How The West Was Won… And Lost


(Proudly cross-posted at C4O)

This week has been nothing short of amazing! Barack Obama will be our next President. More and better Democrats will be going to Congress. The electoral map has undergone a major blue shift.

So why has this whole experience been bittersweet at best for me? Well, all is not well in my own home state. So what can we celebrate and what must we fix? Let me share with you the story of this election from behind the scenes.


First off, let’s start with the bad news. We lost in California. But wait, you ask, didn’t Obama win by about 24%? Isn’t that good? Of course it is, and that isn’t the problem.

The problem in California is that Barack Obama had hardly any coattails here. Look at how Prop 8, the marriage ban, may end up having to be stopped at the courts (again, hopefully). Look at how, barring the results in CA-44 & CA-04 changing in the provisional vote count, we have not gained any new Congressional seats. Look at how we’re still short of a 2/3 supermajority in both houses of the state legislature.

Simply put, we failed our mission in The Golden State. There were hundreds of thousands of “undervotes” here, meaning that people voted Obama for President but did NOT continue downballot to vote on Congress, the initiatives, and local races. This is nothing short of tragic, and there’s no excuse for the nation’s biggest Blue State to still show so much red! Because of the inept and disastrous “leadership” of the state party, the refusal of the DCCC to invest in real races like CA-44 & CA-46, and the horribly gawd-awful “leadership” by The Task Force & Equality California on the No on 8 campaign & their failure to have a real ground game, we missed the opportunity to turn the Obama victory into a progressive victory in California.




Now contrast what happened in California on Tuesday to what happened in Nevada on the same day. While one state didn’t change much, the other state next door underwent a massive transformation! Like Mountain West neighbors New Mexico & Colorado, Nevada is now officially a Blue State! And not just that, but Democrats now have a broad and clear mandate for progressive change.

Progressive Democrat Dina Titus was elected to Congress in a “swing district” that Bush won in 2004. Democrats now control both houses in the state legislature for the first time since 1991, including a 2/3 supermajority in the Assembly. Voters approved a good initiative that will actually help Nevada fully fund its schools. And of course, Barack Obama won the ex-Red State by a whopping 12%, including an 18% win in Clark County (Las Vegas Metro) and wins in the formerly Republican Carson City & Washoe (Reno) Counties!

So why were the results in Nevada so dramatically different? Let’s see, Harry Reid and the state party leaders actually began early in registering more Democrats and building an aggressive field operation while the GOP was power drunk and asleep at the wheel. The Obama campaign and the state party were effective in coordinating with the Dina Titus campaign, the Jill Derby campaign up north, and the local campaigns. All the candidates up and down the ballot had a clear and consistent message for change more. economy, energy & environment, education, health care, and so much more. Basically, Democrats worked together on the ground and that’s why we won!

So what lessons can we learn from this tale of two states? First off, there’s no real substitute for a grassroots door-to-door, face-to-face campaign. Despite the good last-minute ads, they may have been too little & too late to make up for the lack of a ground game for No on 8 in California. Meanwhile in Nevada, no amount of negative attack ads from the Republicans against Dina Titus & Barack Obama could make up for their complete lack of a ground game while we Democrats truly rocked the vote!
OSecondly, Nevada Democrats succeeded in translating an Obama victory into a progressive victory while California Democrats were simply lost in translation. Why couldn’t we win the 45th & 48th Congressional Districts when Obama carried them? Why couldn’t Debbie Cook win in the 46th when Obama carried it? Why were there so many undervotes statewide? Whatever the Nevada Democratic Party did right, the California Democratic Party needs to learn how to do it.

And finally, we should all be of good cheer! The West is ours if we want it! The results across the region prove that where Democrats work, Democrats win. But in places like California where state party leaders grew complacent, we lost out on real opportunities.

So what do we do next? After we’re done celebrating, we will go back to work! We have more work to do to keep progress going, so let’s do it! 😀



  11 comments for “How The West Was Won… And Lost

  1. Republican Dementia
    November 6, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    And let’s not forget the contribution of the Obama campaign to our races in California. They sucked both massive amounts of money and volunteers from local campaigns into phone banks and trips to Nevada.

    But hey, let’s think about what we can do with all of these highly trained, organized volunteers in 2010, when the Barack organizaiton can focus on tossing out the remaining Republican degenerates and crooks from Congress.

    Think about what could happen if we have thousands of volunteers actually telling individuals about the records of people like Rohrabacher and Calvert, highly disciplined phone banking, and national money.

    It’s only two years away.

  2. Paul
    November 6, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    The reason for so many undervotes is that when the new voters were registered there was not enough outreach done to those new voters to make sure they knew about the progressive slates.

    They voted for Obama and thats about it. The volunteers who went to Nevada or spent time calling out of state to Obama Voters to make sure they Voted for Obama would have been better spent on statewide ballit measures and local races.

    I will be at the Riverside County Rgeistrar of Voters tomorrow to monitor ballot hand counting to make sure that Bill Hedrick is not robbed of his victory against Calvert.

  3. Gary Kephart
    November 6, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    Exactly my thoughts, RD. Everyone was so caught up in the presidential race and volunteering for Obama that there was barely anyone left here to volunteer for local races.
    The problem in 2010 will be that “we must get more Dems in Congress to support Obama, so we don’t have time for the local races.” And then in 2012 it will be “we must get Obama re-elected so we don’t have time for the local races”.

  4. Paul
    November 6, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    Another point I missed making was that the opportunity now exists to benefit from the Viet Voter revolt against Tran and Janet Nguyen.

    The infighting between those two camps benefitted Dems dramatically in this election and should be seen as the opportunity it is which is to carry a Democratic Message to Little Saigon and reap the benefits from a newly awakend community who will turn away from Janet Nguyen and Van Tran style candidates in the future.

  5. Rep Voter
    November 6, 2008 at 7:26 pm


    You spent so much time in Nevada and asked so many people to go to Nevada, that I don’t think you are in a position to talk on this.

    I think you might’ve just been a little too confident about the state of affairs in your home state.

    CA voters aren’t as liberal as you might think. Bush has been a failure as a Republican and McCain wasn’t any better. A lot of conservatives voted for Obama to teach the Reps a lesson.

    Also, turning out voters for a Obama was a double-edged sword. Latinos and blacks both supported Prop 8 (blacks overwhelmingly so).

    Obama is a one-trick pony and once his honeymoon period is over, you’ll find that on the issues, the state isn’t as liberal as you would like to think it is.

  6. November 6, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    The failure of the No on 8 campaign to effectively cuntr the Yes on 8 lies cannot be laid at the feet of the Obama campaign, or the call for volunteers to help in battle ground states. The Yes on 2 and the No on 4 campaigns should have been hit hard as well by the same voter turnout and lack of coordinated ground campaigns. But they weren’t.

    The No on 8 leadership, or lack there of, failed to respond to the negative attacks and lies with a consistent and clear message. They failed to anticipate and counter the implication by the Yes folks that Barack Obama and Joe Biden opposed Proposition 8. they failed to anticipate how the Yes campaign would exploit the comments of Mayor Newsom after the Supreme Court overturned the ban on same-gender marriage. The No on 8 campaign failed to plan for what to do if they were able to raise more than the initial $20 million they hoped to raise. What we were left with was the failure to plan upfront for what they should have anticipated would be thrown at them.

    Our efforts were reduced to dueling rallies with the Yes campaign, while the Yes folks were miseading voters into believing that Marriage Equality was an education issue , rather than a civil rights issue.

    The result of that failure was Prop 22 all over again. Strangey, the same groups responsible for loosing the fight against Prop 22, ae the same groups responsible for our failure to defeat Prop 8. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, and the volunteers that helped, are not at fault.

  7. Charles
    November 6, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    The LDS Church’s campaign to pass Proposition 8 was its most vigorous since the 1970s, when it helped defeat the Equal Rights Amendment and Californians were fooled and bought into the lies. This from a church who has its own historical tradition of non-traditional marriage and is un-American (any organization fighting against civil liberties against specific groups- blacks, women and gays, cannot be American and certainly is not Christian).

    For example, regardless of Proposition 8’s outcome, our community will still lobby public schools to teach about healthy relationships (we pay taxes and have a say), we will press for marital inclusion in our religious communities. And for those of us in loving, committed relationships, we are married in God’s eyes and our family’s eyes. And yes, we want the same right as an 18 year old California teenager- the right to marry the one we love.

    Let’s tell Mormons where to go!!!!

  8. Heather Pritchard
    November 7, 2008 at 9:23 am

    So now it’s time to take advantage of all those motivated Obama volunteers to turn that energy towards turning Orange County blue. We can most certainly continue the rallying cry, “YES WE CAN” and should focus our efforts on places that went to Obama such as Aliso Viejo! Gary got 47% of the vote there and that was huge for us.

    We need to look at our candidates that ran this year and see what we can do to help them run in the smaller races in their city and move the County bit by bit (Aliso Viejo also voted for Obama and NO on 4 and 8).

    I personally think it has to do with the presence of Soka University. Take advantage of every little thing we can!

    Yes we can!

  9. just...asking?
    November 7, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    In all the big news from the National and local headline races, overlooked a small development in Orange County politics.

    The tiny little town of La Palma has shifted to a Democratic majority! Solidly Reep since the 1980 Regean Revolution they are now 3-2 Dem’s.
    Believe this is the first in OC other than the big boys of Santa Ana and Irvine who have stayed blue for a while.

    Is this a small beginning? Just…asking?

  10. Scott Rhinehart
    November 7, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    While I am happy that the long years of hell under the Bush/Cheney administration appears to be ending…all is not well in liberal land. I believe that Prop 8 would have been defeated, if Obama had landed in California, instead of flying over it in on a vacuum cleaner to collect donations, and clearly stated his opposistion to Prop 8 over and over again. He elected not to do this for fear of ruining his chances for being elected President. Pragmatic? Oh yes! Helpful? Well, not to the gay community! Typical of liberal politicians? Sadly, yes.

    This ol’ school Gay Male Liberal is tired of it. Tired of being used for my money and vote, while being patted on the back and told to “just be cool…your turn is coming.” It hasn’t and it won’t with the Democratic Party.

    So now it’s time to do a little self-emancipation. It’s time to throw off empty promises and take control of my own life. I’ve been a Democrat since 1968, when I proudly supported Eugene McCarthy for President. As of today, I leave the Democratic Party and become a Libertarian. And in doing so, I encourage other LGBT voters to do the same. The Democratic Party has given us glittering platitudes and empty promises of true equality.

    Is full and unambiguous support for same-sex marriage in the 2008 Democratic Platform? That would be a No. Is full and unambiguous support for same-sex marriage in the Libertarian Platform? Yes!

    To those who say the Libertarian Party is too small to have any impact and that the LGBT community will loose what semblance of voice we have in the body politic. I encourage you to think of this. It is said that the LGBT community makes up between 4% to 6% of the California vote. Think about that vote combined with the third largest Independent party in California and the US.

    The LGBT community has the opportunity to make a difference…not just be used year after year. We have an opportunity to really be heard…not just be an easy bank account used for the quick political cash. It’s beyond time for the LGBT community to emancipate itself from the Democratic Party and to become respected as Libertarians.

  11. Glenn Dixon
    November 7, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Until grass-roots organizations are organized independently of political parties or candidates, the power to wield the tool will still rest solely in their hands. The interests they serve can be neither local nor balanced.

    Articles like this allow us to focus our attention on those disparities left unaddressed by the conventional political process.

    Our collective responses will eventually establish a nexus about which we can begin to organize and direct our energy.

    All we need to do is to stay informed and involved.

Comments are closed.