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Thursday, July 27, 2006


It's definitely nice to see the Wege blogging again after his brief absence to work on Ford Bell's campaign (even if we don't agree on drunk driving laws). But there is one thing I really don't understand: his surprise at discovering that Ford Bell didn't have a chance, and his anger at the process ("I underestimated the willingness of the current incarnation of the Democratic party to ruthlessly push their anointed candidates").

I hate to break it to him, but even if Chuck Schumer and Howard Dean and the rest of the Democratic leadership didn't exist, Ford Bell never would have had a chance. I didn't support Amy Klobuchar over Ford Bell because somebody in New York told me too. I had no idea what anybody else thought of Klobuchar or Bell because the only person's opinion that mattered was mine. And it was clear to me that Bell was a loser from the beginning. Why? Simply put, he was just a little too nutty.

Now, I know that most Democrats don't think this way. Democrats value reality, they value facts, and they value an effective government that actually does good things for people (unlike Republicans, who these days value a corrupt government that does good things for their campaign contributors). So for a lot of Democrats, especially the party activists, the only rational way to choose a candidate to support is to look at their issues, look at their proposals, look at their programs, look at their issue papers, and pick the one who is smartest, most capable, and takes positions on issues that seem to be the best. Democrats also believe that most other people think the same way when they choose candidates.

But they don't. If that were true, then Democrats would be in control of the government, because people agree with the Democrats on almost all issues these days. So it's clear that the majority of people aren't weighing policies and issues when they pull the lever in the voting boot. And I am not afraid to admit that I am one of those people who is like that. It's not that I don't care about issues; I do. I am a huge policy wonk, in fact. However, at this point in time, when you get right down to it, character counts for a whole lot more when people decide whom to vote for. Ford Bell just didn't have that character. Even if he would have become the DFL endorsed candidate, he would have been slaughtered in the election. Not because he is "too liberal", but because, like I said, he is just a little too nutty.

It's hard to come up with a better explanation than saying that he is a bit nutty like Mark Dayton is a bit nutty these days. He doesn't turn people on. Amy Klobuchar does; I've seen her speak at enough events to see that she connects with people at a level that make it easy for people to like her. Ford Bell...well, when I saw him in person, he was campaigning at people, not with them. He couldn't connect. I didn't feel that he could be a good leader or work on my personal behalf if he were in office. That's just my first impression, but first impressions count for a lot in politics.

Some people think that it is an issue of liberal versus moderate, but it's not. True, we have had a dearth of charismatic left DFLers running for higher office lately, so that makes the Paul Wellstone, who was able to connect to everybody at a very personal level and who had the right issues, so very unique. That doesn't mean it will stay this way forever, though. I've been around many candidates for office this year, and I can say that so far I have been pleasantly surprised. People seem to be grasping the importance of character and personal values more and more, given all of the Lakoff and other stuff that came out of the disaster that was 2004. So it's getting better.

A lot of Democrats think that it is completely stupid that people ignore issues and make their choices based on things as ethereal as a person's character. Maybe they are right. But we have to win elections with the rules that we have, not the rules that we want (thanks Rummy!). Remember that Republicans have been running on destroying government for decades now; to them, programs aren't important, so why would voters care about them? It will take a lot of good governance coming from Democrats before people will once again realize that government can be a force for good in their lives, instead of being disasters like Katrina and Iraq. Until then, we are going to have to win on things other than the best 10-point program for fixing this or that.

So while it may be unfair that Ford Bell's candidacy was doomed from the start because he just couldn't connect with people, that's how things work. It's the job of the Democratic Party to get candidates who can connect with voters in addition to merely saying the right things when it comes to the issues.


At 8:51 PM, July 27, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post. I'd just add a couple things.

1) It's unfair to blame this on insiders foisting some candidate (Klobuchar) that, supposedly, nobody wanted onto the party. The media was actually very fair in giving equal coverage to Klobuchar and Bell, both of them spent a lot of time at DFL activist events in 2005 and 2006, and although Klobuchar raised a lot of money, she didn't spend a whole lot of it in the runup to the convention. Faced with this choice, DFL activists overwhelmingly chose her over Bell (77%-16%) in the precinct caucuses.

2) Ford Bell and his supporters are well-motivated, but I'd argue that they're operating from a flawed premise, that the Democrats need to get in the Republican's faces, and offer drastically different proposals and emphasize those differences, on everything, and that this is the political strategy that Rove and the GOP have been following. But it's not. The GOP gets in Democrats' faces over certain cultural issues, and over foreign policy hawkishness. On economic issues, or senior issues, or education issues, or environmental issues, Rove runs from a fight and blurs the lines (No Child Left Behind, Clean Skies, Healthy Forests, Medicare Part D, etc.) and stuffs Bushes speeches with liberal-sounding rhetoric.

The point, in short, is that the whole key is to get in your opponents faces in areas where your party is strong, and blur the lines, in a rhetorical sense, where you're weak. The Bell supporters had this weird binary view of the matter, that you had to emphasize the parties' differences on every issue under the sun, and if any Democrat disagreed with that analysis, then they thought the party shouldn't fight on any issue.

I'd go into more, but I don't want to restart any Klobuchar/Bell flame wars. They're stupid.

At 10:59 PM, July 27, 2006, Blogger minntelect said...

"[H]e was campaigning at people, not with them." This perfectly describes the difference between candidate who win and those who don't.

At 5:38 PM, July 28, 2006, Anonymous Mark Gisleson said...

Sorry to be late responding but the pink eye is still slowing me down considerably.

I gave considerable thought to posting a two-word answer, then decided that wouldn't help much. To each of your points and your commenters' points I say this: cite the Bell supporter who said those things.

My gripe with Schumer is quite specific. He stuck his nose in where he had ABSOLUTELY NO BUSINESS. Howard Dean has said that the DNC will not interefere with any state primaries, but Schumer has arrogated special powers to himself.

He would say that he butted out after he was corrected in his apparently actual confusion over whether this was a contested race. He then later amended his remarks and on paper, the DSCC pretended not to be partisan. In fact, they purged Ford Bell from their site and presented Amy as an unopposed candidate.

This is just hardball politics. The real sin was in the work that went into drying up Ford's money. The man raised a million dollars. Please show me how many other Dems in MN have raised that much in a primary. He was running on valid issues that had grassroots support.

But the mistakes were obvious. Ford ran on ideas. Amy ran on winning the primary. In Minnesota those are two completely separate things.

I'm guilty of having lived for 18 years in a state where I never investigated how the party works, but after I started to pay attention, my jaw dropped.

You people literally have no freaking clue how to win an election. Amy Klobuchar ran a perfect primary campaign and she is absolutely not ready to win this race. All her work went into giving reacharounds to DFLers, and that doesn't win elections. She has done zero outreach to Republicans and little more with indies because the whole shebang has been about winning the endorsement.

You have a dumb system. I don't know of another state that does things this way, and I can't figure out how this system ever worked to your advantage.

Democrats win by fighting. If you're not willing to stand up to me how can you expect me to respect you later? We work out our differences. Klobuchar's campaign was from the start 100% DLC strategy: hide, don't debate, raise money and work the hell out of your advantages while ignoring your weaknesses.

Well, now that it's all Amy's, we all know her achilles heel: she can't debate for crap. So instead of taking advantage of Ford to get in some practice, she ducked debate opportunities, did a few lame joint appearances and mostly tried to take the air out of the room.

That is campaigning out of weakness and not strength, and I have every reason to be terrified that — if at any point she falls down — she won't get up again. I will vote for Amy, but I'm not convinced that she will win because she's using tired inside the beltway strategies.

YES, EVERY GODDAMNED DFL ACTIVIST IN THE STATE KNOWS AND LOVES HER. Fine. Now, would you please do something about her name recognition? Would you please start lobbying her campaign to get out there and educate the voters?

I have been vilified for supporting Ford (all but spat upon a few times due to the rage of the other person). I have heard Ford called preposterous names. I have yet to hear one single Klobuchar supporter answer my one question (why do you support Amy?) with anything but an attack on Ford or on Bush or on the Republicans in general. That or they say they like her. Not once have I found a Klobuchar supporter who mentioned an issue. Not once.

I don't dislike Amy. I understand why people like her, but I despise her campaign, how it's being run, and the fact that I fear we will lose this seat because the Klobuchar campaign has been running for years for the nomination, but they don't seem to have a clue about the general election other than to think they can flood the airwaves with commercials and win that way.

Won't work.

And for the record, I am VERY sick and tired of being told what I think. Arguing with Klobuchar supporters is like arguing with Republicans: they don't listen to you because they've already been told what you think.

Again, I've been here 18 years. How many statewide elections have you turkeys won in that time? I sat stunned as Ann Wynia debated her monitor during the first debate with Rod Gramms. I was blown away the first time I heard Mark Dayton attempt to speak in public. I marveled at how many DFL candidates were well versed in the art of not saying a goddamned thing about anything on the stump.

You won, but you are still not gracious. You have not been inundated with criticism of your candidate. Hell, when I went to work for Ford, that effectively retired the most vociferous Amy critic in the state and not one Amy supporter EVER acknowledged that or the fact that Blog for Bell consistently stayed on the high road.

But let me give you some advice. LET THIS GO. If you fail to bust your ass, Klobuchar's not going to be our next US Senator. Carping about the guy who dropped out is not only ungracious, it calls into question your priorities altogether.

In all candor, you're acting like Republicans. You don't know how to move forward, you just want to keep jabbing the guy you beat.

Each time I read a personal criticism of Ford Bell from a DFLer, my heart hardens. Normally, it takes me a month to get over the primary and back in sync with the party, but each post like this just makes it harder and harder and harder for Bell supporters to let go of their candidate.

Try shutting the eff up and declare a moratorium on yer whining. Once you're done, give the Bell folks a month and they'll be back with the party. But that healing process doesn't start until you start acting like winnners and move forward.

My sour grapes were standard. It's called venting. You effing won, so what the goddamn hell do you have to vent about?

Again, the DFL is the most retarded statewide Democratic party in the country. You're so inbred you don't even understand what a primary is anymore.

The next time I read a DFL blog post criticizing Ford Bell in this election cycle, I'll turn Norwegianity into Darryl Stanton for US Senate HQ.

Get a clue about what a party is about. All I'm seeing is evidence of cult behavior. If I had ever dissed an opponent in print AFTER they had lost a primary to my candidate back in Iowa, I would have never worked on a good campaign again. I won't try to claim that Iowans are better people than Minnesotans, but the IDP makes the DFL look like a bunch of putzes. The IDP wins in a Republican state. The DFL loses in a Democratic state. The results speak for themselves.


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