Tag Archives: 2012 election

Big Sky 2012 Battleground State

john testerMissoula Sitting around the campfire at the fishing camp with friends from Missoula and Helena last night, it didn’t take long for steak, chicken, roasted corn, baked potatoes, Fat Tire, and Jameson’s to turn to talk of the coming election and Montana’s role as a battleground state.

There was no happiness with yet more Obama compromise.  Hard cuts and study committees filled folks with something that sounded dangerously like contempt, which is not a good sign for the President less than 18 months from election.  When I asked about any deal on closing any corporate loopholes, heads simply shook.

Looking around at the men around the fire only one was working having landed something in recent months after a long stretch of unemployment, there was a batch at 29 with one in school with years to go, another the same age moving to Phoenix to follow a girlfriend and hoping it would be easy to find work, two at 27 with only one collecting unemployment when the store where he was working laid him off after four years in Little Rock and another who said even work in the hospitality industry had dried up in Denver where he had been living the more than a year.  A fellow nearly my age was doing what we have started calling “portfolio” work, putting pieces together, and looking at the upcoming campaign as likely employment once it kicked off.  These were all guys from all around the country tied together by friendship and blood with mad, crazy skills who could fix and figure out almost anything, but couldn’t find a place that fit well in this economy or weren’t willing to settle for any old thing yet.  Every one of them were likely Obama voters, and some would probably vote that way or not at all, but all of them were too smart and too experienced to believe that bending over for banks and Wall Street was doing much for them or the country.  This would be a hard sale to make for a guy who doesn’t seem to do sales easily.

Senator Testor is coming up for re-election after his first six year term in 2012 and being opposed it appears by the multi-term Congressman from the state.   My old friend said the state had been kinda “purple” recently.  He liked Testor as a politician whose hands had been in the dirt as a farmer and could relate to the state.  He thought he was honest and a straight shooter.

But, he also kept repeating that here in this small town, small population state insiders were guessing that the race would cost $40 million for the Senate.  Citizen United money was already flowing in from all kinds of corporations.  Testor had been getting his hands dirty by carrying water for banks on debit card swipe charges, which were way out of his field, but clearly doing what had to be done for the cash he had to raise.

Judging from this campfire along Rock Creek, this is going to be a hard, close election coming.

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Register Voters or Lose

LitCb121610_voter-apathytle Rock    Visiting with friends and comrades in Little Rock, it wasn’t long before the discussion went to the obvious:  how could there be meaningful civic engagement of low-and-moderate income families in the 2012 elections without a huge voter registration effort among the poor?

There are still open wounds from too many sources that focus on the huge, massive and vicious attack on ACORN’s efforts in the 2008 election.  Two and a half years later it’s finally clear that what the right and the Republicans mainly stirred up about these efforts was just sound and fury signifying nothing.  On the blogs there’s a bunch of whooping and hollering about something in Vegas, but that seems to have been more of a “throw in the towel” and get it over after the powers that were pulled the plug on ACORN itself and declared bankruptcy on Election Day 2010.  What do I know?

What I do know is that the lack of independent, large scale voter registration efforts among low-and-moderate income in battleground states critically impacted the 2010 election.  In various reports the falloff of registration efforts compared cycle-to-cycle meant there were 100,000 to 300,000 less voters in places like Ohio, Missouri, Florida and elsewhere.  You tell me that all of these “lost” votes didn’t make a difference in the Congressional and Senate swings in 2010?  Furthermore, you tell me that the 2012 loss of the million or so new and corrected registration forms from ACORN in 2008 will not also impact the likely devastation of the coming Congressional races.

Obama is on his own now.  He drives his own truck for his re-election.  People who hope that Organizing for America, the DNC, or the Obama campaign itself are going to be able to carry all of the weight for voter registration are either dreaming or on good drugs.  Obama’s job #1 is his re-election, not civic engagement and participation for goodness sakes.  OFA is his arm.  The joint fundraising between the campaign and the DNC and his people running the DNC means that the priorities are clear, they are on the same page, and speaking with one voice, but that does NOT translate into a massive voter registration effort among low-and-moderate income families.

I remember ACORN’s debate at the board level in 2007 about whether or not to take the hits involved in voter registration drives.  There is no way to run a perfect registration program.  There will be errors of omission or commission when real people are dealing with millions of pieces of paper.  Furthermore, state laws require that all those pieces of paper once they have a signature on them must be submitted to the authorities.  I guarantee you that will always mean that some wit or practical joker out there will have a hearty laugh and some right winger will go apoplectic about Mickey Mouse, but they simply need to get over it, and we clearly need to figure out a way to get people registered.

Given the inevitable attack from the right, most organizations, unions, and others are chary about thinking about voter registration, but that doesn’t mean that the job doesn’t need to be done, done well, and done big time!  I had a friend who was a long-time political consultant.  He told me once that after every election cycle, he used take a hammer to his computer, drive it out, and take it to the dump.  In the “take no prisoners” “dog eat dog” world of modern politics, the same lesson should be applied to voter registration:  create an organizational formation that is designed specifically to register voters for this cycle and then go out of business after the election; make the formation a “stand alone” vehicle sprung to life by a collaborative of like minded people and organizations committed to the civic participation and democratic practice of American citizens regardless of income and race so that no one organization or individual would have to take the abuse of the conservative assault; and, then add water and stir every two years.

Why not?  It has to happen!

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