What more is there to say before the election? This has the potential to be a big day for Democrats, and things are certainly breaking the right way here in Minnesota. We’ve seen the momentum building all summer as there were signs that the economy, though still weak, is gaining strength. Ohio and the rest of the industrial heartland seems to believe that it’s good enough, and they are polling strong for Obama.
What more is there to say? It’s a good time to admit I was very wrong about something. Something big, too.
Like most people concerned with the precarious state of our economy, I hate the emotional “hot button” issues. I’ve called the relentless bleating on Fox a “War on Reality” and blasted the distractions created. The bizarre and constant assault on women (and basic decency) hit my radar, but that was about it. It simply seemed that we had better things to talk about as a people whose futures are tied together. What I was wrong about was simple – that these issues, and our reaction to them on the left, is what strong coalitions are made from and once we kick some butt there will be no turning back.
The latest news here is that both constitutional amendments, thrown on the ballot by a Republican legislature in a cynical attempt to get out their own vote, might well be rejected. The first one limiting marriage to “one man, one woman” was always up for a fight, but the second that required photo ID to vote is now polling a 48-48 tie. That’s after polling as high as 80% support when it was first announced, an incredible turnaround.
What did it? Luchelle Stevens and Our Vote Our Future organized an incredible effort, despite a fairly late start. But the groundwork was laid, particularly in rural Minnesota, from the beginning. Sally Jo Sorenson of Bluestem Prairie covered the bubbling resentment all the way. It didn’t seem like much of a hot-button issue, at least not compared to same-sex marriage, but county governments all across the state were enraged by the idea of yet another unfunded mandate being thrown at them. They worked the rural press hard all summer, and after many sympathetic articles an incredible 67 newspapers across the state endorsed a “No” vote to put it down.
If this does go down it will be because of a strong coalition that was formed to kill it – and the connections made along the way could and should form a political organization that is strong and lasting.
This is a small part of the story developing nation-wide, precinct by precinct. Democrats, after a generation of losing an expensive “air war” of teevee ads to the Republicans, now have the energy and drive to organize on the ground. Coalitions have connected people everywhere. They weren’t fueled by the economic reports we slather over here – the hot-button issues pulled it together.
Consider, for a moment, the re-election of Harry Reid in Nevada in 2010. Not a single poll had him pulling that out, but he did. How? One story making the rounds is that polls under-represent Latinos, an interesting observation that is partially true. Polls are only as valid as their ability to identify “likely voters”, and when they underestimate the passion of the young, the disaffected, and generally everyone living on a cell-phone only connection they are simply wrong. The grass-roots machines across the nation are new enough that they have not been estimated well anywhere.
They will show up as a surprise on election day. Their efforts, connecting where they can, often show up as momentum at the last minute when they show at all. It’s a phantom – the people were there all along, they were simply not connected as well as they should have been.
Credit has to go to the hot-button issues. If this goes as I think it will, it will be due to people finally having had enough.
That’s not to say that economic issues are unimportant. The election rests on a cold concrete foundation of a strong economy, for sure. After that, however, any real wave that propels the next generation into the Democratic camp is based on hotter stuff.
I sense a very big wave, one that could even turn the US House to the Democrats after all. It will probably be close. No matter what, demographics are on the side of Democrats and whoever wins this election is going to benefit from the gathering strength of the economy no matter what. But tying this together with strong new coalitions could be the generational change that many of us have been longing for.
I was wrong, but damned glad to be. Whatever works, it’s all good.