Getting real about winning elections

A number of folks have been reaching out to suggest the need for convening people who see the need for rethinking how Democrats do politics in North Carolina. I agree completely that change is in order, and this post is intended to get the ball rolling. Before you do anything else, however, read this column from the New York Times. Here's a sampling of what's discussed, focused on the federal case.

Liberals need to adjust their political strategy and ideological ambitions to the country and political system we actually have, and make the most of it, rather than cursing that which they cannot change. There are certainly some profound democratic deficits built into our federal constitution. Even federal systems like Germany, Australia and Canada do not have the same degree of representative inequality that the Electoral College and Senate generate between a citizen living in California versus one living in Wyoming.

There is also next to nothing we can do about it. The same system that generates this pattern of representative inequality also means that — short of violent revolution — the beneficiaries of our federal system will not allow for it to be changed, except at the margins. If Democrats at some point get a chance to get full representation for Washington, D.C., they should take it. But beyond that, there are few if any pathways to changing either the Electoral College or the structure of the Senate. So any near-term strategy for Democrats must accept these structures as fixed.

The initial step in accepting our federal system is for Democrats to commit to organizing everywhere — even places where we are not currently competitive. Led by Stacey Abrams, Democrats have organized and hustled in Georgia over the last couple of years, and the results are hard to argue with. Joe Biden should beg Ms. Abrams (or another proven organizer like Ben Wikler, the head of the party in Wisconsin) to take over the Democratic National Committee, dust off Howard Dean’s planning memos for a “50 state strategy” from the mid-2000s and commit to building the formal apparatus of the Democratic Party everywhere.

Here in North Carolina, we have a situation that looks a lot like the federal picture. Instead of states, however, we have gerrymandering. The electoral deck is wholly stacked, and no amount of whining will change it.

While some may quibble, it's clear that Democrats got their asses kicked in 2020. Except for the strong candidacy of Roy Cooper, it was bad news all around. And if we keep on doing the same things with the same cast of characters, nothing's going to change.

What are your ideas for what we can do differently, if anything? Here are some of mine:

1. Recruit and PAY a ferocious Party leader. I don't have any idea who that should be, but I don't think it should be anyone I already know. The person needs to be willing to crack some eggs and make some omelets when the entrenched power structure may not approve. The person also needs to rethink candidate recruiting and resource allocation.

2. Embrace all sides of our base. I want to see our party refresh itself, perhaps even become the New Democrats or the New Democratic Party. Rethink, rebrand, reset, reenergize. Embrace freedom by tapping America's libertarian streak, all the while tempering it with a focus on fairness and fair play. I want us to enthusiastically support the right to bear arms, to keep churches out of government and keep government out of churches, to legalize marijuana. I'll be building on this list in the future, but suffice it to say, I want a party my daddy would have supported ... and one that would have supported him. Instead of shrinking our big tent, I want to expand it.

3. Right now, our opponents have convinced many people that they're better off supporting a bunch of rich, white guys instead of a bunch of hard working regular folk. That's because we've elevated ideological social issues so much that our core commitments get lost in translation.

This discussion is just beginning. We need you to be part of it.



I don't care if you're a bigot

Knock yourself out. Be as racist as you want. But if you have any role in what happens in government, you'd damn well better guarantee that everyone is treated the same. Any organization that's getting money from government ... schools, hospitals, police departments, etc., needs to be color blind.

I don't care if you're against abortion. Knock yourself out, have all the kids you want. But if you have any role in government and health policy, butt the hell out of the relationship between a woman and her doctor. It's none of your damn business.

I don't care if you want to carry a gun. Knock yourself out. But the minute you threaten or put anyone else at risk, you had better back the hell off.

I don't care if you want to go to church and pray all day every day. But the second you demand that I believe what you believe, you need to get the hell out of my face. What I believe is none of your business.

I need time to marshal my thoughts...

There's a lot to digest from this election, maybe more than any previous one. If you look at Georgia, Dems kicked ass in the Presidential and U.S. Senate races, but only picked up 3 seats in the (state) House and 2 in the Senate. It's better than we did, but not much.

The truth is, our GOTV efforts were amazing, Dem voter turnout was very high. We didn't drop any balls that I'm aware of. But like always, Republicans were sniffing our butts and doing the same stuff we were doing, only much more aggressively. And leveraging conspiracy theories to scare the shit out of their base.

At the end of the day, our messaging must have been off. We didn't read the room very well, and that's gotta stop.

Reading the room

First off, my thoughts are just gut instincts. And lord knows, my instincts aren't all that great.

That said, I think the challenge we're facing is more about branding than individual policies or candidates. For the great muddled middle, Democrats don't seem to be getting the benefit of the doubt.

As one example, just look at how most people responded to a slogan calling to "Defund the police." I can't imagine anything more idiotic and I feel certain that slogan cost Dems dearly.

So yeah, maybe it's just that Dems suck at messaging.