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!