Monday, December 28, 2015

The DCCC And The New Dems Will Never Win Back The House-- But Can Keith Ellison?


Last night at this time we looked at Ruy Teixeira's report on demographic shifts that will help the Democrats retain the White House and probably win the Senate. As I mentioned, the DCCC is hopeless and short of a tape of Speaker Ryan and his leadership team caught screwing goats in an Ayn Rand ritual, the GOP will continue to hold the House. No one disagrees with that assessment, not even Steve Israel, chief purveyor of the defeatist strategy, nor his sock puppet. But that doesn't mean no one works towards it. Blue America has already found and vetted 13 House candidates from 9 states who are trying to assist overcome conservative opponents.

The New Dems, on the other hand, are working to elect corrupt conservatives in their own image and have already found 5 really ghastly candidates, two Wall Street shills with awful records who were defeated last year-- Brad Schneider (IL) and Pete Gallego (TX)-- a failed retread from last year, Emily Cain (ME), who also lost, and two exceptionally bad fresh faces straight from corporate America, Josh Gottheimer (NJ) and Dave Calone (NY) who even Steve Israel, who is backing Anna Throne-Holst, a non-Democrat switching her party affiliation in this race, says has no chance to win because he was a trustee of the Long Island Power Authority, the most hated entity in Suffolk County.

On Christmas Day, the New York Times ran a puff piece on Gottheimer that never exactly used the term "Republican-lite," but dug up former Clinton chief of staff Tom McLarty III to describe his campaign as "a pro-business, centrist Democrat in the New Democrat philosophy," which pretty much sums up "Republican-lite." They also admit he's a "close associate of the universally reviled Mark Penn." NJ-05 is the home of the legendary Bada Bing strip club from The Sopranos and the current congressman, Scott Garrett is the most right-wing Member of Congress from the Northeast. According to The Times, "Gottheimer reported raising around $1 million for his campaign through September. A review of his filings found that about one dollar in six came directly from fellow alumni of the Clinton White House and campaigns-- many of whom are scattered across powerful companies like Time Warner Inc., Bloomberg L.P. and Goldman Sachs-- or from major donors and employees of consulting firms tied closely to the Clintons.

Fortunately there is a counterforce to the odious New Dems developing and Keith Ellison, for one, has been grappling with the hard data, presumably including Teixeira's report, to find way forward for candidates who, unlike the New Dems and Blue Dogs, still stand for the proud Democratic Party traditions of the shrinking Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt vision of governance. I was, frankly, surprised to see a relatively detailed report of Ellison's efforts in yesterday's Minneapolis StarTribune, his hometown paper. His grassroots approach is completely unrelated to the New Dem-Wall Street-Schumercrat approach to election.
Potentially bedrock Democratic voters in the inner cities sit out off-year, midterm elections in massive numbers. Despite strong turnout when President Obama was on the ballot, Democrats nationally have lost 910 state legislative seats since 2008 and occupy the governor’s mansions in only 18 states.

Ellison is launching a new voter effort that Democrats around the country have high hopes will lead to more victories in nonpresidential elections, particularly in races where they have lost by razor-thin margins. Even nudging up voter turnout a few percentage points could have massive implications for legislative and statewide races. As a fifth-term Minneapolis Democrat who routinely wins his elections by more than 65 percent, Ellison is increasingly convinced that the future of Democratic victories is hiding in apartment buildings and low-income urban areas across the country.

“Where are they going to come from? Trust me, there’s 3 percent in every congressional district in the United States,” Ellison said. “If we had a good turnout strategy across the country, you could really turn things around.”

To do this, Ellison has workers fanning out to apartment buildings and low-income communities to reach potential constituencies in more personal ways. His idea is that through more one-on-one contact, Democrats can drive more people to the polls and cement lifetime allegiances to the party.

Enter Artiste Mayfield-- a part-time employee at an Amazon warehouse and a college student who grew up in north Minneapolis. With streaked red and pink hair and glasses at the end of her nose, she doesn’t look like your typical hardened political operative. Last year, she knocked on more than 200 doors in the neighborhood. This was different from conventional political door-knocking, however. In this case, she knew many of the people behind the doors.

Mayfield also was part of a “SWAT” team-- composed of blacks, Spanish speakers and Oromo speakers-- who descended on apartment buildings and knocked on doors together. The idea was that no matter who was behind the door, there would be someone on the team whom he or she could relate to.

Earlier this month, Mayfield knocked on another 66 doors. Many times, those responding were friends, acquaintances or people she knew from the community-- the kind of people Ellison hopes are more receptive to a conversation.

“Most people say, ‘I don’t vote,’ and then you begin to tell them why it’s important to vote,” Mayfield said.

Her message is simple: “Do they know about Social Security, about food stamps, about all the things [some politicians] want to take away?” Mayfield asked. “Their eyes be like, ‘For real?’”

Ellison is doing this without the enormous investment of television ads. He also pushed to get the polls open on Sundays and launched a “souls to the polls” effort to bus people to polling places after church. In 2014, some 450 voters showed up in Minneapolis on the two Sundays ahead of the election and another 124 voted on Sunday in Ramsey County.

Ellison can point to his own Fifth District in Minneapolis and parts of adjacent suburbs as proof that the system works. His was the only one in the state where turnout numbers grew significantly between 2010 and 2014-- both off-year, midterm elections. More than 13,000 additional voters in the district showed up in 2014 than in 2010-- by far the biggest spike seen across the state.

The results in Minnesota are gaining the attention of campaign managers nationally heading into 2016.

Maryland’s Eighth Congressional District is more suburban and more affluent than Minneapolis. It stretches north of the nation’s capital into the well-heeled suburbs of Montgomery County and north into some of the state’s more rural stretches. It is also a reliably Democratic stronghold: There are seven Democrats running for Congress in an open seat next year.

One of those hopefuls, state Sen. Jamie Raskin, hopes to adopt Ellison’s get-out-the-vote program.

“It’s an interesting case study in this approach,” said Raskin’s campaign manager, Marshall Cohen. “You have Maryland, a safe blue state in the Senate and presidential races, but just last year elected a Republican governor with record low turnout. I think at the top of people’s minds is that every vote matters and getting more people to participate will be a better outcome for the state of Maryland.”

Andrew Virden managed the apartment program for Ellison in 2012 and took it statewide in 2014. The crew knocked on doors in about 275 apartment buildings out of about 500 in Minneapolis. Virden said that compared with TV ads, an in-person visit is much more effective in getting people off the couch.

“By the time it’s October of an election year, every other commercial is a political ad, and that’s the time to go get a sandwich or a glass of lemonade or a cup of coffee,” he said. “You’re not actually paying attention, and if you’re not paying attention, the money is wasted. But you’re not wasting money if it’s a person standing at the front door having a conversation.”

...Ellison said he was inspired to launch his aggressive turnout operation after seeing states across the country adopt stricter voter laws, which critics say are designed to drive down turnout among minorities and those in the inner city.

“That to me is the icky side of the fence,” said Ellison, who worked on criminal justice reform before being elected to Congress.

Nationwide, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University found that of the 11 states with the highest black voter turnout in 2008, seven have passed laws making it harder to vote.

In Congress, Ellison has worked the other way. He introduced a measure allowing same-day registration at polling places for all federal elections, an effort likely to boost turnout. His proposal also bans new voter ID laws.

“I would far and away rather be talking to people about their God-given right to cast a vote in support of whoever they want to represent them,” he said.
If you'd like to contribute to Ellison's electoral efforts, you'll find him among the 10 worthy incumbents Blue America has endorsed for reelection in 2016. The kind of work he's doing is worth supporting, both in Congress and back in Minnesota.

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At 6:33 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Keith is no doubt one of the good ones in the party a true fighter. I hope he succeeds with his voting cause.


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