Thursday, February 02, 2006

2 Cents on 6th Dist

I may finally have gotten all my crap in one sock, if only for the moment, so I am going to take a few a couple of minutes to address the dialog between michael in chicago and Rick Klau. (1, 2, 3)

While I'll be pulling comments out of context, I don't intend to deliberately misrepresent anything anyone says and I encourage MiC and Rick -- or anyone else -- to call me on it if I do.

Rick said:
It’s incredibly disappointing to see such pointless, counter-productive commentary being leveled. I even heard from one township chair this weekend that a precinct captain who supports Christine — a precinct captain! — vowed to tell everyone in his precinct to vote Republican if Duckworth wins the primary. Talk about missing the bigger picture!
While I don't doubt for a minute that the precinct captain said that, I also don't believe for a minute that he or she intends to follow up.

That is the sound of someone who feels that he has been stabbed in the back. Democratic grassroots workers in DuPage County have never had the rug pulled out from under them before -- hell, there's never been a Democratic rug in DuPage county before -- so they are reacting with hyperbolic statements of protest.

That threat to vote for Roskam is the sound of a Democratic foot soldier who's busted his hump through thick and thin and now sees his candidate being undermined by the DC party bosses. It is equivalent to saying, "If they let that Walmart move in and destroy our downtown businesses, I'm going to burn it to the ground." Pushing Roskam is an empty threat merely intended to express extreme displeasure.

And grassroots Dems would not have to resort to threats of voting Republican if their warnings that they might just sit on their hands during the general election carried any weight with the party bosses. But it has become increasingly clear that those party bosses -- and many Dems outside the district -- see little or no value in the work and opinions of 6th District's grassroots Democrats.

So, yes -- wildly hyped statements like the one Rick quotes are a sign of the passion and commitment the Democratic ground troops have for the Cegelis team. But using threats made out of frustration and exaspiration to demonstrate that the Cegelis supporters are less committed to a Democratic victory is something less than fair.

In addition, I find it noteworthy that the demand for Democratic party fealty is always so one-sided. I hear many stories of Cegelis zealots who won't pledge to fully support the Democratic candidate if someone else wins -- or is it the same story repeated again and again? -- but I never hear anything about the supporters of the other candidates. Specifically, will the DCCC candidate's deep-pocket financial donors pledge to support Christine if she wins?

Shouldn't those supporters commit to backing the winner no matter who it is? Or are they exempt because they don't live in the district? And what about the DCCC candidate's grassroots supporters? Why don't they tell us they will get behind the Democratic candidate in the general election, even if their candidate doesn't win? If I ever see one, I'll be sure to ask.

Rick says:
I’m puzzled by the talk of “infrastructure” when Michael points to it as Christine’s competitive advantage. Is that where all the money’s been spent? *** All the volunteer legwork in the world will not reach the casual voters who will likely make the difference. A motivated base is great, and I’d love nothing more than to see it in full force on primary day. But a motivated base alone will not win this election.
But it isn't a question of two months of Cegelis' volunteer legwork versus two months of the DCCC candidate's volunteer legwork plus an expensive media buy. If it were, I would start rolling up the tent.

Instead, this is the question that the primary will answer -- Which will win out: Last minute, high-priced media or more than two years of getting out and meeting the Democratic voters in the district?

I'm betting on Christine's months and months and months of meeting 6th District Dems, getting to know them and know about the issues that concern them -- and by that I don't just mean being able to identify the issues concerning the district, I mean knowing what problems are facing the district and having an intelligent, well thought out, locally tailored plan for addressing those problems. And why am I confident in the ultimate triumph of shoe leather over D.C. funded media?

Ironically enough, it is people like... Rick Klau.

As he said in his post, Rick knows and likes Christine Cegelis and did work on her campaign website. And why is that? It wasn't because of a piece of campaign lit that was mailed to him. And it sure wasn't because he saw one of her ads on television. It was because he has met Christine and has gotten to know her over the course of her long campaign for congress.

And Christine has gotten out to meet and know literally thousands and thousands of Democrats in the district. She has shaken their hands and listened to their stories of struggling in Bush's America and why they believe the nation is headed in the wrong direction. And she looked them in the eye and personally promised to work hard for them in Washington.

While the number of people that Christine could meet in the last couple of years is fewer than the number of people who can be reached by an expensive media blitz, but we shouldn't forget the universe of voters that we are talking about.

We are not talking about everyone in the 6th District or even every voter, that race will be run in November. We are not talking about every 6th District Democrat or everyone in the district who might consider voting for a Democrat.

Nope, the only people we are talking about are the 6th District Democrats who will take the time, on a Tuesday in March, to figure out where there polling place is and then vote in the Democratic primary -- a primary where the Democratic governor is effectively running unopposed. In other words: the Hardcore 6th District Democrats.

And many, if not most, of the Hardcore 6th District Democrats have met Christine. And many, many more know someone -- someone like Rick Klau -- who has met her.

Maybe a shotgun blast of mass media is enough to undermine all that sweat and shoe leather, but I don't think so.

Well, that's my two cents for now. Maybe I'll post more later -- or at least proofread this post.

Note: After giving this the once over, I see that it may look like I am ripping on Rick. Nothing in this post should be construed as criticism of Rick Klau -- that man who should be considered a friggin' hero by anyone who believes in the importance of grassroots political activism. Period.

Update: This commentary is posted in a slightly more digestable format at the Illinoize blog.

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