Politics is the skilled use of blunt objects.
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|
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|
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|
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.