Advice to Democrats from a liberal

The liberal is the founder of Blue Jean Nation:

Another election, another round of venting and fuming about stupid, unthinking people voting against their own interests. You ask for the umpteenth time how long will it take for them to wake up and see they are being sold down the river.

I have different questions on my mind: How many more elections will it take for you to figure out you cannot beat Wisconsin’s governor by hating him? And how many more seats will be filled on the state’s highest court before it becomes clear you cannot beat the governor’s favorite judges merely by tying them to him?

At some point, you are going to have to come to terms with the fact that you are defined by what or who you are against rather than what you are for. That’s on you. That’s how you’ve defined yourselves.

At some point, you need to drop the excuse that voters who don’t support your candidates are stupid and unthinking. They are not voting against their own interests. They are voting for their interests as they see their interests. Your job is to understand how they see their interests and make them a better offer.

That better offer can’t be a recitation of reasons why your opponents are despicable scoundrels. It has to be a vivid description of what you love and what you hope for and what you dream of.

In a Supreme Court race, that description can’t be a vague promise to be a fair, independent, nonpartisan judge when it is plainly obvious to just about everyone in our state that judicial elections have become intensely partisan and highly ideological and that seemingly every candidate nowadays has the backing of a major party and its constituent groups.

Another election, another attempt at beating opponents by hating them. Another election result, another round of venting and fuming. You do know what it’s called when you do the same thing over and over again but expect a different outcome, don’t you?

Related advice comes from Scott Wittkopf:

In a blog post the day before the Wisconsin Primary, I sought to raise serious questions about the conventional Dem strategy playing out in the State Supreme Court race. In addition, I pointed out that because of flawed establishment strategy, the result may not be a good one for Dems. Once again, the day after an important election, Dems are left scratching their heads and playing the same “blame game” we’ve been stuck with since 2010. On social media this morning, I’ve seen a lot of Wisconsin Dems blaming the media, big money, Bernie Sanders, “dumb” Wisconsin voters, Act 10, and more. All that being said, there is now more call for real change in our strategies than ever before. The question is, will there be courage to change?

Here’s a news flash – while money may be playing a big role (and we’ll get to that), it’s not the only factor. It’s a new political world. Yet there are people who would rather point fingers and make excuses, than try to change what they are doing to be more effective in changing the political status quo. Here’s a bit of a “post mortem” on the election based on late polls and results, followed by ideas for how progressives move forward from here and actually start making progress.

The March Marquette Law School Poll showed that Bradley had opened up a considerable lead on Kloppenburg (which panned out in the election). One of the points in my blog post on Monday, was that this shift was largely a function of how the attack ads against Bradley were solidifying conservative support around her. In addition, these attack ads were more of the same flawed Dem strategy of “unframed” negative attacks which only serve to reinforce the conservative message (read the blog). It is the continued absence of a well framed, positive, progressive vision and message that continues to hurt Dem candidates and campaigns. The absence of such a positive, progressive vision/message also serves to weaken progressive ideas and support, while strengthening conservative. This is a well documented cognitive effect on people.

While large sums of money provide a means to disseminate a VERY effective and well-framed conservative message (as well as implied quid pro quo acts once elected), it is the message itself that is motivating and inspiring people. THAT is why it’s so effective. As I have experienced firsthand, there are ways to overcome being outspent in a campaign, but you need to think and act outside the box. More on that in a little bit. First – what are some of the insights from polls and the election outcome?

The February and March Marquette Polls provide a great insight into the effectiveness of the conservative core message, and how ineffective Dem tactics are. Again, while the money provides the means, it is the core message itself that is moving people. Dems consistently ignore the systemic nature of this quandary – and therefore have no answer for it. In fact, I received a personal message from someone in the Kloppenburg Campaign after Monday’s blog post. They contended that I had ignored the $3+ million in third party attack ads against Kloppenburg, and that the Marquette Poll “oversampled” Republicans.

“Oversampled”? One day after the Kloppenburg email, 96,000 more Republicans then Democrats voted. Bradley got more votes than all of the Democratic presidential candidates combined.

The bottom line is that Republicans turned out nearly 100,000 more voters for their candidates than Democrats. This is actually an historic, emerging trend in Wisconsin – and it began BEFORE Citizens United. While more money into Republican coffers means that they are able to better disseminate their vision and message, make no mistake – they are motivating and inspiring (even through fear) more people to vote Republican. WKOW political reporter Greg Neumann pointed out today that in the 2008 Presidential Primary, Democrats attracted 700,000 more voters than Republicans. As of yesterday, that represents a shift of nearly 800,000 voters in favor of Republicans! Here’s a figure to show that trend – and note that 2012 is an outlier as Barack Obama ran unopposed, so Dem turnout is atypically low. By all accounts, Dem turnout peaked with Obama, and is waning …

Dems need to face the facts. They’ve squandered the energy and hope that came with the Obama Campaigns. The effectiveness of the conservative Republican messaging machine, and their core messages are simply motivating and inspiring more people to vote Republican than Democrat. A great deal of the problem is that many Dems are satisfied with the status quo; and fail to recognize that even though progressives will be outspent, there are ways to overcome it if you learn to THINK about your strategy differently.

To start, everyone talks about “messaging” and “progressive values,” but no one effectively communicates or evokes what those values are to the public at large. Worse yet, Dems are recently too busy being “not Scott Walker” than being FOR something that resonates across all issues. Next, there needs to be a recognition and solution to the “issue” problem that divides us within the Party and to the public at large. None of these ideas are new. And to tell the truth, Dems have had these ideas in front of them for a long time. They continually choose to keep playing in a 21st Century game with 19th Century ideas.

Remember Bill Clinton? Wisconsin Democrats have forgotten him. (And, by the way, Hillary Clinton is not Bill Clinton.)

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