What we saw take place yesterday is nothing short of history in the making. To review, here is what we did on a national scale:
- Regained the House of Representatives by far more than the 15 needed. Different news outlets have different projections, but a substantial Democratic majority is not in doubt.
- Gained at least 6 seats in the US Senate, restoring Democratic control in both houses of Congress.
- Picked up 6 governorships, ensuring a majority of governorships in Democratic hands for the first time in 12 years.
And that's just the highlights. Kos (Daily Kos) just wrote about dark horse candidates that won - who no one in Washington thought could: not the media, and not the Democratic establishment in DC. We owe just as much to our challengers who did not win as we do to those who did win. Candidates like Charlie Brown (against Doolittle), Tammy Duckworth, John Laesch (against Denny "I did not know about Foley" Hastert) and Fancine Busby (who could forget?) put up strong challenges in Republican districts and forced the Republicans to spend resources in those districts - the resources they did not have to hold on to Richard Pombo's seat, or of Mark Foley's. What we did last night, in short, could not have been done were it not for us fielding challengers literally everywhere, and having the people to go out and fight for the unlikeliest of candidates. We could not have won this one with simply a "targeted" races strategy. If we consolidated our chances, the Republicans would consolidate their resources instead of having to spread it thin for even supposedly "safe" districts, and they would have won.
Yes, we had a great year for candidate recruitment. Yes the country was fed up with corruption and war without end. But how did we beat back the revered (for good reason) the GOP turnout machine? How did we turn the tide against blatant lies, racism and fearmongering of the GOP? How did we overcome the huge cash advantage the Republican party enjoys?
The answer, folks, is the 50 State Strategy that the DNC ignited in all 50 states after Howard Dean became its chairman. Putting Democrats on the ground everywhere has a built-in genius. These people who are retained by their respective state parties and paid by the DNC are going out and recruiting precinct captains, regional leaders and building formidable state parties. This is actually the proper role of party organizations: to mobilize volunteers, maintain a presence in communities and build a base of core voters, and then turn out the vote. And when you have a large base of volunteers working in and around their communities, you can take on big money spending. Remember that every face-to-face contact from a neighbor to an undecided voter is more effective than 50 campaign ads on TV.
This year the Republicans didn't falter on their turnout operations. The difference this year is that Howard Dean invested in the state Democratic parties to be able to match their operations. It was a relatively small investment in the grand scheme of things - if you consider the amount of money both parties spent on TV ads and direct mail - but it is an investment with a rather high rate of return. Very smart investment.
Lesson: Invest in the grassroots; it pays off.
Karl Rove can say what he wants, and he can run all the racist, sexist, fearmongering ads he wants, but he can't beat an insurgence of motivated Democratic organizers and volunteers. Dean is a better manager than Karl Rove is a strategist. Howard Dean showed that Democrats can win without driving a wedge between the American people. Howard Dean showed that crude dirty smears coming right out of the White House (Rove) are no match for a grassroots movement that is motivated to affect change.
This election was the first time they ( Dean and Rove) went head to head. And as we see,
Dean - 1, Rove - 0.