I figured we could use a new catch-all thread for news and information regarding Democrats and their internal party struggles.
First off, Vox has an interview with Keith Ellison.
Here's his thoughts on down-ballot races:
Why have Democrats lost so much down-ballot strength during Obamas presidency?
We're talking a night after President Obama gave his farewell address. Last I looked at Obama's polling, which was a day or two ago, he's at 56 percent [popularity]. He's leaving office a very popular president.
He sure is.
He's more popular than Ronald Reagan was when he left office. At the same time, over the past eight years, Democrats share of seats in the US Senate has fallen from 59 to 48. They've lost 62 House seats, 12 governorships, and, this is the number that I keep getting caught up on, 958 seats in state legislatures. Why do you think that is?
I think the reason that we've had those losses is because the DNC is viewed more as a presidential campaign apparatus rather than a program or an agency designed to get Democrats elected up and down the ballot all the time. The DNC really should be the instrument for the rank-and-file Democrat all over the country in Idaho, in Chicago, in Minneapolis, in Florida. But we treat it like it's not the Democratic National Committee; we treat it like it's the Democratic Presidential National Committee. Because of that, we have not really had the outreach and the door knocking and the engagement year-round that we need to have. That's too bad.
The thing is that before 2008, we had the 50-state strategy, and that is in fact still pretty popular among DNC members. As you notice, we did pretty well in 2006; we did pretty well in 2008. I think that's because we still had enough connectivity in place from that 50-state strategy, but as time wore on, the tremendous popularity of Barack Obama, his amazing rhetorical skills, his just unparalleled ability to explain things and to inspire people really is the fuel that we lived on. Because of that, we lost a lot.
At the same time, Republicans made some strategic decisions. ... There are articles before 2010 where Karl Rove is saying, "We've got this new thing called Maptitude, or this new software that's helping us identify places of opportunity. We're going to be going into the small towns. We're going to Erie, Pennsylvania. We're going to Peoria, Illinois. We're going to get competitive at the very local level."
Also there was massive investment by the Koch brothers. As we were focusing on our champion, President Obama, the other side was actually thinking creatively about how they can really dominate on the state level and on the local level. Those two things together gave us some unprecedented losses. I'm going to tell you though, Ezra, we can come back. We absolutely can. We just have to refocus our game plan, but if we do, 2018 and 2020 can be years of great promise.
I'd like to hear about that. I'd like to be very specific and operational, mechanical, because I think thats something that gets lost when we talk about the DNC chair race. You're running for DNC chair.
Yes, I am.
It is being understood and covered as an ideological contest. I think thats fair to say.
That's too bad, though.
It's an operational position more than an ideological position. That's what I wanted to talk about. What are the levers you have as DNC chair to pull? What are the mechanisms you think would work here? What literal policies would you change from how the DNC works now that would make it less the Democratic Presidential Committee and more the Democratic National Committee?
Well, first thing is, if I win, right away we're going to start with an attitudinal change around turnout. Voter turnout has got to be something that is on the mind of every rank-and-file Democrat, every Democratic officeholder. We must, in terms of turnout, think in terms of expanding the electorate beyond the people who are the likely voters in the swing states. Turnout has got to be key.
When I was elected in 2006, my district had the lowest turnout in the state of Minnesota. Now it's the highest, and it's consistently the highest. One of the reasons why is because we focus on turnout 365 days of year.
When you say you focus on it, what do you specifically do?
We have an apartment program. We found out that you if knock on a door one day and you come back in a year, there's a 50/50 chance that person doesn't even live there anymore. If you don't go there except for election time, there's an even greater chance a 50 percent chance of a 50 percent chance after two years.
There are hundreds of apartment buildings in the Fifth Congressional District. I've got staff that identified all of them that have more than around five or six units. Then we make contact with the managers of all of them. We got captains in them. Then in the off year, we knock them. We have meetings there. Then when some people don't want to be bothered, that's why they live in an apartment, the management will be able to tell them, "The politicians are going to be knocking today, so if you don't want them to knock, put up a sign on your door."
The other thing we do in every year off year is a massive summer knock. We knock all year round, but we have a special, massive summer knock, where we get a whole bunch of college students and pair them with our paid staff. Last summer, in 2015, we had 9,000 conversations. It took us about 30,000 tries to get those 9,000 conversations, but we collected data. We cleaned up our list. We got back in touch with people. We sent them an important signal, which is that we don't just care about you when we want your vote. We care about you and want to have an ongoing, durable relationship with you. That kind of thing people remember.
Then, of course, we would do a lot of things in between, regular pizza parties, coffee klatches. I have the biggest Labor Day picnic in Minnesota. We have a get-out-the-vote concert with our rap community right before the election.
The real idea is not the big events. The real idea is the canvassing, the door knocking, the calling. Then the other thing we do is we continually ask people to help us. We're asking people, "There's a vote coming up. What do you think? There's a vote coming up. What's your opinion? Sign up on this petition. Sign up on that petition." People are constantly feeling like they're partnering with me as the member of Congress from their district.
That's why not only do I win with a high percentage my predecessor won with a high percentage but I don't even care about the percentage. I care about the raw numbers that we are turning out. When I first got into office, I had 150,000 votes. Now if we don't get 250,000 votes, we feel disappointed. Because we got 250,000 this year and we got 262,000 in 2012.
There are no statewide Republicans in Minnesota. Not any, not one. Amy Klobuchar, Al Franken, Democrats. Mark Dayton, our governor, Democrat; Attorney General Lori Swanson, Democrat. We don't have no statewide Republicans. We used to. You remember Tim Pawlenty, who used to be the governor, and you remember Norm Coleman. Why can't a Norm Coleman or a Tim Pawlenty get back into statewide office? Because in the Fifth Congressional District, we spike the vote so high they cannot get in.
I'll give you another example of what I'm talking about here. Steve Simons the secretary of state for the state of Minnesota. When he ran in 2014, he was the only incumbent. The Republicans put a lot of energy into that, because they figured if they can beat him, that would be their chance to win a statewide office. They actually did beat Steve in five of eight congressional districts, but we beat them so bad in the Fifth Congressional District that we still won. That's the kind of thing that we do.
In 2014, voter turnout statewide decreased in the state of Minnesota from 2010, hitting a 70-year low. In my district, we increased turnout by 3 percent in 2014. Even in down years, we're going up. It's the only congressional district in Minnesota, the fifth district, where voter turnout grew between 2010 and 2014. That's what we're doing, and that's why I think I need to be the DNC chair.
Those are very impressive numbers, and particularly the point about 2014 turnout increasing in your district. That's an achievement. But you keep saying the word "we." I recognize that you mean your campaign staff, all your volunteers, the college kids. But in your congressional district, what is being organized around is you. In American politics in general, one reason presidential years have so much higher turnout than midterm years, to say nothing of non-election periods, is that people find it easier to connect with the presidential candidate.
Neither political party in the country is actually a popular institution. People don't like Republicans. They don't like Democrats. Right now we have the highest share of independents as a share of the electorate that we've basically ever had. How do you create that connection, then, on behalf of an institution? How do you give people something they connect to when it's not Keith Ellison, this nice guy who maybe knocked on your door a couple of years back, but it's the Democratic Party?
We give them the personalities. For example, we're going to be doing regular live streaming straight to Democratic rank-and-file members, which is something we're not doing now. Who are we going to give them? We're going to give them Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker and all these engaging personalities. We're going to give them Cedric Richmond. We're going to give them Barbara Lee. We're going to give them those people that they watch on the TV shows and love and want to hear about. We're going to give them the union president in Indiana who stood up to Donald Trump.
Here we live in the age of Trump. This guy, the most misogynistic candidate, beats the first woman candidate. This is devastating to women in this country, and men too, but we're going to feature women in these live casts and talk about equal pay, access to reproductive care. Talk about how the economic fortunes of a family are directly connected to reproductive access and the Hyde Amendment.
We have to face the facts that the Republicans have out-organized us. They simply have. I know it's true because I got a good friend of mine who was a Republican, now a Democrat. She's a city council member in Northfield, Minnesota. She will say, "Man, when I was Republican and I was a city council member, they connected me. I was part of this. I was part of that. I was on calls. I got data. I got talking points. Now that I'm a Democrat city council member, I feel better about my soul because this is what I believe in, but you guys don't stay that closely in touch with us."
My thought is that's the challenge. We've got to match them organizationally, and then we put some of these dynamic personalities in front of people. People will begin to think, when they think Democrat, they're thinking Franklin Roosevelt. They're thinking Hubert H. Humphrey. They're thinking Barack Obama, who has 57 percent approval rating. That's the thing. I don't think we feature our people well enough.
Edited by Patch, 27 March 2021 - 08:46 AM.