Why I remain pessimistic about Democrats' chances, part II
WASHINGTON, Sept. 13 — The White House took a critical step on Wednesday in its effort to get Congressional blessing for President Bush’s domestic eavesdropping program, but it ran into increasingly fierce resistance from leading Republicans over its plan to try terror suspects being held in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Democrats have allowed Republicans to fight among themselves over the issues, and appear willing to allow the issues to come to a vote rather than risk charges of political obstructionism in an election season.
But Senators Warner, McCain and Graham appeared to be providing cover for the Democrats, allowing them to stay on the sidelines while the three senators, respected Republicans with distinguished military records, take on the White House.
“We think that this is a sincere effort, based on principle, by Senators Warner, McCain and Graham, to come up with the best legislation they can,” said Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island and a member of the Armed Services Committee.
Asked whether Democrats were worried that the Republicans might yield to the White House, Mr. Reed said: “I haven’t seen any evidence of that yet. What I’ve seen is that they’re approaching this looking at the substance, not just over weeks and months, but what’s in the best interests of the United States, what’s in the best interests of American military personnel who might years from now be held.”
The administration had also faced resistance over the N.S.A. wiretapping program. The Democrats had bottled up the administration’s proposals, saying Congress was being forced to legislate “in the dark” about a secret program that few members had been briefed on. They have repeatedly used procedural maneuvers to block the proposals from coming to a vote in the Judiciary Committee, drawing accusations of obstructionism from Republicans.
But Democrats, who appeared to realize the risk of being accused of thwarting debate on national security matters, did not stand in the way of the committee vote on Wednesday.
Disgusting, if true, though that last part doesn't feature any Democratic quotes and could just be the reporters' jaundiced view. In fact, the more likely explanation for Democrats' suddenly dropping their opposition is a combination of the reporters' explanation and the last paragraphs of the article:
Democrats claimed a partial victory on the wiretapping issue when they won Judiciary Committee approval of another measure that could effectively ban the security agency’s eavesdropping program.
That plan, drafted by Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, would affirm that the foreign intelligence law passed by Congress in 1978, requiring court approval for eavesdropping, as the “exclusive” means of authorizing wiretaps in the United States against suspected terrorists and spies.
That set the stage for the unusual spectacle of the Judiciary Committee — and its chairman — supporting two proposals that many lawmakers said would effectively nullify each other if passed.
They're not just capitulating. They're capitulating with the cover of incoherence. Muuuuuch better.
And the Republican turnout machine?
In the past two national elections, in 2002 and 2004, Republicans outperformed Democrats in bringing their backers to the polls, but many Democrats and independent analysts have suggested that the competition may be different this year, in part because of slumping morale among GOP activists. But Chafee's performance -- combined with reports of late-starting organization and internal bickering on the Democratic side -- suggest that the Republican advantage on turnout may remain intact even as many other trends are favoring the opposition.
"Their turnout operation is exquisite," a senior Democratic strategist said. "We are not going to match them."
About six months ago, the National Republican Senatorial Committee sat down with the Chafee campaign to construct a voter-turnout program. Weekly phone calls followed and a number of NRSC senior staffers -- including political director Blaise Hazelwood -- made regular trips to the state to ensure the structure was being built. They identified potential Chafee voters and pressed Democrats to change their party identification to "unaffiliated," a move that would allow them to vote in the Republican primary.
As the campaign wore on, Republicans began another slew of phone calls to unaffiliated voters to tell them that they could vote for Chafee and then immediately change their registration back to unaffiliated or Democrat. The RNC road-tested a new technology in the race that officials said is making their targeting program faster and more precise. It is based on a program that allows volunteers to call potential voters, note their political views and preferences on sheet of paper and immediately scan the results into a huge database known as the Voter Vault. Experts in the political practice known as microtargeting can then instantly analyze the results to determine which issues are moving voters and adjust their pitch.
Democrats simply don't have anything remotely close--and it's not like this sophistication is hard to come by. Just hire any goddamn marketing firm. They do this stuff all the time.
I refuse to get my hopes up for a party with neither the will to fight nor the machinery to compete.
UPDATE: I'm not alone in my pessimism. Read similar sentiments from paradox and Steve Soto.
UPDATE II: That's not even getting into vote-stealing. Watch the video of a study conducted at Princeton.
UPDATE III: You can still read the entire study at the link above, but for convenience, here's the YouTube of the video.
UPDATE IV: Matt Stoller points the finger at specific people responsible for the pitiful state of Democrats' voter-mobilization efforts.