Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Nine random thoughts about the election

Because it seems to be a popular number.

1.  After every election defeat, the losing side forms a circular firing squad. No matter which party has lost, the crossfire tends to come from three directions. One, we were cheated. Two, if we had only communicated who we really are, we would have won. Three, whoever was in charge of strategy and tactics screwed up and must be fired. It would be a mistake for the Democrats to believe any of them.

2.  The Democrats weren't cheated.  They didn't lose because of "dark money," "dirty tricks" or "voter suppression." All indications are that they spent as much as - if not more than - the GOP. There were no dirty tricks. Turnout was at record levels for a November gubernatorial election.

3,  The problem wasn't that the voters didn't understand who the Democrats were. While their candidate didn't come across as a true believer (see below), the Democrats conveyed their message. You would have had to be unable to speak or understand English (or Spanish, for that matter) not to understand that the Democrats wanted to spend more money on public schools (but not vouchers) and raise the minimum wage. It was quite clear that the Democrats thought the Republicans were "against" women and minorities and liked "rich" people. The first two were not winning issues while the latter three were simply unbelievable - they have, if you'll permit me, jumped the shark for most voters.

4.  Other than these insipid and hateful themes of the "war on women" and "dog whistle" politics (which I think the Democratic base wanted to see), the Democrats ran a pretty good race in Wisconsin. I would not have expected them to be able to match the recall turnout. Yet they did. But the GOP ran  a good ground game as well. While I think the ads ran by Democrats and their allies often conveyed messages that were toxic and false, they were well executed. The problem may have been the message and not the way it was rolled out.

5.  Mary Burke wasn't a good candidate but she wasn't an awful one. If the Democrats think that someone like Kathleen Vinehout would have done better, they are smoking the stuff that Ray Burke wants to make legal. Walker would have topped 55% against a candidate like that. It is true that another candidate - maybe the reluctant Ron Kind (best they stop waiting for him) or Russ Feingold - may have done better. But those guys weren't on offer.

6.  The Republicans did not win because of gerrymandering. It has nothing to do with the state wide races. While the GOP's share of the legislature will exceed its share of the statewide top of the ticket vote, this will almost always be the case because Democratic voters tend to live in clusters. Take away Dane and Milwaukee Counties (really just the north half of Milwaukee) and Wisconsin is deep red.

7.  While it partially contradicts my absolution of the Democrats' strategic and tactical approach, Last week's results hurt the idea of the stealth candidate.  Part of the attraction of Mary Burke was that she could pretend to be anything because she had been, when it comes to politics, nothing. No record. No body of political expression. There is often a fascination with running candidates who claim to be "non-ideological" or say they are for "whatever works." Think of John Anderson, Ross Perot and, more recently, Jon Huntsman. The problem is that you can't know what "works" until you decide what you want to do. You can't even make judgments about what will work in particular without some set of beliefs about how the world works in general. Those general beliefs are a big part of our ideological differences. (Nevertheless, I do think that the Democrats' ideological preferences were expressed.)

8.  I'm glad Brad Schimel won, but Attorney General should be an appointed office.

9.  To my fellow conservatives, it was a great week to be us. But there are no permanent victories in politics and winning is only worthwhile if we make something of it. Expanded school and parental choice. Regulatory reform. An end to crony capitalism. A fresh approach to strengthening our urban areas. More economic freedom. Reform of the campaign finance laws. An end to John Doe gag orders.

Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin.


Calypso Facto said...

Excellent post ... thank you. It truly amazes me that virtually all of the Democrats in my circle refuse to acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, it is the party's message that is losing Wisconsin elections. And that the immature responses only further alienate mature-minded voters.

Dad29 said...

Take away Dane and Milwaukee Counties

From your lips to God's ear!!