I found this article about Battleground Texas interesting. It’s an attempt to figure out what exactly went so wrong for Texas Democrats in 2014. It wasn’t just Wendy Davis who lost big, see. It was basically every single remotely liberal candidate.
The article confirms some of my suspicions about how campaigns were run. Specifically:
The group’s ethos descends from Organizing for America, the Obama campaign’s organizing engine. OFA was a powerful national organization, attached to a juggernaut presidential campaign and was able to more or less dictate terms to the locals. Some of that attitude made it to Texas, and it went over about as well as you’d expect.
Battleground seemed to disregard institutional knowledge about the state’s political landscape, arguably to the detriment of the Democratic ticket. For example, the combined Battleground/Davis campaign effort tapped BlueLabs, a Washington D.C.-based consulting firm run by yet more Obama whiz kids, to conduct an analysis of the Texas electorate and figure out where to find votes. BlueLabs, the firm’s site says, “specializes in persuasion modeling”—targeting crossover and moderate voters.
This sort of massive centralization is no stranger to Democrats; the Republican Party has been the king of local elections and legislatures for some time. But it’s striking to see just how poorly it went this time around.
And a theme emerges in this article, repeatedly:
In largely Hispanic Nueces County, home to Corpus Christi, Republicans swept every contested race in an area that should be fertile ground for Democrats. One of the problems, local organizers say, was that the coalition didn’t spend enough time mobilizing Democratic base voters early on.
You can spend an infinite amount of money. If you can’t get people to vote–and in Texas, you need to be registered at least a month before elections–you’re going to get annihilated, and that’s what happened here.
As long as Democrats maintain a myopic focus on Washington DC (and inspirational but distant people like Elizabeth Warren) we’re going to continue to get thrashed in elections. We need a local “bench.” We need local social capital for liberal-leaning citizens. We need a right-wing-church equivalent.
If you go to see “Selma,” keep in mind the powerful role that black churches played in the civil rights movement. I wonder whether they might be able to play a large political role yet…