Enabling the Trashing of the Brand

This was not an election loss where Idaho Democrats went proudly down in defeat. We'd have to be in the game for that. Many didn't engage and sat it out. And the reason for that is epitomized minutes after nine on election night. Watching election night coverage, after the polls closed, but before any results start pouring in, TV interviews begin of "Democratic" gubernatorial candidate Kieth Allred parroting his persistent message that he's not a Democrat but an "Independent". Seriously, Kieth Allred ran his entire campaign with that message. The campaign's literally over and he's sitting there in "Democratic" election headquarters, eating and drinking on Democrats' dime, staffed by Democrats who volunteered their time to get him to this point, using Democratic voter rolls and fund raising lists, and he's STILL telling every Idahoan he ain't one of us. I sensed Democrats all over the state plagued with an intense desire to deliver to him this succinct response. (NSFW)

Allred apparently had the sanction to use us as doormats employ this strategy from our poobahs in the party, who from all accounts got nothing in return, like a promise to utilize the best advice available in running a campaign in order to leave our party better than he found it. Instead we get this.

Allred rejected early the political advice and services of high priced political consultants, Anderson said. They recommended he put himself in a small room with a telephone and a list to raise thousands of dollars a day to give him money for 30-second spots on television to get his message out to voters.

Allred hoped to engage voters in longer form with things like Youtube videos.

But once into the heat of the campaign, Allred recognized the power of the 30-second television ads and began making the calls, Anderson said.

Seriously? Allred was gonna channel all that charm and charisma and run his campaign on Youtube? That certainly detracts from his performance in the debate as the smartest man in the room. Alas, Allred's campaign seemed to rely heavily on archaic methods of yard signs and county fairs and very little on generating some excitement about his candidacy.

In addition, much was hoped of his religious status to open doors, focusing the bulk of Allred's campaign resources behind the Zion Curtain in SE Idaho, largely to the exclusion of the rest of the state. So let's take a peak at how the strategy of running against Democrats and into the arms of Mormon Republicans worked through a simple comparison of Brother Allred's vote tallies versus gentile Jerry Brady's in 2006 who had conservative leanings but never ran away from being a Democrat.

First lets examine urban counties in SE Idaho where a Democrat should have a decent showing.

Counties Brady 2006 Allred 2010
Bannock 13,287 10,613
Bingham 4,801 4,011
Bonneville 12,447 11,438
TOTAL 30,535 26,062

No gains and significant losses. Running to the right hurt Allred even in SE Idaho. Now let's examine how the run right strategy performed in the LDS community in offsetting those missing Democratic votes. In the heavily Mormon regions of the upper Snake River Valley Allred gained little traction.

Counties Brady 2006 Allred 2010
Jefferson 1,880 1,923
Madison 2,118 2,594
Fremont 1,221 1,137
TOTAL 5,219 5,654

Rexburg came out to provide a token Allred advantage but the strategy was a net loss by a long shot. Its an admittedly unfair anecdotal comparison, but nevertheless apt, essentially demonstrating that the strategy swapped 4,500 votes to gain 400. Otter still took these counties 2:1.

In traditionally Democratic counties, Allred seriously underperformed.

Counties Brady 2006 Allred 2010
Blaine 5,123 3,843
Ada 62,632 46,777
Latah 7,155 5,857
TOTAL 74,910 56,477

It appears 18,433 Democrats failed to show up. Allred bested Otter in Latah County but its significant to note that Latah had the only Democratic pickup in Idaho when Dan Schmidt enthused Democrats to help him defeat teabagger Gresham Bouma. Allred's ace in the hole was his stated home of Twin Falls County where he lost to Butch 2:1 receiving 2,214 fewer votes than Jerry Brady in that county alone.

These numbers also caught the eye of Randy Stapilus who observed

The actual vote received by Democratic nominee Keith Allred this year (148,300) was down by 25.4% from that received four years ago by Democrat Jerry Brady (198,845). But Republican C.L. “Butch” Otter, who won, saw his vote total moderately rise from 237,437 to 266,992 – up by 12.4%, even as all sorts of anecdotal evidence had seemed to show his popularity in decline. The 2010 Republican “tide” might account for some of Otter’s boost, but should it account for such a massive drop among Democratic-leaning voters?

This is not intended to be a personal attack on Mr. Allred who was clearly the best of the candidates, even if he wasn't the best campaigner. Keith Allred is good material and should not be discouraged from higher office, or any office. This post is written to attack the conventional wisdom which led him to conclude:

the outcome had little to do with us and our message. We knew from the beginning that it would be as difficult as ever here, in Idaho, to get people to look beyond the partisan label to see our genuine commitment to solutions that rise above the partisan divide. What we didn’t know was that there would be an anti-Democratic wave that would reach such historic heights on Election Day. Idahoans were understandably outraged by fiscal irresponsibility in Washington, which made it especially difficult to convey that this Democratic nominee was more serious about a low tax burden for Idaho families than the Republican incumbent. The unusual and powerful nature of the external circumstances means that the outcome was not much of a reflection on us and may not be a reliable indicator of what could happen in future years.

Cue more CeeLo. On the contrary it had everything to do with Allred's not-claiming-Democrat message. Idaho Democrats stayed away from this election in droves. Its real hard not to take it all personal like for blaming Democrats for his loss when the strategy was to eschew everything Democratic. We weren't exactly invited to the party and the ones who attended were treated as wall flowers.

Allred appropriately ran an issues based campaign against an entrenched establishment politician whose campaign strategy diverted voter attention away from his sorry record of governance. But the take away lesson from losing this election is not the futility of fighting a Republican wave, its falling into the Republican trap of contributing to that wave, through a self loathing and paradoxical campaign strategy of running against ourselves.

There is no doubt the unique forces contributing to Democratic losses this year. SCOTUS overruling McCain/Feingold enabled massive independent expenditures which was like attaching the Republican Noise Machine to an amplifier that goes to 11 sending waves of distortion and lies difficult to combat. But as Meg Whitman demonstrated in California after spending $140 million of her own, it ain't always the money. Indeed we need to employ effective strategies from successful campaigns like Harry Reid's in registering Hispanics and getting them to the polls.

In addition to the paradox, Democrats running against the Democratic party is a shortsighted losing strategy which enables the destruction of the Democratic brand in Idaho leaving us little to work with in the next cycle. It makes this rock I'm rolling a lot heavier. That consequence is not lost on the typical Idaho Democrat promoting their apathy. When all the Democratic candidates do it, as all three top tier candidates did, people just stay home. And in addition to being dead wrong, poobahs telling the media after an election that there was nothing to be done, ignores the consequences of that pronouncement. That self serving excuse demoralizes volunteers and tells funding sources not to bother next time we come a knocking, not to mention throwing a bucket of cold water on future candidate recruitment.

Most Democrats would rather go down swinging, standing up for who we are, whether right or left, but as proud Democrats, with pragmatic and successful solutions, not self contradicting platitudes. Moreover Democrats should offer independents in this state a real choice other than Republican and Republican lite. In contrast, joining Republicans in running against Democrats will just assure a significant portion of the rank and file will stay home. losing elections, and leaving the party apparatus worse off than if Democrats fielded a Brittany spaniel. Democrats need to learn from mistakes. Hopelessness is not the lesson. And fergodsake don't blame Democrats for your failed strategy, Napoleon. That's a very disrespectful quality in a guest.

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A spirited intermural debate

over the numbers between Larry Grant and Phaedrus is going on at HBO.

Let's have this debate.

Thank you for this link. nt


The debate continues

There's a brand?

Could have fooled me. What's out there to motivate our voters to go to the polls? Frankly not a whole hell of a lot, Allred's mealy-mouthiness notwithstanding. In many places in Idaho the election is effectively over in May. That's not because Democrats are so overmatched in this state as much as it's because Democrats simply don't freakin' show up.

Sure, we beat Gresham Bouma, but how many other teabaggers were given a free pass to the Legislature because no Democrat bothered to file? In a sizable portion of the state, there was NO ONE for a Democrat to vote for after the statewide races. How many consecutive election cycles has it been now that GOP control of the Legislature was assured by the March filing deadline because Democrats failed to file in the majority of seats? What kind of motivation is that for Democrats and Democratic-friendly independent voters, even in good Democratic years?

Idaho Democrats should make local candidate recruitment a top priority, particularly in the larger counties. Right now among the larger counties only Bannock fields a full slate of local Democrats on a regular basis. Bannock is also the only large county where local Democrats win on a regular basis. Imagine that.

Twin Falls County is more moderate than conservative, yet the Tea Party took over the GOP there this year after decades of moderate dominance. Their candidates would have been vulnerable against credible Democratic challenges (yes, Democrats have been known to win in the 2T from time to time). But no, most of them were unopposed in November.

Even in decidedly purple Ada County there was only ONE contested county-level race this year.

Frankly this is unacceptable. Until this situation is addressed I assure you things won't get better, either.

Chicken and egg

Its hard to recruit with this record of failure on a self loathing campaign strategy. Its no wonder we can't fill spots. And we've been putting placeholders in for years who have to finish it off because there just ain't anyone out there. Instead of getting mad at the powers that be for a poor record of recruitment, we need to be looking at why that is.


... the Cee Lo video, Sis. Made me larf. Oh, and I agree with your theory, I do. Just wish we had more hard numbers to crunch -- anecdotes are so "meh."

There are plenty

I looked at all of them and chose these as representative. But by all means crunch away.

What we need are exit polls or some comprehensive post election polling demonstrating why people didn't vote.

Lots more going on

Yesterday, Roark announced plans to let Jim Hansen go at the end of the year. He assures that Jim is not being scapegoated. That assertion fails the duck test but we'll see what subsequent actions demonstrate. For example, expect a maaaaajor backlash if John Foster is put back in that position.

And there's a raucous discussion about this post at chucklebunnies. Join it.


If the IDP puts John Foster back in the position of Exec. Director, it will be a looooong time before you can see me out there working for Democrats in this state (at the local, county or state level). I've already stopped voting for them.

Case in Point

The Poobahs would learn very quickly that the folks at the bottom are not going to be satisfied with a party that is run from the top-down. We have a voice, and they need to at least listen to it, even better they could respond to us. I find it interesting that there are 3,000+ views on Sisyphus's post-election analysis but no comments from the Minnick/Foster wing of the party. This sort of casual disregard is becoming emblematic of the problems within the IDP. All we are asking for is a public conversation. Is that so bad?


they ain't commenting online but I'm definitely getting feedback. There's some battle lines re-emerging between Grant and Minnick supporters. I would like to stick a stake in the heart of that as well. I don't want Larry to use the election results as an I-told-you-so moment or to mount a palace coup because that fight has waaaayy too many egos and unrelated issues involved. We need to move forward not resurrect old scores to be settled.

I definitely want people to air concerns here though Reg. Now's the time.

Roark seems to get it

if these comments are any indication.

Roark, who has served as party chairman for three years, said he’s not sure himself if he’ll seek another term in February. “I think our biggest failure has been the failure to develop and articulate a message that clearly reflects what we stand for, and consequently we have found ourselves in a position where we are defined by the Republicans, rather than by members of the Democratic Party, and that’s a significant shortcoming on our part,” Roark said. “We’ve had a very difficult time creating an identity and a message for Idaho Democrats that is separate and distinct from the national Democratic Party. That’s a challenge.”


I sure hope Keith Roark does get it. Unfortunately, I had high hopes for Keith and Jim and that makes the disappointment all the deeper.

I was way wrong

I stuck up for Minnick even when I didn't like his blue dog ways. I was wrong.
I thought that Idaho voters would actually vote for the man, not the party this time. Wrong again.
I thought that Idaho conservatives were mostly moderates. Wrong again, again.

My underlying belief for all that was: if only Idahoans suffered long enough under the far right stupidity that has trashed our state for so many years that the voters would finally toss them out is my worst wrong of all. Under pressure, voters here veer rightward only.

So there it is. I might as well give into my most radical side of my liberal nature. But at the moment, I have no idea as to what would further our cause.

Maybe I need to be Pancho Sanza to somebody else's Don Quixote?


Was your last line an intentional spoonerism, or did it just slip out wrongly? Sancho Panza was the loyal sidekick to el hidalgo de la mancha.

Having said that, a great sentiment -- why bother feigning moderation when teh crazy is so deserving of a good dose of anti-crazy.

I'm a thinkin'...

... you just came up with the text for a new 43sb banner. :)

A spoonerism for sure!

...and I hope no one thought I was indulging in a personal pity party. I just believe in acknowledging mistakes is the best way to not repeating them.

Stop the self loathing

Actually you deserve the Medal of Honor for as tolerant as you must be in the belly of the beast. But if you won the Village Idiot would just call you a pussy.

No self loathing here

Just a good, needed jolt of reality. I've been far too optimistic for too long... I just needed to get it out of my system.

And the Village Idiot can kiss my ass. I fear no Republican.

Now is the time to clearly re-define us as the Idaho liberals we are. My blue got scrubbed a lot, but it hasn't faded at all.

And there's no way I'm moving!

I am Hopeful

We have an opportunity for rebranding with the old guard getting out of the way. But will we take advantage of it?

Most Democrats I know in Idaho are demoralized, looking to migrate to other states (or even other countries) to search for a measure of meaningful political involvement again.

Well written, Sisyphus.

...searching for the truth...


I love Idaho so much I won't cede a bit of it to the red plague. And we'll need everyone to help, including the old guard.