Monday, March 13, 2017

With Us or Without Us – Special Election Edition

It was a bad news/good news thing.  The bad news is that Mick Mulvaney is now in charge of the federal purse-strings.  The good news is that there is an opening in Congress.  And we – the people of South Carolina – are fired up and ready to go.

Except that there appears to be a huge information vacuum.  Typically informed people (like myself) are scrounging around Facebook and the internet trying to get information about who and when.  There appears to be an awful lot of information about the republican side of the equation:  a clown car full of enthusiastic right-wingers eager to fill the stingy shoes of Tea Partier and loyal Trumper Mick Mulvaney.  It seems obvious that they are looking at it as an easy win for their side, and well worth the fight.  On the Democratic side, there are three, all new to politics, and there are even a couple of independents.

Isn’t this when the Democratic Party should be stepping in?  We’ve got two good people who have stepped up to run, and a primary coming up on May 2.  And District 5 has gone Democratic enough times in the recent past that one could imagine voters angry enough about losing their health care and tax cuts for the rich that this district could flip.

In typical Democratic fashion, I have my fears and my hopes for my party.

My fear is that we won’t hear much from the party, state or national, other than the ubiquitous fund-raising email.  In the few weeks before the primary, we are going to hide somewhere and let the republicans fight it out.  And then after the primary, there will be some half-hearted support, with the general philosophy being that the Democratic Party should save their strength (and financial support) for 2018.  Over the last election season, with a number of great candidates, there was little party support, and even South Carolina hero Jim Clyburn commented in one of our major newspapers that there was little chance of a win.  I am not expecting that I will hear much more from Jim than those auto-generated emails asking for money or explaining that while he enjoys hearing from me he is much too busy to answer.

My hope?  I am thinking that, much as the Democratic Party has woken up to support Jon Ossoff in Georgia's 6th, our SCDP and the DNC will take off.  I am hoping that they won't wait for a kvetch from Rachel Maddow, whose where-is-the-Democratic-Party rant appeared to light the fire under the party in the Ossoff race.  And I am hoping that they won't wait till the primary is over to act.  This is why:

There are a couple of factors that will ensure a republican victory.  One is that no one has ever heard of the Democratic candidate.  I have seen this happen time and again in races in South Carolina.  Everybody knows Tim Scott, because the republican party and wealthy right-wing donors have put his face and name front and center in the media for as long as they have been grooming him to carry their water.  He does photo-ops at elementary schools and gets fake awards from right-wing organizations that commend his fight for seniors and the environment.  And the last time he ran, even though he had a strong and passionate opponent, a man who represented the ideals of the Democratic Party, who fought in the community and for the people of South Carolina, to most voters he was running unopposed.  ETV refused to sponsor a debate.  There was no push to get him in front of the cameras or in the newspaper.  And that was true of the other good candidates, who threw themselves into their races in spite of the lukewarm enthusiasm of the party.

And it isn't just name recognition.  The other factor that moves the republicans to victory is that they have been making their arguments in the public forum for months before the final election.  By the time someone has won in the primary, they have been debating the issues and they know their stuff.  And the public has heard them speak.

The Democratic primary candidates need to have that same opportunity.  They need to rehearse their positions and become more confident about them.  They need to get out in front of the people, and the cameras, and do a bunch of interviews.  The Democratic Party needs to use their influence, their fund of knowledge, and their media clout to generate the publicity.

And debates.  We -- my party -- made a big mistake during the presidential election by trying to avoid letting Bernie and Hillary debate.  Not only did it look like favoritism, which it was, it gave the appearance that the party did not think the voter had the right or the capacity to listen to the candidates and make the best decision.  In other words, to be exposed to the democratic process.

The more debates, the more publicity, the more exposure Democrats can generate in the primaries, the more experience they can gain, the more likely they will be entering the general race equal to the fight.

So, I am hoping that the SCDP will get busy letting us all know a) that we have candidates in this race and b) that we have a primary.  I am hoping that they will see the primary race as an opportunity rather than an obstacle.

I can't emphasize enough how much enthusiasm there is for this race.  We people on the ground -- you know, the voters -- could really use the resources of the Democratic Party to help us move the election.  We need information about the candidates, maybe fact sheets, position papers, but done in a way that we will all be sharing the information on social media.  We need youtube videos to share.  We need exposure to the candidates themselves; they need to become familiar to not just us Dems but to everyone.

And because this is a social media world, I hope the party will be aware that it won't just be District 5 that will be watching this race.  We will all be working to inform our friends about the candidates.  We can truly work together, even without the deep pockets of the republican side.

Indivisible has given us the tools, and the travesty of the Trump administration and the 115th congress has given us lots of voice and motivation.  Most important, it will be the issues that will lead us to this win, and not the party identity.  And yet, without the party, the candidates will have to fight with less organization and media presence.

This race could be the one that proves that the Democratic Party and the people can be the formidable force that will begin to take down Trump's destructive reign.


  1. Be sure to check out the Just Democrats event, Special Elections launch and Field campaign training' on Sunday March 19th at 3pm in Columbia. All Democrats running for the four upcoming special elections have been invited. Go to Eventbrite, search 'special elections' and sign up!

  2. Join us on Sunday, March 19 in Columbia for 'Special Elections launch and field campaign training'. All Democratic candidates have been invited. Sign up for this free program by going to Eventbrite and searching for 'special elections'.