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Blame Hall of Fame

Post-mortems abound. If I didn’t do one, I wouldn’t be cool, so here it is.

Who and what I don’t blame

  • President Obama
  • Efforts at bipartisanship
  • Young people
  • The leftier left
  • The “professional left”
  • The LGBT community
  • Organizing for America

I have no blame for these groups, despite some real hard-core efforts to convince me I should. For instance, this post, while heartfelt, ignores the reality that young people don’t usually vote in midterms because they do tend to disconnect from politics until the national elections, and besides, those 29 million Obama voters who didn’t vote yesterday come from all different demographics.

Over here, this post points out that a higher percentage of LGBT voters voted Republican. Hey, that’s their right. I’m not going to blame them or disagree with their decision to do that. I may not hold out much hope they’ll receive any kind of consideration for that support, but it’s still not up to me to tell them how to vote.

While many on the leftier left of me and in the so-called professional left believe too many compromises have been made, I saw the same kinds of deals play out in previous administrations to our benefit (more often Reagan than Clinton, by the way). So I don’t really blame the President nor do I blame those left of me who adhere to principled stands they believe in. I’ve said a lot here on the blog about it, but at the end of the day, the BlueDogs paid a price for their two-faced use of the “D” trademark while progressives emerged relatively unscathed, save Feingold and Grayson.

Most of all, I don’t blame Organizing for America. I’ve never seen a more dedicated and hard-working group of people than the OFA folks, and they had some amazing operations in motion. Michael Moore complained tonight on MSNBC that he didn’t get a text message until it was too late. All I can say to him is this: Get an iPhone. The OFA iPhone app was crazy good, made it easy to make calls, canvass, and otherwise connect. So many alerts came from them that I found myself annoyed for a second or two before appreciating how well they were leveraging the technology.

So there you go. My Hall of No-Blame Fame.

Who I do blame

  • The Democratic Party messaging machine — the non-existent one.
  • The DCCC and DSCC for pouring money into BlueDogs’ races while ignoring the ones who stood up when they were needed and delivering the votes. This is particularly true of the DCCC.
  • The mainstream media, online and on-air
  • Democratic candidates too timid to stand and run on their record of accomplishments, particularly in the House.
  • The economy.
  • Rush Limbaugh, Rupert Murdoch, and the right-wing funding machine
  • The DNC

My strongest disdain is reserved for timid Democratic candidates who hid their lights under a bushel and reacted to the noise machine instead of standing tall. While their President was out there campaigning on the stimulus, health care and Wall Street regulatory reform, they were running away from it as fast as they could. The ones who stood up for their votes on it were vulnerable, but have a look at Patty Murray, who is currently ahead in her race, and spoke clearly and firmly about her vote for it. Or even Harry Reid, who also ran on it instead of from it. Grayson and Feingold were vulnerable for a number of reasons, and it’s more likely they were victims of the anger fest more than targeted for their stance on positions.

There’s only one reason there was no vote on the Bush tax cuts before the midterm elections. Only one. The House Democrats had some in their caucus who actually wanted to extend tax cuts for the rich. The same is true in the Senate. They are cowards, and I agree with those who say that if they’re going to vote like Republicans, Republicans should actually hold the office.

As for the DCCC, I’m pissed beyond pissed that Rep. Oberstar was left flapping in the wind while Rove & Co targeted him for a loss. Crossroads spent a LOT of money one week out to defeat Oberstar, and it worked.

Two strikes for the DNC. They should have left the OFA organization intact and independent. Tim Kaine obviously didn’t have the first clue how to use the amazing people in this group in an organized, tactical way. I give Tim Kaine two thumbs down, too. Part of the sweep that should happen now is a spinoff of OFA and appointment of a new DNC chairman who is NOT Tim Kaine. I understand why he was put there but he’s ineffective, and has proven himself so over and over again. Scott Brown’s election, for starters. We’ve heard a lot about how ACORN’s demise caused a decrease in new voter registrations. OFA should have been out with a voter registration drive similar to the 2008 election in its place. It wasn’t, and I blame the DNC for that. OFA was treated like an ancillary organization instead of the powerhouse that it is.

Just so we’re clear here, when the RNC was floundering because of Michael Steele’s ineptitude, Republicans didn’t sit around and try to rehabilitate it. Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich and the rest of them fired up their own machines and coordinated efforts for the win. In the process, they rendered the RNC completely irrelevant. Time for Democrats to get someone in who will get stuff done and in a fashion that eliminates us as a doormat for the Tea Party or the Republicans.

Rush Limbaugh and the right-wing message machine go without saying, but as long as we have media operations that not only enable, but also reward them, they will keep grinding and we’ll keep reacting. Which brings me to my final Hall of Blamer, the non-existent Democratic party message machine.

On this, I am in strong agreement with every White House critic. For an operation with a gifted orator like Barack Obama who not only has the brains but the intellectual chops to bring a message and inspire crowds (and believe me, the man does inspire. I speak from personal experience on that), the message machine is woefully absent. Compare and contrast two examples:

Republicans: Repeal and replace the health care law.
Democrats: Put it in “D”.

Come on. Yes, I liked the car metaphor. It worked on the stump. It was good, but it surely doesn’t pack the punch that ‘repeal and replace’ does. Robert Gibbs has done a terrible job of communicating on behalf of the White House. His answers are always mealy and waffly. They sound like a lawyer’s response, laden with disclaimers and careful language. Enough. Get someone who can get a strong message out there. Imagine what Ted Sorenson would have done. Certainly he could have countered “repeal and replace” with something worth repeating, something catchy, something people could actually remember.

On the attack side, why weren’t we using terms like Boehner Bailouts, the Bush War for Iraq, and the “Republican Recession”? Those were just a few a commenter at Crooks and Liars tossed out as ideas. Surely there’s someone creative working for Democrats, too? Where are they now? Shoot, hire Al Franken. His revisions to the car in the ditch story were classic.

On social media, all momentum was completely lost until it was too late. Again, this comes down to having people in power at the DNC who actually get it. While Republicans invest tens of thousands of dollars in social media strategies (including many efforts to game it), there are ways it could have and should have been used to advance the message, starting with a little interactivity instead of just using Twitter and Facebook for blasting messages out to followers on a somewhat random basis.

Whatever else needs to be done, this needs to be the top priority. Fix the message, get messengers to deliver it who are strong and effective, and use social media effectively. Otherwise, they’ll hijack the narrative over, and over, and over again.

What does and doesn’t concern me

The House: Less of a concern

I’m not happy about the losses in the House, but at the same time, I am happy they hit the BlueDogs hardest. That’s a message that Democrats need to heed, loud and clear. Blanche Lincoln’s example is one worth paying attention to, because it tells a story of what the Democratic base will and will not tolerate. Lincoln drove me crazy with her Republican ways. Let her be a Republican then.

However, it’s not necessarily bad to put Republicans in a position of being the ones who have to act. Like it or not, they’re going to have to govern, and they’ve got their own set of bluedogs to deal with there in the form of tea partiers. So let’s see them figure this one out, because they have an agenda too. For example, I keep hearing about how anxious they are to extend the Bush tax cuts. Good. Let them and then ask the tea party caucus how that plays with their vow to limit spending?

It can work to our benefit in 2012.

The Senate: Stalemate without a future

The Senate actually concerns me more because 2012 will be a year where many, many Democrats are up for re-election. Strong candidates need to contend in all states. There can be no weak or Bluedoggy types. As glad as I am to see Harry Reid survive Sharron Angle’s challenge, I’d much rather see a stronger personality as majority leader, someone who will actually play hardball with the DeMints and Rubios.

Florida: 2012 does not bode well here

Florida is a damn mess. Obviously the Democrats are in a huge state of disarray. There’s absolutely no excuse for Rick Scott being elected governor. Kendrick Meek, as good a Dem as he is, was a weak candidate who ran a weak campaign. Marco Rubio was heavily funded and promoted early and he’s going to run for President. I guarantee it. Democrats, get in there and clean it up, or give it up. Right now, it’s just a political hotbed of corrupt and idiotic politics.

Clean it up, Dems, and start at the top.

Keeping OFA muzzled

Get them out of the DNC. Sooner rather than later. Spin them off, but keep them separate. They deserve better than Tim Kaine putting them in the corner until the election.

So we pick ourselves off, dust off, and give bipartisanship the same wink and nod as the Republicans do…which is to say, it’s dead, dead, dead, deader than a doornail.

All hail Nancy Pelosi, a Speaker of the House who did right by the President and by Democrats. For all the rottenness aimed at her by the right, the fact is she was effective and damn good at her job. May she wear laurel wreaths always for that.

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