a more effective MDP would not (in my judgment) have helped me come anywhere close to winning. I was going to lose (barring the unforeseen), and I don't blame anyone for that. So these matters do not relate to the 72nd.

But when we lose a few competitive seats by narrow margins, and Kelley loses a Supreme Court seat by less than 3% of the presidential vote after getting 45% fewer votes than Obama, it leaves me wondering if a more effective, "people-powered" MDP would have prevented the kind of complete control of our government which we're stuck for the next two (and I'm afraid more than two) years.

(Note: I have also been privy to a couple other matters which have caused me concern - which, for a number of reasons, I am not prepared to discuss publicly. Also, I know of others who have had these and other concerns.)

Now on Great Lakes, Great Times, Great Scott: Cotter vs. Jesus and Reagan

[ Parent ]
BTW, speaking of gerrymandering...
...it appears, according to Daily Kos Elections, that Dems won the popular vote in the House, the other night:

Democratic House Candidates 54,705,707 48.81%
Republican House Candidates 54,202,746 48.37%

Are enough votes in for the Michigan State House, yet, to make the calculation locally?  I remember something fairly similar happening in the state senate elections in 2010 when the GOP got a supermajority in the state senate, but only won the popular vote 52/48.

i don't live to boost Brewer, but i believe on this one he's right and you're wrong.

your criticism of spending in Bolger's district is ill informed and misses the point.  first and most importantly, you oversimplify the spending decisions if you place all the blame for mistargeted spending at Brewer's feet; a lot of the blame for House spending belongs to House leadership, and even the party's stakeholders, not the chair.  furthermore, Bolger also spent a ton of money in his own district, and it's possible that the counterfactual (what would've happened if Dems has spent differently?) may not be any better.  that is, perhaps given all the spending in HD63 on both sides, Dems were better off than if the money had landed in other districts.  i don't know, and neither do you.

your analysis of the effects of redistricting leaves a lot to be desired.  can you think of any reason why Republican gerrymandering might be more effective in protecting their majorities in 2012 than in 2006 or 2008?  i think if you try at all you can - this year we're only one year removed from Republican-drawn lines, whereas in 2006 we were five years removed and in 2008, seven removed.  redistricting is done every ten years specifically because populations move and the lines become obsolete - this is true both in the context of fair representation (the intent) and that of partisan gerrymandering (the reality).  Brewer is doubtlessly right that this played a role in how many districts Dems won.

before you go much further in criticizing our state party for having roots in a "long-dead past" and being a "lousy organization," i encourage you to interact a bit with other states' parties.  ours can be frustrating to deal with, to be sure - but it is far from lousy.  we have good leaders and some great staff, and they get a lot done with surprisingly little in the way of resources.

anyone who wishes the MDP was better, stronger, more capable - you have choices.  you can go to the convention, you can get involved in your county or district party, you can recruit members, you can donate and/or raise money for the party... or you can bitch and moan.  i think it's obvious which of those i think is unhelpful.

It's all about results
The Democrats had a golden opportunity to run against a bunch of first term Republican incumbents who had voted for the pension tax, increasing taxes on middle-class families and households and cut funding for schools and local government while giving a big fat tax break to businesses. They had a top of the ticket in Obama and Stabenow that crushed their Republican competition. In this environment, the Democrats failed to turn more than a handful of House seats? That's a failure and the people at the top, starting with Mark Brewer, need to be held accountable for that. No more excuses. Democrats missed a huge opportunity this year and it's only going to get more difficult in 2014.  

[ Parent ]
And what's worse is, these aren't the first opportunities
Dems have missed.

Take 2010. While that election was bad for Democrats across the board, we in Michigan took it on the chin worse than other states.

After that election, I was not as quick to blame Brewer; in fact, I was particularly defensive about Brewer at times. After all, Michigan Dems had done quite well for the first several years of Brewer's tenure. After two more years and another round of opportunities missed, it's clear we can't stay on the course we've been on.

Now on Great Lakes, Great Times, Great Scott: Cotter vs. Jesus and Reagan

[ Parent ]
do you...
...even know when Brewer's tenure started, Scott?  1995.  there have been a lot of ups and some downs since then - but does it make any sense to blame one person for all the bad?  i don't think it makes any more sense than saying, "Brewer won the state for Obama again."  there are many people/things other than the state party chair that influence the outcomes of elections, and if you bothered to discover a few more of them, perhaps your analysis of what happened a few days ago would be more insightful.  i take your insistence that our misfortunes in 2010 are somehow Brewer's fault as an indication that that won't be happening soon.

[ Parent ]
Lessons were not learned
To quote a portion of what I said above, with emphasis added:

After that election, I was not as quick to blame Brewer; in fact, I was particularly defensive about Brewer at times. After all, Michigan Dems had done quite well for the first several years of Brewer's tenure. After two more years and another round of opportunities missed, it's clear we can't stay on the course we've been on.

In fact, I recall that some of my earliest posts here on MichLib are filled with praise for Brewer and the rest of the MDP leadership. And indeed, for a while, things were going pretty well. (Funny story: A few years ago, a couple people actually accused me of being Brewer's mouthpiece. LOL!)

The reality is, however, that things have changed. And we can now point to things that seemed to have hurt us. 2010 offered a lot of lessons for us - lessons which I had hoped people would learn. But from what I have seen, these lessons have been, for the most part, not learned.

And we're all going to pay for that.

As I said before, there is plenty of blame to go around. This discussion, however, specifically relates to the MDP. If/when we talk about other organizations (within or outside of the Party) and other factors which kept us out of any power in Lansing, I'll offer my views on them.

Now on Great Lakes, Great Times, Great Scott: Cotter vs. Jesus and Reagan

[ Parent ]
...so where's the blame for the House Dems' leadership?  For the campaign chair, and the minority leader?  How about for the unions, who spent most of their money on the doomed Proposal 2?  You can blame Brewer all you want, but I hope at some point you realize that that won't get you very far.  Brewer is smart, and no one works harder than him - but he's not a miracle worker, and he's not empowered to make every decision all on his own.

[ Parent ]
There's plenty of blame to go around. But if Brewer was a good leader, he would have gotten the leadership of the House Dems to step up their game and gotten the unions to understand the danger of the their ballot proposal. He did neither. I don't think anyone thinks replacing Brewer fixes all of the problems but his track record the past couple of cycles doesn't justify keeping him.  

[ Parent ]
There's a reason why I'm not a member
I don't work full time for a newspaper any longer, but I write a newspaper column and occasionally do freelance work. If you want your journalism to be taken seriously, you can't belong to, donate to, or be active on behalf of, a political party. A lot of what I write is about what's wrong with the Republican Party, and no one is going to take it seriously I'm a registered Democrat.

So, that is settled

As for Brewer, the results speak for themselves. The Democratic Party shoveled $750,000 into this one House race with a placeholder candidate, a House race they expected to lose all along, and moved the needle five points. The people who've kept Mark Brewer employed as state party chairman shoveled $30 million dollars into a constitutional amendment that failed badly and is apt to give us some form of Right to Work law. The Democratic Party failed to retake the House in a favorable year, failed to win more than one Supreme Court race, and failed to topple any of the weak Republican freshmen Congresspeople.

We can talk gerrymandering all we want, but in truth not much changed because they were gerrymandered just 10 years before by the same party. I live in a blue county, and by all accounts I live in a district that should be a swing district. The best candidate that could be fielded this year in what should be a swing district was a placeholder, because there's been no effort to put resources into local party building. It's a symptom of a wider problem.

Among the Trees

[ Parent ]
House Dems and Brewer
The House Democratic caucus leadership (sic) was a mess politically, firing on just one cylinder(Jeff Irwin).  The last Dem House majority was achieved over two election cycles and led by smart, hard-working folks who were either termed out or pushed out by the Andy Dillon crowd, whose remnants have retained leadership control for the past two years. Brewer and the party's main funders put in place systems that tried to bypass or control the underperforming House Dem political leaders and met stiff resistence from the turf-conscious. Nothing, however, could be done about the House Dems' failure to implement a strong advocacy communications plan over the past two years around hot button issues like education cuts and taxes on the middle class.  Elements of labor did yeoman's work in many swing districts but organizing is their strong suit, not communications that reaches crucial swing voters.

Winning back control of the state House in recent years has been a multi-year process involving organizing, political and communications strategy.  We need to give Tim Griemel and Rudy Hobbs a chance to implement that plan and build on the progress made this cycle.  

Brewer isn't in control of everything and shouldn't be accountble for everything. But he is the party's leader and where the party structure seems most weak is at the grassroots level where we need to expand on labor's involvement and engage many more people. It's not just a matter of telling people on this list to get involved.  It's structural.  There's no good reason, for example, that Republicans have a much more robust precinct delegate cadre than the Democrats, even in some Democratic counties.  


[ Parent ]
This one million times:

Winning back control of the state House in recent years has been a multi-year process involving organizing, political and communications strategy.

I said it above, but each party expecting to flip the house every two years shows a lack of understanding about how politics work and even just forgetting very recent history.  

You know, I'm rather ambivalent about Brewer.  I wouldn't leave any sleep if he were to be ousted, let's just say.  But, he's been mad a boogeyman again and again and again by people that seem to have personal beefs with his style more than the results.  As someone said above, the guy has been there since 1995.  If someone is going to blame him for everything short of the crucifixion of Jesus when we lose, I hope they praised his name to heaven during our highest highs, too.

[ Parent ]
not to...
...zoom in on a minor point, but there are GREAT reasons for Republicans to have a much larger, and more consistent, cadre of precinct delegates.  first, it matters more to Republican activists if they're elected as a delegate - while Dem county conventions CAN restrict participation to only delegates, Republicans DO this (in most counties, Dems usually don't).  also, being a precinct delegate (as a Republican) paves the way to being a state convention delegate, but Dems don't have state convention delegates any more (and haven't for decades) - so it's less important for Dems to become delegates.

finally, Republicans have been fighting with each other for control of county committees for almost three years now.  there was a huge crop of new delegate candidates two years ago, and by this August it was supremely important to both sides (Tea Party and establishment Republicans) that they acquire any delegate seat they could.  the same thing happens for Democrats when a county party is going through a fight for power - see Bay County this year.  currently, though, not many Dem county parties are embroiled in such fights, while nearly every local Republican committee is in flux.

in short, we should NOT take the length of the lists of precinct delegates for each party as an indication of which is more active or organized.

[ Parent ]

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