In the spirit of Thanksgiving, of gratefulness and rejoicing, I’m not going to rant too much, or insult people’s intelligence, or insinuate that some people’s entire political existence is a complete waste of time and money. Nor will I question many of the conservative donors’ political acumen and how they invest hundreds of millions in pointless efforts. I will even restrain myself from completely insulting people who think robo calls or door literature drops or bus tours are meaningful. In. Any. Way.
You see, I have a little theory on why we as a movement, and Republicans lose: because we’re stupid. No, I take that back. We could actually stand to be a little more stupid and do the obvious. I think we sometimes are too smart for our own good. We think if we come up with some twist of phrase or some great idea the masses will rise up and we will be victorious. Folks, there is no silver bullet in politics. You can’t blow up the Death Star with one amazing shot and think you’ve won because the Empire never dies and it always strikes back (Paul Teller and Matt Robbins, I salute you).
So here’s a thought: let’s do the obvious moving forward and actually commit to doing some fundamentals of politics. Because that, despite all the chatter of data and technology and everything else the Obama campaign did better than us, is exactly what the Obama campaign did. Politico had an article yesterday on what Jim Messina learned from the campaign. There is one sentence that sticks out, and glaringly so when you think of certain Super PACs and other outside groups on our side that spent hundreds of millions of dollars on TV ads. The quote is this: “It was the convergence of 21st-century data and old-fashioned on-the-ground door-knocking that left Messina confident before Election Day that Barack Obama would be victorious over Mitt Romney.”
There are other factors in winning. I know that. Like having a candidate people can get fired up about. But that aside, unless we commit to real grassroots and GOTV, and by that I mean knocking and talking on doors, and having personal contact with the voters, and not just in the last month or two of the election season, we’re not going to win. People will say we must have a better message. I like our message, and quite frankly if we would tap into the conservative populism message of, “We hate Big (government, corporations, banks, etc.),” we can and will win. There is nothing wrong with our message. There is everything wrong with our approach and tactics. People are wringing their hands about how much further ahead the Obama campaign is with data and technology. In the technology arms race, we can actually catch up, even move ahead. We, on our side, have the databases and technology, that with some more investment and development, can and will be better by 2014.
All is not lost for us, but it will be unless we change our approach to politics as a whole. When confronted with great challenges and wondering where to start, do the obvious. And the obvious for us is to commit to grassroots development now, to having a presence in the field in the key states between now and 2016, and an improvement on our data and technology.