As of this writing, which began at 4am, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has won the New Hampshire Democratic primary by nearly 22%.
That’s a pretty big accomplishment for a campaign that was declared ‘too radical’ just a few months ago.
And while I know that New Hampshire isn’t exactly ‘reflective of American diversity’ as so many Clinton supporters have pointed out in the past 24 hours, and that it’s right next door to Vermont, its still a big win for a campaign that has eschewed some of the more unsavory elements of national campaigning.
So kudos to Team Sanders. You’re 10 days from the Nevada Caucus, 17 days from South Carolina, and 20 days from Super Tuesday, which will be a real hard test of the mettle of the campaign.
Electability, Concern Trolling, and the Perpetual Outrage Machine
The past week has featured a lot of bullshit in the media…concerning both the Clinton and the Sanders camps. Story after story from the punditocracy, a term I first heard from media critic, Eric Alterman about the Sanders electability gap and trouble in the Clinton Camp.
Remember people, its early. Two states have voted.
Media folks, for profit bloggers, and commentators aren’t necessarily in the game for altruistic reasons. They make money peddling this stuff, and the more money they make, the more likely they are to keep their job.
I’m not saying all the commentariat is full of shit, but there’s a lot of brown eyeballs out there who are writing for the specific purpose of revving up the perpetual outrage machine.
Outrage, after all, is the currency of the digital age.
Lets get serious, and talk about something that’s related to the Presidential contest, but that’s not about the top two Democratic contenders.
Democrats need to flip 30 seats in the US House and 4 seats in the Senate to really get anything done.
As sexy as Presidential politics are, without more Democrats on the Hill in Washington, any Democratic President will be hamstrung by Congress, and that includes potentially nominating 4 justices on the US Supreme Court.
Iowa only has 1 Democrat in its delegation to Washington. 1 of 6. This year, 5 of those six seats are up for grabs, including one Senate seat against longtime Senator Chuck Grassley.
For either Democratic Presidential candidate to be successful if they’re elected, they’ll need more than 1 from Iowa.
New Hampshire has 4 members of Congress, 2 Democrats and 2 Republicans (One of each in each house of Congress). First term Senator Kelly Ayotte is up for re-election this time around. Nabbing that seat will be crucial for any Democratic president in the coming years.
My point. The President isn’t king (or queen as the case may be). They need people that will help their agenda get through the legislative branch. That has been the single biggest issue President Obama has faced since 2010. No real progress will be made without gaining seats in the House, winning the Senate, and making gains in state legislative races (which I’ll talk about in another post).
So while its sexy to talk about the Presidential race, as the primary contests continue, folks who have had their time in the voting booth need to either follow their respective campaigns on to other states, or look for a local candidate that will be running for House, Senate, State Legislature, or Governor. Because that’s where Democrats have been getting their asses kicked since 2010.
Refocusing After the Primary
Over the next 20 days, 13 states will have Democratic primaries. Some of those states, like Alabama, Arkansas, and Texas will also have primaries for US House and Senate at the same time.
Regardless of who wins the nomination, or the upcoming Presidential primaries, its going to be critically important that those volunteers from the Clinton and Sanders camps refocus their energies to those local races…helping them get the word out about the candidates, and using their experience to propel them to Washington.
You don’t have to completely abandon the Presidential contests, but you should try to make contact with the people running for these seats, and get involved in some way, if you really want to change the country.
Because neither Hillary or Bernie can do it by themselves. They need a team. And the people who would be on that team, need a team too.
The most discouraging thing I see every four years is a huge base of volunteers that show up for the Presidential contests, who then disappear for four years, which leaves us high and dry in the off years.
Democrats can have the whole pie if we decide to focus on it, rather than just the prettiest piece.
Now a word to those who would run
So, you want to be a candidate for US Senate, US House, your State Legislature, or some other political subdivision? Here’s some free advice. Pay attention to the activists in the party (from both the Clinton and Sanders camps).
You’re going to need these people. They are plugged in and want to change the country.
But its not on them to find you (even though I just told them to). Its on you to find them.
That means you have to have a message that will draw them to you (you know, not some bullshit political speak). And you have to build a machine to identify them, and keep them when they come.
You may not have the ‘fuck it, I’m saying what I want’ charisma that Sanders has, or the political instincts and connections the Clintons have, but by virtue of being the nominee, you have a voice.
Don’t hide your campaign away until Labor Day then expect people to give a fuck about you when the Presidential campaign really heats up. Get ’em now, while they’re hot.
Go meet with leaders of the Sanders and Clinton camps in your district before the primary. Make contact. It doesn’t matter who you’re voting for.
Talk to them about your vision for the country, and the people you are serving, or hope to serve.
Listen to them about their concerns, and what’s important to them. You will win more hearts by listening (the hardest thing for a politician to do ever), showing empathy, and talking about how you will support the candidates proposals.
You don’t have to be on board with the gory details of every idea, but don’t hedge…be authentic. People respect that more than base pandering…which is the currency of too many politicians.
Then go back to your team and use this intel in a way that will bring some of this energy to your campaign. Because the way so many contests are stacked against Democrats, you’re going to need all the help you can get.
But do it now. Campaigns are about people, money and time, and you can get more people and money, but time is against you. Use all of it wisely.
As I said in my last post, we’ve got two strong candidates that are building strong networks of volunteers. They’re not spouting the crazy that has been the currency of the GOP candidates. They’re both offering real solutions, in their own ways.
If you want those solutions to have a chance of coming to fruition, you have to be willing to work for it. That work begins with these primaries, continues with the local elections, and, quite frankly, never ends. Even after you get a Democratic President, and majorities in the House and Senate, you’re still going to have to work your ass off to get the things done you want done.
Elections aren’t the end of the political cycle, they’re the beginning.
Its a reality Democrats forget about every time.
If we, as Democrats, both Clinton and Sanders supporters, are really going to make it “Alright”, we have to focus our energies on the things that will move the ball forward, and not fall into a circular firing squad, or worse, become the thing we’re fighting against.