Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): Dem autopsy a cautionary tale for Republicans

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Dem autopsy a cautionary tale for Republicans

This guy at the DailyKos is probably onto something.

I really hope the Kansas Democrats never put him in charge. Although on second thought, I think I have met this guy one time, and I'm not sure they want him in front of a television camera. Behind the scenes, he could be dangerous.

His autopsy of what he calls the "error brigade" rings true to me, anyway. 

He writes: "The pressure it seemed was on Democrats: Stick to our message and our message is... unfortunately in March of 2014, the message remained: 'Not Sam Brownback.' This message, 'Not Sam Brownback' resonated only as far as a race with Sam Brownback in it of course, but even in that race, Democrats knew that it needed something else."

Obviously, they needed to define Paul Davis. They never did. They also failed to capitalize on issues the writer says would have resonated with voters, choosing instead to focus only on education.  They relied on big data rather than actually talking to people.

"Kansas Democrats simply assumed that education was the top issue for voters," he writes. "It resonated with them."

It didn't, thankfully. (Of course, we know that some of Dems' complaints about education funding in Kansas were simply inaccurate. Being honest is generally helpful when you're trying to reach people on a personal level.)

The Dems needed an edge in Johnson County, but the author said the education issue was always going to be a hard sell in this end of the state.

"...the new plan in Johnson County -- a place that Democrats had to win -- to provide middle school students with free iPads and high school students with MacBooks would completely destroy an education argument. Parents simply wouldn't accept the idea that schools where (sic) if their kids were coming home with free technology no matter how rural schools suffered," he wrote.

But that, he said is the fault of Democrat schemers for using data rather than actually talking to people. 

He suggests that residents in the southwest Kansas, specifically Hispanics, had concerns about the minimum wage. In western Kansas voters wanted to talk about water conservation, ag policy and wages.

But, he notes, Democrats don't recognize these issues when they're running statewide campaigns from Topeka and Lawrence. (He also mentions the detrimental challenges of having a communications director who calls some parts of Kansas, "crapholes." D'oh!)

Republicans should learn from these conclusions:

1. An effective political party should be a bottom-up organization. 

"A state party is almost never built top down. A governor doesn't suddenly build up a party full of county commissioners and state house members. The reverse is almost always true."

Gov. Brownback started building the Kansas GOP machine long ago. Unfortunately, I believe once he reached the pinnacle, he quit listening to the grassroots. The Governor famously got involved in selecting delegates to the state party. The state party writes the platform and is typically includes precinct people and party volunteers. These are the people who do the entirely selfless work of campaigning. And for the Governor to deign to attempt to control who lands in those slots is just tacky and disgusting. This election was scarier than it should have been, and I suspect that is in part because Brownback appears to be somewhat of a narcissist, surrounded by yes people who will not allow a sliver of discord. It worked this time, because the electorate in Kansas is truly conservative, but I don't think that's a long-term plan for success.

2. A wise party encourages local candidates to run provides them active support, the DailyKos author writes.

The writer gives too much credit to the idea that Republicans are doing this in the way we should be. We aren't, but it's solid advice.

3. Talking to voters is far more effective than relying on polling.

The national GOP earned its comeuppance on this one in the 2012 election. The Dems, it seemed, had a magical turnout machine and the Republicans had one had technical problems on Election Day in 2012.

My fear is that we could go the way the Kansas Dems did this year in the future. Our tech and data did what it was supposed to do in 2014, but we cannot be complacent. They should never, ever replace actually talking to people one-on-one. 

4. Finally, the author makes a plea for Kansas Democrats to get out of their bubble in Topeka and Lawrence. 

"If the Kansas Democratic Party hopes to survive, it must fumigate it's (sic) office and realize it doesn't belong in Topeka. Or Lawrence. It must move to Salina. Tomorrow. Immediately."

The Kansas Republicans have done a fairly decent job of getting out of Topeka, but we aren't working hard enough on the ground in places like Wyandotte. And I am continually baffled at the echo chamber where most party faithful spend their time. Our echo chamber is great right now, but the demographics long term are not in our favor. We must do the work now of engaging minority voters, WHERE THEY ARE;  and of engaging single women voters -- fewer and fewer people are getting married these days.

We're going to need to peel off larger and larger of segments in those two populations if we hope to succeed 10 years from now, and possibly, if we hope to have continued success even in 2016. 

The voters in the graphic above, they'll be back in 2016. If we don't start educating them now, they'll be at the polls, woefully ignorant, and likely to vote with the Democrats.

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