It’s Time to Revive the 50-State Strategy

Long story short, we’ve played defense too long. The result is that we have lost seats, most notably in state legislatures.

But crisis equals opportunity, as they say, and while we talk about reaching voters, what we really need is more candidates.

So, for example, Orrin Hatch is up for re-election in 2018. Here’s a handy list of all the 2018 Senate races. Of course Hatch will get a challenger, but all the state senators, state reps, county sheriffs (or whatever) who expect no opposition and will have lots of time to help Hatch? We should surprise them with challengers.

GOOD challengers, ideally, but the current situation calls for rolling the dice more than we usually do.

The old method was to, challenge, say, Rick Santorum with a guy like Bob Casey — swallow Casey’s flaws, and hope he wins. Great — but err on the side of challenging every Republican officeholder. No safe seats, up and down the ticket.

It’s easier said than done. But it will do us good in two ways.

1. Not enough people run for office as Democrats. We need to lower the barriers to entry.
2. We need to energize our base.

Can it hurt? Yes. Guys like Jeff Perry damaged the GOP brand in Massachusetts. But the damage was temporary.

What have we got to lose?


27 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. And there is "Project 351" in the Commonwealth.

    What have we got to lose?

    For some of us, our pride, arrogance, condescending attitude, our habit of blaming the voters…..

    Many of our towns have NO Democratic Town Committees. Two towns very close to where I live either went “Trump” or were won by Clinton by a handful of votes.

    It’s time to listen.

  2. Without the 50 state strategy, it will

    take much longer to take back government in purpling states. Like the Red Sox, we can’t just draft candidates, we need a farm system.


    by recruiting local activists to join.
    Three of my friends signed up last night. One was a high school classmate and a lifelong Republican. He told me he joined the Democratic party this year because he was so impressed with the way we conducted ourselves during the 2016 campaign cycle both locally and nationally. My other friend is a candidate for Board of Selectmen running as a progressive Democrat and a Veteran to boot. His wife had been a lifelong Independent but is now a proud Democrat.

    Fred Rich LaRiccia

  4. Agreed, but impossible to do right now.

    Until we evict the Third Way crowd that runs the ClintonDNC, we’re stuck with awful strategy and losing elections.


    Manny, didn’t you get the memo ? We are agreed on the BOTH / AND strategy not the either/or.
    This is not the time to be finger pointing, scapegoating and witch hunting by conducting a Stalinist purge of the party.
    Further, we agreed that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. To that end we have adopted St. Augustine as our patron : ” In essentials unity, in non essentials liberty, in all things charity.”
    So let all compete freely for the Chair and may the best man/woman win !

    Fred Rich LaRiccia

    • So when the ClintonDNC is in trouble,

      It’s all can’t we all get along?” And as soon as the money is flowing back to them from Wall Street, it’s all “You people on the Left with your @#$&ing retarded ideas need to grow up; surely you must understand the sacrifices the 99% have to make to keep taxes low on the wealthy.”

      As someone said, “I was born at night, but I wasn’t born last night.

      • To me this proves the necessity of the approach

        When we’re defending territory, we have to prioritize. Markey gets less than a candidate like Sherrod Brown, who’s in a swing state.

        But if we’re fighting everywhere, the money will have to flow more freely. Someone will say this “drains resources.” No, it will grow the proverbial pie by drawing resources from places we don’t normally look at.

  6. A simple question of where resources should go

    Should resources primarily go to staff, consultants & pollsters in DC? Or should resources primarily go to states and organizers? One of Obama’s biggest failings was letting Debbie Wasserman Schultz waste resources for so long. She should’ve gotten fired long before her incompetence became so grossly public.

    • To the states and organizers.

      You can’t build the Georgia Democratic Party with money spent in Washington.

      I agree with Manny that the Third Way needs to die, but I think it’s dying a natural death. Clinton’s campaign, as Paul Simmons has pointed out, and I’ve read elsewhere, was still this Washington-centric, top-down campaign of consultants and polls. DWS’s DNC was the same way. Their coziness with the business world resulted in a managerial ideology.

      These kind of folks represent the managerial class that emerged in the neo-liberal era. They found success by carrying out the directives of the owners and legitimized their decisions with numbers. In the professional world, that meant profits. In public education, that mean test scores. In politics, it mean money and polls. These metrics have their uses, but they allowed a managerial class–a class that knows better than the rest of society–to find a lucrative position with a sense of superiority over people who actually do the work.

      It is this managerial class that needs to be relegated to the needs of the people they claim to represent.

      • My only problem with this kind of analysis is that it is after the fact.

        Last year, all we heard about was how the Clinton campaign was opening up local offices in states where Trump had no presence whatsoever. And that the bad old Clinton consultants had been superseded by Obama people who wouldn’t make the same mistakes.
        My fear is that we will hear more or less the same thing next election cycle–how local and down to earth the campaign is. And then if a candidate loses, we’ll be told that they were top down and out of touch.
        If this analysis is going to be of any use we’re going to have to know ahead of the vote which is true. Ideally, we should be able to measure this in real time. Otherwise . . . .

        • Sorry I couldn't forecast it at the time?

          I’m not sure I really understand your comment. Are you complaining about the timing or a pattern? We are now looking to the future, ergo this analysis is prior to the next campaign cycle.

          I didn’t have evidence of what was happening before and during the election. How would I predict it would happen? Post hoc, Paul Simmons provided some of the details. I read more about how unresponsive the Clinton campaign to Democrats begging for help in Wisconsin. You want real time? You’ll need to get more involved in the party apparatus than I am.

          • Didn't mean it as a criticism of you

            And I’m not asking that I personally be informed of whether each campaign is grass roots or top down.
            But I just find this analysis not very useful. When a candidate is not elected, everyone local will say it’s because they didn’t involve the local people. But by everything that we can measure, the Clinton campaign was much more involved locally than Trump, who in many key states didn’t even open field offices, or opened them really late. I read that over and over during the campaign.
            Even if grass roots doesn’t mean having lists of voters and contacting them, or opening field offices, it still must mean something tangible. Make a list of those things and do them during the campaign.
            But if it just means that a local person, in retrospect, didn’t get the right vibes from some staffer, it doesn’t mean much and isn’t very useful.

            • I can't find it, but there has

              been some very promising research on voter turnout with door to door work. There’s also been some writing on building community in similar ways.

              I know this is too vague to be much help, but these may be the more concrete things your looking for.

              Theory and analysis are useful, but they aren’t concrete steps to solve a problem.

            • Doesn't the disconnect mean ...

              That there was a message or signal that people were getting from the Trump campaign that really hit them where they lived — as it were? And that the Clinton campaign failed to do so, at least where it mattered?

              On the ground interaction is necessary, I think. But I’m at least as interested in the content of that interaction: What are people talking about? What do they care about? What values and relationships and loyalties are being invoked? How does a progressive political culture perpetuate itself?

              • I know a lot of people who voted for

                Trump. Reasons ranged from wanting to shake things up to hating Hillary Clinton to just being Republican. Hillary won the popular vote, so we can overstate the importance of ground game and message in this election. Without Comey, this wasn’t even an electoral college victory.

                In short, we need to rebuild community. There’s a lot to be accomplished by talking to people. Working with people. Investing in people. With the exception of James Conway, I don’t know how many BMGers actually know the working class people everyone is talking about. I grew up with them. They are my family members. They are my fellow citizens. Talking to them, listening to them, getting to know them is more important than talking about issues. Relationships come before or at the same time as issues.

                • Most of the people I know who voted for Trump

                  Are low wage laborers, in the $40-$60 K per year range. Most did not go to college, but some did. Most are white (as are most of the people I know) but a few are “people of color”. Most are people you would never even notice, no pun intended, as neither party has noticed them for decades. Trump took advantage of that. With one exception ( a women and her position on abortion), every one voted on economic terms. Now some thought that building a wall will help their wages rise, some think that cutting welfare for those lazy poor will lower their taxes and their net wages will rise…but no matter the issue, with that one exception, it all points to wages and security.

                  • That's sounds about right, John.

                    A lot of the people I know have family incomes over $100,000, however. In Granby, that’s not a bad living. We have more than our the average number of people in the military in some regard, National Guard, Reserves. Many of them work or drill at Westover or Barnes Air Force base. We also have more than our share of police.

                    The people I talk to, or more precisely listen to, don’t talk about economics or wages. As I’ve said before, I don’t think most voters think very deeply about issues–Democratic or Republican. I think most voters choose a candidate based on who they like or identify with, and what team–I mean party–they usually support. They really weren’t going to vote for Hillary Clinton. Others said they thought we needed to shake things up.

                    I think people will vote on issues, but people I know who voted for Trump didn’t mention them.

        • Isn't the whole discussion of DNC chair part of the same problem?

          I mean, we’re talking about how the DNC chair should make decisions that help the grassroots, neighborhood-level, city-council and state-rep party. Still a top-down notion! It’s a little ironic.

          I’m interested in party ID as a function of culture and habit. The unions used to provide that for Dems in many places. The conservative money-movement (Kochs, et al) have struck at that, right at the root. That’s why they’re so concerned with right-to-work, charter schools, etc. — it’s not really ideology, or certainly not the merit of the ideas at face value. These are all stalking horses for defunding, de-organizing, and demoralizing the Democratic Party. It’s partisan politics by other means. And they’ve been remarkably successful in some places.

          Where it’s been successful, how has the Democratic Party gained strength at the neighborhood, cultural level? Where are we winning, and why? Can it be replicated in other places? It sounded like Pete Buttigieg had some interesting things to say – that it really comes down to delivering the goods in a tangible way. “Either that pothole gets filled or it doesn’t”. That also applies to health care and public education: You build trust and civic society by getting together and agreeing on things that work.

          (Finally, *finally* we’re getting some actual pushback on the Affordable Care Act, with some apparent political juice. It was a law that did a thing for people, and they don’t want it taken away.)

          • Also too, jobs.

            Jobs are a method of delivering the goods, to say the least. As a politician, Trump understands this. I’ve been saying for years to stop referring to “green jobs” — they’re *jobs*, that pay for groceries and mortgages and Christmas presents and the whole lot.

            • Pete's great

              My new first choice.

              “I spent thanksgiving in a deer blind with my boyfriend and his father”. Great story as a gay veteran from the Catholic Midwest, a great record of governing in an area Obama easily carried that Clinton lost terribly. We need to revive the Midwest parties which died a slow death throughout the 2010-2016 period. 5 out of 6 governorships to 1 out of 6. Also losing legislatures in WI, MI and PA should’ve been signals.

              And you’re right-Trump kept saying jobs and trade over and over again and it really resonated with folks without jobs. Racists and sexists vote Republican anyway, so do the wealthy, these weren’t surprises. It’s the white working class women abandoning Clinton, the white working class counties Obama narrowly carried in these state sgoing to double digits.

              These are our people-Roosevelt/Kennedy Democrats that flirted with Reagan, came back to Clinton after flirting with Perot, and some came back to Kerry (people forget he outperformed Gore with this demo) and more came back to Obama. The “proud union home” bumper stickers outside the brick bungalows in the shadows of the old factories. This is where I got my start as an organizer and is the kind of community my father in law has preached in and I live in. And we really wrote it off in 2016 and it’s time to stop doing so.

              And we can do this without excusing racism or sexism in any form.

            • FDR said it best.

              Excerpt from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1944 State of the Union:The right to a useful and remunerative job.

              When Rick Perry bragged about all the jobs he created in Texas, the running joke was “Yeah, he created a lot of jobs. My friend got three of them and still lives in his parent’s basement.”

              The problem is that under the current outdated economic model, it’s just not possible to get to remunerative jobs for the majority.

              • "Good jobs at good wages"

                Except that it didn’t do the Dukakis campaign much good.

                • We have jobs.

                  The Massachusetts unemployment rate dropped to 2.8 percent in December. So 97.2% of our citizens have jobs in the Commonwealth. The national unemployment rate last month came in at 4.7%, close to what economists consider full employment.

                  WE HAVE JOBS.

                  What we don’t have are good wages.

                  Screw the “Jobs and the Economy” crap.

                  Higher Wages and Security are what we all want/need.

    • That's not how it works.

      Obama doesn’t get to do the the DNC chair’s job for her or have the authority to fire her.

  7. all well and good...

    Long story short, we’ve played defense too long. The result is that we have lost seats, most notably in state legislatures.

    But crisis equals opportunity, as they say, and while we talk about reaching voters, what we really need is more candidates.

    … and should be done, but for more than just the candidates. Running more candidates and ‘not playing defense’ is predicated on the notion of voters rationality: that the electorate, as a whole, will carefully consider the merits of the parties and their candidates and, in a more or less logical progression, come to a decision. I don’t think this, strictly speaking, is true across the entire electorate. Nor do I think the irrational part of the electorate is limited to the racism and sexism predominant upon the right, but includes the purity-seeking on the left.

    We’ve recently been going round-n-round on questions of legitimacy. In true deliberative fashion liberals and progressives are weighing the question and agonizing over it: considering what it means, whether it’s righteous and how to conduct themselves in such context. Conservatives haven’t agonized over the question since 1975, if ever, having — with increasing hostility — openly defied the legitimacy of the last three Democratic presidents; Carter, Clinton and Obama. Obama, and H Clinton, in particular, thought they could simply assume legitimacy and let their obvious competence convince doubters. Again, that’s predicated on doubts being propped up by logic. But, as often happens, the cliff-notes version plays out right before our eyes: Rep Lewis, by reason and thought, comes to the conclusion that Trump isn’t legitimate. Trumps response is to call Rep Lewis’ competence and legitimacy into question, in a fucking tweet and in open defiance of the clear and unimpeachable truth of Rep Lewis’ entire life.

    The 50 state strategy should be to get a majority of people in the 50 states to think. If people honestly and earnestly thought about the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump… there is no contest. If they’re not thinking then Jesus Christ himself might’ve lost to Donald Trump.

    But crisis equals opportunity, as they say,

    The crisis has not passed. The crisis is not that we lost the election. The crisis is that Trump won and took the Senate with him. The last time the Republicans held the House, the Senate and the Presidency we got the (second) Iraq war, Medicare Part D, a bunch of useless tax cuts, greatly relaxed oversight of the financial sector and the entire rest of the world pissed at us. That’s what we got with Trent Lott/Bill Frist, George W. Bush and Dennis Hastert, all of whom look like the NASA brain trust when compared with Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and Donald Fuckin Trump. Whatever it is they want to do is going to get done and is going to be bad… and, on top of their will to impose their ideology, they are incompetent so they’re going to execute on it poorly… But because they’re stupid and incompetent doesn’t mean that when they fuck up the rogering, it’s going to be good. Nope. An incompetent serial killer is still going to kill — just messier and longer. An incompetent congress with an incompetent POTUS bent on delivering actual pain (the conservative agenda) is going to have that pain multiplied four-fold or more by their ham-handed and sub-par abilities. That’s the crisis. The Washington Generals have made it to the NBA finals. No points will be scored. Everybody loses.

  8. Worth noting

    Even though I used the term “revive,” the 50-state strategy has never really been tried. Howard Dean lost the argument to Rahm Emanuel, so it never came about.

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