By Michael D. Fox/The Moving Target
The Obama campaign should serve as a master class in winning elections for Democrats.Â
Unfortunately, not enough California Democrats are playing attention to the Obama campaignâ€™s most important lessons.
As the effects of the stateâ€™s budget crisis and the nationâ€™s economic meltdown hit more and more California voters, the Democratic Party has a once in a generation opportunity to convince voters that it that will protect and defend their interests far better than the Republicans, as well as make fundamental and progressive changes in the way that California is governed.
But to do so will require that Democrats embrace and implement the lessons of the Obama campaign.
These lessons are:
1.Â Blame Republicans and Present a Democratic Solution
2.Â Use the Internet
3.Â Expand the Electorate
4.Â Champion the Middle Class
Letâ€™s look at them one at a time.
1. Blame Republicans and Present a Democratic Solution
I recently heard a Republican leader of the state senate saying that the stateâ€™s $41 billion budget crisis was â€œnot a Democratic problem or a Republican problem, but a California problem.â€Â
While that kind of non-partisan sentiment and high-minded rhetoric might be praise-worthy in another context, here it is just plain Republican spin.Â Of course Californiaâ€™s Republicans donâ€™t want to take responsibility for the budget mess and the impending collapse of state government and public services, despite the fact that they have caused it by creating the most regressive and ineffective state revenue system in the nation and by obstructing any and all solutions that would require that the stateâ€™s corporate and business interests to share the burden of solving the crisis.
But the Democratic leadership appears to buying into the Republicanâ€™s public relations campaign and failing to place the blame for the crisis squarely on the Republicans.
In his reponseÂ to Governor Schwarzeneggerâ€™s State of the State address, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D- Sacramento) said that this is â€œno time for finger-pointing.â€
If not now, when?
Throughout the presidential election campaign, Barack Obama consistently stayed on message and referred to the â€œBush-McCain economic crisis.â€Â
Why are Californiaâ€™s Democrats not referring to the â€œSchwarzenegger budget crisisâ€ or the â€œRepublican budget crisisâ€?
If the Democrats do not tell the voters that they should blame the Republicans for the stateâ€™s $41 billion shortfall and the impending collapse of state government and public services, who will?Â
Of course, blaming Republicans is not enough. Californiaâ€™s Democrats also need to present a clear Democratic solution to the stateâ€™s budget and economic problems.
During the presidential campaign, Obama talked about middle class tax cuts, investment in infrastructure, help for homeowners, and a stimulus package geared to getting America back to work.Â His website contained detailed solutions to the countryâ€™s economic crisis.
What is the Democratic solution to Californiaâ€™s economic problems?
And where is it spelled out?
You wonâ€™t find it on the California Democratic Party website.
2. Use the Internet
During the presidential election, I received at least an email message per day from the Obama campaign.Â And even now I receive several emails a week from the Obama administration.
But Iâ€™ve never received an email from the California Democratic Party.
(The Orange County Democratic PartyÂ does a much better job than the state party of using the Internet to communicate â€“ thanks Melahat Rafiei!)
The California Democratic Party groupÂ on Facebook has 429 fans.Â The website has not been updated since October 2008, before the November election.
The California Republican Party groupÂ on Facebook has 1,400 members.
The Internet is more than an easy, fast, and relatively inexpensive way to communicate.
It is also a potential game changer for California Democrats.
For years, the Republican Party has used direct mail to raise funds, project itâ€™s message, motivate itâ€™s base, and get out the vote.Â It has developed extensive mailing lists and tremendous expertise in direct mail political marketing.
Democrats have been unable to compete with the Republicanâ€™s direct mail campaign â€“ not least because direct mail is expensive.
But the Internet makes direct mail (nearly) obsolete.
It is also much less expensive.
The Obama campaign showed that Democrats can have a tremendous advantage over Republicans in Internet messaging and networking.
But to capitalize on that advantage in California, we have to use it.
Next time: Obama Lessons 3 and 4: Expand the Electorate and Champion the Middle Class.