Here's my take on Tuesday.
The Democrats vaunted ground game was paper-thin-- having been absorbed by data mining, niche marketing, consultancies, big money and technologists. The historic institutional base of the ground game, where real people live and work, has been swallowed up in the process. Neophytes hired to go door to door with smart phones and talk about things they don’t understand is an ersatz ground game. A blizzard of emails and mobile spots with catchy tags is no substitute.
By way of contrast, volunteers with community roots, the heart and soul of a real ground game, were few and far between. The exceptions prove the rule.
While running from President Obama the Democrats also ran from the positive real impacts of the Affordable Care Act on families including insuring millions of uninsured and insuring those with preexisting conditions. The data miners, technologists and power political strategists, insulated from interest in real world outcomes like these, had grander, more lucrative poll driven insights to apply. Those of us following campaigns nationally and locally never heard a word of ACA positives. Allison Grimes evasion of her own vote for Obama was only the tip of the iceberg.
The Tea Party is a far stronger “grassroots” operation than anything the Democrats have going for them right now. Freedom Works and the Koch Brothers not withstanding, Tea Party chapters have a social/political life of their own (including in Oracle, AZ) that faux grassroots “progressive” leaning organizations do not. The internet is not a substitute for face to face engagement and never will be.
From this electoral cycle nobody learned anything. Neither party tried to teach anyone anything.
No surprise here but such behavior is deeply disrespectful of citizen voters. We already knew that Americans were unhappy with Washington. We already knew that power and money players do their own business there regularly servicing their interests while ignoring the work of the people.
The most important clues to future vitality of democratic process lie in campaigns that real people actually care about like sentencing reform, minimum wage hikes, health care, housing, school bonds and overrides (passed in Oracle, AZ), training for real high wage jobs, and proper care and attention for veterans. There’s nothing partisan about this kind of organizing. It’s not grandiose. It’s slow. It requires patience. It demands learning public skills. It requires support from community based institutions like congregations, schools, and non profits. It offers great hope in an otherwise bleak public landscape. The alternative is more of what we experienced this past Tuesday, an electoral sink hole.
Frank C. Pierson, Jr.
Frank Pierson retired after forty years of work with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) as a professional organizer. He began his career in 1971 in Chicago, moved to Queens, New York City and migrated west to work in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado. He resides with his wife, Mary Ellen Kazda, in Oracle, Arizona. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org