By Michael Haran
The following link shows the counties that Trump won in an inter-active format. http://time.com/4587866/donald-trump-election-map/?xid=emailshare The site states, “At present count, Trump snagged 220 counties that voted for President Obama in 2012, while Clinton poached 17 that went for Mitt Romney.” Most of these counties are in the rust-belt swing states. California has 14 Republican Congressional House seats. If seven can be flipped to Democrats that would represent nearly a third of the 24 seats Democrats need to take control of the House. Nationwide, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has identified 59 Republican-held districts they believe can be won by a Democrat.
As important as taking back the U.S. Congress is it is just as important for the Democrats to fare well in the 36 gubernatorial contests and thousands of state legislative races next year, where Republicans currently hold a 3,034 to 2,317 advantage. The past 10 years have eroded the Democratic base, as fewer ideas are percolating up from the states. Republican gerrymandering has cost at least a dozen House seats and hundreds in state legislatures. State governments also often serve as training grounds to develop candidates for higher office and provide national awareness.
In 1979 the Republicans were in the same boat the Democrats find themselves today. The Democrats controlled all three branches of government and the gloom of the post-Watergate era hung over them like a rural graveyard fog. Then along came Ronald Reagan with his upbeat message. He projected a can-do optimism that was welcomed after a series of economic, military and political shocks, tailoring his conservative message to appeal to the gas station attendant, as well as the wealthy country club set. In 1980, Republicans won a majority in the Senate for the first time in more than 25 years and made major gains in statehouses as well.
Most political party comebacks are marked not by some innovative policy agenda, but by connective messages and powerful personalities like Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Trump. It’s not about ideology or 17-point policy prescriptions. “In 2016, the problem was not about an agenda; we had that,” said Paul Begala, a leading Democratic strategist and close associate of Bill and Hillary Clinton. “The problem was message.”
Last month, Democratic congressional leaders put out a “Better Deal” agenda, a familiar litany of proposals like a higher minimum wage, lower drug prices, more job training and less corporate welfare. As stated by Albert R. Hunt in his article “Democrats need a fresh message to win in 2018,” for the Bloomberg View, “Although it does have its uses, bold or innovative it’s not. It’s a good organizing tool for candidates to be more than just anti-Trump,” said Stephanie Cutter, a former deputy campaign manager for Obama and a strategist in the successful 2006 Democratic campaign to win back a majority in the House. A much better slogan would be “LET’S DO IT!” This slogan works on many levels plus it sounds fun and exciting.
What I think would be a great idea, would be to put a number of cargo vans (like the Ford 250 Transit which you can stand up in) on the road in every Republican-held congressional district that has a chance of flipping to the Democrats in 2018. These vans, which will have LET’S DO IT! painted on the sides, should carry a team with the Democratic candidate into these counties and towns and hold a town-hall style BBQ and talk to people about how they feel about jobs, healthcare and education.
This program would target the areas where disenfranchised voters switched to Republican to tell them the truth about Trump (although most know it by now) and, by the time this project is rolled out (in time for the mid-term 2018 elections), Trump the fraud and con artist should have been well-cemented in people’s minds. The message would focus on retraining people to work in the service sector or tech sector since many of the jobs lost are not coming back because they were either replaced by more efficient green energy alternatives or were automated. The United States has the most advanced service economy in the world and there is no reason why people should not take advantage of it. From the commentary patterns that emerge, scripts would be written with enough flexibility to adjust to a particular community’s sentiments. This data could help determine the message on the local, regional, and even national levels.
The message should also be authentic and crafted in a way that avoids issues like abortion, uniformity on transgender soldiers, higher corporate tax rates, lower defense spending and impeaching Trump – all political poison policy proposals that won’t play well in closely-fought battlegrounds that Democrats need to win. The mistakes that Clinton made in saying to the coal country that, “your jobs are not coming back” or to the wealthy Democratic donors, “your taxes will be going up” have to be avoided. These issues may be true but you don’t state the obvious. The same has to be done when referencing Trump. Never state the obvious. Motivating and getting people to engage is a three-step process:
- First, the issue presented requires an emotional response;
- the second phase is reflecting or thinking about the particular phenomenon;
- and the third phase is action
If successful, an authentic message will be sufficiently motivational to get people to engage to help reverse the true ugliness that has been unleashed by this administration.
This program can work on the state and local level too. Although the message would have to include local and regional issues (as Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local.”), there will be plenty of Democratic contenders to help field-test the party’s message. The experiment will be successful if it yields messengers who best counter the failings of Trump. Starting at the lowest level of elected officials, like local school boards, candidates must know about governing without appearing to be elitist, who can be dignified as well as approachable, are persuasive in articulating Democratic themes like the dangers of income inequality and wage stagnation, and just might be able to create some local enthusiasm.
Over the past ten years I’ve watched California State Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) come of age. At 19 years old, he was the youngest person ever elected to the town school board. He studies the issues and listens to constituents. He suffers fools graciously and will listen to anyone until one of his aides drags him away. I think Mike has learned many of his campaign sensibilities from successful senior elected officials. If structured correctly, I think this program might have the potential to help hone the skills of the next generation of Democratic leaders.
If there is one lesson learned from the Trump phenomena, it is that people want to be heard; they do not want to be neglected; they do not want to be patronized. If you want their vote, people have to truly feel that they are cared about – even loved. If necessary, this literally has to be accomplished one person at a time. The best elected officials know this instinctively. At a recent Democratic dinner meeting Congressman Jared Huffman (D – San Rafael) was excited at the potential up and coming crop of new Democratic candidates.
I think this is a solid way of getting boots-on-the-ground in contested national, state and local districts to reintroduce the Democratic Party as the working man’s party, an image that got away from us in the 2016 election. So, fire up those burgers and LET’S DO IT!
By Michael Haran
On the Saturday before the Super Bowl we all met at the Carpenter’s Hall on Lindaro Street in San Rafael. We were there, all 42 of us, volunteers to walk and talk and to introduce Marin voters to Mike McGuire who is running for the 2nd District State Senate. Mike is Sonoma County’s 4th District Supervisor and has this thing for knocking on doors.
First off he treated us to a continental breakfast of pastries and coffee and then we all gathered in the hall’s conference room for roll playing. Mike played himself and one of the experienced “walkers” played a homeowner. Mike’s campaign, www.mikemcquireforsentate.com uses a computer software program that identifies past voters, Democrat, Republican and “Decline to State” (independents), in a neighborhood.
Mike uses a “one to five” system for homeowner response with “one” being “yes, I’m voting for you” to five being “they chased me away with a broom!” The more interesting simulation came from the “two,” “three” and “four” responders. The twos’ were “I like what I hear and I will definite consider voting for you;” the threes’ were “I like what I hear but at this point I’m undecided;” and the fours’ were mostly Republicans. Most Republicans in Marin, a very liberal district, are “moderate” Republicans and not the more extreme tea party types. For the most part they are informed and care about the issues.
Mike then went over the voter talking points. For being so young (he’s 34) Mike has quite impressive resume of accomplishments:
- Mike united Sonoma County around a jobs plan that made Sonoma County first in California jobs growth;
- He has made strategic Sonoma County budget decisions which have created a $10 million surplus;
- Mike, at 19 years-old, was the youngest ever Healdsburg school board president and who built a coalition that helped improve and strengthen local schools in response to state budget cuts;
- As vice-chair of the Eel-Russian River Commission, Mike has protected and preserved thousands of acres of open space and our pristine coast;
- Mike is a Democrat who is a pro-jobs and pro-Economic Development and has always been endorsed by the Farm Bureau and the Business Groups in Sonoma County;
- Mike has been endorsed by Congressman Jared Huffman, Congressman Mike Thompson, State Senator Noreen Evans, State Senator Mark Leno, Novato Mayor Eric Lucan former Assemblywoman Patty Berg, former opponent Chris Lehman, California League of Conservation Voters, as well as the majority of the Eureka City Council.
We all then picked our tote bags which contained water, maps, voter lists, talking points, door hangers and pens. Mike then gave one of his patented “Now let’s all get out there…” pep talks which I think came from is time as Student Body President and Rally Commissioner at Healdsburg High School. Mike has a very ingratiating personality. He always has time to talk to someone. This is why people are attracted to him and why he has so many volunteers. His mom, Sherry, says he’s always been that way even as a little kid.
Everyone then scattered to their assigned neighborhoods some working alone others in teams. I went with Mike and his mother-in-law Carol Fremault (yes, it is all in the family) to a Terra Linda neighborhood. The homes there are Eichlers which were built in the 1950s and 60s. They were very futuristic for their time and most have been updated. Mike and I took one side of the street and Carol took the other.
Mike knocked on the first door and no-one answered. He wrote a sorry I missed you note and left a door hanger. The next house had a “no solicitor” sign and so Mike again left a note and a door hanger. The third house was the charm. An older woman answer and Mike introduced himself with “Hi, I wanted to introduce myself I’m Mike McGuire and I’m running for 2nd District State Senator.” Mike handed her a door hanger and told her that she could read about his qualifications. She wanted to talk about senior healthcare and Mike got right into it talking about Medicare and what it has meant to the lives of California’s senior citizens. She thanked us and Mike thanked her – I think she was a “two.”
The next person was a “four.” He kind of grumbled and took the campaign literature. The next lady was a campaign worker’s dream. She was so excited to listen to Mike and said that she was glad such a young person was running for office. She was a “one” as she said she was definitely voting for Mike.
After a few more “not homes” Mike knocked on Mark and Kay Woodburn’s door. Kay is a retired librarian and is involved in several non-profit organizations and even worked on a past San Rafael City councilman’s campaign. She was very up on the issues and talked to Mike about education and the environment. After we left I said they were definitely a “one” at which Mike surprised me by saying they were a” three.” He said I mistook their enthusiasm in talking to Mike as a commitment. Having talked to thousands of people, Mike new differently. I still think they’re a “one.”
We moved along knocking on doors and talking to people. Mike talked about pension reform, the drought and the projected state budget surplus. The reason Mike is so up on the issues is that he is a tireless reader getting up at four a.m. to start his day. I think it’s the farmer in him.
The most touching moment came when Mike knocked on a door and several small dogs started to yap. The door was answered by a Downs Syndrome young adult girl. Mike introduced himself and asked her what kind of dogs she had. She lit up talking about her dogs and Mike said that he has a pug. She said she loves pugs. Mike’s affection for animal is not forced as he grew up on a farm where he raised pigs, a turkey (called Gregory Peck), a “million” pigmy goats, 14 cats and four dogs.
She then asked Mike what he is doing to help handicapped people. Mike mentioned the handicap accessibility infrastructure that has been installed in Sonoma County since he has been supervisor and his support for “Mainstreaming” which is the practice of integrating students with special needs in regular classes. She then gave Mike a big hug. This is a trait of Downs’s kids and if we could all be like that the world would be a much more loving place.
Along the way Mike would texted entries to his Mike-for-Senate Facebook page to let everyone know about his morning activities – “Going the extra yard in San Rafael – Super Saturday is off and running! Over 40 are walking neighborhoods this morning (big thank you to all volunteers)!”
So the knocking and walking ended (we only had couple of “fives” and they were family dogs that weren’t too happy so see us walking up their driveways). Back at the Carpenter’s Hall, Mike’s wife Erika and her crew stayed behind to prepare a Super Bowl type BBQ “tailgate” party for the volunteers. Everyone turned in their numbers and over 3,000 doors were knocked on that day. Mike then gave out prizes for homes walked, the most successful volunteer recruiter and the best Super Saturday selfie! The prizes were an “I Like Mike” t-shirt; a Starbucks gift card; and a jar of peanut butter. The peanut butter was so random but that’s one of the reason we all love Mike.
Mike’s co-campaign manager Chris Rogers said, “Today puts us over 25,000 doors (they have now knocked on over 60,000 doors) and there are still seven more weeks until the June 3th vote. We are moving ahead … right through till November 4th. Others may be saying the race is over, but Mike never takes anything for granted and will always work his hardest, right up until the end.”
With 1,075,000 people in the Seven County 2nd District, and 2.23 people per dwelling, Mike only has about 450,000 doors to knock on. Knowing this man he would knock on every one of them if he could but don’t be surprised if he reaches 100,000 knocks and call by June 3rd. So if you hear a knock at your door or a call on your phone, answer it, it just might be your next state senator.
Michael Haran is a freelance writer who lives in Healdsburg.