Monday, November 13, 2017

On The Flippability Of Congress


This was originally written as part of today's first post, so if you haven't already done so, you might want to read that for context.

Catherine Vaughan is the CEO of Flippable, a Democratic organization founded right after last year's election by a gaggle of Hillary Clinton staffers who want to flip red districts blue. Catherine, like so many establishment Democrats, uses the word "progressive" as though it is interchangeable with the word "Democrat," which it surely isn't. But a post she wrote claiming credit-- deserved credit-- for flipping some of the Virginia legislative districts is worth reading.
It isn’t easy to flip a state legislative seat from one party to another. Two major factors affecting “flippability” are incumbency and fundraising. We knew going into these races that:
Historically, 97% of incumbents are re-elected in Virginia.
If challengers manage to out-raise incumbents, the incumbent re-election rate only drops to 81%.
For an open seat, the candidate who raises more will win 71% of the time.
But it’s still hard to know to what extent fundraising causes victory. Instead, the quality of a candidate may affect her winnability as well as her ability to raise money.

...Before the election, political experts considered 2 flipped seats a solid gain for Democrats. We set a goal of 5 seats, betting that we could flip more than 2 if we helped our candidates outraise and out-organize their opponents. It was beyond our wildest dreams that we would be able to flip the chamber. Last night showed us what’s possible-- and what we can achieve in 2018.

Along with partners across the progressive landscape, we inspired thousands of grassroots donors and volunteers to get involved in Virginia.

And over the campaign season, we saw unprecedented grassroots engagement. As of November 2, 128,000 people had made donations of $100 or less to Democrats running in Virginia’s House of Delegates. That’s three times as many grassroots donors as in 2015-- and eight times as many as in 2009!

Remarkably, it’s thirteen times as many grassroots donors as Republican candidates mobilized this year (they brought in a meager 9,482 donors of $100 or less).

Taking all contributions into account, we made significant progress toward closing the 2:1 spending advantage the GOP built in 2015. Republicans still outspent Democrats, but they weren’t able to marshal enough voter support to defeat our Flippable candidates.

...Money matters — but only because it helps candidates reach voters. For our efforts to be successful, we had to partner with strong campaigns whom we could trust to spend resources effectively.

This is a core piece of our philosophy: we can galvanize a national movement focused on state races, but candidates know their communities best-- so our goal is to empower them.

Our candidates focused their messaging on the issues that matter most to Virginia voters: healthcare, transportation, and education.

Healthcare is a great example of our candidates’ powerful messaging. Medicaid expansion --  which, if passed in Virginia, would extend coverage to 400,000 people--  was the most-cited issue among Democratic candidates on Twitter. An analysis of Virginia candidates’ Twitter activity found that Democratic candidates mentioned “health” (“health,” “healthcare,” “Medicaid,” “insurance,” “ACA,” “Obamacare”) more than 3 times as often as Republican candidates.

Candidates and members of the Virginia House Democratic Caucus explained that healthcare issues appealed both to voters who stood to benefit from the policy, and to those who already had insurance but were frustrated with Congress’s attempts to dismantle the ACA. It was also an issue that powerfully bridged the national-local divide.

Our candidates also masterfully differentiated their messaging, tailoring national messages to national fundraising audiences and local messages to their communities.

For instance, Danica Roem-- Virginia’s first transgender candidate-- became a national symbol of LGBTQIA rights and representation as she faced off against Bob Marshall (the very delegate who’d introduced the state’s “bathroom bill”). But with local voters, Danica focused almost exclusively on transportation, decrying Marshall’s failure-- over 25 years in office-- to fix Route 28.

Danica’s Twitter feed mentioned Route 28 no fewer than 106 times, across 975 total tweets. Bob Marshall listed Route 28 as the number one issue on his campaign website, but he showed his real priorities by focusing on personal attacks against Danica (for example, he regularly misgendered Danica in his mail ads).

Danica did the better job of speaking to Virginia voters’ needs-- and that astute messaging paid dividends at the polls.
Lillian Salerno was an undersecretary of Agriculture for Obama. She's not wealthy and she's running for a North Dallas congressional seat held by Republican Pete Sessions, a slimy and prodigious fundraiser (who already has $1,183,439 in his campaign war-chest. And even before Lillian can take on Sessions she has an establishment Dem, Ed Meier, who is getting maxed out contributions from all of Team Hillary (including all the sleazy lobbyists who so endeared Hillary to the voters last year) to contend with. "If you follow the money in these costly races," she told us today, "it prohibits people like me who have been working on behalf of working families and small and independent farmers from running. In order to have legislators who can get things done without being beholden to donors, we must have lots of small donors so that they can add up to one $2,700 donation from a Wall Street banker. I'm running against a candidate with over a million dollars in his war chest. Until campaign finance reform is a reality, grassroots donations are necessary to unseat career politicians like Pete Sessions."

I have good news for Lillian and for Catherine (and her organization). I've gone through every single congressional race during the 2006 Democratic wave election and the 2010 Republican wave election and found that, unlike in normal election cycles, money is not the key factor, challengers need enough money to get their message out and drive up their name recognition but they don't have to be competitive with incumbents a big wave is out to sweep away. In 2006 and 2010 there were incumbents who spent five times more than challengers and were defeated anyway!

Late in the summer, one of the Beltway election prognosticators rated the likelihood of a red to blue flip for every district in the country. Based on a fatally-flawed, reactive and backward looking model-- which pays lip-service to best practices but then ignores them entirely-- their predictions are worthless and even silly. They make all kinds of claims about considering the qualities of candidates, among other factors, but appear to base their forecasts almost entirely on how Clinton did in the district. In the case of ME-02, which has 5 Democrats battling in a primary for their party's nomination, the claim is that the race "leans Republican" and they rate the chance of a Democratic win at 36.0%. If the Democratic Party were to re-run the same tired, uninspiring hackish candidate they ran for the open seat in 2014 and against Poliquin in 2016-- Emily Cain-- then 36% would be a reasonable probability. But Jared Golden is not Emily Cain. (This year Lucas St. Clair is the Emily Cain of the race.) In fact the difference between them is two things:
basically unquantifiable
virtually the whole ballgame in this kind of swing district
There is the money question, of course. But in a wave election like 2018 is shaping up to be, campaign fundraising tends to be not as determinative as it is otherwise. In wave elections that favored Republicans-- like in 2010-- Republican candidates who spent a fraction of what Democratic incumbents spent got wiped out anyway. Half a dozen completely random examples:
Jim Marshall (D-$1,814,549) lost to Austin Scott (R-$1,024,631)
Paul Kanjorski (D-$2,083,660) lost to Lou Barletta (R-$1,254,165)
Chris Carney (D-$1,657,586) lost to Tom Marino (R-$704,457)
Ike Skelton (D-$3,107,552) lost to Vicky Hartzler (R-$1,351,176)
Dan Maffei (D-$3,114,128) lost to Ann Marie Buerkle (R-$758,777)
Melissa Bean (D-$2,451,348) lost to Joe Walsh (R-$602,803)
And the same thing happened in 2006 when it was a Democratic wave swamping Republicans. Another half dozen random examples of the same phenomenon:
Richard Pombo (R-$4,629,983) lost to Jerry McNerney (D-$2,422,962)
Nancy Johnson (R-$5,095,844) lost to Chris Murphy (D-$2,486,251)
Melissa Hart (R-$2,235,952) lost to Jason Altmire (D-$1,063,28)
Jeb Bradley (R-$905,336) lost to Carol Shea-Porter (D-$291,663)
Charles Taylor (R-$4,171,482) lost to Heath Shuler (D-$1,804,365)
Ann Northup (R-$3,421,281) lost to John Yarmuth (D-$2,224,248)
Goal ThermometerLet's head west into the southwest corner of Michigan to the 6th congressional district-- stretching from a long sweep of Lake Michigan shoreline through Allegan and Niles to Kalamazoo-- where Obama beat McCain 53-45% in 2008 and then got edged by Romney 50-49% in 2012. Trump beat Hillary 51-43% so the DCCC has basically ignored incumbent hereditary multimillionaire Fred Upton's vulnerability. Yesterday, the progressive Democrat in the race, Paul Clements-- and, yes, the DCCC has a conservative multimillionaire self funder in the race (lobbyist and HUGE Upton campaign donor, George Franklin)-- posted a worthwhile diary at Daily Kos, A New Deal Moment, pointing out that "the median income is lower now than it was two decades ago. People are working longer hours for less. Both of those factors are true across the country, but are worse in southwest Michigan. The performance of Michigan schools is declining as compared to schools throughout the nation. On the political front, last year Bernie Sanders decisively won the Democratic primary in my district and Trump won the general election... People here are angry about being left behind by Washington, as they have the right to be. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump spoke to that anger. But Trump, in his response to the anger, made many promises he could never keep and told many lies. I believe the anger is still there."
Alongside this anger we see the exhaustion of Republican ideology (if not of their ability to stir fear and resentment.) We saw it in the nomination of Donald Trump in a field of mainly doctrinaire Republicans. Now that Republicans hold the White House and majorities in the House and the Senate, we see it in their failure to get things done. Their health care plans were opposed by doctors, nurses, and hospitals, by advocates for seniors, children and the disabled, and even by much of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. The only reason those plans were proposed was to keep promises that never should have been made in the first place. Their proposed tax plan is mainly a giveaway to the wealthy, undermining the rest of government and exacerbating economic inequality, based on the discredited theory of trickle-down. President Trump finds “accomplishments” mainly in knocking down accomplishments from President Obama. Many moderate Republicans in southwest Michigan feel abandoned.

Trump’s election mobilized new political energy in southwest Michigan, new progressive energy, like nothing I’ve ever seen. Trump’s lies, betrayals, and failures are chipping away at his political support, and he continues indiscriminate attacks on women, minorities, and various other Americans. In November 2018 it is probably fair to expect stronger turnout for Democrats and a drop off among Republicans.

But what are we asking people to vote for?

I believe this is a New Deal Moment, and we need to seize it. I will campaign on a practical agenda focused on changing the conditions that give rise to the political anger.

The rising tide of money in politics has given us an economy that is rigged in favor of the wealthy. We certainly need campaign finance and tax reform.

If we want an economy that works for the people of southwest Michigan we have to ask what is holding our economy back. We have to ask what it takes to build a strong and inclusive economy for the 21st century.

A health care system that costs twice as much as that of other countries and which delivers worse health outcomes holds us back.

Being 31st among 35 industrial countries in high school scores, limiting access to higher education, and failing in vocational education holds us back.

A crumbling infrastructure holds us back.

A criminal justice system that keeps too many people in prison too long, that wrongly targets people of color, that criminalizes substance abuse, and that fails to support reintegration holds us back.

To focus on bringing back coal jobs instead of building technology for the 21st century holds us back.

At this political moment we have a unique opportunity to launch a new New Deal, a practical program that addresses these fundamental challenges.

This is a transformational agenda, and if you base political expectations on recent political experience it may appear fantastic. Voters have the right to hear about immediate priorities, so at campaign events I also talk about three issues I want to work on in Congress from day one, that I want people to remember:
1 Move to single payer health care, starting by opening an expanded Medicare to all. Our health care system is in crisis and in limbo, and the evidence shows we can get cheaper care, universal access, and better health by moving to single payer.
2 Increase job training, apprenticeships, and vocational education. In southwest Michigan, like in the rest of America, we do vocational education badly. This is an enormous missed opportunity for our young people and for adults who lose their jobs, and it hurts businesses that need machinists and computer programmers and people who need plumbers and nurses.
3 Raise the minimum wage and the Earned Income Tax Credit. In the richest country in the world it’s time for a living wage. People who work full time should be able to support their families.
These changes would make an enormous difference for millions of people. They are urgent, they speak directly to our federal government’s failures, and they form an appropriate kernel for a transformational agenda.

Nevertheless, if we consider the challenges and opportunities our nation faces in the 21st century, these changes are only a start. If we consider our federal government’s accomplishments at other times in history it is clear that we can do more. I want people to have three issues to remember me by, but we need to change the political conversation. We need a new New Deal.

In order to release the dynamic potential of our citizenry and to address the competitive challenges of the 21st century global economy, we need to do much more. We need improvements in quality and access across the whole scope of our education system, from preschool to university and beyond. We need 21st century roads, internet access, energy production and distribution, and public transport. Evidence indicates that we could move half our incarcerated population into the community and productive employment without compromising public safety. Besides many other benefits, this would be a great economic boost. We need to promote continued technological leadership in areas of growing global demand. We cannot carry out and sustain these reforms without tax and campaign finance reform. Each of these reforms can be considered independently, but it is their collective potential that can recharge our economy. With cheaper and better health care, with the best education, infrastructure, and technology in the world, with a million more Americans contributing in the workforce instead of costing us in prison or jail, the 21st century can be our economic Renaissance. This is how we unleash America’s entrepreneurial culture. This is how we bring good jobs with good pay back to southwest Michigan. This is why we need a new New Deal.

In putting forth these priorities, there are other areas I do not neglect.

I do not neglect the long march towards political equality, for women, people of color, and our LGBTQ fellow citizens, even in the face of setbacks from the Trump administration.

I do not neglect the urgent need for American leadership on global warming, protection of the environment and our natural resources, or else all bets are off.

I do not neglect fixing the student debt crisis, or strengthening Social Security, affordable housing, consumer financial protection, and community banks.

Our economy is rigged. It’s not working for most Americans. Our democracy is in deep trouble. In their own unique ways, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have given us an opportunity to begin to turn a corner. It is easier, in politics, to focus on a few significant but ultimately marginal improvements. Now is a moment when I believe we in Michigan’s sixth district, the Democratic Party, and we across the country need to take courage and build the pathway America needs for the 21st century.

The world needs the American democratic experiment to succeed. This will only happen if we can get our government working for the people again. It’s time for a new New Deal.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


At 10:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

flipping a few districts still won't remove the tyrant (money) from the party. The respective leadershit doesn't change and has total power to populate committees with whomever they wish, including the chairs and vice chairs. And the leadershit still dictates what bills will and won't see the floor for votes. And the leadershit still spikes everything their money doesn't want.

I'm at least glad that this mentions the wave of 2006 and the reverse wave of 2010. It would at least behoove the author to ponder and report WHY 2010 was the reverse of 2006. It was because after the culmination of that wave in 2008, the tyrannical leadershit of the invincible democraps refused to honor any of the mandate they got from the electorate. 15 million voters who caused the wave in '06 and '08 were so pleased with the results that they stayed home in 2010. Most have never returned.

So messaging and fund raising are important. But what will really determine if a wave is meaningful or simply a visceral reflex to the awfulness of the Rs is results.

Words and money might get some new people elected. But they'll all go home in 2 or 4 years if there are no RESULTS. You want a wave like 1932? That lasted until the '70s because of FUCKING RESULTS!

Words are not results, in case you might be thinking that just winning one election is the be-all end-all of democrap politics. This is their thinking.

You want results? Find something other than the democraps who will never yield results.

At 5:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous @10:12 PM:

Will you please go fuck yourself?

At 6:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

5:21, no need. I have all you imbeciles that elect and affirm democraps to fuck me (also you and everyone else) every 2 years... don't I?

You voting for democraps is actually you going and fucking yourself... isn't it?


Post a Comment

<< Home