Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Things That Divide Us

I've been doing a whole lot of thinking lately about the things that divide Georgia Democrats. For instance, in terms of message, there are those who think that we should pursue a more conservative agenda, and those who think a more progressive agenda is the answer. When it comes to campaigning, some say that we should do a better job of supporting grassroots, and others say that we should raise more money.

I personally reject the idea that we must choose between our strengths. Conservative Democrats and Progressive Democrats share much common ground when it comes to issues like public safety, raising the minimum wage, supporting public schools and making sure all of our children have access to health care. We have an opportunity to distinguish ourselves from Georgia Republicans who are struggling with the factions in their own party in an effort to put forward an agenda that will not make the average Georgian squeamish. Unlike Republicans, Georgia Democrats ought to focus on the kitchen table issues where we have broad agreement-and broad support among the voters.

Neither do we have to choose between focusing on grassroots or focusing on fundraising. Good grassroots organizing costs money, and fundraising is crucial to the future of the party. So the answer is "yes" to grassroots and "yes" to fundraising. Consider this, in states that were more successful than Georgia during the last cycle, their caucuses were also more successful in fundraising, with some raising in excess of a million dollars. Because of that, polling and mail was provided in virtually every race, and for targeted races, television was added. Yes, candidates still took the brunt of the responsibility for raising their money, but when the coffers for the party and the caucuses are more full, there is more flexibility for everyone.

Bridging our differences doesn't mean that we fail to fight the tough battles. But, rather than moving to the right or moving to the left, we need to find our moral center and, as Jim Wallis says, go deeper. This is not the same as living in the squishy middle of the road. Instead, it is about taking principled stands that pass the test of being both moral and just. As John Edwards has said, if we want to live in a just and moral world, then we can't wait for someone else to do it: we have to do it. That's not only how we win, it's frankly the only way winning is worth the battle.


Tim said...

I'd like to think it's one more of actions & solutions than bridges. Ultimately there are some things that varying factions in the party will never agree on. All fine unless an action is required.

Gay Marriage? no action required, the LGBT community has a lot of education to do in GA before this topic even is approachable in any way, even to debate.

Abortion? Keep it as is, safe legal rare, stop the silliness at the capitol that the GOP is using for political points. It's wearing off on their own base anyway.

I think pragmatism for some parts/idea and idealism for others is a safe bet.

I think Democrats can unite around a common problem and agree on a common solution that's good for all americans and/or georgians. This should be what makes us a much different party than the GOP in my 2cents world.

Good post Amy,

Amy Morton said...

Good points. Someone said today that it is important that we make races voter-centered, not candidate centered. That's a powerful shift and one that would necessarily cause candidates to offer pragmatic solutions. Thanks, Tim.

Chris said...

What caucuses raise more money? Obviously some do, but they probably have either an incumbent Governor or they themselves are in the majority...?

If anything, we did too much polling this year. Where could we have won where we didn't poll (no where). On the other hand, we polled in a lot of places we really didn't have a shot (based on performance). That money could have gone into TV or mail for other candidates like Lauren.

We could just do one baseline issues poll on a statewide basis (but then again Taylor and others did that and we know what issues were popular) and tell the candidates what to run on.

Finally though, what can the party do to force the caucuses to raise more money? Ultimately it isn't the party's money. The caucuses already work hard to raise the money they get now and I just don't see how the party could do anything (minus having a Governor run it) to increase the fundraising fortunes of the caucuses.

On the one hand, I hear that the party needs to divorce itself from elected officials, but then I also see people say that the party should enforce some sort of orthodoxy on these same officials. OK, I don't see how that makes sense -- you're not allowed to try and have a say in how the party that tells you how you should vote should be run?

Chris said...

In addition we essentially did what you propose (polling in expanded races, more money and more TV) until 2002. In 2004, the House still did this (when they had the majority) and so did the Senate (when Taylor bankrolled their operation).

What it comes down to is with a crappy district map like we've got now our opportunities to win are few and far between. Two things could change this -- Republican scandal and population trends.

I don't think it is possible for the state party to spend more time on the former, and the latter will happen (or not happen) no matter what the party or caucuses do. I mean, is an African American family going to move to Newton County (instead of Clayton County) because Bobby Kahn is or isn't chair anymore?

Amy Morton said...

Not ignoring you, Chris. Busy morning. I will respond to you after lunch, but for the moment, no, with the resources the party and caucus had this year, I do not think that they should have polled universally, and I agree with you that they probably polled in too many races, but if you have more money to play with, you can afford to test more races. I think that we do have to raise more money, and, of course, having a gov is a trememdous help with that but since we don't have that, at least for the next four years, what do you suggest we do? I understand that the party and caususes worked hard to raise money.

decaturguy said...


As a regular Democratic Party primary voter who has contributed to various individual Democratic candidates and affiliated groups in the past few years, I have never (not once) been solicited for money by the DPG, the House or Senate Caucuses, or by any Democratic candidate to contribute to any of these groups.

So, there is money out there to get. But you have to try. To just say it is not possible because we don't have a Democratic Governor, or a majority in the House or Senate is self defeating.

Allivra said...

I agree that we are divided, but the numbers from the past election show me that we need to connect with more voters. We live in a state where 51.4% of the registered voters did not bother to show up on election day in 2006.

We know that people on either end of the walk code scale make the most noise, but it appears that the people in the middle either don't care, are turned off or are not impressed enough to exercise their vote.

If you know about some resources I could use to beef up our voter turnout in Cobb, I would appreciate it.

Amy Morton said...

I believe that I am correct in saying that Democrats gained majories in ten state legislatures in November, and regarding caucus fundraising, the state I was referring to was Iowa, and, yes, I do understand that they have a Democratic governor. Still, I agree with Decatur Guy. I think that people at the party and the caucuses worked hard to raise money, but we are still mentally shifting from a situation where the Governor or at least holding the majority in the House helped money to flow. The question now is how do we move back into a position where we can elect a Govenor and/or regain majorities in either the Georgia House or Seante. I don't really see that happening in a cycle or even two, but it won't ever happen if we do not patiently begin to lay the groundwork now. I don't think that we can just sort of wait for the Republicans to screw up, though that is quite likely. But if and when that occurs, we have to be ready to take advantage of the moment or we still won't win.

Have we consulted with the parties/caucus directors in other successful states (NC, Iowa for example) to find out what we can take from their playbook?

Yes, I lumped the party and caucuses together because both are fundraising entities and gatekeepers of the cash for Democratic campaigns. I think that we Democrats are still trying to find our footing after having the party be an arm of the Governor's office for so long. If we do not find a way to function more effectively as a minority party intent on moving back to majority status(as the Republicans did before they wrested power away)then what is the future for the DPG?

Chris said...

Amy, not to oversimplify things too much, but in Iowa they are going through basically the inverse realignment that we are. They have long serving Republican legislators in districts Kerry and Gore carried that are finally being defeated or retiring (we only have 1 such district).

In North Carolina they have had the constant of a Democratic governor since at least 1992. The South has a tendency to gravitate toward one party rule and when the Republicans took control of the House and Senate there it was by the slimmest of margins. Easley's blowout top of the ticket win in 2004 carried the lower houses with him.

ProgReader1 said...

Kitchen Table issues? It depends whose kitchen table you are talking about. Also how YOUR kitchen table issues are addressed would be different at each table. The approach to the issues of public safety, raising the minimum wage, supporting public schools and making sure all of our children have access to health care are more easily split into progressive vs. conservative ideas. Republicans currently have a lock on the conservative agenda. That’s a hint……