Friday, November 13, 2009
Why you Run races you "can't win".
Everyone in the Green Party is subject to questions about why they would run races that they can not possibly win. When we do reach the level where our presence becomes a factor in a race, then the charges of being a spoiler roll out from the Democrats, especially of the yellow dog breed, as if it were a Pavlovian reaction.
Let me recount a story. Sometime in late 2003 or early 2004, Jerry McNerney was talking to his son and complaining about his Congressman, Richard Pombo, a man who was so far from McNerney's own values as to bring a shudder when his name was spoken. McNerney's son asked who was running against Pombo and, when Jerry answered that no one was, his son said "The why don't you run, Dad."
From that point, Jerry started to work toward making sure that there was opposition. First, he had to build an organization that would allow him to get on the ballot as a primary election write-in for the Democratic nomination, since there were no official Democratic candidates in this safe district for Pombo, then Chairman of the House Committee on Resources. Even as the sole candidate, McNerney needed a recount of votes to qualify for the general election. He borrowed additional money against his own home as a guarantee of the cost of the recount and ended up qualifying by less than 5 votes.
Predictably, McNerney, a neophyte politician, lost in 2004. But, he came back in 2006, fought against Steve Filson, the candidate hand picked by then Representative Ellen Tauscher and backed by Rahm Emanuel and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Once again, he pulled out a victory with the odds stacked against him. As one close to all of this, I listened to the frustrations of all of the progressives who complained that Jerry spent too much time fund raising and too little time out in the district. But politicians evaluate each other based not one what they believe or what they say, but rather on how much money they can raise and the media follows along.
Aided by an arrogant and uninspired campaign by Pombo, McNerney won the seat in a Republican weighted district.
So, why might I write this on a Green blog? There are two points. First, Greens seem to be not so adept at fund raising. Having taken the pledge to not accept corporate donations, we have to work twice as hard as anyone else to raise the money from other sources, but we don't. The other is that a continuity of effort based on solid grassroots organizing will pay off in the end. The people that gave McNerney a financial boost were the denizens of DailyKos, but with the number of small donations that he was able to amass, he could then go to other donors and say... look at that track record. It was the work of an army of volunteers who helped turn the tide.
I live in an unlikely neighborhood for precinct canvassing. The terrain is hilly, the streets are winding and the lots are about half an acre. The only campaign that has ever come to my home to canvass was for McNerney. When the Pombo campaign announced its own major canvass action leaving from a rail station, the volunteers were there with a video camera to record the non-appearance of even a single Pombo volunteer and within 30 minutes, it was on the blogs and the video on YouTube.
We have an opportunity in 2010 to make major gains. The really progressive Democrats have had an opportunity to become disenchanted. The Republicans are rather in disarray as it appears that the tea baggers are controlling its direction. But we need to be executing now on those very important basic tasks that got Jerry McNerney his Congressional seat: fund raising and building the volunteer organization. Meg Whitman raised $70,000 yesterday. (Source: ElectionTrack) What are we doing?