Weak Strategery

An insightful WaPo op-ed today from liberal activist Michael Gecan. Here’s the meat:

Scores of thousands of people, many of them paid (how else do you squander $200 million?), knocked on millions of doors during this campaign. The Democratic-leaning canvassers left information, repeated a canned sales pitch and moved along. They did not engage the people in real conversation. They did not listen to their concerns. They did not recruit real volunteers to work on their own blocks. They did not take the time to find out which pastor or rabbi was a leader in an area and which congregations people attended. They were progressive salespeople with a high quota of contacts and no time to relate, who disappeared from people’s towns and lives the very moment, on election night, that they learned the sale had not been made.

It was as if they had never been there. And in a way, they never were. These two tendencies — celebrity worship and quick-hit canvassing — betray the central problem at the heart of the Democratic Party’s political culture. The party has no time or patience for the complex work needed to listen to Americans, to understand their range of views and positions, and to engage them on their deepest interests. Even worse, many in the hierarchy of the Democratic Party have contempt for ordinary Americans — for their red faces and moderate churches and mixed, often moderate, views.

We didn’t get a lot of Democratic canvassing in very Republican Cobb County, Georgia, but Gecan’s description tracks very closely with the kids I saw in Seattle last summer campaigning for Kerry against Bush. Back then, I had the strong suspicion that they weren’t going to be terribly effective; they were just repeating cant, and obnoxious cant at that. Even if you agreed with them, you weren’t likely to stick around and listen to the same canned script for very long–and if you didn’t agree, you were going to shrug them off in a heartbeat.


33 Responses to “Weak Strategery”

  1. Glenn Says:

    I can agree with Michael Grecan; I can remember three seperate incidences before the election where Republican-backers engaged me in conversation in an effort to win me over.

    Where were the Democrats? In late October I got a call from a phone-worker whom read a pro-Kerry script to me in a dull monotone voice. They hung up before I could even ask any questions!

    I still voted for Badnarik but the Republicans at least earned my respect.

  2. dividedandconquered Says:

    It’s anecdotal but it does have the ring of truth – with all that went wrong for the repubs (war, economy – don’t get me started) it would seem that the dems blew a huge opportunity – and if this is how they campaigned they reaped what they sowed

  3. Rod Stanton Says:

    We had ’em in LA; but they were Kanting. They were not the automatons you saw they were firery “Brown Shirt” types.
    Rod Stanton

  4. Brian Engler Says:

    Democrats also need to do a better job of picking the neighborhoods they target. I live in Fremont, one of the least liberal neighborhoods in Seattle, and by that I mean it’s primarily populated by communists, anarchists and, well, hippies. I wouldn’t be surprised if I were the *only* Bush voter in this neighborhood, and if I’m not, I’m sure the other voters are like me: reasonably well informed people who have been harassed and mocked for their politics by their neighbors to the point where, if they haven’t changed their minds already, they sure aren’t going to change now.

    Yet in October I received no less than ten of those scripted kids at my door, giving me the Kerry line. I suppose they could be there to GOTV, but voter turnout was predicted to be greater than 80% as it was and everyone in my neighborhood hates Bush with such intensity that you couldn’t have kept them away from the polls with offers of free pot and a cordon of rabid pit bulls.

    They would be much more effective had they canvassed the suburbs, areas where Bush’s popularity still held somewhat but was wavering. Yet friends of mine in the suburbs (Kirkland, Bellevue and Redmond) say they didn’t receive a single moonbat.

    Go figure.

  5. Pamela Says:

    Where I live in Denver I spoke to 4 republicans and even 1 republican candidate. I only saw 1 Kerry canvasser at my door, when I told him I was voting for Bush they siad thank-you and wlaked away. they didn’t even try to make an argument.

  6. Marilyn Says:

    Good thing Martini Boy doesn’t have a real job!

  7. Marilyn Says:

    Democrats are full of hate. They had nothing to vote for, only the hated evil one to vote against. That sort of message is not a contagious meme, among the mentally sound.

  8. Jim Rockford Says:

    The problem is that the Democrats have no true Grassroots organization. The Republicans have Evangelical Churches, Anti-Tax groups, the NRA, etc. all of which can reach voters on personal levels. This is particularly true in growing exurb/suburb places like the Inland Empire (Riverside and San Bernadino Counties) in Southern California.

    It’s fashionable to make fun of people who live in the “909” (area code) Inland Empire; LA DeeJays Kevin and Bean on KROQ FM regularly do so; so does Fox’s “the O.C.” (no one in OC calls it that btw). However, it’s where the growing middle class lives, and they certainly resent it.

    Writ large, that’s the Democrats problem … a focus on tragically hip, “this is the part of Sprockets where we dance,” Dieter types (from SNL) who live in the hip, “edgy” urban areas instead of building genuine grassroots Democratic leaning organizations that reach middle class voters.

    And yes, many Democrats do have a very unconcealed contempt for Middle Class America, hence a substantial loss against the weakest candidate and President in living memory (who had the worst campaign adviser since Susan Estrich … IMHO Rove is pretty poor as a campaign manager, Lee Atwater would have eviscerated Kerry).

  9. Reagan Republican Says:

    Right on the Money

    What it comes down to is that liberals don’t understand that Americans simply don’t value the same things that they do. And you don’t just have to talk about values, you have to stake out positions on the issues that people care about. Abortion is st…

  10. Veeshir Says:

    I work in Crystal City, VA. It’s full of military types, like Navy logistics and Air Force missile defense people, and the Patent and Trademark Office. Not the type of people to listen to arrogant, smug, superior 20-somethings standing around telling people that Bush is Hitler. But that’s what we got.
    I bet they pushed more people into Bush’s camp than the other way. It was pretty funny to watch. My favorite was watching military types walk by and seeing their reactions.
    The activists were very earnest though, I bet they were very depressed it wasn’t Dean. Mostly because they didn’t talk about Kerry, just Bush.

  11. Mike M Says:

    I live in election ground zero (Ohio) and the Democratic efforts were weak.

    The Republicans had a slight edge in phone content. I got a lot of calls from America Coming Together and other liberal groups simply reminding me to vote and asking if I knew where my polling place was. The canned message from Bill Clinton was a little humerous, just because it was Bill.

    On the other hand I talked to a real live Republican who I suppose would have had a conversation with me if I hadn’t agreed with him on his few points. The recorded messages from Guliani (and I think Arnold) were a lot better than anything put out by the Dems.

    Didn’t get much door to door, but one Dem showed up looking for my wife (a registered Dem) and made no effort to talk to me when I said she wasn’t home.

    Between the weak “grassroots” stuff and the absolutely pathetic and self-parody quality of most of their TV ads, it’s no wonder that the Dems couldn’t get Kerry within 100,000 votes in Ohio. They really made no effort to pursuade, just to beat the drum for the partisans. Obviously it was a bad strategy.

  12. Sandy P Says:

    –IMHO Rove is pretty poor as a campaign manager,–

    Now just how DID you escape Karl’s mind rays, Jim?

    The MSM has annointed him king.

    At least his record is better than Shrum’s.

  13. Princess Kimberley Says:

    The Dems pay people??? Crap, I volunteered for the wrong party! HA HA

  14. Ginpundit Says:

    About 3 weeks before the election, some eager Bush canvasser left a flyer in my front door. In order to do so, he/she had to walk past my car (which prominently displayed a Kerry sticker), and then past a Kerry yard sign placed directly in front of my door (and clearly visible from the street as well).

    I realize there was likely some grand, arcane strategy behind how their door-to-door campaigning was executed, but I can’t help thinking that some small measure of time, energy, and money might have been saved by not leaving campaign literature at the doorsteps of people who are clearly supporting the other candidate.

    My biggest regret is that they didn’t even ring the bell and give me a chance to hear their oh-so-persuasive arguments for Bush in person.

  15. Morgan Says:

    I can’t believe you guys remember who visited and when. I only know that Bill Clinton called me but wouldn’t answer any of my questions, just kept reading his speech. At first I was mad, but then I thought “poor guy, used to be President, now he’s just a drone, trying to make a buck…”

  16. Robert Says:

    Ginpundit, they were probably working on the assumption that there might be a Bush voter in the house, and leaving a flyer would be an opportunity to encourage that voter to actually vote.

    I worked a little bit (a very little bit – one hour phonebanking) with the GOP vote-drive effort in Colorado. There was a training session on a weekend; we had literally hundreds of ordinary Americans taking their day off to learn how to more effectively phonebank or walk neighborhoods. It was something to see; when contrasted with the Dem’s paid canvassers, it was sad.

    Every Republican I worked with could have engaged a voter who had questions; the paid canvassers were just clueless drones.

  17. Kathianne Says:

    Have to agree with most of the above. After spending election night counting absentee/clueless ballots at the election central in DuPage County, have to admit the Dems are clueless.

    When the tallies came in, they couldn’t believe it, especially the counts from CA. Total depression when they saw both the spread on wins and losses for the Bush campaign. Their point of view was he was so bad, he should lose in a landslide, so disappointing.

    Of course, after a few minutes, their perception changed from dejection to being cheated. Unfortunatley for them, the ballots didn’t bear that out.

  18. Myopist Says:

    I knew that Bush had this election in the bag when… actually, I pretty much had it called from Day One. But I started smiling when I saw the Kerry canvassers in this very Blue State. They’d go up to people and ask them if they wanted to defeat Bush; you’d think that they would have come up with a response to the folks that smiled and said No.

    I didn’t hear them talk about Kerry until about four weeks before the election. Can’t say that I blame ’em, much.

  19. Sandy P Says:

    Kathianne, how did you get into such esteemed company?

    Rumor has it Blogo’s out in 06 w/someone much more lefty.

  20. jeff1999 Says:


    Check out the analysis of media bias here:


  21. Krunch Says:

    OT, but important …

    1. Where’s Stephen?

    2. Happy New Year, Vodkareaders!

  22. Jim Rockford Says:

    Sandy —

    Yep Rove is better than Shrum, but he never touched on Kerry’s opposition to Capital Punishment (except for terrorists).

    Lee Atwater would have been all over that; put on about 10 points on that one.

  23. rosignol Says:

    Speaking as a someone who occasionally considers politics a spectator sport, an election with Carville on one side and Atwater on the other would be a sight to see.

    ps: please tell martini-boy to at least post something so we know he’s not dead.

  24. Marilyn Says:

    If a car displays a Vote Kerry bumber sticker and a yard contains a Kerry/Edwards sign, one might conclude that no intelligent persons lived there. But just in case an intelligent voting aged person lived under the oppression of dimwitted spouse or parents, a Bush campaigner might have thoughtfully left a flyer, to let the nearly-isolated person of thought inside understand that he is not alone.

  25. Mike Says:

    Thanks for making my day. Your descrption of Freakmont was spot on. Anybody who lives there and voted for Bush is damn brave….or crazy.;)

    I live on magnolia and had convinced myself there wasnt another Bush voter within a mile of me in any direction.


  26. Steve Says:

    I worked for an environmental group over the campaign. Part of being out in the field is to identify your supporters for GOTV. There are a lot of people who won’t vote unless they are activated. A lot of people commenting on here don’t look like they are very interested in bridging the divide. There are very serious problems with this country, not just the environment but also our debt. The campaign laws made it very hard for groups like ACT to engage people in conversations. ACT couldn’t even say Kerry’s name. They were Anti-Bush, that

  27. Gotinha Says:


  28. David Says:


    First of all I hope everything is OK with Stephen. But since I am hopeful that his not posting is simply a temporary thing, I decided to propose my own theory for his absence.

    So I posted the following at my own little blog:

    “For those few who have not noticed, it has been some time since anyone has heard from the Vodkapundit, Stephen Greene. His co-blogger Will Collier has kept the blog going at a minimalist level, but people are starting to wonder if Stephen and Will have hatched some Abby Road type conspiracy to generate mass hysteria among the blog’s many readers and vodka drinkers worldwide.

    If so, then they need to stop this torture soon, as Vodkapundit fans are getting about as agitated as a group of Michael Jackson’s fans in front of the courthouse.

    Bring back the Walrus . . .”

  29. Don Says:

    I must report that the anti-Bush canvassing crowd are FAR more active than the Bush forces were here. Worse even than in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle. I must have had 3 or 4 chew my ear off on the subject over the past year.

    Bush recieved a vanishingly tiny proportion of the registered electorate in my neighborhood, so perhaps it had an effect.

    Then again I live in London (in the UK). So perhaps it was something else.

    I’m considering getting my dual citizenship here so I can vote for Tony Blair in the coming election. Man needs all the help he can get….

  30. rosignol Says:

    ACT couldn’t even say Kerry’s name.

    Steve, if you wanted to work under a certain set of rules, there are certain things you can and can’t do.

    If ACT couldn’t do some of the things it wanted to, maybe it should have chosen to operate under a different set of rules, with different reporting, registration, and coordination regs applying.

    In short, not being able to say Kerry’s name is a consequence of choices ACT made- not the fault of the opposition.

  31. rooke Says:


  32. Marilyn Says:

    Don’t be such a sore loser, S. I never voted for a republican in my life and never thought I would. But damn! Kerry as president? A trial lawyer as vice president? What idiots thought up that clueless combo? What idiots could ever get behind that dickless duo?

  33. SCSIwuzzy Says:

    In Philly, there were paid campaigners all over center city. College aged folks for the most part, many of them attending Penn, Drexel, Penn State or Temple. Almost entirely white, and all decked out in GAP or Abercrombie and Fitch.
    Not a one of them that I was accosted by could answer a question on Kerry’s plans and how they would differ from Bush. And when/if I said I was Republican, I’d get off lucky if they only curled their noses, rather than just ranting or screaming at me. And then there were the neo-hippies that spit at me in the train station…
    They really know how to win someone over.

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