Look at Mark Sanford. He is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he does know how to attract a crowd. We Dems all laughed at the stunt he pulled in front of MUSC,
but Mark got the last laugh.
And more recently, there was the traveling circus act that involved Lindsey Graham and his pack of wannabees. From the minute he learned that dim bulb Lee Bright was planning on running at him from the right in the primary, Lindsey began to beat his chest and pound the news shows; his face was on every media outlet he could finagle. Whenever there was a shooting or an abortion bill, you would find Lindsey Graham flashing his conservative credentials in most ridiculous fashion.
All that talk about guns and abortion fired up a few more of South Carolina's right wing-nuts. We ended up with quite the circus, four (or more?) challengers for Graham's seat. And did they make noise! You may not be able to name all those who ran against Graham, but you probably had fun watching the fireworks. And the media complied.
On the Democratic side, we tend to shy away from attention. We want people to understand that we are on the side of the good, and because we really do represent all those middle class ideals the republicans pretend to value, we don't get the support of the billionaires. Groups like A.L.E.C. just aren't very likely to want to throw big bucks at candidates that don't see government as a tool for, say, A.L.E.C.
So we don't have a lot of money, but our intentions are good. What's to be done?
There was an interesting race in Virginia's 7th District. You may have heard of it, especially if you've watched or read anything about Tuesday's primaries. Eric Cantor, GOP leader for well over a decade and current US House majority leader was toppled. Furthermore, he was toppled by an unknown, a university professor, who spent a fraction on his campaign (spending little more on his entire campaign than Cantor spent at steakhouses, according to the New York Times.) David Brat won handily, by more than ten points, leaving everybody -- except his supporters -- stunned.
David Brat is a creepy guy. Student evaluations of faculty comment more about how cute and charming he is than his teaching abilities. And so he got out to voters in the 7th District, constantly, tirelessly. He hammered out the message that -- are you ready for this? -- Cantor is a liberal. His proof? That Cantor had made some comments indicating that immigration reform, particularly in regard to children brought to the US, made sense.
Within this nasty success story is the kernel of a lesson. We Dems need to seek attention, not hide from it. We need to brag about our differences, and more important, if we really believe in Democratic principles, we should be able to tell people why they will benefit.
Here's another thing. There is a lot of free publicity available out there. The media loves something different. The four idiots that ran against Graham made the Republican Senate primary the centerpiece of the primary news cycle. When they all vowed to support each other against Graham in a runoff, it made front page.
Our candidates need to get together and work together. They need to figure out how to make news, and how to turn news to their advantage.
Here's another example. In our Senate primary, even those who try to follow the news mostly don't know who is running against Tim Scott (yes, I am guilty). But on the other side, Brad Hutto had a challenger. And that lit a fire under the Democrats that made the difference. It would have been a far better effort if the result had been state-wide debates and arguments rather than trash-talking, but any attention was better than none. Because we are the party that speaks for the people.
There is a race here in South Carolina District 114 for state representative. Most of us know Bobby Harrell. As far as I can tell, nobody likes him. His voting record is awful, and he is about as corrupt as they come. But unless we make some noise, he will win.
Bobby has two opponents. Yes, two. What an opportunity for us Dems. Mark Sanford knew that if he stood on the sidewalk downtown and gave a speech he would be ignored, but bring along a cardboard cutout of Nancy Pelosi and people are paying attention. Let's suppose that Sue Edward of the Green Party and Mary Tinkler of the Democratic Party coordinated events -- debates and even ads. Why would they do that? They would get twice the coverage for less dollars. They would not only be able to debate their differences, but talk about their similar goals. Even better, they would be able to talk about how Harrell's votes have worked against the people of South Carolina. What the heck, invite Bobby and make news whether he shows up or not.
My point is -- one of them, anyway -- is that when you have two great candidates, there is no reason for that third one that nobody likes to win an election because of name recognition. We need to be creative and open to really different ideas about how to get the word out. Think about Sanford debating Pelosi's cardboard image. We can do better. We just have to be willing to take the risk. And we need to believe in ourselves.
In the end, we increase our chances of winning -- look at the Cantor upset. And whether we win or not, we will have influenced the discussion, and perhaps even our elected officials' votes. And isn't that really what it's all about?