Did Following Polls Lead to Democrat Failure?

by lizard

The post-mortems keep coming, and one of the big rifts is the failure of Montana Democratic candidates to distinguish themselves from Republicans with regards to the environment. At Cowgirl it’s all Pick Your Heads Up, Democrats, where the failure to take a stand on the environment is explained with one simple word: polls.

The second point is that I would caution people to be careful about simply accepting all of the theories being pushed out there about why Democrats lost. Because the main and most simple theory is most certainly the correct one: Montana will not send a Democrat to Washington in a year in which we have a democratic (not to mention black) president at 28% in the polls, in a midterm year, who is fairly inept at articulating what he stands for or believes.

For those who believe that the Democrats should unabashedly come out against the Keystone pipeline, or unabashedly for a pro-immigration position, I have news for you: such positions are extremely unpopular in states like Montana, and very polarizing too. The greenlighting of the Keystone pipeline, for example, is supported by 85% of Montana voters. Coming out strongly against it, and shouting it from the mountaintop, provides no electoral benefit.

So Democrats want tarsand gunk flowing to Texas (for export), coal being dug up for China, and government-mandated logging because polls define their positions? How did that work out this year?

Leadership is not looking to polls before taking a position. Leadership means looking hard at dire issues, like climate change, and clearly articulating why taking a principled stand is important. If Montana Democrats had done that, would they have done worse? It’s hard to imagine Democrats doing much worse by taking a tough position on an issue that will negatively impact all our lives if our “leaders” continue ignoring the threat.

Ochenski has his post-mortem up at the Missoulian today. From the link:

Here in Montana – and as pointed out in this column months ago – there were very minor differences between Republican candidates and the stances top-level Democrats took on far too many issues. While there certainly were differences between the political parties and their candidates on certain issues, such as a woman’s right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy, serious policy differences were few and far between.

Take the environment, for instance, which is an issue near and dear to many who consider themselves the Democrat base. Climate change is arguably the single greatest challenge now facing this state and nation. Yet, one would think the “climate change deniers,” generally pegged to be Republicans, had somehow mesmerized Montana’s Democratic candidates into supporting their non-recognition of the science and on-the-land effects of climate change now ravaging the globe.

How is it possible that all of Montana’s top tier Democratic candidates could support “all of the above” energy policies and claim to be anything but climate change deniers? If you ask the Demo’s so-called strategists, they’ll blithely tell you that “we have to take that position to get elected.” Really? Since they lost in record numbers, one might viably deduce that taking that position did just the opposite.

There are lessons to be learned when one fails. Will Democrats in Montana ditch the strategy of Republican-lite poll appeasement? Or will they double down on positions that didn’t help them this year, and won’t help the environmental devastation we humans are doing to this planet?


  1. Turner

    To state the obvious, the Democratic Party is sharply divided between the environmentalists and labor. The AFL/CIO, in this state at least, is straight-up denialist. And no Democrat can win without them.

    I think there needs to be a change in the AFL/CIO leadership. The present leaders are killing the DP. Alternative energy projects would create jobs, too.

  2. steve kelly

    “According to the National Education Association the average annual salary for a Montana certified teacher is $44,426 while the average starting salary is currently $24,685.” http://www.teachingdegree.org/montana/salary/
    MEA-AFT sends a strong message to young voters that doesn’t need much interpretation.

    A “stranded” homeless person with strategically-located cardboard sign makes around $15/hour. At that rate, working 40 hours a week, 40 weeks a year, can gross $24,000. No benefits, no retirement. Still, there’s something wrong with the pay structure — based on age and (seniority) experience — if the goal is to attract young teachers and young voters.

    The current voter-turnout strategy seems to be more about shame and blame, and fear of Republicans, than any genuine interest in attracting young voters and environmentalists, or maintaining each and every Montanan’s constitutional right to a “clean and healthful environment.”

    That leaves a lot (of free, eligible, potential voters) on the table for a political movement to develop outside the two-party cellblock.

    • Fear of Republicans, fear in general, is a defining feature of Democrats. But also note her reference to a black president. That defines their perceived moral superiority. Note that she is oblivious to his being a neocon. Mere race blots out vigilant citizenship.

      Being oblivious is also a defining feature of Democrats.

  3. lizard19

    Bill LaCroix has a great comment at Cowgirl. here it is:

    I would respectfully disagree with this commentary. Democrats didn’t win the Supreme Court race. It was nonpartisan. Big Money tried to buy it, and would have succeeded if a lot of Republicans, as well as probably most Democrats, didn’t reject the bid. The Democratic Party, both nationally and statewide, don’t win because in most peoples’ minds–both progressive and conservative–they don’t stand for anything substantial in these substantial times. Energy industry debacles such as Keystone pipeline and Otter Creek coal are the dinosaurs in the room eating our future, and Democrats who run from that simple fact lose elections, quite simply. No, it’s not a sure way to “win” elections either but Democracy only works with a relatively educated electorate. When Democrats sound like Republican-Lite they pass on the golden-megaphone opportunity to educate and the huge segment of the electorate whom Democrats should really be trying to motivate just give up. If both candidates are OK with tearing our planet apart limb from limb, the only difference being how quickly the deed is done, why bother? You and I can tell them why, of course, but we’d be talking without the moral backing of the party we’re asking them to vote for. It’s profoundly confusing to sensible people who, for a lot of good and bad reasons, aren’t paying enough attention, and it’s infuriating to those of us who try to rally these folks and then get cut off at the knees by…the Democrats! Look at RomneyCare (let’s call it by it’s real name, please) The whole country was hopeful for a path toward universal coverage and Organizing for America sends operatives to Montana communities with active Single Payer movements and squelches them! Outrageous, and with that internecine blood on the water spilt, the Tea Party moves in for the kill, and they did and we suffered personally in those communities. Look at Tester’s “Wilderness” bill and the Bullock administration’s undemocratic backdoor deals for logging roadless areas. In all these cases and many more, sitting Democrats shut out their motivated base because they figure the motivated base has to vote “democrat” no matter what. And true enough they do, but they sure aren’t motivated to work as hard as they did to , say, elect the first non-white president who promised true healthcare (not health insurance) reform and a speedy exit from endless wars. This is how you lose elections. You don’t represent your base and notwithstanding the many courageous people who run as Democrats in spite of all this, this is why the Democratic Party find itself in itself deplorable condition.

  4. JC

    Yep. When democrats use “chasing the polls” to justify their positions they completely cede any sense of independent thought to a blind subservience to myths and memes created by a media controlled by oligarchs. An “all the above” energy policy embraces anti-intellectualism and rejects science. When we pay new teachers $24k/year, we are telling them that we value their knowledge as much as we do the street corner worker that Steve refers to.

    Steve, you’re 100% right when you say the time is ripe for the ascension of third party movements. A lot of people are already looking towards libertarianism, if only because it can articulate what it stands for, and much of that resonates with folks: neuter the war machine, quite printing money (QE), resurrect our civil liberties…

    Of course libertarianism misses the boat in many ways, particularly in its reliance on “free markets” to resolve environmental, wealth inequity, and equal rights issues.

    I think we are witnessing a rapid decline in the fall of the democratic party. Once it becomes fully indistinguishable to the republican party in foreign policy, the environment, state spying, immigration, and health care (Obamacare is a republican/Heritage idea), what is there left besides a handful of wedge social issues like gay marriage, pot decriminalization and gentrification? Then our oligarchs will have realized their goal of a uni-party political structure that is much easier manipulated to service their needs.

    • Oligarchies naturally cede to two-party structure because even among the wealthy there are differening views. However, creation of a viable party requires hoards of cash and access to major media outlets, and none but the very wealthy can afford that. Three is too many, as a third party can play off against the others and forge coalitions of minorities. One party rule looks bad. Two is the right number, one pretending to represent ordinary people, the other not even having to bother.

      In 2000 Nader put all of his cash in a small basket and bought TV time to run an ad that mimicked the MasterCard “priceless” campaign. It was a good and effective ad, and he was immediately sued and forced to take it down.

      He marveled that MasterCard in our oligarchical society owns the word “priceless.”

    • I too like Steve’s insight into street economics. Does he blog from a public library?

      Just got this nugget in my e-mail.

      While I was working in the flower beds in the front yard,
      my neighbors stopped to chat as they returned home from walking their dog.
      During our friendly conversation, I asked their little girl what she wanted to be
      when she grew up. She said she wanted to be President some day.
      Both of her parents, Democratic Party members were standing there,
      so I asked her, “If you were President what would be the first thing you would do?”
      She replied… “I’d give food and houses to all the homeless people.”

      Her parents beamed with pride! “Wow…what a worthy goal!” I said.
      “But you don’t have to wait until you’re President to do that!” I told her.
      “What do you mean?” she replied.

      So I told her, “You can come over to my house and mow the lawn,
      pull weeds, and trim my hedge, and I’ll pay you $50. Then you can
      go over to the grocery store where the homeless guy hangs out, and
      you can give him the $50 to use toward food and a new house.”

      She thought that over for a few seconds, then she looked me straight
      in the eye and asked, “Why doesn’t the homeless guy come over and
      do the work, and you can just pay him the $50?”
      I said, “Welcome to the Republican Party.”
      Her parents aren’t speaking to me anymore.
      Feel free to share this with your friends, neighbors, or relatives….it may be worth $50 to you!!

      • JC

        When’s the last time you ever offered a job to a homeless person, Swede?

        • He sure in the hell wouldn’t pay $50 when he could get an illegal to do it for $10.

        • Actually I asked this guy next to Wally World if he’d do a little dance for a 10 spot.

          He did and I stiffed him.

          Just kidding, I gave him the ten.

  5. Turner

    If I thought the Democratic Party was so wounded by its weak compromises with the oligarchs that they’ll never recover, I might be in favor of a third party. It would be because, in an increasingly right-wing state, there’s little or no chance of a Democrat winning for some time.

    If the Republicans are going to win from now on, what difference does it make who the losers are?

    If the party remains as it is, if it can find no place for progressives in it, it’s time to look for something else. Whatever new political organization is created wouldn’t win elections for many years.

    I’m not sure about all these ifs, though. It’s possible that the party can make enough changes internally to allow it survive and work for ordinary people. But I’m not optimistic.

    If a new political organization for progressives were invented I might join it, especially if a large number of Democrats joined it, too. Most of my Democratic friends are unhappy with the corporatizing of the party. We’re all proud of the way the party used to be — the New Deal, the Great Society, and civil rights legislation were great accomplishments.

    I think something like a New Democratic Party might eventually become powerful. It would have to turn its back on anti-environmental labor groups for a start. And it would have to turn its back on big money. It would have to be willing to commit civil disobedience. It would have to prioritize issues from the most serious (global warming) to the least serious (the privacy of naked celebrities online).

    A New Democratic Party would have to be especially slow to embrace the current batch of Democratic leaders lest they attempt to slap a new label on a product that has passed its expiration date.

    • Any time a progressive movement gains traction, it is either absorbed or attacked by the Democrats, as that is the function of the Democratic Party, to prevent the rise of a third party.

      • “The champions of socialism call themselves progressives, but they recommend a system which is characterized by rigid observance of routine and by a resistance to every kind of improvement. They call themselves liberals, but they are intent upon abolishing liberty. They call themselves democrats, but they yearn for dictatorship. They call themselves revolutionaries, but they want to make the government omnipotent. They promise the blessings of the Garden of Eden, but they plan to transform the world into a gigantic post office. Every man but one a subordinate clerk in a bureau.”

        — Ludwig von Mises

        • Von mises now? Personally, i think he’s full of shit and that the Austrian school is only marginally more useful than neoclassical economics. But thanks for bringing him up. I’ll put him and Rand and Friedman on my totem.

          • Ludwig/A school FOS? Didn’t see that response coming.

            You’re a incredible debater Mark.

          • You want me to debate with words you clip from your Austrian school source as if they were yours? At least Budge understood him, even if he couldn’t see that he never passed the rubber meets road test. You cannot.

  6. steve kelly

    A single technological break-through could be the game-changer. Ballot access and voter access are the predominant “brick wall(s)” that needs to be dismantled, or scaled.

    Electronic signatures are not accepted by the Montana SOS currently. In Utah it’s a different story. Could be an enormous first step for an alternative political movement.

    I’m sure there are others — already developed, or near developement — on mobile platforms that could be effective tools for poor and young citizens who want to begin to “tear down that wall.”

  7. lizard19

    I’m going to keep stealing comments from Cowgirl. Rob Kailey:

    It’s the small amusements in life that are the most satisfying. For example, the commenters here and elsewhere who truly revile the Democratic party giving such ‘heart felt’ advice to save it from it’s obvious and inevitable doom. “Change” they cry, but always changing in a way that would solely please them. “Ignore polling and do what I want” is the mantra, showing that they have a pretty dim idea of what “democracy” might actually mean. “Democrats are CORRUPT, deceitful and they masterfully manipulate you! They have such awesome power to stop you from following another party!” they personally chide you in the very same breath they insult you by bemoaning how incompetent these masterful deceivers are. As if he’s the lead character in a sit-com laughing at the viewer, Brigham has the iron balls to pretend that he’s one of “we”, just after he tells ‘we all’ how stupid “we” are.

    The Democratic party isn’t going anywhere except to minority status for a bit. If it’s really the same as the Republicant party, then there is no loss had. No harm no foul. People are leaving the D brand for the R brand and it won’t matter a bit. If, as some suggest, the D’s only exist to thwart the growth of third parties, then it seems obvious that they are very good at what they do, and it’s the third parties that suffer from incompetence at getting agreement. If being a Democrat means willfully ignoring what the people want in order to save them from themselves, then yes, the Democratic party is doomed and damned well should be. Of course the I-know-better-than-you-so-shut-up-and-do-what-say Party just doesn’t seem real viable to anybody in this country.

    All of these ‘Democrats suck’ folk seem to have really prescient advice on ‘how to win elections’. Their theories are pretty nice, but rather strikingly unproven. So, if’n you want advice on how to win elections, take a look at the ones who do. Convince people that government doesn’t serve you, it’s actually your enemy. Prove the point by shutting the whole damned thing down. Then convince people that only your folks care and only your folks can ‘fix things’. That’s worked for Mitch McTurtle, John Boehner, Steve Daines, Ryan Zinke, Scott Sales, Art Wittich and countless others. The supporters of “we know what people really want, and more important what they really need” don’t have such a great track record at the winning part. Bob Brigham, pretty much every Libertarian ever, Ralph Nader, Steve Kelly, most ‘progressive’ candidates outside of Missoula, and the list goes on. Democrats aren’t losing because they aren’t supporting the right causes. They are losing because, very much like progressives, their message isn’t as seductive as the one that says ‘we can make things work or we’ll break them again’. People would rather be in bed with the mob than they would support Prohibition (on oil and coal and guns the other things they can make money on.)

    If ‘the Democrats’, or any third party philosopher kings, want to win elections again then they must convince the people of what Lincoln, a RepubliCAN, once so famously said. It is government of the people, by the people for the people. Demilitarize the police. End the “war on drugs”. Reform health care instead of repealing the small reforms already done. Allow Unions to have a powerful voice again, and quit listening to the wailing of the environmentalist butthurt until they recognize that organized labor are their greatest allies in the control of energy production. Recognize labor as a human right, alongside ‘clean air’ and ‘gender equality’. Make America inclusive with comprehensive immigrant reform. TAX the fuckers who benefit most from our taxes, corporate bosses, hedge fund owners, energy companies, banks (most especially banks) and large take religions. Simple pop quiz. Which do you think more people will support: 160 hours paid vacation time or corporate subsidies? Public funded elections or 6+% student loansand low interest rates for corporations? The KXL pipeline or a return to Montana Power? Notice please that wolf hunting and bison range and ‘roadless lands’ don’t even fricking register on most people’s radar. So, to those of you intensely concerned that voters will favor environment over other possible Democratic concerns, you’re being pretty myopic and not actually concerned about ‘winning’ at all.

    • JC

      I guess the election pushed him over the edge… finally.

      • Hardly, JC. In the 15 years+ tears I’ve been discussing politics online, I’ve been saying the same damned things. If anything, I’ve just gotten more frustrated (and amused) with the people who constantly chase their tails and then blame everyone else that they can’t catch them.

        • We are not chasing our tails. We are realistic about the possibilties in a system where all players are bought.

          You’re on a treadmill. Best advice is to get off.

          • Built your bunker for the revolution yet? What exactly makes you think you’re “being realistic”, Mark? None of your predictions have actually born fruit. So exactly how “realistic” are you being?

          • If both parties answer to the same money, they cannot possibly answer to voters. Unless we live in Fantasyland.

            If voters are uninformed, misinformed, inattentive, unorganized, lousy problem solvers, then politicians will not pay attention to them. Why should they?

            If you want to pretend that despite every incentive working the other way, that Democrats are working for the common folks, then you too live in Fantasyland.

  8. steve kelly

    Classic “third-way” mumbo-jumbo.

  9. lizard19

    Rob, we are moving to a place beyond elections. it’s not a good place. commenters here are making valid points, and you make valid points.

    • I could not agree more. The question is this, who do we find more afraid of change, and who do we find change more violent towards?

      • lizard19

        I’m not sure how to answer that.

        • Frankly, none of us are

          • Ipad?

  10. Turner

    This may strike some as a naïve request for information, but I’m making it anyway.

    I’d like those who claim there are puppeteers running our elections, our economy, everything else, to come up with a few names. I’m aware of billionaires and organizations like the Koch bros, ALEC, and Adelman — and a few on the left, too.

    But is there a hard-to-identify cadre of puppeteers? Are they conspiring closely or are they a loose group? Or are they in competition for the job of chief puppeteer? Do they have agents manipulating both political parties? If so, down to what level — state, county, municipal?

    Who are the manipulators in this state? Whom do they report to?

    I’m not saying that the puppeteers don’t exist. I just want to know who these people are who’re working on the ground to make (in some people’s opinions) voting irrelevant.

    • lizard19

      did you know central banks have a central bank? it’s called the Bank of International Settlements (wikipedia).

      • Turner

        So BIS are some of the puppeteers? Who are their people in Montana?

        • lizard19

          draw whatever conclusions you want, and may the power of Google properly direct you.

    • JC

      Turner, it’s not a naive request. But it’s not one that lends itself to easy answers. I read today that .1% of the U.S. population control more wealth than the bottom 90%. That represents 160,000 families. Take your pick out of that group — they all potentially have far more political power than you or I. And that is just the U.S.

      Or you can look at the Bilderberg Meetings:

      “Every year, between 120-150 political leaders and experts from industry, finance, academia and the media are invited to take part in the conference… The meetings are held under the Chatham House Rule, which states that participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s) nor of any other participant may be revealed…

      Thanks to the private nature of the conference, the participants are not bound by the conventions of their office or by pre-agreed positions. As such, they can take time to listen, reflect and gather insights…

      There is no detailed agenda, no resolutions are proposed, no votes are taken, and no policy statements are issued.”

      Or then there’s the Rothschild circle. Political Vel Craft does a good job of following up on the oligarchs from this angle.

      Of course, you could just follow international media, and you’d come up with the usual suspects: Soros, Omidyar, Khodorkovsky, Kolomoisky, Koch Bros., Cheney, Gates… it’s a large list. It’s not like overall, there’s a conspiracy of oligarchs to control the world, though some folks take it to that degree. It’s an unofficial club of wink and nod that know no geographic boundaries. Oligarchs do what’s best for the oligarchs, no matter the politics or geography.

    • Turner, an excellent question and one I have often wondered about myself. i suggest that you look up the wealthiest families in the country, and be prepared to be surprised that you do not know these names.

      It has been fifty years since JFK was murdered, and we know that CIA and Mafioso were involved and pilling triggers and on the street that day, and that politicians covered it up, and that military orders went out to eliminate his security, and all we know is that these were agents. They don’t act together without direction from above. And fifty years later we do not know who and we also know that people are still afraid to talk.

  11. JC

    I’m sure everybody can see where this is going:

    “In an interview, Tester said he could be among moderate Democrats who join Republicans to form a 60-senator majority to break a filibuster and advance certain bills.”

    When did a “moderate” republican ever say that about working with a democratic senate under Pres. Bush?

    Yeah, right, never…

    And to top that off, I get a beg email from Obama the other day:

    “Two years: That’s all the time I have left as your president.

    I know what I’m going to be fighting for until I leave this office…

    The elected officials I’ll work with in the last two years of my presidency need to be reminded that people like you aren’t going away.

    They need to know you won’t let the special interests in Washington drown out the voices of Americans who want to drive our country forward. That’s what OFA was built to do. ”

    Nice of him to wait until he had a republican congress to help him enact his agenda. Can’t believe he’s using OFA to enlist help to try and accomplish anything “progressive.” Can’t imagine what OFA will help the prez to “accomplish.”

    Meh… “Democrats” waiting till republicans control congress to begin to do something. Thus begins the great unravelling.

    • I’ve been saying for six years that Tester is a cloaked Republican. Is it not obvious now?

  12. Eric

    Tester will continue to do as he always has – take his orders from Harry Reid.

    The ass-wooping is continuing this morning, as Alaska’s Dem Senator has just lost his seat, and I expect Landrieu in La to go down in 3 weeks as well when they have their runoff.

    • If politics is a pond, you’re a water skipper.

  1. 1 Where does power lie? | Piece Of Mind

    […] Turner asks very good questions, and needs now only to turn his own mind on the answers rather than waiting for them to fall in place in the comment stream. Here’s part of his question: […]




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