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August 23, 2006

The Netroots Turns Conventional Wisdom on its Ear

The netroots makes incumbency a handicap.  How's that for a new way of thinking?  Patrick, an occasional front-pager on Firedoglake, has a great post up about how the ToobzRoots, the name he uses for the netroots (in honor of our Internet-illiterate Senator to the North), diminishes the value of what have traditionally been seen as advantages for the incumbent: name recognition, fund-raising and the warm feelings that come from benefiting from getting constituent services and pork barrel projects.  He discusses how the netroots are eroding these advantages and then he lays out what he calls the New Rules for Incumbents:

  1. Your largest donors are not your constituency.  They’re your mistress.  The voters know this (and if they don’t, plan for your opponent to tell them).  MoveOn.org and ActBlue are making it easier than ever for rank and file voters to support candidates.  This blunts the edge of special interests to run Capitol Hill.  This is democracy in action and it scares the hell out of a lot of very powerful people.
  2. Don’t run against a reform candidate by beating on your "experience" and your "record."  This is like campaigning against an alligator by announcing that you’re actually a smoked turkey.  Also, don’t send your corporate lobbyist homeboys out to campaign for you.  It doesn’t really enhance your image.
  3. The voters aren’t stupid.  Individually, you may find that they have gaps in their knowledge and their experience, but collectively they fill each other in.  While Americans may not congregate over barbecue grills and at Church Camps like they used to, they sure do meet and talk here.  I lurk in the comments here all day, and I watch the conversations happening.  I am sure that people log off from FDL and Daily Kos only to carry their newfound knowledge to supper tables and barber shops, hunt cabins and the break room at work.  You can’t fool all of the people any more, especially now that they’re pissed.
  4. Black voters are not a windup toy, and they remember Katrina.  Do not condescend to them.  I found the overt race baiting of the Lieberman Campaign to be profoundly offensive.  I imagine that People of Color were REALLY pissed.  The race gambit is getting a little threadbare, even in places like Virginia .  It’s time to engage Black voters as American voters and it’s time to stop trotting out tired old stereotypes to manipulate voter behavior.
  5. Poor people aren’t stupid and they’re pissed.  The gap between rich and poor is growing rapidly, now even more so due to the rising cost of energy.  There is one group of people in this country who do not know this.  These people are rich.  See #1.  It’s not class warfare, it’s gas warfare.  All of this is happening while the Petroleum Industry is ROLLING IN CASH.  Look, no one is going to vote for Friends of Scrooge McDuck in 2006. 
  6. Do not speak to the voters (or on the record with media) about blogs. You may as well talk to the public about astrology or hieroglyphics.  Nobody reads blogs.
  7. Do not talk privately to the media and pundits as if blogs don’t exist, because they are all reading them.  Everybody reads blogs.
  8. The race for your career will not take place in DC.  You cannot campaign from the floor of the Senate or the House, unless you have kept #1 in mind since 2001.  Most of you have not.  Go home and talk to the voters.  Go early, go often.  Also, see #2 and #3.
  9. Stop listening to losers about how you should campaign.  AND STOP PAYING LOSERS TO GIVE YOU ADVICE.  No one should ever listen to Bob Shrum again.  Ever. About anything. 

I would argue that it's not only the netroots eroding the traditional advantages, although the impact of the netroots is immense and growing.  However, it's that people who've been successful doing things one way are generally reluctant to change whereas newcomers have less to lose.  That's why in times of change there are opportunities created for clever, creative people who can see what the change means. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on August 23, 2006 at 07:36 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink

Comments

I noticed one of the commentes @ FDL suggested on #1 replacing the word mistress with "Johns". I kind of liked that tweak. Patrick certainly seemed to hit the mark on this and his phrase, that black voters are not wind up toys is a great one to expand on to the extent many incumbents are treating their constituents across the board as wind up toys to take off the shelf only on election day.

Posted by: mainsailset | Aug 23, 2006 8:07:04 AM

Mainsailset,

What a perfect replacement. Repaying big donors is a bit like pimping. I particularly liked both the one on "The race will not take place in DC" and both of the rules on talking about the blogs. Insightful, all.

Posted by: Lynn | Aug 23, 2006 8:12:46 AM

Lynn: I don't know if you had a chance to go through the Kos Diary Peter put up yesterday but I was intrigued the way he framed some of his answers. When asked views on Iraq he approached the answer with an emotional levelling, "It is heartbreaking what our forces are facing" then he moved in with 2nd part to bring Iraq home where hometown listeners can't help but agree, (I'm paraphrasing) With the $300 billion we've spent that could have paid for alot of college educations...

To respond to the fiery, vacumn the air out of the room questions, with something that turns the question back around to the local level is so proActive. His answer could easily balloon into that $300 billion could be used to send your kids to school, help your grandmother with her Medicare reimbursements, fund stem cell research that will offer treatments for many of our neighbors, re-train the unemployed, fund gloabal warming research...on and on. It just struck me that it was such an effective way to turn issues back around to a local level and leave the Rep's harping machine in the dust.

Posted by: mainsailset | Aug 23, 2006 2:53:38 PM

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