Let's be honest. Getting to say "we told you so" is great fun. Especially when it's to such complacent, self-righteous folks as the Republican operatives who ran the 2012 campaigns. They thought they knew it all, and they were wrong. So let's look back at 2012 one more time and snicker yet again. I know we should probably be good sports and stop crowing over the GOP, but they are still making equally dumb calls. Thus we are actually doing them a favor by pointing out their earlier goofs. Gives them another chance to shape up.
Let's start with Chris Christie. We said they should pick him at least for their vice-presidential candidate. (I posted this twice, once a year ago this month.) They didn't, and their choice of Ryan cost them a lot of support from women and independents and scared a lot of seniors regarding Medicare. Further, Christie turned around just before the election and bit the GOP on the-you-know-what by praising Obama for his help after Hurricane Sandy. Christie was also reminding people how necessary the federal government is, something the GOP doesn't accept. On the face of it, it was Christie himself who kept himself off the ticket, but that was after he could see what a loser Romney was. If he'd been asked early, he might have accepted. Not enough to save Romney but it would have helped the GOP brand from being so completely repugnant.
Moving right along. We said that the 4 million new Latino voters would win the election for Obama. That happened. We said the youth vote was so huge a demographic that it didn't have to reach a record level in 2012 in order for Obama to win. That turned out to be true too. We said that Nate Silver and the Pew Research polls were correct in predicting that Obama was winning. True again. We pointed out that the Obama campaign was spending ad money much smarter than was Romney and that this would matter. It certainly did. We also said from Day One that Romney was a terrible candidate. And that was the truest thing of all.
Most of all - over and over again - we said that no force in elective politics is more potent than the campaign volunteer at the voter's front door. Not ad money. Not mailers. Not paid phone calls. Money does not win elections. Volunteers do. Now a new study of the 2012 election campaign establishes once and for all that this is absolutely true. Obama beat Romney because of the Obama volunteers at voters' doors. And this is actually the very truest thing of all.
It's nice to be so right! But especially about this. I have preached this doctrine for 45 years, having figured it out by studying the precinct-by-precinct results of my first campaign. Where we had walked, we had won. In an adjacent, demographically-twin precinct where we had not walked, we lost. Further, both the walked and unwalked precincts had been exposed to the same amount and kind of advertising.
But nobody wanted to hear this. Professional "political consultants" and political ad agencies and paid campaign managers all drowned me out. Forget the grassroots! they cried. They are too much trouble to manage! Forget the headquarters that would be their "home". We don't need that stuff. We just need money for ads and mailings and "boiler room" telephone people paid by the hour. And we don't want that grassroots money either! Too much trouble to raise money in small amounts. Let's corral the fat cats!
What they didn't mention is that they all got a cut on what was spent. They got 10 or 15% as "management fees". Every ad. Every mailer. Every paid phone call. Beaucoup bucks into their pockets! No, siree, they didn't want grassroots campaigning and a door-to-door effort because THESE DID NOT PUT MONEY IN THEIR POCKETS!
For 20 years I battled the Democratic party establishment in California on behalf of my grassroots campaigns. The ugly midnight phone calls with the filthy language coming at me. The attempts to invoke city ordinances to shut down our headquarters. The staged "coups" that always flopped. On and on. In retrospect, I think they spent more energy fighting me than fighting the GOP. Because I not only threatened their path to money but to power. They thought I wanted something, some power spot. Bosh! My idea of a good power spot is eating pizza with a bunch of folks after a long autumn Saturday knocking on doors. And throw in a pitcher of beer! Ironically, the greatest power spot of all is to want nothing for yourself. Then nobody can buy you or control you. That's real power, baby!
When I did get a power spot with Jerry Brown's administration in the 1970s, it was bizarre. I hadn't worked in his campaign. I didn't know the man. I never asked for the spot. But I went ahead and did some good work for him. Or, rather, I did it for the people of California because I never owed Jerry Brown one damn thing nor anybody else either. In fact, I quickly grew to dislike Jerry Brown. But I had a good time, got lots done, and earned every single penny I got paid. A very fine non-payoff.
I love people. I love community. I love people working together and being happy doing it. How much "community" is there any more in our society? A political campaign fills a deep need in people to get together and do something good. Win or lose, it's wonderful. So I'm really glad the experts have now absolutely certified that the precinct worker is IT in politics.
I'm also glad because it has put a thumb in the eye of the moneyed interests that would buy our elections. We now know that as long as we work in politics and go door-to-door, we can beat the fat cats, Citizens United or no Citizens United. So hurrah for grass-roots campaigning and the precinct worker!
It's a pretty good old world after all, isn't it.
Now bring on the pizza and beer!