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Four Obama Inspired Lessons for California Democrats – Part Two

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Last week I wrote that the Obama campaign should serve as a master class in winning elections for Democrats, but, unfortunately, not enough California Democrats are playing attention to the Obama campaign’s most important lessons.

These Obama inspired lessons are:
1. Blame Republicans and Present a Democratic Solution
2. Use the Internet
3. Expand the Electorate
4. Champion the Middle Class

I’ve already discussed the first two of these lessons, pointing out that during the state budget fiasco, the Democratic leadership failed to place the blame for the crisis squarely on the Republicans, and failed to present a clear Democratic solution to the state’s budget and economic problems.

I also pointed out that although the Internet is a potential game changer for California Democrats – as a less expensive and far more effective alternative to the Republicans’ expertise in direct mail – we have failed to capitalize on this advantage by building effective, informative and user-friendly websites, as well as building membership in Democratic groups on social networking sites such as facebook.

The importance of the Internet and its related technologies was underscored last week when the California Republican convention made improvement in their use of technology a primary objective.  The California Republican Party website now promises that their “Technology Leadership Committee is racing ahead bringing together leaders in California’s tech community to help make our state party the national leader in the use of new and emerging technologies in our operations and communications. The initiative is chaired by David Kralik of Newt Gingrich’s organization.”

This means that California’s Republicans are well aware of the devastating effect that Obama’s edge in technology and Internet use had in the last election, and are racing — and spending money — to catch-up.  Democrats cannot let this happen.

The remaining two Obama inspired lessons are:

3. Expand the Electorate
4. Champion the Middle Class

Let’s tackle them now.

3. Expand the Electorate

si-se-puedeThe Obama campaign succeeded in large part because it expanded the Democratic electorate by bringing far larger numbers of young people, students, and immigrant groups into the process than ever before.  Obama specifically targeted these groups and the result was millions of additional votes.

The California Young Democrats movement is doing a terrific job of maintaining the momentum of the Obama campaign and getting young people involved in the state Democratic Party.

Where we are falling short is in regard to immigrant groups.

Amazingly, here in Southern California, few election campaigns outside of Los Angeles and Santa Ana provided literature, emails, or websites in Spanish.

The website of the California Democratic Party has nothing in Spanish.  The website of the Democratic Party of Orange County has only a single half-page in Spanish.

Neither website has anything in Farsi, Vietnamese, or any of the other languages of California’s immigrants.

This must change.  We need to create Democratic Party literature and web materials in Spanish, Farsi, Vietnamese, and other languages.

We also need to campaign in predominantly immigrant and less affluent neighborhoods.

Despite the fact that so many Mexican immigrants in Southern California live in apartments, our Democratic candidates have tended to campaign only in areas of private homes, entirely ignoring apartment complexes.

While I’m aware of the problem of scarce resources, it seems to me that we cannot continue to fail to campaign directly to hundreds of thousands of potential voters, especially those who tend to vote overwhelmingly Democrat.

4. Champion the Middle Class

Throughout the presidential election, Obama positioned himself as the champion of the middle-class and painted his Republican opponent as the champion of the very rich.

foreclosure_1009_rp25_lrgObama also made middle-class tax cuts a centerpiece of his campaign promises.  The result was millions of votes from the suburban middle-class -– and electoral vote victories in states that had long gone Republican.

The suburban middle-class that tipped the electoral scales for Obama is probably the single most important voting group in California – especially in Southern California.

Yet despite Obama’s lesson, our local Democrats continue largely to ignore the middle-class, and related groups such as homeowners and small business owners.

In fact, I could not find the word “middle-class” anywhere on the websites of either the California Democratic Party or the Democratic Party of Orange County.

How can we expect to win in districts where self-identified middle-class, homeownering voters form the majority of the electorate without talking specifically to them and about their needs?

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Four Obama Inspired Lessons for California Democrats – Part One

The Obama campaign should serve as a master class in winning elections for Democrats.

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Unfortunately, not enough California Democrats are playing attention to the Obama campaign’s most important lessons.

As the effects of the state’s budget crisis and the nation’s economic meltdown hit more and more California voters, the Democratic Party has a once in a generation opportunity to convince voters that it that will protect and defend their interests far better than the Republicans, as well as make fundamental and progressive changes in the way that California is governed.

But to do so will require that Democrats embrace and implement the lessons of the Obama campaign.

These lessons are:

1. Blame Republicans and Present a Democratic Solution
2. Use the Internet
3. Expand the Electorate
4. Champion the Middle Class

Let’s look at them one at a time. [Note: For lessons 3 and 4, click here.]

1. Blame Republicans and Present a Democratic Solution

I recently heard a Republican leader of the state senate saying that the state’s $41 billion budget crisis was “not a Democratic problem or a Republican problem, but a California problem.”

While that kind of non-partisan sentiment and high-minded rhetoric might be praise-worthy in another context, here it is just plain Republican spin.  Of course California’s Republicans don’t want to take responsibility for the budget mess and the impending collapse of state government and public services, despite the fact that they have caused it by creating the most regressive and ineffective state revenue system in the nation and by obstructing any and all solutions that would require that the state’s corporate and business interests to share the burden of solving the crisis.

But the Democratic leadership appears to buying into the Republican’s public relations campaign and failing to place the blame for the crisis squarely on the Republicans.

In his reponse to Governor Schwarzenegger’s State of the State address, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D- Sacramento) said that this is “no time for finger-pointing.”

If not now, when?

Throughout the presidential election campaign, Barack Obama consistently stayed on message and referred to the “Bush-McCain economic crisis.”

Why are California’s Democrats not referring to the “Schwarzenegger budget crisis” or the “Republican budget crisis”?

If the Democrats do not tell the voters that they should blame the Republicans for the state’s $41 billion shortfall and the impending collapse of state government and public services, who will?

Of course, blaming Republicans is not enough. California’s Democrats also need to present a clear Democratic solution to the state’s budget and economic problems.

During the presidential campaign, Obama talked about middle class tax cuts, investment in infrastructure, help for homeowners, and a stimulus package geared to getting America back to work.  His website contained detailed solutions to the country’s economic crisis.

What is the Democratic solution to California’s economic problems?

And where is it spelled out?

You won’t find it on the California Democratic Party website.

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2. Use the Internet

During the presidential election, I received at least an email message per day from the Obama campaign.  And even now I receive several emails a week from the Obama administration.

But I’ve never received an email from the California Democratic Party.

(The Orange County Democratic Party does a much better job than the state party of using the Internet to communicate – thanks Melahat Rafiei!)

The California Democratic Party group on Facebook has 429 fans.  The website has not been updated since October 2008, before the November election.

The California Republican Party group on Facebook has 1,400 members.

The Internet is more than an easy, fast, and relatively inexpensive way to communicate.

It is also a potential game changer for California Democrats.

For years, the Republican Party has used direct mail to raise funds, project it’s message, motivate it’s base, and get out the vote.  It has developed extensive mailing lists and tremendous expertise in direct mail political marketing.

Democrats have been unable to compete with the Republican’s direct mail campaign – not least because direct mail is expensive.

But the Internet makes direct mail (nearly) obsolete.

It is also much less expensive.

The Obama campaign showed that Democrats can have a tremendous advantage over Republicans in Internet messaging and networking.

But to capitalize on that advantage in California, we have to use it.

Next: Obama Lessons 3 and 4: Expand the Electorate and Champion the Middle Class.

Rush to Judgment: Dems Fight Back Against Limbaugh

I’ve had fun listening to Rush Limbaugh’s tantrums since Barack Obama’s inauguration.

The right-wing radio windbag has practically exploded with rage and frustration — not only at Obama and the Democrats, but also at Republicans who might try to find areas of agreement with the popular president.

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It was even fun watching spineless Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) — who had dared to defend the Republican party leadership against Limbaugh’s attacks — grovel the very next day and beg Limbaugh for forgiveness.

But apparently some Democrats are not amused.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has launched an online petition to repudiate Limbaugh — especially his saying that he “hopes” that President Obama fails.

In an email sent along with the petition, DCCC Executive Director Brian Wolff  writes that “Jobs, health care, our place in the world — the stakes for our nation are high and every American needs President Obama to succeed.  Creating real change requires every American stand strong against Rush Limbaugh’s attacks — and all of the other partisan attacks from desperate Republicans that are on the way.”

This little flap might be giving Limbaugh too much credit.

But what the heck —

It feels good to fight back.

Especially when we’re winning.

Progressive Radio Host Goes Racist on Sanjay Gupta

Today on Los Angeles’ progressive talk radio station KTLK 1150, substitute host Johnny Wendell blasted Barack Obama’s selection of Dr. Sanjay Gupta as Surgeon General of the United States.

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In course of his rant, which included attacking Dr. Gupta for his presence on CNN and for his televised disagreements with “Sicko” filmmaker Michael Moore on health care policy, Wendell said that Americans think that people with “foreign accents,” like Dr. Gupta, are smarter than they are.

But Sanjay Gupta is not “foreign” and does not have a “foreign accent.”  Dr. Gupta is from Michigan.

What Sanjay Gupta does have is a non-Anglo-Saxon sounding name, which some racist or very stupid people might therefore call “foreign.”

Whatever issues are properly raised by Obama’s choice of Dr. Gupta as Surgeon General, his being or sounding “foreign” isn’t one of them.

I understand that Johnny Wendell, like conservative talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, is part political commentator and part clown.

But racism or bigotry (even of the unintentional and merely stupid kind) isn’t funny.

It isn’t progressive.

I would have welcomed a progressive talk radio discussion about Gupta’s political and social views, as well as his personal qualities.  But Wendell’s statement in connection with Gupta about people who have “foreign accents” was not about any of these things but only about Gupta’s race and ethnicity.

That’s racist and unacceptable.

Especially on self-described “progressive” radio.

How You Could (Literally) Cost McCain the Election

I few weeks ago I read somewhere that the McCain campaign was spending far more on pay-per-click online advertising (where you pay only when someone clicks on your ad) than on banner ads (where you pay a set amount for a certain number of impressions).

pay-per-clickI thought at the time that if Obama supporters clicked on every McCain ad they saw online, it would cost the McCain campaign a lot of money.

But I didn’t post anything about this idea because:

  • It seemed to me to be too nefarious, and
  • I thought it might be illegal.

Recently, I noticed that someone at the Daily Kos posted the following:

“I was going to make McCain pay for every Google Ad he made me look at.  I simply clicked on the ad and waited for the page to load reviewed it to gain information. Once I reviewed the page that loaded I closed the page. I’m up to 8 clicks today alone just from looking at CNN and YouTube.”

“Now from what I’ve been able to research it cost McCain about $2.00 for my 8 clicks today.  And while that doesn’t seem like much if you multiply that by say 20,000 and by say 24 days until November 4th the costs could be substantial.  I mean 2 x 20,000 = $40,000 p/day, $40,000 x 24 = $960,000.  This is money that can’t be spent in other areas like TV, Radio or malers.”

“Now this is all theoretical and McCain could simply take down these ads.  Even if he does though we win. These ads are on popular pages all over the web that all of us go to.  They attack Obama’s character by placement in prime real estate on webpages with no fact checks.  I say if McCain wants to put up these ads we make him pay.  No free rides for low road politics.”

“So everyone tell your friends as crazy as it sounds to click on McCain/Palin sponsored Google Ads.  Each click takes $.25 cents away from McCain campaign fund that can’t be used on other things.”

I think the Daily Kos has seriously underestimated the amount of money that each click costs the McCain campaign. My guess is that each click costs the McCain campaign a few dollars, not a few cents.

I also think that the Daily Kos poster underestimated the impact that Obama supporters could have on the McCain campaign by failing to note that every pay-per-click Google ad campaign has a daily budget.  Once that limit is reached, the ads stop showing.  In other words, Obama supporters clicking on McCain ads could not only cost the McCain campaign money, it could also stop the McCain ads from running.

But I still think it’s nefarious, and I sill think it might be illegal (if anyone knows, please comment).

That’s why I am NOT recommending that if you’re an Obama supporter, you should click on every online McCain ad you see.

It might (literally) cost McCain the election.

Electing McCain Won’t Win the War in Vietnam

vietnam-memorial-2More than 30 years after the last helicopter carried the last American out of Saigon at 07:53 on April 30, 1975, the Vietnam War is still being fought in the American media and the presidential campaign.

The subtext of the McCain campaign’s constant references to McCain’s Vietnam War service and his years as a POW is that by electing McCain, America will finally win the War in Vietnam and redeem our national honor.

While the logic of the claim is absurd, its symbolic and emotional appeal is powerful.

We have no national heroes from the War in Vietnam.

The US commander for the bloodiest years of the conflict, Gen. William C. Westmoreland, was vilified by both the Left and Right for his conduct of the war, libeled in the mainstream media, and could not even get the Republican Party nomination for Governor from his home state of South Carolina.

The war’s battlefield heroes, including the 246 servicemen who were awarded the Medal of Honor, are long forgotten.  I doubt whether a handful of Americans could name a single one.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., listing the names of more than 58,000 American dead, radiates sorrow and regret, not glory and redemption.

Yet a longing for a heroic conclusion to the Vietnam War lives on in the American psyche — as a hope for release from the deep national shame for our defeat and a yearning for an impossible,  long-after-the-fact, victory.

This longing needs a hero, someone who can embody the revisionist history of the war, and who can convert the war’s shame and loss into a belated (albeit imaginary) triumph.

So many years after the war, where could this hero be found?

Thus far, we have never had a president who served in Vietnam, let alone served with military distinction. Both Clinton and Bush avoided the war. Al Gore, who volunteered for service in Vietnam immediately upon his graduation from Harvard, was too removed from combat to qualify as a hero. Vietnam veteran John Kerry was far too outspoken in his subsequent opposition to the war to qualify as a war hero despite his Silver Star and Bronze Star for heroism and his three Purple Hearts.

But now we have John McCain, a man who even his political opponents hail as a genuine and incontrovertible hero of the Vietnam War.

With McCain’s candidacy, Americans for the first time are being offered the chance to elect as president a Vietnam War veteran who has always been unambiguously proud of his service and his conduct in the war.

The McCain message is: Here, at last, is our national hero of the Vietnam War.  Here, at last, is the symbolic means of declaring victory and redeeming our national honor.  Elect John McCain and we will have won the war we thought we lost so many years ago.

I am sick and tired of the War in Vietnam.

Friends of mine were killed there, and many more friends were wounded, in both body and soul, by their service.

Electing John McCain will not bring them back or heal their wounds.

Nor will it restore America’s honor.

It is time to end the Vietnam War, once and for all.