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Hot Buttons

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.

18 thoughts on “Hot Buttons

  1. Note: This is something I want to revisit after the election after we see how strong the “ground game” was and what coalitions were formed. There may be a lot to learn here and some very important things we need to do to remain strong going forward, particularly where it comes to forming broad coalitions like the statewide organization of those on the outside that made the DFL in the first place.

  2. I think this could be big, too. The ‘enthusiasm gap’ seems to have been closed and people are fired up. That should carry over to a good sized win in the election.

  3. On Harry Reid: Many Republicans and independents felt it didn’t make sense to boot Sen. Reid out, since he is the majority leader. We like that he is well-liked by his Senate Democratic colleagues. Sharron Angle lacked credibility. She was like Allen Quist. Also the Republican primary was a three way race and the 2 moderates lost. If NV elected Sharron Angle we would be the laughingstock of the nation. ; )

    For governor, Governor Brian Sandoval (R) won handily over Rory Reid, Harry Reid’s son. Rory thought he could win on the Reid name, but that doesn’t always work. Rory was a good county commissioner, though.

    • Thank you. I’m still amazed that the polls didn’t pick this up, however. It was a very strange situation and it begs more analysis. If it’s a total anomaly then it’s not a big deal, but I think we may see more of that in this election. Nate Silver has shown that polls which include cell phones can be very different from those without, which means that for all the polls we have this election most may be pretty worthless.
      Plus, there is that ol’ enthusiasm gap. I still believe most of the error is in IDing “likely voters”. I know that was a problem for us in a city election.

  4. Many casino/ hotel/ restaurant workers work the 3-11 or 11 to 6 shift in Nevada, so we are harder to reach. Many are newcomers and are very slow to give up their cell phone number from where they previously lived. Many are snowbird retirees who have a home in another part of the country. Others are just so high, they don’t know they should answer their phone. Other retirees don’t talk to the pollsters because the pollsters have been calling them all their life.

    • Thanks. We’ll see if this was an isolated case or not, you’ve given some good reasons why it could have been. My hunch is that polling is getting harder all the time, something not reflected in the methods – which are not changing that much.

  5. Some of the polls are all over the place, they can’t all be right. If there is a big wave it will catch the MSM by surprise but that doesn’t interest me at all. They miss nearly everything it seems.
    It is best to not worry about this election and deal with it when it is over. I think the only thing I care about is the marriage amendment and that looks like it will lose. That will be a big deal.

  6. Blatant case of missing the obvious – hot button issues worked for Republicans. I am not a fan of that stuff either but if people need their politics in sound bites you have to give it to them that way.
    I doubt this will be a big wave for the dems and there is no poll to confirm it but Romney was a weak candidate and we all knew it in the primaries. He is our John Kerry. Maybe you should be saying ‘thank you’ for having him.

    • Ha! You win this round! 🙂 OK, so we need to make it all slogans and hot buttons. Blah.
      Good point about how Republicans knew Romney was weak all along. Sadly he never had a stronger challenger, however. There was a brief moment I thought Perry would be tough to beat and then … something happened to him. Whatever.
      If he is your Kerry, I do thank you. We’re even now. 🙂

  7. Mitt Romney is the Republican Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis, John Anderson, Ross Perot, Ralph Nader, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Joe Lieberman. He is our Adlai Stevenson.

    He is our happy warrior.

    • I remember 10 years ago when Paul died and Mondale took his place in the Senate election. I made a green and white sign with a marker that said Mondale! mimicking the Wellstone! in the yard. It just … didn’t really work. Sigh.

  8. Governor Romney is ahead by 1% in the Gallup poll. Gallup has been correct in the past! Uff da! (I hope that is correct usage. Not so much?)

    Hopefully the electoral college behaves like a proper gentleman and gentlewoman. Luck be a lady tonight!

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