We cannot let the perfect become the enemy of the good.
More IDP inter-party analysis
Crossposted at RedStateBlueGuy
This is just some on-the-fly commentary on George Prentice's recent interview with John Foster, so it's going to be short. And in bulletin-format. And in no particular order.
1. The good news seems to be that Mr. Foster has accepted a position as VP for a Seattle-based Public Affairs Company. Hopefully that means he won't be bothering us anymore. Just to be clear, I'm not saying he has no place within the party. I just don't think he does well at the top.
2. I have to point out the irony inherent in his obtaining such a lofty position within a Public Affairs company not even a month after essentially running one of the worst campaigns (mind you, a campaign is nothing BUT public affairs) in Idaho history. He made so many ridiculous missteps that I find it very ironic that he would move from this on to Public Affairs. Is it just me?
3. Okay, now I'm going to build some analysis around a couple of Foster quotations that I think are emblematic of some recent problems with the IDP.
"I recognize that most of the people opining about what happened are doing it because they weren't in the middle of it and never will be. So they're inconsequential as a result."
Okay, so the thing about this is that it indicates a leadership problem. An important function of leadership is ability to listen to constructive criticism and accept it when it is fair. This aspect of leadership is 100X more important in party politics. If you are at the top you NEED to be able to listen to the folks at the bottom and incorporate their ideas into your strategy. In this case, we can see that Mr. Foster perceives those of us at the bottom as "inconsequential." That's a problem. Is there a "Foster-wing" of the IDP that agrees with him? Hard to say. A lack of inter-party communication makes it tough to gauge who thinks what. That's another problem. Lack of inter-party communication within the IDP. Some of you who know me may know that I publicly asked Mr. Foster to quit running dog-whistle ads before the election. He "de-friended" me on Facebook as a result. I realize that, as an Idaho Democrat, it was kind of controversial for me to criticize Foster's methods right before the election. Normally, I don't do that. But I did it for a reason this time. Foster was ignoring all the folks at the bottom who were sending private messages up the chain. I didn't want him to be able to lose this election and then say "there was no way we could have known." There was a way he could have known--because we told him. Loudly. And he ignored us. Anyway, back to my main point. It's 100X more important in party politics to be able to listen to the folks at the bottom. I'm not saying this just to castigate Foster. He's moving on to other things so that doesn't matter. I'm saying it because we need to somehow find a way to make sure the next IDP-ED is someone with the proper leadership qualities to actually run the IDP.
"We were ahead in all of our internal polling all the way up to the final days. Every single undecided voter broke against Walt. I'll make one comment about some of the post-election analysis: There seems to be an assumption that Democrats stayed home. The reality is that there are a lot fewer of them. The state has become a lot more red. More Democrats became independent and more independents became Republicans."
An "assumption"? Ummm, no Mr. Foster. An assumption is something you make when you have no evidence to back up your claim. However, Sisyphus, Interstics Blog, and Randy Stapilus have done a very effective job of showing that it is a FACT, not an assumption, that Democrats stayed home this election. And if there ARE fewer of them, it may be because of the fact that the IDP has moved Idaho Democrats so far to the right that (1) it doesn't really makes sense for many Idaho Democrats to support them, (2) they no longer offer a real choice to Idahoans, (3) they tarnish the brand. Nobody wants to vote for a party that hates itself, and (4) (and I think this is the most important one, personally) it strengthens the conservative high-moral frame in Idaho voters when we should be establishing the progressive high-moral frame in Idaho voters. How do you think folks like Schweitzer do so well in Montana? They stick to progressive high-moral frames and don't back down. If you don't understand what I'm talking about, please please PLEASE read George Lakoff. And not just this article I'm linking to. Read lots of Lakoff, until you are sure you understand the complicated subject-matter he is attempting to convey.
"I say this as a former executive director of the state Democratic Party. There is no Democratic Party in Idaho. A party is infrastructure. A party is operation and fundraising. There is simply no party."
No criticisms of Foster from me on this point. Just questions. Is this a fair assessment of IDP? If so, what can be done about it?
"The state is ruby-red Republican, and likely always will be. Any advice I would have to give would be to accept that reality and move on. Do not assume that you're going to get the state to change. It's Republican. It's conservative. Your strategy needs to be built around that reality."
Okay, this is just horrible advice from Foster. This guy was IDP-ED? No WONDER IDP has done so poorly recently. Look, running against our own policies tarnishes our brand. And that's just here in IDP. Electing rabid Blue Dogs tarnishes the brand nationally as well. Consider the fact that Democrats are about to be forced to extend the Bush tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy. They are being forced to do that because about 10-12 of the Senate Democrats are conservative Blue Dogs. Here's the thing: The American people don't care about Democratic Blue Dogs. They really don't give two shits. Most of the folks in the middle don't even realize the implications of this. All they know is that Democrats control the House AND the Senate right now and the Bush tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy are about to be extended. This tarnishes our national brand CONSIDERABLY! I'm not sure how to explain this in simpler terms, but I will say this: I'd rather have less-than-fifty Democratic Senators who are willing to push forth a progressive argument rather than fifty-plus Democratic Senators who can't do that because 10-12 of them disagree with the party platform. It makes NO sense whatsoever. If we can't put forth a Democratic argument we can't win elections. It's as simple as that.
The only other thing I'll say about this final Foster quote is to reiterate that we need to use the Schweitzer method of actually pushing good progressive arguments, thereby reinforcing progressive high-moral frames in Idaho voters. It's really the only way. Again, if you don't know what I'm talking about when I say high-moral frames please read Lakoff. Any Lakoff. It really doesn't matter.
8. Anyway, I wrote more than I meant to, but I feel better now. Thanks goes to Sisyphus, who has been at the forefront of this effort to help formulate a strategy for IDP that makes sense.