Malacandra.me

Not dead yet by @BloggersRUs

Not dead yet

by Tom Sullivan

Writing for Medium, Donnie Fowler pushed back on a Los Angeles Times article on the supposed apathy of the Trump Resistance in California. The Times piece was the usual man-on-the-street, after-action report about people who did not vote in the primary (and some who did):

What happened to the emerging Latino vote?

The angry and energized youth vote?

To a top-two primary system that was supposed to jazz candidates and voters from all political parties?

And to the hand-over-heart sense of civic duty?

Was the weather just too nice Tuesday for anyone to be bothered?

But contrary to seeing the primary vote as a fizzle for the Resistance, Fowler explains why voters didn't swarm the polls (emphasis mine):
Here’s why: Trump was not on the ballot. California’s Republicans, now a third party in our progressive enclave, are also really motivated to vote. And there is no functioning Democratic Party in the vast majority of counties.

First, Trump was not actually on the ballot on Tuesday in California. Most voters don’t vote only for symbolism or for some strategic reason. (“We’ll prove that Trump is a scourge on America by turning out for Gavin Newsom!”) Further, everyone knows that Democrats run and will run the state, so there’s no threat to vote against in state government. So that leaves only 7 congressional districts (of California’s 53 total districts) where Californians can actually make a direct anti-Trump statement by voting against a Republican incumbent congressman to make Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the House again.

The lesson: don’t confuse the time and energy that the tiny percentage of us activists devote to politics with the limited time and energy that most regular voters give to it. We are not normal. We are nerds.

Guilty as charged. Non-nerds are not stupid, they're busy. With two jobs and bills to pay errands to run and soccer practice and dance classes and the book club and church on Wednesday nights (for those in the South).

Secondly, Fowler writes, Republicans feel under siege and are thus more motivated in solid blue California. (Except it's not.)

Third, there is no functioning Democratic Party in California that is capable of talking to and driving voters at the local level. For sure, a lot has has popped up here in the 18 months since Trump’s election — but a lot of that is extra-Party Resistance groups and independent expenditure campaign committees. (Why didn’t they join the state Democratic Party instead of doing their own thing?) Winning elections requires very hard, very detailed, very un-sexy work over many years. Sure, there are official county Democratic parties in California, but how many of them have been truly organized, even professionalized, over several years? Almost none. God bless the very few worthy Party stalwarts who meet with each other a few times a year to debate rules and pick candidates, but that’s not all a political party should be. What exists year-round beyond some clever political consultants who are selling polls and TV ads? Almost nothing.
That's what I've found across the country. State parties from one coast to the other (and beyond) have neither the budgets nor the bandwidth to teach locals. Each year, after raising the operating funds, filing the reports, paying the bills, fulfilling their statutory obligations, and organizing the annual meetings, they have just enough time left to teach locals how to log into VoteBuilder and organize a precinct meeting before a year is gone and it's time to start over again.

Rural counties even in blue states don’t do more because they don’t know what more looks like. The governor’s race doesn’t go out there, nor the Senate race, nor presidential campaigns. Noobs don't learn how to run professionalized operations because they are never exposed to any.

Still, contrary to what the reporter picked up in L.A., it’s been interesting to get requests for my GOTV primer from multiple red counties in the Sierra foothills. One struggling Resistance activist complained she had "1,700 uneducated, ill-focused members of a Progressive group." But novices. She ended with a request for help, "PLEASE."

It is the same in many places across the country. Members of the Resistance want to do more. They are still learning how. Rumors of the Resistance fading are greatly exaggerated.

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For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.