Tag Archives: politics

In Praise of Door to Door Canvassing!

New Orleans      In modern politics obsessions run hot and heavy as election day looms ahead.  One cycle it might be microtargeting with sophisticated databases categorizing voters and messages.  Another cycle it’s small donors and social media.   But for my money, there’s still nothing like the ground game even if it’s the old standby sitting on the back pages while the fashion this year gets the headline.

Seeing a column in The Economist entitled “Knock knock:  Old-fashioned canvassing can still make all the difference,” brings joy to an old door knocking fool.  In an aside, I have to admit I’m having a mini-crisis of sorts reading The Economist.  For years I have done so in a low-boil thinking it was my duty to read the global perspective of a conservative, business weekly.  Now suddenly a history is written with reviews everywhere claiming they are the voice of liberalism.  Liberals?!?  I’m at sea.  Who are these people?  Regardless, if someone burrowed deep in their number is going to praise door knocking, they must be related to me somehow.

And, praise Bagehot does in full measure, saying,

“…canvassing provides parties with local knowledge.  Banging on doors is not only the best way to identify your supporters.  It is also the best way to gauge degrees of warmth or hostility.  Waverers can be targeted for another visit.  Get-off-my-lawn types can be written off.  Old-fashioned canvassing works seamlessly with modern technology, as canvassers use apps like MiniVAN Touch that allow them to feed doorstep responses into a central database.  These data are then used for the get-out-the-vote effort on election day, when thousands of volunteers will make sure that ‘definites’ get to the polling station and ‘persuadables’ are given one last push.  Even more important is the fact that canvassing forces politicians to look voters in the eye – to deal with their constituents as individuals, rather than as concocted stereotypes….”

Ok, this is obviously a British take on the fine art, but he’s speaking to a global truth, and the appreciation for the classic arts and respected trades is welcomed, thank you.

In fact, even though the mainstream received wisdom is that the Labour Party has little hope in the mid-December election, and that the Conservatives and Brexiteers will carry the day, this columnist and his praise of canvassing is reminding one and all that the door-to-door work would be underestimated at the peril of the other parties and could still carry the day.  Polls reported most recently show them closely the gap after a slow start.

Their not-so-secret weapon, which the columnist freely acknowledges is the fact that “Labour has …done better at preserving the long-standing tradition of street politics while embracing innovations.  Labour has created a new class of three pound or $3.90 cent supporters in order to boost its numbers.”  Door knocking and membership, you have to love it.  At least, I should say, I love it!

Some of the lessons we are still having to learn are all the old ones that remain evergreen.

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Politicizing the Military is Dangerous

New Orleans       The role of the military in governments of any stripe can be a powerful thing, though rarely is this good news.

In Asia, the military junta’s role in Myanmar has led to genocide and the disgrace of a Nobel prize symbol of democracy.   In Thailand, the military determines the winners and losers with impunity.  Ditto Pakistan.  Let’s leave Africa out of it, but certainly the military has triggered coup after coup there.  Latin America is closer at hand.  The thrust and parry in Venezuela earlier in the year was played on the stage of whether the military supported the existing government or those calling for coup.  Brazil, Chile, and Argentina during the Cold War furor were the steady sites of coups and the threat of coups.  In Turkey and the Middle East, the military has their hands on the scale in determining the sustainability of governments.

I don’t want to beat a dead horse to death, but an independent military that is under the control of a civilian government has been a prescription for functioning democratic governance for centuries.  Having watched President Trump’s efforts to politicize the judiciary and strip them of any neutrality, it’s worth worrying that the military could be his next project.  With judges now, every decision seems conditionalized by whether a Republican or a Democratic president appointed them for life.  We will all rue the day if we have to see generals, admirals and others through a partisan lens.

Is this crazy to worry about?  I think not.

First, we had Trump in the heyday of his early presidency talk constantly about “his generals.”  Then they were not just running the military, but also bouncing around between top posts running the National Security Council, the Defense Department, and serving as Chief of Staff at the White House, which is equivalent to running the government.  Of course, he fell out with all the ones who weren’t forced to resign because of ethical problems, which is part of what now drives his new found zeal and brings me to my worry beads.

Then we have his attack on the colonel on special assignment to the National Security Council as a Ukrainian expert and speaker, calling him a “never Trumper” and a partisan.  He made the mistake of thinking he was “doing his duty” as opposed to being a sycophant wearing a uniform.  I don’t even want to go into his MAGA hats and attempt to rally the soldiers over the last year politically, but it happened, so let’s keep it in mind.

Now we have Trump overruling the top Navy admiral and the Navy secretary for believing that someone accused of killing a civilian in Afghanistan, innocent or guilty in a trial, might not be a keeper for the better image of the SEALs or the Navy itself.  Heck, it might even be sending the wrong message.  Trump claims he’s trying to protect warriors, but does that mean killers or does it mean soldiers?

Trump trying to politicize the armed forces is not a good look.  Part of me thinks the culture of the military is deeply ingrained enough to resist being partisan and that they understand the difference, so they’ll stay neutral.  But, didn’t we hear that would be the case with judges too, but now look at the Supreme Court and how deeply Trump appointees are disrupting the judicial system.  It’s worth some worry.

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