Crashing the Gate, the impact of webroots organization

23 10 2008

This book was first printed in February 2006, during the peak of the Bush administration’s failed policies.  Public opinion was at an all time low following the collapse of government response during hurricane Katrina.  The authors admit they are mad as hell about the current state of the country, and the republican led bush administration.  This was also addressed to the failed campaign of John Kerry to take back the white house.  The book is essentially a critique on bad habits and bad ideas of the old guard of the Democratic party.  It should be considered a how-to instruction manual for the DNC and all future campaigns.  Democrats must have taken note, because the current Obama campaign is a great example of the methods suggested by Armstrong and Moulitsas.  Obama’s has used technology to dominate in the polls on the Democratic ticket.  They emphasize internet based campaigns and their effectiveness.  Technology improves every month, and Obama’s people have been keeping up pace. There is only a few weeks before the 2008 election, and reflecting on the ideas of Armstrong and Moulitsas, the Dems have came together as a unified party headed to the White House.  Smart campaigning from the roots up this time has given way to the mainstream acceptance of Obama as President.  This must be partially due to his successful online networking.

The book addresses the underlying problems within the Democratic party and how bad strategy looses elections. But before we address specifics we need to recognize the components of today’s Democrats. This “catch all” party consists of so many self serving, single issue voters, that it’s the definition of factional politics.  The subsequent inner-party fighting weakens our national voice.  We may be the party of Roosevelt, but our lack of a common platform is the hole in our bucket.  We are made up of several smaller groups of people.  Feminists, environmentalists, peace activists, gay rights advocates, minority groups, Hippies, and hockey moms.  We are a party of citizen interest groups.  We often lack a common denominator to be united in our campaigns.  Unfortunately we must exist in a two party system, there is no practical way to create a new party, we must work with what we have.

The authors are progressive watchdog bloggers who have a huge reader base.  They have watched their party loose the last few elections and became proactive instead of bitter.  Initially they  examine the first six years of the Bush administration’s failed policies.  Explaining how this further divided our country and harbored resentment by voters. Many were still brooding over the 2000 election when they lost again in 2004. We have since watched our country “go so far right we don’t even recognize it.” The recent economic panic is rightfully being dropped in the lap of the republican party. We have high unemployment and rising costs of goods, all of this coupled with stagflation among the middle class has led to a calls for action.

There are several hotly contested Senate races next month and many republican Senators are in danger of losing their seats to democratic challengers. Anyone tied to the Bush White House is tainted and seen by many as part of the problem. John McCain’s presidential bid has been accurately framed by the national media and netroots groups as another 4 years of failed Bush policy. Never before has the incumbent party had to campaign against their own in a general election. Traditionally the incumbent president helps campaign for his party’s nominee; the RNC and McCain have made a conscience effort to avoid Bush, whom wasn’t even present at the republican national convention.

Politicians have been trying to earn the youth vote since George McGovern was running against the Nixon Youth.  Liberal democrats are always expected to turn out in droves from college campuses across the country to swing the momentum of the election.  They never came.

Until now the youth vote has been a fantasy hope that has yet to deliver substantial results, or have any real effect on the outcome.  The medium of internet has actually brought college students to the forefront of this years election.  A real webroots movement has picked up momentum and brought the democratic party together and energize the base.  Young Dem meetings have given students an equal platform and an effective medium to make their voices heard. Even though moral was down the mindset is that It must get better.

By 2006 the Republicans were going down in flames amid gay sex scandals, and frustration over the war.  In the midterm elections Dems took back the House and Senate, while we watched the swift boat ads and John Kerry destroy his election hopes. Dick Chaney claimed that voting for a Democrats would trigger another terrorist attack. Months before Bush’s reelection there was some outlandish talk about postponing the elections until the war stabilized.

In the past six months we have seen the Obama campaign utilize virtually every available technology to connect with voters. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Second Life, Iphone applications, blogs. As the list of emerging technologies grows, they have become the new way of reaching voters. This transition from the old way of internet and its impersonal web forums of the 90’s is dead technology. The social networking sites allow for two way communication between friends, and create a good base for a candidate. The book explains that only utilization of all available technologies will help get the party back in the hands of the people. Armstrong and Moulitsas credit Howard Dean with starting the webroots movement, and building an online following. Campaign donations that were sent in from private individuals during Dean’s 2003 presidential campaign surprised the old guard in the Democratic Party. They had become accustomed to working large donations out of corporations instead of relying on individuals. They were quick to embrace this new technology to raise campaign dollars, but didn’t see the true value of its potential and it quickly lost steam.

After publication Crashing the Gate became the how-to manual of the resistance. Bloggers took responsibility into their own hands instead of waiting on the professional election losers at the DNC to put together a game plan. There is an entire chapter devoted to the worst consultants that keep getting hired by democrats to run loosing campaigns. Here is an excerpt from the Civil War chapter:

“The netroots activist, much like the new generation of grassroots activist, is fiercely partisan, fiercely multi-issue, and focused on building a broader movement. It’s not an ideological movement-there is actually very little, issue-wise, that unites most modern party activists except, perhaps opposition to the Iraq War. The days when party “leaders” could hand down edicts from above to be carried out by pliant followers are long gone. We are educated, informed, up on current events, and speak our minds, and therefore are not susceptible to falling in line and goose-stepping to autocratic drummers-inside or outside the movement.

The Obama campaign managers have reached out to actually bring new voters into the fold. Obama’s Facebook and MySpace accounts track his daily schedule and have millions of online friends who all receive updates from the candidate. With this two-way communication it makes it easy for people to understand the issues and learn about their candidate. McCain has social networking accounts as well but doesn’t utilize them or give status updates in the same frequency that Barack does. One of the best examples of using technology is the applications for Iphone, if you have an Iphone you can download the Support Obama app. It puts an icon on your menu, and gives you live updates from the campaign trail with polling data. Brilliant. Another forward thinking idea was the announcement of Biden for VP via text message the minute it was announced. This created suspense among the party loyal, and established a contact to a supporter. All of these ideas are cheaper and more effective than TV ads, which is something the Democrats have relied on far too long. Getting the base excited guarantees votes in November

The authors complain the progressive institutions and policy centers needs to pay equal to the conservative think tanks.  One reason the GOP has been so successful with unified talking points is they pay very well.  Liberal institutions usually offer unpaid internships and employment from non-profit groups.  If the DNC would unite their autonomous agencies and help fund them it would deliver an influx of high quality people. Better pay would enable interns to eat, and keep new hires from leaving to the more lucrative private sector.  Being able to move out of a shoebox apartment and paying back your student loans is sometimes more important than “the cause.”

Traditionally the republican party has been programed to identify with a simple ideology: Low taxes, moral issues, pro life, and family values have been their strategy to appeal to a wider range of voters. The days of preaching small government have given way to the biggest privatization of government services, and cost plus spending contracts that contribute to the deficit.  The GOP utilize daily talking points coming from their conservative think tanks like the Heritage foundation, to control what makes the news.  These institutions pay employees better and therefore attract some of the best and brightest. The GOP learned to run their party like a business. In comparison, the Dems organize with all the ferociousness of a citizens watch association.  The real attraction created around the republicans was their ability to enlist working poor rural voters on a moral values platform.  They need only mention loss of second amendment rights to get the dust stirred up by those who identify themselves as patriotic, religious, family people; that don’t believe their party is financed by corporations.

The party is on the eve of a great victory, and this time we are more organized and on the same page with one another.  The diversity of our party is part of its greatness, the netroorts effort that has came out in support of Obama has been huge.   The vertical integration we have seen since the Democratic primaries helps us run more efficiently as a people. Our loose collection of constituents with different issues has been streamlined and everyone is behind our man-Barak Obama. The quality of candidate is just as responsible for uniting a nation of informed and concerned citizens. The diverse party of every color, creed, and sex that can start rebuilding the future of our country.