O'Train of Thought

People will vote for the candidate with the most optimistic view of America

The Stealth Speech

The Trojan Horse inside the ISIL speech.

It’s all about the audience.

Imbedded in Wednesday’s speech on the strategy to degrade and destroy ISIL was a layer of messaging primarily aimed at the American people. There were many layers and multiple audiences beyond Americans for the words the President delivered to a live audience: ISIL, our military, Congress, our Allies, and the media. Ironically we have the mainstream media to thank for the fact that people tuned in to listen to the speech in the first place. It’s the media that has drummed up the fear of a threat from ISIL in the first place even though that ‘organization’ poses no immediate threat to our shores. Just months after the media refused to grant the President any primetime exposure to tout the success of the Affordable Care Act, the President found himself before a captive audience during primetime in most of the country. He did not waste that time.

My fellow Americans, we live in a time of great change. Tomorrow marks 13 years since our country was attacked. Next week marks 6 years since our economy suffered its worst setback since the Great Depression. Yet despite these shocks; through the pain we have felt and the grueling work required to bounce back — America is better positioned today to seize the future than any other nation on Earth. (Emphasis mine throughout.)

Any other nation on Earth. Full stop, people. America needed a ‘We’re number one” moment. I think as a nation we have been emotionally beleaguered for most of the 21st century. We needed to hear that we’re doing something right for a change. We needed to hear that we’re tough and resilient and strong, and that terrorists, whoever and wherever they may be, will not destroy us.

ISIL speech

He goes on:

Our technology companies and universities are unmatched; our manufacturing and auto industries are thriving. Energy independence is closer than it’s been in decades. For all the work that remains, our businesses are in the longest uninterrupted stretch of job creation in our history.

Take a bow, Mr. President. You deserve it. Those of us who support the President have been tooting the horn of this economic growth for years. The media has been sparse on praise for this major accomplishment. Refusing to highlight the economy to hurt the President has done more than hurt the President; it has hurt the American psyche. American needs to know that things are getting better. The President is very reassuring to us all when he says this.

Despite all the divisions and discord within our democracy, I see the grit and determination and common goodness of the American people every single day — and that makes me more confident than ever about our country’s future.

His abiding faith in us as a people comforts and amazes me. The media would have us believe we’re at each other’s throats every day. Social media often reinforces this impression. But the President spends a lot of time with normal everyday people all across this country and he knows better. He sees our struggles, our pain, our joy and our hopes and dreams and knows from experience how strong we are. He has more experience with regular Americans than people in the media, and for that matter, most members of Congress. He has not lost faith in us. This speech demonstrates that.

At a time when the media keeps pounding on the President for not getting out the message of how well the economy is going, he certainly did make the most of his limited time in front of the American people to do just that. I found myself cheering him on when he appropriated the time to cheer-lead for the business, industry, tech and energy sectors that have been doing yeoman like work rebuilding our economy over the past few years. A lot of people took a lot of financial risks investing in this venture and we all owe them a debt of gratitude for believing in America as a great place to do business. They needed to be acknowledged as well.

I nodded in gratitude when he acknowledged that with great power comes great responsibility.

America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden. But as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead. From Europe to Asia — from the far reaches of Africa to war-torn capitals of the Middle East — we stand for freedom, for justice, for dignity. These are values that have guided our nation since its founding.

America is unique in the world. We sometimes need to be reminded of that. While I’m not crazy about being the world’s police force, we do have a responsibility to help maintain sovereignty and peace in the world. If anyone doubts that, ask them what they think the world would be like right now if America had turned away from people in need. Ask the Kurds. They’ll tell you:

“We owe our American friends our lives. Our children will always remember that there was someone who felt our struggle and made a long journey to protect innocent people.”

Ask the Israelis.

It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons so they cannot pose a threat to the Syrian people — or the world — again.

Ask the Africans.

It is America — our scientists, our doctors, our know-how — that can help contain and cure the outbreak of Ebola.

For me this speech was far more than a way to outline a strategy for defeating an enemy. It was a modern update on American exceptionalism. It was a way to bypass the pundit class and their petty objections to all things Obama where the President could promote his accomplishments as President to a live, captive audience.

  • Manufacturing thriving
  • Auto industry thriving
  • Great strides toward achieving energy independence
  • The longest uninterrupted stretch of job creation in our history
  • Rallied the world against Russian aggression
  • Contained and destroyed Syria’s declared chemical weapons

The beauty of all this is that he shares the credit with the American people and our military and our allies. You notice that there is nothing in that list that the last two Congresses had anything to do with.

For my money, the media got totally snookered by this speech. They had to sit there, helplessly unable to prevent him from advancing his agenda. I can honestly and proudly admit that I applauded at the end of that speech. Thank you, Mr. President.

10 Favorite Television shows

This isn’t a political post. I’m trying to get back into the habit of writing again, so this is just for fun.

Not long ago a friend posted her list of her 10 favorite shows on Facebook and it got me to thinking, “What are mine?”

1. Firefly. Rather than explain why, I direct you to my love letter to the show written in 2003: To Serenity…and beyond! Fox really let a good thing go when they canceled this gem.

2. WKRP in Cincinnati. I’m not really a comedy person, but this show never failed to make me laugh no matter how many times I managed to catch it in reruns. I feel for anyone who didn’t get a chance to view it with its original music intact, especially the pilot and finale episodes. The licenses for the music ran out well before the advent of TV on DVD so now no one can ever watch them in their original form again. It is a cultural loss in my opinion: Classic Rock & Roll as heard on vintage radio stations is a combination we can not replicate.

3. Kung Fu. I can’t think of a show that made a greater impression on me growing up. Morality tales disguised as formula episodic television, Kung Fu was a unique and completely original vehicle for broaching delicate topics like racism, religious intolerance and slavery without being offensive or in your face. Plus it had a cool factor that’s held up over time.

4. The Pretender. I got so completely immersed in this show and I have not ever forgiven NBC for taking it off the air. I enjoyed watching Jared explore the world around him every episode, seeing the mundane through the eyes of an innocent, yet learning he had a darkness about him that he battled throughout drew me in. Now that I think about it, this show had a lot in common with Kung Fu.  A wide-eyed innocent on the run, helping people against a stronger foe, learning about the world, yet retaining a pure purpose. It’s a potent formula.

5. Chuck. To be more specific the first 2.5 seasons of Chuck (before it jumped the shark). I’d have to say it was the writing that got me. Perfect casting, fun but somewhat serious…a geek with a heart of gold who longs to be something more than a member of the Geek Squad…what can I say? It just worked for me. Sarah transforming from a cold and cynical operative into a more vulnerable person was so well done and never forced.

6. Quantum Leap. Guess I’m a sucker for morality tales and some seemingly invincible stranger coming along to put right what went wrong. I ate up how fearless Scott Bakula was in taking on that part, sometimes playing women, or young people or people of a different race, week after week, his self-sacrifice was worthy and poignant.

7. Stargate SG-1. There was always something so reassuring to me about Col. Jack O’Neill. His leadership qualities and humility were so appealing to me.  I relished feeling like no matter what happened, Jack would figure out how to save the day. Samantha Carter is one of my all time favorite female role models. She could be tough without being hard and never apologized for being the smartest person in the room. The whole concept of a Stargate that can transport people to different worlds was so refreshing. I liked that the show didn’t take itself too seriously and could display a sense of humor that was never ill-timed or out of context.

8. 24. I was hooked from the get-go with this show. No one knew, least of all me, how they were going to keep up the concept of each episode representing an hour in a day for one season, let alone several. They pulled it off, though. This was a great show to interact with the online community. It got high readings on the suspend disbelief monitor, but I seemed willing to do so for the first 5 seasons anyway. Jack Bauer was a classic and flawed hero that the writers allowed to have breakdowns, and suffer repeatedly, but with a will to live that was inspiring.

9. Star Trek: DS9. I thoroughly appreciated that this series revolved around a space station rather than a space ship. It allowed for far more complex characters, relationships and story lines. One of the things I enjoy about Science Fiction is that it requires very little in the way of suspension of disbelief. Unless they outright broke the laws of physics, everything is possible. I’m probably in the minority when I say my favorite character was Quark. He was the bravest coward that ever graced the small screen. It was just straight up fun to watch him seduce everyone that came within his sphere of influence, and justify his every move with fast talk and yes, his own moral compass. His complexity was overshadowed by the other characters, but his subtle shifts in conscience and deliberate attempts to remain a Ferengi in the presence of so many Hu-Mons charmed me. Section 31, the covert and deadly organization working outside the Federation, appealed to me as well.

10. Star Trek: Voyager. I love Captain Kathryn Janeway. She is my #1 favorite female character of all time. She’s smart, tough, fair, ruthless, and devoutly loyal to her crew. She could be devious when she needed to be, but knew how to build coalitions when the situation called for it. She didn’t demand respect, but commanded it. She is a true leader in every sense of the word. The ideal role model.

Welp, that does it…10 of them. The trouble with lists is that something doesn’t make the cut. I notice that none of these shows is still in production. One of my criteria for liking a show is if it holds up to multiple viewings. If I had to name three shows currently in production, I’d have to go with Elementary, Newsroom and Scandal, mostly for the writing. I prefer delicious dialogue, and these show shine in that arena. But there’s nothing out there right now that I’m passionate about. Not sure what to make of that.


See the Hill. Take the Hill.

From a psychological standpoint the difference between Pragmatic Progressives and the rank and file Far Left is very similar to the difference between the way men and women view home remodeling.  Picture a typical room in a typical house in America.  Imagine that room still has white walls.  A thirty-something heterosexual couple decide they are going to paint the room blue.  The woman looks at the room and sees that the furniture needs to be moved out of the room, the pictures taken down, drapes removed, drop cloths spread on the floor, the holes in the walls need to be patched, painter’s tape put on the molding and then paint, primer, brushes and rollers have to be purchased before a drop of color can be applied to the walls.  The man looks at the room and in his eyes the room is already blue.  This example describes the fundamental difference in outlook between the pragmatic approach and the way the Far Left regard policy change.  The pragmatist sees all the steps between idea and implementation.  The leftie only sees the desired outcome and ignores the ‘trivial details’ that must be accomplished along the way.  In their eyes, the room is already blue. Then, once the room actually is blue, they’ll say, “You missed a spot.”

The other day a friend on Facebook posted the Faces of Change video about how the ACA has helped save the life and future of a former critic of health care reform.

Darned if someone didn’t come along and add a condescending comment about the lack of single payer in the ACA.  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by that, but in my universe there are so many benefits to this law that I’d forgotten about that tired complaint.  Single payer is the room already being blue.  The Far Lefties love the idea of single payer, they really do, but they refuse to see how the field needed to be prepared to make single payer even a viable option.  Plus they refuse to see how there is more to health care in general and reform in specific than just how patients pay for the care they receive.  The ACA does so much more than just provide coverage.  The ACA tackles the foundation of how health care is delivered, too.

Details Details

A case in point is mandating that anyone providing care to Medicare recipients must convert their records from paper to digital.  My eye surgeon’s office is in the middle of this transition right now.  They have had to remodel their entire office, in particular their exam rooms to accommodate computers and monitors.  Plus they had to pay for expensive software to be installed on their new systems.  The staff and doctors have to receive training on this system and they will have to contract for IT support, too.  Not only will this make it easier in the long run for their patients to get good care, but it will also make it easier for the surgeons to interface with the co-providers (Optometrists and Ophthalmologists) who do follow up for their patients.  Added bonus: jobs.  Health IT is one of the fastest growing fields in America right now.  Anyone who has been able to log in to their health care provider’s system to get test results can attest to how much better digital records are than paper in this modern age. I, for one, am glad single payer wasn’t part of this law.  We need to fix so much of what is wrong with health care in areas like fraud and basing payments on procedures rather than outcome.  Once health care is set on a trajectory of accountability and outcomes and with a new paradigm of wellness and prevention, THEN we can talk about how to provide care using a single payer system. Then the room really will be blue.

Another example of how the ground needed to be prepared before change could occur was the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  The Far Left wanted the President to just sign an Executive Order and be done with it, not really grasping that Executive Orders can be rescinded by a subsequent Administration, which could undo all the benefits of said Order.  The President knew that wasn’t going to fly and that he needed to establish himself as Commander-In-Chief with the military before he could act in any fashion to make changes to the way they conducted their business.  He smartly had the military perform a study of the issue, get input from the troops and devise a way to implement the changes once the law was repealed.  Time and care were taken to prepare the military for the changes.  The people actually running the military were consulted; their opinions were listened to with respect.  The President allowed the military to do what it was already prepared to do without ‘ordering’ them to do it.  Then he did some nifty horse trading to get the law repealed by extending the Bush tax cuts two more years at a time when the economy could not withstand a tax hike.


I believe it helps us to know that the way the Far Left thinks about issues has at its core a primal thought process that mirrors the male brain at its most basic.  See the hill. Take the hill.  There actually is a biological imperative for this kind of non-strategic thinking. Any aggressive behavior conducted by humans requires a shortcut in thinking.  If we had to strategize before we took every action, humans would never hunt for their prey because they’d become paralyzed by fear.  Males wouldn’t pursue females for procreation; fighting battles either to conquer or defend would never happen.  The willingness to charge into battle, defying the fear of loss of limb or life is a hallmark of mankind.  Basic survival depends on the ability to plunge headlong into danger without regard for the consequences.  But change and progress require the ability to use the strategic part of the brain.  Hunting in packs requires strategy and planning.  Going from simply gathering food to planning ahead to grow food and exploit crops requires strategy and planning.

We need both kinds of thinking to get by as humans.  I want the person who is willing to defy danger to save people from floods and fire; first responders need the see the hill, take the hill mentality to do their jobs.  What I don’t want is to apply that same mindset to the creation of policy and problem solving in areas of economics, education, social justice, etc.  I want the strategic thinkers on that job.

Sound and Fury

The Perp Walk.  We all remember the Far Left demanding that Bush and Cheney be arrested and tried for war crimes.  I also remember that candidate Obama said repeatedly that he wasn’t going to re-litigate the past.  That we needed to move forward and tackle the immediate problems of the moment.  He did just that and now we see the result:  Bush and Cheney are virtually under house arrest without him having to lift a finger.  Plus moderate Republicans are more willing to support the President now because he didn’t blame anyone for the mess he inherited; he rolled up his sleeves and got to work solving problems.  That bought a lot of good will for his policies with average people.

Nationalize the Banks.  I’m no economist but it has become fairly obvious that the strategy of bailing out the banks, while wildly unpopular, still worked.  There are a few banks that still fail the stress test, but the banking industry hasn’t had to undergo any major upheaval, and nationalizing them would have been a massive undertaking that wasn’t guaranteed to succeed and would have likely caused a tsunami-sized backlash from the Right that made their protest over health care reform look like a Sunday picnic.

He Should Come to Wisconsin.  It really was not all that long ago that the Far Left, in all their wisdom, was clambering for the President to make an appearance in Wisconsin during the height of the protests there.  The President didn’t want the focus of the fight there to shift to him so he prudently stayed out of the whole affair.  Now dates have been set for a primary and recall election.  The people of Wisconsin own every bit of the success there.

There is now sufficient evidence that the tactics advocated by the Far Left in the media are unsound and only serve to distract and create chaos.  Their tactics bear no resemblance to governing; in that respect the Far Left has more in common with the Tea Party than with Democrats.  They see a hill and want the President to take that hill for them.  They don’t see the way the ground needs to be prepared, and they don’t see the hidden or even the obvious dangers inherent in taking that hill.  Or even that they’re looking at the wrong hill.  They get fixated on their hill and simply cannot tolerate anyone disagreeing with their goals.  They wanted Pickett’s Charge and they got Sun Tzu.  And it drives them crazy.

Painting the Room Blue

Just for fun, let’s look at how various factions of the Far Left would go about painting our symbolic room.

The Anarchist will tell us that they don’t want the room painted blue simply because we want it painted.  Then they’ll sneak in when we’re not home with buckets of midnight blue paint and start hurling the liquid at the walls.  They’ll ruin the furniture, pictures, drapes and carpet in the process, but the room will be blue.

The Libertarian will tell us that we have no right to tell them that rooms need to be painted in the first place.  But if we want our room painted blue, then we better pay for all the supplies and paint it ourselves.  Then they’ll make a big show of NOT painting their own rooms.  Ever.  Because they don’t have to if they don’t feel like it.

The Occupier will discuss endlessly the merits of painting rooms, then form working groups to discuss the effects of the color blue on people.  Once there seems to be a real effort on our part to paint that room, they will sit down in front of the door to the paint store to prevent us from purchasing the paint because the paint manufacturers are corporate entities.

The Greens will just lecture us on the toxic qualities of paint and the dangers of the fumes and what happens to paint downstream when we wash it down the drain while cleaning the brushes and rollers.

Ideally I would like to believe that the Big Tent philosophy allows Democrats plenty of room for all the extremists on the Left.  The reality is that while these people are our friends and they do sometimes contribute and there is crossover in our belief systems; I’m not convinced that their policies and tactics can be taken seriously by anyone who wants to implement real change in this country.  See the Hill—Take the Hill and good governance are mutually exclusive.  Our President has shown us this repeatedly.  I volunteered to elect Barack Obama as our 44th President because I wanted someone who knew how to get stuff done.  He has demonstrated unflinchingly and with great respect that getting stuff done means attending to all the little details and doing all the preparation is the key to lasting change.  From now on, we can simply ignore the policies and tactics of the Far Left as outdated and deeply flawed.  We have been shown a new way to proceed.  President Obama has provided us with a living blueprint for change and progress in this country.  We can refer to his strategies and paradigm-shifting policies in areas like Foreign Affairs for many years to come for guidance on how to effectively create progress.

Meet Suzan DelBene

I don’t even remember why, in 2010, I decided to learn about the person running against Dave Reichert in the WA-08; I didn’t live anywhere near the 8th Congressional District.  Whatever it was that compelled me to visit the Suzan DelBene for Congress website, I’m glad I did.  At the time her website had been up longer and there were videos about Suzan and her family and experience.  My first and enduring response was that I wished I lived near the 8th CD so I could volunteer for her campaign.  I was that impressed.  I still am.

The District

Well as the Redistricting Gods would have it, Medina, WA, where Suzan lives, has now become part of the new WA-01 Congressional District.  It’s a huge district geographically, and bears only a surface resemblance to the current 8th.  It’s the large blue-shaded district in this map that extends up to the Canadian border.  I have to hand it to the redistricting commission.  They got all ten districts within 10 people of having the exact same population.  To accomplish this in the 1st CD, they created a true swing district, which is one of the most evenly divided districts in the country.  Do I live in this district?  No, but I can literally see it from my house.  I’m spittin’ distance from the boundary.  That means I get to volunteer for Suzan DelBene’s campaign!

Another critical difference between this new 1st CD and the previous district where Suzan ran for office in 2010 is that this seat will be one of the three vacant seats in the State. The current Representative for the 1st is Jay Inslee.  He is running for Governor now.  The other vacant districts are the newly created WA-10 down by the State Capitol of Olympia and the WA-06 vacated by the retiring Norm Dicks.

There is no ‘popular but legislatively ineffective former Sheriff’ as incumbent for her to face this time.  It’s a wide open race for the six Democrats in the primary field, all vying for the privilege of running against John Koster, the Republican. Washington State is a top-two state.  That means for every office except the President, only the top two vote-getters from the primary move on to the General Ballot. We don’t declare parties in Washington State either, so instead of a (D) next to her or his name, it will read: Prefers Democratic Party.

There is no large urban city in the new 1st.  The population centers of Kirkland, Redmond and Bothell are all suburbs of the Seattle-Bellevue metropolis.  They are built like suburbs and the people think like they live in suburbs. The rural areas are mountainous, fertile farmlands and recreational. Not surprisingly, the key to this district is the Independent voter.  In the words of Tim Ceis, of one of the two Democrats on the panel that drew these new districts: “…the district cries out for a centrist.  It’s a very moderate district.  There are some extremes on each end, but the majority of it is really quite smack in the middle.”

The Ideal Candidate

Enter Suzan DelBene.  She has the very good fortune to have already been branded as a moderate.  In the Seattle Times endorsement of Suzan in October, 2010, they proclaimed, “Time to give DelBene, a smart moderate, a chance.”  I couldn’t agree more.  I think the American people have completely lost their patience with anything that looks even remotely extreme, especially when it comes to Congress.  Independents want nothing to do with someone who rigidly conforms to Party lines.  Moderates and Independents are hungry for representation that is more concerned with solving our many problems in this country and in our districts.  They’re thoroughly fed up with hard line Party politics that don’t allow for achieving compromise to reach viable solutions.  This is a premise the Republicans understand, which is why in 2010 so many of the Tea Party candidates ran as moderates.  This is why Presidential candidates, after running to the left or right during primaries, know they have to come back to the middle to appeal to the rest of the Nation.  This is why the Republican John Koster will try to portray himself as a moderate.  Luckily, this is ground onto which Suzan DelBene has already staked her flag within viewing and listening distance of the main population region of the new 1st.  It would have been difficult to live in the technology-centric population center in 2010 without hearing about Suzan, so she enjoys name recognition with a large swath of the new voting population.

Socially liberal and fiscally conservative, Suzan’s ‘no sudden moves’ approach will appeal to Independents.  At a time when the Middle Class is increasingly coming under attack and struggling in this country, Suzan firmly believes in creating sustainable economic opportunities for Americans in general and her constituents in specific.  Her wheelhouse is business, both small and large.  She gets business and she understands finance and tax reform.  She knows how to create jobs and has a keen eye for effective policies.  She’s also decidedly pro-labor.

We NEED more women in Congress. With the resignations of Olympia Snowe and Gabby Giffords, the population of women in Congress has now fallen below 20%. This is one of the best opportunities to do something about it that we have.  Suzan is pro-choice and a mother.  She understands how to successfully navigate a male-dominated environment, having been one of a handful of female top executives at Microsoft.

From her website:

Beyond her private sector experience, public service has always been central to Suzan’s story. It is a key reason she decided to seek public office in the first place. She was an advisor to Global Partnerships, a microfinance nonprofit focused on providing needed loans to help create economic opportunities for people living in poverty. She has worked with the YWCA to build programs to provide transitional housing and job training to women and families struggling to get back on their feet.

We need tax reform now more than ever and we have an opportunity to send someone to Congress who actually understands the system.  Tax reform isn’t just a bumper sticker for Suzan. After her campaign to unseat Dave Reichert in the WA-08, she was appointed to Governor Gregoire’s Cabinet as Director of the State Department of Revenue.  In coverage of her announcement to seek the open seat in the newly drawn 1st Congressional District, it was noted that “…she worked on streamlining taxes for small businesses and on a tax amnesty program that brought in more than $340 million in state and local taxes.”  Suzan DelBene actually knows how to read a budget!  Look no farther than the 112th Congress for evidence of how rare a quality that is.

New Democrats

Being represented by a New Democrat is nothing new to two segments of the new 1st CD.  Kirkland, Redmond, Bothell and Woodinville are already represented by Jay Inslee, who caucuses with the New Democrats.  All of Whatcom County that has been placed in the new 1st is currently represented by Rick Larsen, a proud New Democrat.

The New Democrats are the pragmatic leaders in Congress.  Some familiar names can be found in the list of those who caucus with this coalition: Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Steve Israel, Adam Smith and former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, as well as Governor Christine Gregoire, former Governors Granholm, Sebelius and Napolitano.

They have a shared interest in growing our economy and protecting workers with a focus on technology and innovation as a means to achieving that growth.  They share the President’s goal to create a stable economy that is built to last for generations.  Suzan DelBene in particular favors regulating Wall Street and even advancing an up-to-date version of the Glass-Steagall Act to reign in banking excesses.  What is a key factor here is that the New Democrats are seen as Centrists.  No matter what our personal politics might be in this case, the district has been drawn to elect a Centrist.  One such New Democrat has already proven that his Centrist message is powerful enough to defeat John Koster.  That would be Rick Larsen, who defeated John Koster in the WA-02 in 2010.  The 2nd CD is just as technology-centric (Boeing) as the new 1st (Microsoft). New Democrats in Washington specialize in representing the Technology industry. Plain and simple, Suzan is a natural fit for the 1st Congressional District.

The Big Picture

In 2010 I looked into my political crystal ball and envisioned myself working my behind off to re-elect the President at this point in the 2012 cycle.  Then the 112th Congress happened and it began to dawn on me that one of the best ways to assist the President was to help provide him with a Congress he could work with in his second term.

Make no mistake, the fight for this seat in the 1st CD is going to be brutal.  The 1st is part of the DCCC’s Red to Blue program:

“The DCCC’s Red to Blue program highlights top Democratic campaigns and races across the country, and offers them financial, communications, grassroots, and strategic support.”

There will be an avalanche of outside money pouring into this race from outside the State of Washington.  Perhaps even from outside the United States.  SuperPacs will run amok in this district, most likely from both sides.

The primary race is going to be very lopsided.  With only one Republican and six Democrats, the Democrats are going to be spending their money early and often trying to gain that coveted spot on the General Ballot.  It was posited recently that once the General campaign begins, the Democratic candidate will be broke and the Republican will be flush.  That might be true for the other five candidates, but will it be true for Suzan DelBene?  I’m not so sure.  Suzan’s fundraising prowess is already on display as she announced on her Facebook page that she had already raised over $200,000.  This is significant because she’s only been in the race less than two months.  This places her in a close third in total fund-raising behind two candidates who have been running since last summer.  It was announced that none of this money is from self-funding.  Plus her donor base is growing as she continues to prove herself a worthy and capable candidate with that all-important moderate credential.  The need to fund-raise is just as critical for Suzan as the others, but being able to help her own campaign stay solvent and carry out the expensive task of actually raising more money without creating more debt is vital. It costs money to raise money, and Suzan won’t be caught flat-footed in that regard.

The economics of this asymmetrical race is the upside for the Republican.  The downside for the Republican is that he has a moving target.  The Democrats have a fixed target.  They all know who the ultimate opponent will be.  The Republican doesn’t know who his opponent will be.  It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

It’s a Democratic year.  The general voting public has a very low opinion of the Republican Congress.  President Barack Obama, a far more popular President than the media lets on especially in Washington State, is at the top of the ticket.  There are two wedge issues that will appear on the ballot, both of which will attract the youth vote: Legalizing Marijuana and the Right Wing’s well-funded challenge to making marriage equality the law of the land.  Washington State doesn’t have barriers to voting, so the vote totals are going to be big.  Big voter turnout helps Democrats.  One would think this alignment would support the election of a fire-breathing liberal to Congress from the 1st.  Democrat’s dream right?  Ask Alan Grayson from the Florida’s 8th how that worked out?  He was elected in a big Democratic year and then promptly lost the next term to a Republican.  Looking at the Big Picture dictates that we look down the road at what happens during mid-term elections.  Remember mid-terms, when it’s much harder to get young people to vote?  When it is much harder to get Democrats to vote?  It just isn’t enough to elect a Democrat into the new seat in 2012.  That Representative has to be able to win again and again, in off years and when the landscape isn’t as favorable as it is right now.  Suzan DelBene’s appeal is in line with what Independents look for in a candidate.  They make the difference in a swing district.

I like Suzan’s campaign style, too.  She’s not flashy; she doesn’t rely on rhetoric to convey her message; she doesn’t go for the low-hanging fruit of applause lines in the friendly confines of gatherings of Democrats.  I get the sense that the person she presents to the Democrats is the same person she presents to the Independents and interested Republicans.  She’s smart…very smart and well spoken.  It’s clear to me that she sees the big and the small pictures in life.  She possesses local savvy and the ability to grasp a global outlook, something a Representative in Congress must have to succeed.

Suzan’s campaign is easily as worthy of our support as Elizabeth Warren’s.  She will be an excellent member of Congress and make Democrats and Washingtonians proud.  I hope you will consider donating to her campaign, and if you live in the 1st CD, I hope you will vote for her when your primary ballot arrives in July.  We need her name on that General Ballot if a Democrat is to win that open seat.

In the fight against the War on Women, it’s most important to remember that the real battle ground is the U.S. Congress and State Houses and Governor’s Mansions, not the airwaves of shock radio.  Let’s keep our eyes on the prize of taking back the House of Representatives, retaining the Senate and electing more women to Congress and Government in general.  We cannot afford to let the outrages distract us from the real work of electing Democrats to represent our values in this Country.

Memory Cards

I’ve created these files so they can be printed 6 to a page on card stock and then cut to size to fit in the palm or even a wallet to help us remember the Promises Kept by the President and some key features of the Affordable Care Act.  The Promises Kept are in two versions, one where the list is random, the other where the list is sorted.  The ACA card can be used to print on the back of the Promises card, too.  These are copyright free for anyone to use.  Feel free to print them and share them with voters. The link to the pdf file is below each image.




Election Survival Tool Kit

On New Years Eve 2011 I witnessed tectonic shift in the blogosphere and twitterverse.  The “Enthusiasm Gap” evaporated.  It was as if we were all waiting for it to actually be 2012 to allow ourselves to become enthusiastic about re-electing the President.  And wow, are people enthusiastic. It’s like a bright light turned on in a dark room.  Everyone is awake now and definitely ready to go. So I thought I’d share some tips and tools for surviving the ten month and six day road ahead.


Breathless reporters reporting breathlessly.  We’ve all seen it; reporters and pundits reporting on events like they’re covering the end of the world.  The operative word is breathless. When we don’t breathe, we don’t think, we don’t reason, we don’t listen.  We’re agitated and out of control and do not make good decisions or evaluate what we hear, read and see correctly.  The media wants us in this state of mind so we don’t tune away.  We’re waiting to catch our breath and see if the world really does end.

The first and most important tool in our toolkit is breathing.  I suggest taking it a step beyond the simple reflexive action to actively take time to ‘exercise’ breathing. Take a walk and focus on the act of breathing.  Practice yoga or T’ai Chi or meditation—anything that alters the breathing habits used during the day for at least 20 minutes.  Even stopping what we do and inhaling deeply using the diaphragm a few times a day will help.  I do yoga for 20 minutes 6 days a week and I believe it is the main reason why I am able to get through reading about politics without overreacting to every little thing that’s out there.  Actively controlling breathing helps us relax and stay calm.  Staying calm makes all of us better advocates for the President.  Pay attention to how calm he is about everything.  Calm works.  Breathing produces calm.

Active Listening

We have no better mentor on how to actively listen than the President.  He listens because he cares.  We do more to help people remain open to voting for the President by listening to voters than we ever do by talking to voters.  Actively listening means we pay attention to what a voter is telling us without jumping in to correct them, or defend a policy or the President.  If voters feel like we actually heard what they were trying to say, then the contact becomes a positive one for them. Winning an argument is never the goal.  Hear and validate the concerns; try to speak to the concerns calmly; leave the voter with a sense of satisfaction.  We never argue with voters.  Ever.  We ask them if we can leave with them some literature, we ask for their votes but most importantly we leave them feeling like we listened and that what they said mattered.  We are representing the President; when voters speak with us they are speaking to the President.

Ron Paul ≠ 270

Now that Far Left Reactionaries (PL, emoprogs) have begun to embrace Ron Paul, we need to reprogram ourselves to deal with this.  Our first inclination is to try to confront people in our own circle of friends with what we believe to be true about Ron Paul: that he’s racist, homophobic, etc.  I’m suggesting a new strategy because I believe that focusing on the individual and his beliefs is counter-productive, primarily because it isn’t the man these folks find attractive.  It is his rhetoric that makes them swoon.  Underneath it all the Far Left is really just a subgroup of Libertarians (yes, even the anarchists).  This is all about being anti-government for them and no one is more anti-government than the Angry Southern White Male: Ron Paul.

When it comes to electing a President, there is only one thing that matters: The Electoral College.  Those pesky 270 Electoral votes are all that matter to me.  48 of the 50 States have a winner-take-all policy for their electoral votes (exceptions are Maine and Nebraska).  My goal is to do whatever is in my power and capability to make sure that all twelve electoral votes from the great State of Washington go to President Barack Obama.  Period.  How that gets done is by him winning the general election in Washington State on 6 Nov 2012. This is why I’m not concerned about Ron Paul’s name being on the ballot.  The odds of him getting more votes than the President aren’t even worth calculating.  Not gonna happen.  All that matters is if the President gets more votes in my State than the Republican Nominee.

All Third Party Candidates (which Ron Paul would have to be since he is NOT going to win the Republican nod) are a non-factor.  Will they take votes away from the President?  Of course they will.  Ron Paul, whoever gets the America Elects internet nomination, any Green Party candidate, etc. will all get votes. Which of those votes might have gone for the President can’t be known, but most of those votes are votes that would not have gone for him in the first place.  We do know that most of those votes will be cast, for the most part, by white males.  I’ve already covered chasing white male votes.

There are two important keys to dealing with a Ron Paul supporter.  The first is finding out how they plan to vote on the down ticket.  Get past their rhetoric and bombast and get to the heart of the matter by asking them about the other races. If you live in a Class I State, the first question should be, “For whom are you going to vote for the Senate?”  This is where the rubber meets the road about how serious they are about politics.  If they can’t answer simple questions about which candidate they support for the Senate, House or one of the 13 Governors races in 2012, they are not serious.  The second key is asking them if they are registered to vote.  This is where you find the people who are all rhetoric and no substance.  The non-voters can support Ron Paul all they want, but if they’re not prepared to actually cast a vote for the guy, then you have your answer.  They want to distract you from the hard work of re-electing the President and/or are attention seekers. Either way, keep that number of Electoral votes from your State in mind.  For every Ron Paul  supporter we find, we can pledge to find five new voters for the President to offset their naval-gazing foolishness.  Ron Paul supporters are armed to the teeth with irrational reasons why their support is valid.  Cut them off at the pass by pressing them on the down ticket.

All Politics Is Local

Every square inch of this country is being redistricted this year from the Congressional districts down to the precincts.  It is our responsibility to learn and keep track of these changes especially in states that either lost or gained districts.  People are going to suddenly find themselves represented by politicians they might not know at all, or find themselves suddenly represented by Republicans rather than Democrats.  Districts that were once competitive may no longer be.  In many cases politicians might not know what district they’re representing until a week before the deadline to file for candidacy.  It’s a very strange time to be running for office.  This hasn’t happened since Bill Clinton ran against GHW Bush.  To give you an example of just how important I think this is, I took a map to the office of the County Auditor to demonstrate how I wanted to see my new precinct boundary drawn.

If we are to be truly helpful in the effort to re-elect the President and give him a Congress with which he can work, we must begin at the most basic political unit: the Precinct.  Most precincts won’t be redrawn, but enough of them will that we’ll be required to learn not only the boundaries, but the demographic makeup of any newly drawn Precinct, Legislative District and Congressional District.  Two sources for this information are from local Democratic Central Committees or Obama For America.  Call your Dems office or go online to find your Legislative District or County Democrats organization to learn about the process.  Know your Precinct.

Know your Voter registration and ID laws backwards and forwards.  We cannot leave any of this to chance, not for a minute.  What is critical here is to follow the law no matter how distasteful that law might be.  If we focus on the inequities of the law by complaining about it, then we lose valuable time and energy that can be better spent complying with the law.  It is all about education.  We must first educate ourselves and then educate anyone who wants to vote for the President.  OFA will be instrumental in facilitating the process of compliance.  Making sure people can vote in certain states will be our biggest challenge, but it is a challenge I believe we are all able to meet.

Stay Inspired

One of the many amazing aspects of our President and the way he campaigns and governs are the speeches.  So many of them stand up to the test of time because they are classically eloquent and speak to Americans like we’re adults.  Lucky for us, there is a place where the best of the best can be found: The Obama Diary Speeches page.  Great oration is a powerful tool. Use it on ourselves and others whenever possible.  Nothing, however, is more inspirational to me than the Dipdive video featuring will.i.am singing the Yes We Can speech.  The 2008 campaign was filled with moments like that; moments that can’t be replicated and probably won’t appear with much frequency this year, but I can live with that.  We are awake again and ready to do this task of protecting the change for which we fought so hard.

Stay Informed (and lighten up)

What we did not have in 2008 that we have now are the array of pragmatic progressive blogs like The Obama Diary, The Only Adult in the Room (on hiatus), The People’s View, Angry Black Lady, Smartypants, what IS working and so many more.  What we did have was the OFA blog and the life-saver: Al Giordano’s The Field. I would have gone stark raving mad were it not for Al’s take on election coverage.  These are all valuable tools for staying informed, building community and even organizing.

We also didn’t have much in the way of a Facebook presence and no Twitter.  These are great networking tools and I highly recommend folks learning Twitter.  I get great links to articles from there, but more importantly, I get reliable good laughs from reading Twitter feeds.  My all time favorite is @zandarVTS, especially when he’s been drinking.  Nobody I follow is funnier. @LOLGOP cracks me up, too.  We cannot afford to take ourselves too seriously in all this.  The President doesn’t take himself too seriously. See: White House Correspondents’ Dinner 2011

Toolkit accessories

  • This is a great video to use to explain Wall Street Reform
  • A very handy guide to the ACA Health Care Reform
  • For people who insist upon beating to death the poor horse on closing Gitmo: The Senate Vote
  • I’ve only seen people on the extreme left bring up the NDAA that the President signed on 12/31/11, but if you’re compelled to address it, forget the signing statement, all you need to say is Veto Proof Bill. But just in case they need help, check out this explanation.
  • Everybody needs a good list of accomplishments
  • Debt Increase: Reagan 186%, Bush 54%,Clinton41%, Bush II 72%, Obama 23% –Congressional Budget Office
  • Search features on Blogs.  When looking for well-written information on most topics of interest, don’t overlook the search feature on your favorite blog. It’s surprising what we can find with just a little digging.

Let us not forget a very subtle, yet amazingly vital tool: Faith.  I’m not religious at all, but I know faith because I never, not even for one moment, doubted that Candidate Obama would become President Obama.  My unwavering belief was a source of strength for many of the volunteers with whom I worked.  As organizers, probably the single thing we spend the most time doing is reassuring volunteers that the work they are doing will not be in vain.  That we will prevail.  That the garbage they listen to on television and radio and read online is just background noise.  We must keep our eyes on the prize and never, ever let up for a moment.  We can’t afford to.

Vote Chasing Perspective

The time has come for us to start concerning ourselves with how people will vote in 2012.  I’ve noticed a fair amount of panic setting in online.  Who hasn’t read this blog comment/tweet: “The Dems better get it together and get out the vote!”? It’s understandable given what happened in 2010.  It’s important to remember, however, that 2010 was not a National Election.  2010 was 50 elections, and each State Democratic Party was responsible for their own GOTV efforts.  I’m lucky to live in a safe blue State with a very strong Party apparatus that had a very good strategy revolving around one sub-group of voters referred to as ‘lazy voters’.  We spent every single day leading up to the election reaching out to lazy voters, not to the exclusion of all others, but as a primary focus.  We were successful on the Federal level and had mixed results on the State and local level.  Far too many State races came down to fewer than 200 votes.

2012 will be completely different. Presidential elections are the headline election that many more people pay attention to as voters.  Plus it is the one race that is not decided by the popular vote.  There is only one thing that matters in the Presidential race: The Electoral College.  270 votes.  When it comes to wondering if the President will win reelection, it honestly doesn’t even matter who the opponent is; all that matters is how do we get 270 Electoral College votes.

The White Male Vote

Much of the concern I encounter being expressed about how and if people will vote centers on the white male vote, with lots of chatter about white males not voting, voting for a third party, voting for Ron Paul or Nader, etc.  It occurs to me that in this country we are programmed to believe that what white males want is more important than what any other demographic wants.  Advertisers work harder to seek out their dollars; they’re paid more; their opinions are given more weight in the world of politics.  Hence we care more about whether or not they vote.  But should we?  Is it in our best interest as advocates of the President to care more about the white male vote than any other vote?

60.7 million men voted in 2008  41% or 24.6 million of them voted for Obama.  White male voters represent 35% of the total vote received by our President in 2008.  I think it is safe to assume that a vast majority of those Obama voters are registered Democrats.  I speak with white male Democrats frequently and they gripe about the President’s policies and decisions and how they think things should be done differently, but once they’re done with their rant they add: Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to vote for the guy.  Why?  Because they’re Democrats; they believe in the Democratic Party and they want to win.

A goodly number of these white males are Independents, too.  I’m no authority on Independents, but I’ve seen two basic varieties thus far: partisans and non-partisans.  I was a partisan independent for most of my adult life.  I didn’t decide to call myself a Democrat until I saw Senator Barack Obama on television one day.  But I’ve voted a straight Democratic ticket since my first ballot in 1968.  Partisan Independents have strong feelings about candidates and issues, but equally strong feelings about not being part of a political Party.  Non-partisan Independents are a whole other breed of fish.  They are all over the map and pretty much nobody really knows what makes them tick.  Their reasons for voting range from studying the issues and candidates, to simply liking the name on the ballot.  The Independent white males who voted for Obama surely had a variety of reasons for making that choice, most of which, I suspect, were based on some thought, since voting for the Black guy cannot have been a frivolous decision.  Another sizable segment of the white male Obama voter came from youth.  The youth vote was the secret weapon of the Obama campaign. 54% of the young white vote went to Obama in 2008, when no Democratic candidate in the previous three decades had ever managed to get more than 45%.  Lastly, white male Republicans represented part of the ultimate total.

I don’t want to take the white male voter for granted by any means.  We need their votes, and I’m willing to work for them.  It’s the white male voters who make noise about not voting for the President, and the white male non-voters who insist that voting doesn’t work who garner all the attention.  Attention that is absolutely not warranted, and giving them attention detracts from work of chasing the gettable votes from other demographics.  Focusing on the professed non-voter is a complete waste of time and energy.  They have every argument in the book ready and at hand to support their belief that voting doesn’t work.  This puts them in the same category as a Fox News junkie: intractability and dependence upon a pre-packaged set of talking points.  They are simply not going to vote in the next General Election.  Walk away.

The white males who claim they are liberals and say they want to vote for someone other than the President are equally unworthy of our attention.  I know why it bothers people so much: Nader in 2000.  I’m guilty of arguing that people in Florida who voted for Nader share responsibility for Bush’s election, but I’m beginning to reform that stance and say it’s time we let that go.  Nader is a non-factor now.  In 2000 he received 2,882,955 votes as the Green Party candidate.  In 2004 he received 465,650 votes as an Independent, and in 2008 he received 738,475 as an Independent.  My feeling is that 2000 was an anomaly and he will never enjoy that kind of popularity again.  As for Ron Paul, who is trying to sweep up the disillusioned white male vote on campuses, first he has to have his name on the ballot to be a factor.  Second, since he’s actively tried to seek the Republican nomination, anyone who is buying into his shtick can be labeled a Republican.  If Paul does run as an Independent, the people who vote for him never would have voted for the President anyway.  Chasing the votes of white male Ron Paul supporters is a big a waste of time as chasing votes from Tea Party supporters.  So yes, some of the people who are engaged in perpetual protesting (Occupy ‘movement’) are Libertarians and are more closely aligned with Ron Paul’s vision forAmerica.  Big deal.  They would be anyway even if the Occupy ‘movement’ never happened.

I chose to look at this the way the Obama campaign does: 270.  Take one example: California.  In 2008 Ralph Nader received 108,381 votes in California, by far his largest support base.  Senator Obama received 8,274,473 votes and all 55 Electoral Votes.  In reality most of the Independent Candidates who made it to the 2008 ballot drew off voters from McCain, not Obama.  Even in 2000 nearly 40% of Nader voters said they would have voted for Bush had Nader not been on the ballot.

While this is a National election, Electoral votes are allotted on a State by State basis.  If we’re going to be effective as vote chasers, we need to think strategically about how to help accumulate those 270 Electoral votes.  I’m suggesting that we completely ignore all the independent candidates who we think might siphon off votes from the President and focus on the people who are most likely to 1) vote and 2) vote for the President.

Women Voters

According to the Census Bureau 70.4 million women voted in 2008.  That’s ten million more voters than the male demographic.  Think about that TEN MILLION more voters.  Women vote. Among white women, the preference was for the McCain ticket, but African American women voted in greater numbers than previously.  Non-white women overall preferred Obama.  My theory on persuading women to vote in this election is that change won’t be the driving force.  The economy, then as now, is the tangible, but the future, as an intangible, will have more influence over women in general.  In 2008 people wanted something different than President Bush.  Change was on everyone’s mind.  The President inherited all manner of crises that needed to be dealt with.  I remember people saying back then that there were so many fires to put out that the President wouldn’t be able to focus on any of his agenda.  But now, by and large, many of the in our face predicaments we as a Nation had to confront have been resolved to the extent that we can now focus on domestic policies.  The last soldier is about to leave Iraq, the banks, while still a source of simmering anger, aren’t on the precipice of collapse, the American economy appears to be well and truly on the mend.  That sense of urgency has dissipated and we are beginning to look inward.  Looking inward, we see that our education system is a mess, our infrastructure is in trouble and our safety net is being threatened by extremists.  These are issues that matter to women because they speak to our future and our ability to care for our children and our parents and our basic safety.

As vote chasers, we can highlight these issues for women as persuasion talking points.  We can ask a woman what future does she want for her children or grandchildren?  Does she want them to have the same advantage of a free public K-12 education?  Does she want the bridges she crosses with her children every day to be safe? Does she want her parents or grandparents to be financially secure?  We can make the case that President Obama is looking out for the vulnerable people in society and wants our children to be the best educated in the world.  These are votes we can get.

African American Voters

Republicans know full well that the President still enjoys nearly 100% support from the African American voting block.  This is why they are working so hard to make it difficult for AAs to vote.  Chasing these votes means helping assure that every individual in that community who wants to vote is able to vote.  Whether it is helping to pay the cost of getting a birth certificate to get an ID, or any other aspect of dealing with the hurdles being placed before the African American voter, we must be prepared to do whatever it takes, day in and day out, to overcome these challenges to all Americans’ fundamental right to vote.  This applies to other minorities who are being targeted, most notably Latinos.  In my mind, as long as we stay focused on each individual State’s requirements and don’t allow ourselves to panic or become overwhelmed, this is doable.

I think the youth vote is going to surprise us in the minority communities.  40% of all voting age people under 30 in this country are non-white.  I think of all the statistics to come from the 2010 Census, this has got to be the one that frightens the Republicans the most.  The non-white under 30 generation is the one demographic the GOP has utterly failed to reach as a result of their extreme social and anti-immigration policies. The President has excelled at reaching out to this population.


Social Security.  Medicare.  Social Security. Medicare.  Social Security. Medicare.  Get the point?  Driving home the point that the GOP wants to destroy the social safety net is a proven winner.  Entitlement cuts scare people.  Seniors have been hopping mad about not getting a COLA the last two years.  It’s refreshing to see that there is a COLA increase for 2012.  The other side of the story is that this election is a generational shift.  It is about how we want to proceed as a Nation.  Look to seniors to find these changes upsetting and for there to be some resistance to the inevitable shift toward the priorities of youth.  The threat of entitlement cuts and generational shifts make for insecurity and uncertainty.   Convincing Seniors that they’ll be safer by staying the course with an established leader is one way to go about reassuring the 65+ crowd that our President is the logical choice.  This is one demographic where who the Republican nominee turns out to be will make a difference.  Seniors vote, in greater numbers than before, and we will do well to tread lightly with this demographic.  I’m going to wait for guidance from the campaign and adopt their strategy.  I imagine it will look remarkably like good old fashioned common sense, which goes a long way with the 65+ crowd.

The key, as always, is voter registration and getting out the vote.  Obama for America was brilliant at this in 2008 and I expect the same to be true in 2012.  The President has his own unique way of reaching various demographics in this country.  White men like his vision for America, and they like his passion for sports.  The white male who doesn’t watch politics, but watches and reads about sports sees stuff like this:

Great day. Just met President Obama. So down to earth, loves ball. Heading back to Allen to get to work. Gameday. See you guys at 8.—
Bill Self (@CoachBillSelf) December 06, 2011

And sees the President on ESPN picking his NCAA bracket.  Can anyone imagine Romney or Gingrich doing that?  Romney might make fun of the President’s rounds of golf, but he does so at the expense of alienating millions of golfers.  Sports just aren’t in their wheelhouses.  Unlike McCain, neither have any military experience; both of them avoided service with deferments.  As a bonding mechanism, sports can be very effective, and the President has that base covered.  He’s not going to overcome the inclination for white males to vote Republican with male bonding, but I believe he has significantly altered the perception that he is an elitist and maybe even taken off the edge of the ‘other’ label with a lot of average American men.

The President has a natural affinity for young people and they love him.  Pundits love to portray youth as being disaffected, but I’m not seeing it.  Ron Paul can troll campuses for acolytes, but how can he compete with our local Summer Organizer who created a registration system that registered 1000 new voters on campus before the local election last month?  The young Fall Fellow who is there now has far greater reach and influence with these students than Ron Paul could ever have.

The President’s secret weapon with women is his wife.  Men claim to be values voters, but its women who are the real values voters.  They see a stable, strong and healthy family in the White House.  They see the First Lady on their magazine covers, looking radiant and speaking openly about her family.

If Gingrich is the nominee (who knows with these people?), then look for family values to figure heavily with Seniors as well.

When it comes to the minority vote, the President has one huge advantage: he isn’t afraid of any minority. Unlike Romney or Gingrich, he’s not afraid of little Black kids, or Muslims, or old people or disabled people or the poor, or Gays, or people in pain. He’s not afraid of any question from any journalist, ever. People notice that about him.  He loves children; and don’t think for a minute that women don’t know that on a visceral level. We are all Americans to him and he cares about every single one of us, even the ones who hate him.  And to top it off, people just plain like the guy.

I’ll add two more big ticket items in the plus column: Nobody on the planet gives a better speech. And oh yeah, he got Osama bin Laden.

So, fellow vote chasers, rejoice.  Let go of your worries about the whiners and complainers and the perpetual protesters who claim proudly they’re not going to vote for our magnificent President.  For every one of them, there are thousands and thousands and thousands who will vote for him.  All we have to do is ask.

Brand: Money

Anyone who spends any time at all paying attention to Liberal politics knows who Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers are.  We all pretty much are familiar with the unconscionable Supreme Court Citizens United decision that allows unlimited funds to be used for political campaigns of every sort. And most of us have made the association between Karl Rove and American Crossroads, and the Koch Brothers with Americans for Prosperity.  Guess who does NOT know this?  The average voter.  This is where we are presented with an opportunity to influence how people perceive the advertisement they see, hear and get in their mailboxes.

Branding a product or an idea is a powerful tool that can attach a specific set of desired responses to a product.  In politics, that desired response is emotional in context.  For decades the Republican Party has been branding itself as ‘Strong on Defense’, ‘Fiscally Responsible’ and ‘Pro Limited Government’.  Then they proceeded to abuse the military to the point of breaking it, ruin the economy and grow government by leaps and bounds.  Once their brand was tarnished by the out-going President Bush, they created a new brand: The Tea Party.  Before that brand lost its luster, they succeeded in getting their Party back into position to extend their reach for the next decade with redistricting to protect those gains.

Our President understands the power of branding.  Take his logo for instance and how effectively it has been forever associated with him.  That didn’t happen by accident.

The complex set of meanings that logo bears for us is a testament to the ability of a brand to make statements over a broad demographic.

I believe President Obama’s keen understanding of how people form their perceptions about a candidate and a Party is why he has zeroed in on dismantling the Republican Brand.  The ‘Grand Bargain’ that was declined by the Republicans during the debt ceiling debate went a long way toward extending the belief voters harbor that the problems with our economy, debt and deficit are still largely owned by the Republicans.  His unique foreign policy and deadly effective use of our Armed Forces in a newly restrained fashion, relying more heavily on diplomacy than aggression have greatly diminished the Republican’s claim to the ‘Strong on Defense’ label.  Slowly but surely, he is counter-branding the Republicans as weak on defense and fiscally irresponsible.  This is no mean feat.

But then there sits those two Super PACs poised to undo all his hard work with their smear campaigns.  This is our opportunity to sabotage their efforts.  We can begin now by branding these behemoths with the two dirtiest terms in the American zeitgeist right now: Big Banks and Big Oil.

Why don’t we just say Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers? Because these names: Karl Rove, David Koch and Charles Koch won’t appear on any ballots anywhere in this land, that’s why.  President Obama isn’t going to be running against Rove or the Kochs, he’s going to be running against the Republican nominee.  The average voter has no idea who these people are and we don’t have a way to educate them during the brief three months they will be paying attention before the General Election of 2012.  We don’t have to if we start now by helping our friends, family, co-workers and general acquaintances learn this:

American Crossroads

is a Front Group for the

Big Banks.

Americans for Prosperity is a Front Group for Big Oil.

The goal here is to help people make sense of the barrage of advertising that will be inflicted upon them for the next year.  We don’t have to explain the tactics of the wording, or the dark images and spooky voices in the advertisements.  All we need to do is show them where to look to see who paid for the advertisement.  It won’t be hard to do since the bulk of the ads out there will be from these two Political Action Committees.  If we continue to highlight the idea of paying closer attention to who is paying for the ad than the ad itself, that’s even better.  An added bonus might be that people begin to feel more empowered when they can filter these ads by dismissing out of hand all the ones that come from scary dark places.  Even if we ourselves get the two mixed up, it doesn’t matter.  They both represent the Oil and Bank Barons who have been robbing us blind.  That’s something most voters can relate to with ease.  And it is something they can relate to voting against.  No name on the ballot, but definitely the people responsible for our economic woes.

We do have the power and the ability to brand these SuperPACs like cattle among our real world contacts.  It can even be done generically.  Any PAC that is delivering a message we don’t like, label it to your friends or family: Front Group For: fill in the blank with whatever hated Corporate Entity is at the top of their s**t list.  From Big Pharma to Insurance Giants, there’s always somebody to tag with the negative ad.  This plays into the human willingness to believe conspiracy theories.  If they think they’ve got some dirt on a hated or distrusted entity, they are more than willing to spread it to their social circles.  If the information is delivered to them in the context of a whisper campaign it’s even more effective.  Rather than pronounce from on high that you have this knowledge that they don’t possess, whisper it.  For example: “I’ve seen these ads before from this group, but then I was shocked when someone told me that American Crossroads is a Front Group For Big Banks.”  This way no proof is required, nor do we have to spend any time trying to convince the listener.  Either they believe it or they don’t, but it’s most likely they will believe it.

Avoid straying into the territory of labeling a negative ad as a Republican trick or tactic.  When fighting for the hearts and minds of Independent voters, we must always keep forefront in our minds the very nature of what being an Independent means: They do sometimes vote for Republicans and Democrats and don’t hold either Party with particular contempt.  For this reason attributing negative advertisements solely to the Republicans might backfire.

It comes down to this: We are not helpless to these SuperPacs or all the Corporate Dollars funding Republican campaigns and initiatives.  There has been more than enough evidence in the past 18 months to prove to us that knocking on doors and making phone calls and dealing directly with voters face-to-face is much more powerful than well-funded campaigns.  Ask the people of California about their Governor’s race in 2010, or the people of Ohio who just succeeded in repealing SB5.  And if we really want to look for and find the silver lining in all this, look at the opportunities given to us by these voter ID laws.  We will have to work our tails off to counter these attempts to make voting more difficult, but in so doing, we will be having hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of personal contacts with real voters just to get them registered and able to vote.  I think the people who spend time registering voters and educating them about the laws and restrictions and barriers to voting are going to be the ones who have the greatest influence over who these voters cast their ballots for on Election Day than the people who are bombarding them with negative advertising.  That’s something the Republicans can’t duplicate with scary mailers and TV/Radio ads. Person-to-person trumps media every time.

Voter Suppression: A Reality Check

I’m not a policy wonk.  I’m more likely to fit the description of a ‘hack’.  A hack, in this vernacular, is someone who specializes in electoral politics. I’m not a career hack by any means; I’m just a volunteer. Rather than get riled up about any particular ‘issue’ I strive to help people win elections so they can govern and create good policy.  Perhaps the only ‘issue’ I can get riled up about in any sustained fashion is voting.

Needless to say I’ve been reading about the national trend toward voter suppression with growing concern.  Clearly I don’t want to see this happen anywhere.  I believe making voting as easy as possible is the way to go.  I’m very fortunate to live in a State where that is the case.  Voting by mail is as close to ideal a way to vote as any I can imagine.  It’s cheaper, safer and easier than poll voting.

Right now my biggest concern regarding voter suppression isn’t that it’s happening in places like South Carolina, or how it is being reported (or not reported) in the Main Stream Media.  What is bothering me is how it is being reported in the blogosphere and non-traditional media.  So far the way this topic is being handled amounts to a disproportionate amount of hand-wringing and, sorry to say, hyperbole.  Nothing highlights this reaction more than losing sight of the difference between proposing a law and passing a law.  Yes American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) provided ready-made laws to be introduced into the State Legislature in 38 states.  I get that.  Yes, and in some states those laws will pass in some form or another. I get that, too.  We have ample evidence of what happens when a law gets introduced in one House in a Legislature and how difficult it is to be signed into law.  Under Speaker Boehner, the Republicans have ‘introduced’ hundreds of Bills in the past 300 days.  Only three major Bills have been enacted into Law during that time: The Continuing Resolution, Raising the Debt Ceiling and the America Invents Act (patent reform).

Introducing a law and getting it enacted into Law as written are two very different things.  Also, not all voter ID laws are created equal.  Some require voter ID be shown, but allow for the voter to vote a provisional ballot in the absence of ID (FL), or sign a sworn affidavit in the presence of election officials if no ID is produced (AL).  Spend some time studying the nifty interactive MAP at the National Conference of State Legislatures site and learn for yourself that these laws aren’t as draconian as some in the media suggest. Plus even though many Bills were submitted, very few actually passed.  Some have been held over to 2012, but in Montana the Bill that was passed was vetoed.  Even West Virginia couldn’t get a Voter ID law on the books.  It’s ugly out there, I’m not denying it, but I’m also seeing that in some ways this fight is as much about what constitutes an ID as it is about making it harder to vote.  I agree that in many areas this is flat out racism at its core and we definitely need the help of the Department of Justice to mitigate some of the effects of these laws as enacted.  The two most obvious examples of this are in Texas and South Carolina. In both cases, the laws have come under the purview of the DOJ for reasons better documented elsewhere.

My concern isn’t about that it is happening or why, but what do we as regular people do about it? Registering voters has gotten and will continue to get more difficult between now and October 2012. Well, it’s not so much registering voters, but registering voters who can actually vote, and who will vote Democratic. In addition to registering voters, we will need to learn how to ‘rehabilitate’ people who are already registered to vote so they can comply with these new laws.

What I realize is that I take my State ID for granted; I really do. I’ve had and maintained one for nearly forty years. I have struggled with the concept of going through life without an ID and then I read this eye-opening article about the problems of people in South Carolina who never had a birth certificate. I have never lived in the South, so I am more inclined to view this problem from a technical standpoint even as I empathize with the shame heaped upon the African Americans who must endure this process to protect their right to vote.  Still, it’s dangerous to focus only on the injustice at the risk of losing sight of potential solutions.

I want to concentrate on developing a new outlook on Voter ID laws that doesn’t require a sense of outrage at social injustice to muster people to action.  One of the things I love about and learned from OFA is how to disengage raw emotion about an issue to solve a problem.  What I’m seeing currently is that people seem to still be caught up in the raw emotion created by the belief that requiring photo ID to vote is voter suppression.  But is it?  Let’s look at Michigan with its 16 Electoral votes that went for Obama in 2008.  The law as it currently stands:

Each voter must show a photo ID or sign an affidavit attesting that he or she is not in possession of photo identification.  Forms of ID accepted: Michigan driver’s license or a Michigan personal identification card.  A voter who does not possess either of the above may show any of the following, as long as they are current:

  • Driver’s license or personal identification card issued by another state
  • Federal or state government-issued photo ID
  • U.S.passport
  • Military ID with photo
  • Student ID with photo — from a high school or accredited institution of higher education
  • Tribal ID with photo

Remedy: An individual who does not possess, or did not bring to the polls, photo ID, may sign an affidavit and vote a regular ballot.

See how this law has been mitigated to give the voter a way to vote without an ID?  This is not oppressive, nor can it be characterized as suppression.

Next check out Kansas, which is considered to have, a *strict* Voter ID law:

Each person desiring to vote shall provide a valid form of identification. The following are exempted from the ID requirement:

  • Persons with a permanent physical disability that makes it impossible for them to travel to obtain voting identification and who have permanent advance voting status
  • Members of the merchant marine and uniformed service members who are on active duty and absent from the county on election day, as well as their spouses and dependents
  • Any voter whose religious beliefs prohibit photographic identification

The following forms of identification are valid if they contain the name and photograph of the voter and have not expired. Expired documents are valid if the bearer is aged 65 or older.

  • Driver’s license issued byKansasor another state
  • State identification card
  • Government-issued concealed carry handgun or weapon license
  • U.S.passport
  • Employee badge or identification document issued by a government office or agency
  • Military ID
  • Student ID issued by an accredited postsecondary institution inKansas
  • Government-issued public assistance ID card

Remedy: A voter who is unable or refuses to provide current and valid identification may vote a provisional ballot. In order to have his or her ballot counted, the voter must provide a valid form of identification to the county election officer in person or provide a copy by mail or electronic means before the meeting of the county board of canvassers.

I see Government-issued public assistance ID card on that list and think, okay that’s good.  I see that people with permanent disabilities are exempted and think, even better.  I’ve seen the exemption for people whose religious beliefs forbid having photo ID on more than one State.

Basically, I’m not seeing an all out assault on voting rights here. There are extremes at both ends of the spectrum from no ID requirement at all to truly restrictive and punitive requirements, with a lot of in between, all over the map requirements and flexibility.  What appears critical for making it reasonable for the average voter to exercise his or her right to vote is knowledge.  All of us knowing the laws of each of our States backwards and forwards matters.  A lot.

We cannot afford to allow panic or overreaction to influence our response to these changes.  Panic paralyzes us and makes us unable to formulate and execute reasonable plans for assisting voters to comply with the laws.  If we make this about the Republican’s efforts to keep people from voting, then we lose.  If we make it about helping voters fulfill the requirements for identification, then we win.

Okay, so what about South Carolina?  Here’s an interesting article addressing the South Carolina Voter Registration ID with photo:

  • If you want to vote in one of the upcoming elections and the Justice Department approves the law before then, you will need a state-issued photo ID.
  • You can vote absentee, which will not require a photo ID.
  • If you can’t get an ID, you can cast a provisional ballot and swear you had substantial difficulties in getting the necessary documents or ID.
  • If you don’t plan to vote before the end of the year, you can just wait until a voter registration card with your photo is available.

“The whole birth certificate issue will become a moot point once the photo voter registration system is in place,” Whitmire said.

Yet another law being mitigated to make it more reasonable to accommodate the special needs of voters who have problems obtaining photo ID.  I don’t want to minimize the problems these new laws will cause for people who don’t already have an acceptable form of photo ID.  What I do believe is that once people surmount these challenges, they will be in a position to keep voting as before.

These laws will continue to be passed and when they fail, proponents will take it to the voters (no irony there) as is planned in Minnesota.  One of the keys to helping us stay rational in all this will be learning the laws in the States where Obama won in 2008.  Some of the States with Electoral importance have yet to codify their Voter ID laws.  I take heart in that the laws that have been passed have been watered down, and I no longer feel helpless about this process.  It’s only voter suppression if we allow it to be.

It comes down to this: Education, Education, Education.  Frankly that’s what it was in 2008, too.  Because the Obama campaign had a laser focus on voter registration, it brought huge numbers of new people into the voting universe who were not there before. Even people who were already registered to vote required a great deal of education, especially in the caucus states.  People who had never caucused before, myself included, swelled the ranks in support of candidate Obama.  It will be much harder this time; there is no way around that.  This challenge is doable.  We can win this.  Voter registration is the key.  As long as we stay focused on helping people comply with the voting laws of the State where they live and wish to vote, and don’t allow the hand-wringers to paralyze us with their angst about ‘voter suppression’, we will prevail.  Of this I am completely confident.

The Easy Yes

One political persuasion technique is called the Easy Yes question.  The framing of the question is a two part process.  The part of the question you want a negative response to opens the question, followed by a query meant to elicit a positive response.  It’s all about presenting a voter with a choice and leading them to the choice you want them to make.

Here are three video clips from the TNT Network television show Leverage, which features a group of cons who help the little people fight back against big business and sometimes governments.  In this episode the team of cons is trying to ‘win’ an election in another country to oust a dirty politician and eliminate an untouchable enemy in the process.

In the first clip Sophie, the grifter, teaches their chosen candidate how to persuade his audience.

Learns Easy Yes

In the second clip, he practices the Easy Yes question in a debate setting, looking to Sophie for reassurance.

Practices Easy Yes

In the third clip, the candidate has won the election, but Sophie is ‘killed’ trying to prevent a faked assassination attempt as part of the con.  Now the new President Elect has mastered the technique and uses it to prevent his arrest by his opponent’s military.

Masters Easy Yes

This deceptively simple technique is used all the time in politics because it is so effective.  Just as with the pivot technique, it is more difficult than it seems and requires practice. Fortunately this is also a method that can be used in print, so it allows time to craft the question in advance, either for a mailer or a speech.  Easy yes questions can be memorized, too, for use in canvassing or phone banking efforts. It can also be used to great affect in an overarching campaign such as has been launched by the White House to promote the President’s American Jobs Act.  Or the more subtle campaign engaged by the President to completely change the framing of the larger message about choices available to Americans.

Here are two examples of Easy Yes questions employed by the President in his September 8, 2011 address to the Joint Session of Congress:

“Should we keep tax loopholes for oil companies? Or should we use that money to give small business owners a tax credit when they hire new workers? Because we can’t afford to do both.”

“Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires? Or should we put teachers back to work so our kids can graduate ready for college and good jobs? Right now, we can’t afford to do both.”

Look at the construction of these two-part questions.  The thing you want to change or avoid is placed first, followed by the thing you want to advance and encourage the audience’s agreement.  The thing you want the audience (voters) to agree with must be something with which they can nod yes to without challenging their values.

Let’s not kid ourselves; this technique can be used by others as well.  “Do you want the Government to be able to build a high speed rail line through our county, or do you want to protect private property rights?”

We have to know in advance to what our audience will say yes.  The President already knows that the American people want jobs, our roads, bridges and schools repaired, etc.  He already knows Americans are ready for the wealthy and corporations to pay more. That’s why he can ask those questions.

The Easy Yes question doesn’t simply roll off the tongue or the keyboard for that matter.  It requires some thought and creativity and knowledge of the audience.  I once gave an exercise to some people to come up with Easy Yes questions and not one of them could do it.  It’s even hard for me and I’m a writer.  I guess the adage applies: if it were easy, everyone would do it.  Still, we can benefit from trying to learn this technique.  The good news is that a well crafted Easy Yes question has a long shelf life and can be rolled out time and again for various segments of any given larger demographic.  An Easy Yes question that works for Democrats at large can be tailored to work in a smaller group of Democrats.

Here’s an Easy Yes question that can be customized for different Governor’s races for instance: Do you want to see what happened in  Wisconsin happen here, or do you want a Governor who will protect all workers in our State?  Clearly this supposes that the voter knows what happened in Wisconsin, but if they don’t, the question creates an opening to educate.

This is a more generic question that can be adapted to promote alternative energy: Do you want to continue to be dependent on foreign energy, or do you want to develop the energy of the future right here in America?  The point is that once a solid question is crafted, it can be used repeatedly and in a variety of situations.  I recommend practicing writing Easy Yes questions to learn how they strengthen our ability to frame an argument.  At the very least arm yourself with the knowledge of the structure of the Easy Yes question to be better able to recognize them.  And by all means feel free to repeat any good one you hear from the President.  Use them as twitter lines, speak them out loud, and use them at the water cooler or at dinner.  We just might surprise ourselves.


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