Hell Freezes Over Dept.

Today’s Adam Nagourney article about the GOP victory in Duke Cunningham’s old district was excellent.

This is one of those articles that really did call for balance, because both sides are furiously spinning it but neither is right. It’s clearly a disappointment for Democrats, who hoped to steal one deep in Republican country, but hardly anything to cheer about for the GOP: they’re supposed to win races in northern San Diego County.

One thing in particular caught my attention: the Republicans are crushing the Democrats in ground operations:

Republicans demonstrated yet again their ability to raise more money than Democrats and to deploy the get-out-the-vote and absentee-vote operation developed by the Republican National Committee.

The committee’s chairman, Ken Mehlman, said Wednesday that Republicans had 160 people in this district helping to get out the vote.

“They made 164,000 phone calls,” Mr. Mehlman said.

Democrats said the Democratic National Committee had no similar effort on the ground here.

Question of the Day: Why the hell not? I’m not even sure that this is a Howard Dean 50-state strategy issue: this is California, for crying out loud. Anyone home at the DNC? Wait, don’t answer that…..

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

10 thoughts on “Hell Freezes Over Dept.”

  1. As far as the Nagourney article goes, rather than "hell freezing over", I think the cliche you're looking for is, "even a stopped clock is right twice a day."

  2. It was amazing that you had this "no Democratic ground operation" story BEFORE the vote.

  3. The Republican lie that the Democratic party is "elitist" has just this kernel of truth to it: the Democrats rely almost totally on fundraising from high-dollar donors and expenditures on professionally produced media: TV/Radio spots, fancy brochures/mailers, etc.
    The Dean campaign galvanized hundreds of thousands of people nation-wide who morally speaking represent the natural grassroots leadership of the party, but the party elite hasn't figured out that they need this group of organizers.
    Republicans operate what I like to call the "God & Mammon" coalition whereby right-wing Christian organizations deliver grassroots organizing to an elite motived largely by rent-seeking and profound resentment of taxation in any form — and virtually no discernable religious values btw.
    The Democrats have unions playing the same grassroots "bundling" role as right-wing Christian organizations do for the Republicans. But unions have been shrinking as right-wing churches have grown. And elite Democrats have a rather dysfunctional relationship with unions, tending to be rather apologetic about the partnership.
    Quite a few grassroots Democrats from the Bay Area (for example) were very aware of the opportunity Busby's campaign represented and volunteered for her from their homes. The disconnect between the party chieftains and these passionate activists is alarming.

  4. STS is right. There were volunteers in CA 50, walking precincts and making phone calls, but they weren't organized by the DNC, and may not have been well enough organized at all. The evidence for that is the feeble turnout.

  5. Elite Democrats don't like unions. They don't like them in their professionally because if anything they tend to be employers and managers, or professionals who work with support staff. They don't like them intellectually because they actually believe the neo-classical free market economics that forms the basis of Econ 101 in every elite university. They don't like them personally because union members tend to be confrontational and unafraid of conflict, not nearly as subservient as the lower-paid people they usually run into (office workers and others that depend on them for a living).
    Elite Republicans don't have any of these problems with church-goers. Church-goers are good employees and they tend to be respectful and knowing of their place. And the fact that they believe some bizarre things about evolution and sex doesn't bother elite Republicans in any way that matters.

  6. Liberal wishful thinking in CA-50 results.
    The D's talk a great game, mostly among themselves.
    But on game day the GOP earns victory by working smarter and harder.

  7. Sad. A week ago I read a blog post that framed the CA-50 race thusly: The Democrats had 'more volunteers than they could use,' while the Republicans were 'flying 100 volunteers in from DC.' The context implied that this was joyful news for the Democrats, but I certainly didn't see anything in the conjunction of those two facts that suggested that the Democrats had more boots on the ground.
    I hadn't hoped to get such stark verification of my doubt, though.

  8. I remember reading that on the Dem side, it's the Congressional Committee (DCCC) that brings national help to local campaigns for the House. So it would be possible for Mehlmann's quote to be technically accurate and completely misleading. (Something like faulting a National League team for the poor performance of its designated hitters.) Wouldn't that be a first?
    And for AN to run the quote without knowing any better would be pretty close to complicity. Wouldn't that be a first, too?
    I could be wrong – I don't have the citation to hand (though I think it was the main page of Kos a couple of days back). But it's not my blog post to get right, and more importantly, it's not my NY Times article. (Weak sourcing in this excerpt, too. "Democrats said." Like who?)

  9. 160 people made 164,000 phone calls? That's an average of 1000 phone calls per person. I have no idea what the average time would be, but let's say 2 minutes per call…an average of 2000 minutes per person…or 33 hours? In what time period? If they were get-out-the-vote calls, close to the election–say, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, early Tuesday. 8 hours a day, for four days. Does that really sound plausible? Of is the Republicah leadership blowing smoke?

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