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Election Heads Up -- It’s a Plan

jeffroby's picture

A few days ago, I ran across a fascinating post on FireDogLake by scrowder, called A failure to plan is a plan to fail – a challenge to the FDL website.

A failure to plan is a plan to fail. So said a poster here on a different diary today and it got me to thinking. What is the progressive plan for dealing with the Conservadems in Congress who’ve sold us out time and again since the Reagan years?

(crickets) Yeah, that’s the problem. The debate always comes down to this: Vote Dem or let the Repugs rule. And that’s what happens. Dems lose their base in disgust and Repugs take over. I’m just as guilty. I’ve voted Nader every election until the chance to elect a black man president outweighed the knowledge that this guy was being foisted on us by the corporatocracy.

Instead of worrying about polls, or what the Dems should be doing or what Obama isn’t doing, we should be wholly focused on getting progressives past their primary challenges and replacing Conservadems on the ballot. But we aren’t.

The point -- to underline scrowder -- is on what WE are doing, not on what THEY aren’t doing for us.

Case in point: Alexi Giannoulias.

It’s hard to believe this is the candidate whom the Democrats wanted as their nominee. As Ben Smith dryly noted, Giannoulias “is about as un-changey as you get.” The Republicans are obviously delighted to have such a target-rich opponent. I suspect this will be another seat added to the political gurus’ ”leans Republican” lists.

Where was coverage of the primary? Where was the grassroots effort to stop this guy from getting the nomination? Where was there even mention that this election was coming up? Nowhere.

When did I first hear about him? After it was too late. This guy had already won his primary and where were the progressives?

He goes on to talk about the failure to challenge Harry Reid in the primary, the opportunity lost. But then he gets down to it.

You know what the real point I’m trying to make is? I don’t even know when Nevada’s Democratic primary is. How’s that for not having a fucking plan to get a progressive in office to replace a highly disliked conservadem?

I really like that. A smooth sophisticate looking down from Olympus might say, gee, if he’s so damn smart, why didn’t the ignorant SOB look it up himself instead of just sitting around waiting. But the point is that scrowder is an ORDINARY person. And he can BOTH see through the eyes of an ordinary person AND see the political ramifications of that viewpoint, something our smooth sophisticate would completely miss.

So people, let’s start putting together a freaking PLAN here. The Democratic Party is not going to help us, they’re going to do everything they can to fight us. There are going to be obstacles galore set up to get in our way. The only way we’re going to ever see real change is if we start it right here on FDL.

So I am asking that this website set up a section devoted NOT in reporting what the Dems are doing, but to be used by us, to work and to plan and to recruit candidates and to raise money and to do whatever it is that we can do to get progressives, homegrown from our own ranks, up and running for office and challenging Dems in the primaries in 2012 and beyond. I am asking that more attention be paid to upcoming primaries and that said attention start being paid to them sooner.

I am asking for those of you represented by conservadems find the courage to stand up and run against them and count on our support.

... It’s time we stopped being reactionary. It’s time we started having a plan.

In the comments, Jane Hamsher politely but firmly shot him down:

What if there was an organization devoted to primaries? Now there’s a thought: [smug condescension here -- jr]

Unfortunately in a year where Democrats think they’re going to get massacred, there aren’t a lot of viable candidates willing to put their heads on the chopping block. And the minute you start talking about it publicly, they get nervous and lose interest.

Nonetheless, we persevere.

Just because we’re not writing about it non-stop doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. It’s just a lot more challenging than people might imagine, and when you’re trying to get all your ducks in order it’s not necessarily conducive to the kind of regular updates people might understandably want.

Hamsher’s links lead to a straightforward ActBlue “target the worst” approach which I’ve dissected at some length in We Deal in Change. So here’s where it gets interesting. Instead of saying, “bummer man, the important people didn’t jump aboard, guess I’ll go lick my wounds knowing that at least I tried,” scrowder went ahead.

He takes his home state of Washington, does the work, and posts Election Heads Up: Friday Edition. Does a very nice piece of work analyzing the state of the Washington primaries, who’s running, what their politics are, what is needed for 2012. Yes, 2012. While everyone is fixated on what we can do right now (Not much, “bummer man, etc.”) looking to 2012. So we get off the chipmunk treadmill and can build in a non-hysterical manner.

He ends with:

If you’re interested in helping out with the Heads Up diaries to keep progressives informed on what’s coming and where we need to put our resources, please volunteer in the comments section below and I will contact you.

Until next week, if you want change, it has to start with you.

scrowder might call it Election Heads Up. He is currently trying to assemble a team of maybe 10 people to do the research and analysis. Who's running? Who's incumbent? How do they vote? Do we have a progressive candidate running there per Full Court Press? What are the filing regulations? What's the demographics? What dates to be aware of? He’s already divvied up the states for assignment to volunteers. He said doing Washington State took him about 4 hours of hard work. I surmise that states like California and Texas would take a bit more. That’s a hefty piece of work for progressives comfortable cheering from the bleachers, but quite reasonable if you’re serious about changing the world.

The plan needs a lot of refinement, as it is just beginning. But here’s a lesson in Method Towards Activism. Instead of waiting until the plan is perfectly refined IN ADVANCE, it will be refined as it is implemented.

Will this Election Heads Up change the world? In and of itself, no. But none of us are merely in and of ourselves, are we? If you have a few hours to do some hard work, I urge you to sign on. At this point, you can do so by e-mailing me at, subject, Election Heads Up, and I’ll get you to scrowder’s attention.

Is it the same as the Full Court Press? Of course not. But the Full Court Press, as I’ve often stated, is deliberately minimal in order to make it compatible with and able to support a variety of efforts, and this ranks high among them. The Full Court Press is defined by presenting 5 progressive points to every congressperson and challenger, and if none of them endorse the 5 points, we primary them. In 2012.

But it should be obvious that this minimal plan will require a rather extensive support apparatus, including basic intelligence on who’s running, ballot access expertise, fundraising, publicity, etc. We urge ordinary people to get in there and run in the primaries, whether as FCP candidates or not. Making this information available will make it that much easier. There is information out there, but it is fragmented and most of it is focused on the glamour ActBlue races. Yes, knocking off the Blue Dogs is a worthy goal. But we are going after the 100’s of Dems who voted for a Stupak/Nelson healthcare bill, who are funding sending more troops to kill in Afghanistan, who are going along with Obama’s response to the jobs crisis of doling out more tax breaks to business.

Right now, by the way, Full Court Press could use a good (and hopefully free) lawyer and accountant. We have just incorporated for legal purposes, and need to keep our paperwork in order so we don’t end up pulling a Eugene Debs (running from behind bars). Go to Go to our website "" to offer your services.

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dr sardonicus's picture
Submitted by dr sardonicus on

That is how you will you know a challenge to the legacy parties has become successful: its leaders will start being arrested and sent to jail.

The effort, though, will require no less.

jeffroby's picture
Submitted by jeffroby on

... but the point is to make them work at it.

Submitted by regulararmyfool on

An organization is needed that can form in small groups, say 11, and pick a spokesperson. That spokesperson would join with a limited number of other spokespeople, also 11, and pick a specific elected position to target and then draft someone to be the candidate. Tried in small areas like school boards.

I would choose womens groups to furnish candidates. The politicking in a womens garden club makes the yoyos in Washington, DC look like the amateurs they are,

When I was in service there was an antiwar publication that was being smuggled into every army base in the First Army area (east coast.) The generals were going insane.

I distributed the copies on my base, they came from a member of an Army band. His grandmother had gotten incensed about the war and the waste of young people's lives and she convinced some club that she belonged to that publishing an honest newsletter might help. Within a couple of months the movement spread to womens clubs all up and down the east coast. Lot of power out there.

Lot of power in the nursing homes. To sick to go home, to well to die, bored.
They would be great phone bank operators.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

It's good to get the young vote if you can, but make sure you've got lots of women and older people on your team. They're the ones who make the difference behind the scenes.

Submitted by lambert on

The young are being fucked just as hard as the rest of us, and, in the nature of the case, it's going to go on longer for them.

That was yet another reason the Obama campaign was such a disaster for the great majority of us -- Bareback Andy framing the campaign as intergenerational conflict, the whole "We are the ones we've been waiting for" schtick, and so on.

Interestingly, the "kids" I know are playing exactly the same kind of music I listened to when I was coming up: The Clash, the early Wailers, and so on. Along with much else! But the authentic has a place and has not died.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

Once the distinction about what generation does what happens, you set yourself up for FAIL.

Very early on I grew angry with the Obama campaign because of the intergenerational tensions which were carefuly orchestrated and nurtured. One thing I had worked on for several years as an active Dem was building bridges between the generations. Trying to make a seemless integration of college Dems to "young/professional" Dems to county party Dems. Why? Because the social contract requires us *all* to work together. Part of the beauty of Social Security is that it is an explicit affirmation of the social contract. If demarcations about generations are made, a liberal movement will not succeed.

Also, its silly to think that you need to have people arrested to be considered a success. Debs wasn't the only progressive person of national prominence at the time. One only neds to look at Bryan of scopes trial fame to see that a justice movement was bubbling at the surface in many quarters. With the increased access to information of today, it should be easier to harness the current sentiment. And we need not resort to anti-this or anti-that. Instead we should be pro-justice. And neither legacy party is for that. They are fully and fundamentally broken. Primarying Dems is a waste of money, of which we have little to none we can waste.

jeffroby's picture
Submitted by jeffroby on

It's not like we're besieged by volunteers and figuring out which ones meet our lofty standards, while the rest don't get the secret decoder ring.

That said, yes, I agree. That is one of the reasons I posted: Is the blogosphere a community?" The FCP point "Repeal Hyde"? I put it there not because it would attract women (though it might), but because women's rights are fundamental to any shot at progressivism. They are a key focus of right-wing attack, and MUST be defended. They are a bulwark against fascism. That's no pander.

Cenk Uygur had a post at FDL which in some ways ran along the lines of the Full Court Press, and I was hopeful that there could be an alliance there. Someone even suggested that Cenk could be our "public face."

If we were so "lucky," Full Court Press would be an all-male operation. I wouldn't refer ANYONE to the Young Turks site without a big skull and crossbones on the label.

But that said, just how do you motivate people for the day-to-day gruntwork that change requires? A blogger I highly respect wrote:

sitting around my house today, putting off doing my Latin homework, when it hit me - instead of just opening the fridge a dozen times and checking my facebook a hundred times, I could be putting this time to good use.

Is boredom what it takes? How about, do you want to change the world? I actually think that's a more effective approach. But it takes a terrible arrogance to put that forward at a time when we've all learned to be so modest about OUR priority.

Well, what the hell!