Sunday, July 02, 2006

Culture of Corruption vs Culture of..."Not Culture of Corruption."

So, I'm back from Wisconsin. Actually, I've been back since Thursday. The break was nice, thanks for asking.

Actually, the break came at a very opportune time. I departed the state right after State Convention two weeks ago, and it's a good thing I did, because I've never been more frustrated with politics in my life than I was on that day. In fact, it only took about 3 hours for the party to enfuriate me to the point where I needed to be somewhere else.

What pushed me over the edge, you ask? The Iowa Democratic Party's total lack of direction. I tried to sit through all the speeches. I made it through Tom Miller, the guy who spoke for Denise O'Brien, Mike Mauro, Blouin, and Fallon. If you missed it, here was the basic theme of every speech:

Democrats: We're not the Bush Administration or Jim Nussle.

Beyond that, we could be absolutely anything. Nothing would surprise me. Or, as we often are, we could be nothing at all.

I'm enfuriated by Democrats who spend more time on the stump talking about their opponent's failings than their own strengths. Maybe 8 years ago we could have made an argument that running as non-Republicans might win an election. By now, we should be pretty sure that's not going to work.

But we haven't learned our lesson yet. Certainly, no one at the State Party Convention is voting for Nussle. But we still spent all day bashing him. Even Ed Fallon got into the game:

"I want to close with a chant that I recommend you use to help motivate you in the campaign this fall. 'Out-muscle Jim Nussle, out-hustle Jim Nussle, let's tussle with Nussle and win!'"

That's when I left. But at home, and even in Wisconsin, I couldn't get away from it. As if James and the Giant Deficit and Gordon Fischer weren't enough, now we've got Nussle and Flow, and just so he won't feel left out, Steve King's perpetual bashers have created King Watch. And of course, at first opportunity, Chris Woods and NoNeed4thneed heralded them. I'm not surprised by our actions, in fact I'm frustrated by the fact that I've come to expect them. Soon I'm also expecting to see the launch of Lamberti's Lies, Loser Leach, Liberals for the Last Term of Tom Latham, Whalen's Weaknesses, Dumb Doctor Dopf, Negative Northey, and of course, after the runaway success of Growing Up Gotti, it's only a matter of time before someone makes Growing Up Grassley. We'll do anything we can to beat the Republicans without being forced to stick our own necks out. The problem is, with this strategy, we won't beat many Republicans.

I spent a lot of time fishing with my dad while I was home. Apparently muskies are motivated by specific moon cycles. After a few hours with no success, my mind was somewhere else when I absentmindedly had this exchange with my dad:

DAD: Tonight's a moon phase, but the fish don't seem to know that.
KL: It's cloudy, maybe they can't see the moon.

Maybe we can't see the moon either. It's certainly not that we as Democrats haven't had the opportunity to bite. We're in a largely unpopular war, an economic downturn, and we're waist deep in corruption, but our candidates seem to stand with us on less issues every election cycle.

To carry the analogy a step further, it's not the clouds that get in the way, it's our rhetoric. Here's a great example:

In the fourth congressional district, I've only heard Selden Spencer speak a few times, and I've only spoken to him once, but the phrase "Bush clone" has come up in reference to Tom Latham every single time. Here's the problem: in 2004, Bush received over 153,000 votes in the district, and won it by over 7,000 votes. He won 17 of the district's 27 counties. Kerry won Ames and Mason City by 4,889 votes, and lost the rest of the district by almost 12,000. In the immortal words of P.O.D., If you wanna you can check my stats. Spencer has offered little or nothing else memorable in his message.

An early prediction: Spencer will win Story County. Latham will sweep the other 26 en route to a landslide victory.

Even in the perfect storm, we're unlikely to unseat any sitting Republican congressmen in Iowa this fall. And we're going to be stuck with this situation or worse for a long time unless we do the following things:

Provide reasonable alternatives: Here's the new rule in regards to the Iraq War, privatization of Social Security, tax cuts for the wealthy, and violations of privacy: If you're going to complain about any of these things, make sure you've got a solution. Don't just bitch about the problem. Don't support candidates who just bitch about the problem. Support candidates with legitimate plans to fix the problem.

Vote, campaign and work FOR change, not AGAINST the problem: Whether it was the 2004 IDP Coordinated Campaign or the Fallon campaign, I've worked with a ton of people who have told me the following:

"We need to work for (Kerry/Fallon) because we need to get rid of (Bush/Culver/Blouin/Nussle)."

If you're one of the people who say things like that, don't ever do it again. For people who are on board with your candidate, you're preaching to the choir. To independent and Republican voters, you're whining. And it's really, really irritating.

What's that mean for 2006? It's simple. Support candidates you can vote FOR. Don't vote AGAINST Jim Nussle, don't vote AGAINST a Congressional candidate, or a candidate for any other office. Either vote FOR Chet Culver and the other Democratic candidates, or don't. Either campaign FOR Democratic candidates, or don't.

And if you're one of the people who's gotten yourself fully absorbed in campaigning against someone, stop it. You're part of the problem.



Mark, Cedar Rapids said...

Welcome to the New Democratic Party. I completely agree with you that we need to support Democratic candidates who represent Democratic ideals and values. Unfortunately, the Democrats have been baited into the politics of fear and tend to vote against their beliefs in lieu of support of what they believe (assuming they even know what these are). We had a great opportunity with Ed Fallon who truly represented the Democratic Party, but his bid fell short to the electability factor. I poured my soul into Ed's campaign only to see yet another progressive candidate fall by the wayside. Chet still has his work cut out for him. He has yet to reach out to the democratic base of the party and convince us why we should vote for him. He came out with the "gloves off" and set the precedent for negative campaigning. I understand the zeal underlying your final solution, but if the Democratic base were to follow your advice, Nussle will walk away with the election.

Speaking of Nussle, I don't think these sites that expose Nussle are problematic, especailly given the platform he's running on (which if you subtract the wedge issues, Nussle sure sounds a lot like Ed Fallon - on paper only!). I have a number of Republican acquaintances who genuinely believe Nussle stands behind this platform, despite his voting record in congress which contradicts a number of these ideals. Nussle, whose main motif of accountability on a number of planks, needs to be held accountable for his past actions as well.

Did you actually read "Nussle and Flow"? I thought it was pretty damn funny, and the satire was a refreshing change of pace from the business as usual politics the Democratic party finds itself - yet again.

Final note: as long as we keep putting forth progressive candidates (see who support our ideals and values, we won't have to go negative and you won't see these sites pop up. In my district Dave Loesback, a Progressive Democrat, is running against Jim Leach, and I have put my energy into his campaign. I doubt we'll see any Leach Lies blogs, but I guarantee you'll see a number of letters to the editor exposiing Jim's intentions. And look for a number of letters in support FOR Loesback.

Cedar Rapids

noneed4thneed said...

There is nothing wrong talking about how you differe and pointing out differences in philosophy of your opponent. King Watch and Nussle and Flow do that in a humorous way.

I totally agree with most of what you have to say. If you look at the 2 candidates that I have gotten behind (Fallon and Feingold) they are the some of the most progressive out there. I have also donated more money to Loebsack than I have Spencer partly partly for this reason, even though Loebsack is not in my district.

I do think there comes a point when you have to vote for the lesser of two evils. In 2004, it came down to that for many people and the governor's race this year will come down to that for some. It seems that you are advising people to not vote and let the situation get as worse as possible. Then maybe people might start voting in their interests.

I think we are better off if more people vote. I don't care what motivates them to vote. I would rather they be voting for a candidate they truly believe in, but voting against a candidate is also fine and gets people to the polls.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the heads up/link to "Nussle and Flow," political madman. That site made me laugh my ass off. In today's politics, we can never get enough satire, especailly if it's done well. Without comic relief, we'll all go mad, right political madman?

Nicolai Brown said...

Good post, Kyle.

The very idea that "representation" isn't based on FOR-style politics is the first clue that electoral politics is dysfunctional.

Anonymous said...

Kyle, great post. We've noticed this new(ish) Democratic tactic from the GOP side of things. The public at large aren't real happy with Republican leadership, but at least we've got leaders. If Culver and co. followed your advice and didn't attack without bringing his own ideas to the table, his campaign would consist of a chorus of crickets. Ed had to join in the attack because he had nothing good to say about Culver.

"He's not Nussle" is the only "positive" thing to say about Culver. That'll win about 35% of the vote in November.

Nationally, the Democrats' "We're not Bush" theme is easily (if only somewhat accurately) classified as "a cut and run mentality," especially when there's no substance behind the criticisms.

Anonymous said...

It is odd that you have heard "Bush Clone" everytime you have heard Selden Spencer speak. I have not heard it once, and I do not think he has ever said the name "Latham" in a speech. Are you hearing it directly from him, or are you getting this second hand?

KL Snow said...

In the phone conversation I had with him, he used it three times.