Monday, January 14, 2008

Winning the West in 2008

McJoan wrote Sunday on Daily Kos about the presidential race in the West, concentrating on the Rocky Mountain states. The Democratic Party started its run for the White House by paying a lot of attention to the West, and providing money for state parties to beef up their staffs and outreach efforts. Wyoming's a great example of that. The state party has consistent leadership, and PR guy Bill Luckett does a good job of getting out the word, both in person and on the web. Howard Dean's 50-state strategy has helped Wyoming Democrats, although we're not too welcoming when he actually shows up in the state. But that's the key issue, isn't it? Democratic candidates in Wyoming need to be strong progressives but can't be seen as beholden to to the DNC. The only way Dems can win is to woo Republicans, Libertarians, and independents. Gov. Freudenthal did it twice in his campaigns. Former Gov. Mike Sullivan is another good example. Gary Trauner snagged a lot of votes in 2006 as the anti-Barbara Cubin. That won't be so easy this time, as Cubin is retiring.

McJoan made a lot of great points in her DK post. Here's a paragraph that rings true:

Finding avenues of nonpartisan, and even anti-partisan, appeal have been critical to the survival of the Western Democrat in the lean years since Ronald Reagan helped solidify the region as solidly red, as has keeping the national party at arm's length. The key for the Democratic Party in shaping a strategy for the 2008 elections will be allowing Democrats running in the region to run with a high degree of independence from the national party's message and structure. The key for national Democrats running in the West will be to find those issues that can be branded as Democratic and that uphold our progressive values.

Notice that she doesn't use the term "bipartisan." Here's why:

There is also the risk of misreading the basic anti-partisan orientation of these voters as a longing for bipartisanship. It's important to note that, in the context of this region, anti-partisan is not the equivalent of bipartisan. Western voters are highly pragmatic, looking for problem solvers first, and ideological debate is of less interest than action. Misreading this as some great yearning for comity can result in short-lived and uneasy compromises that erode the Democratic brand and end up diluting policies and programs. That doesn't have to happen. Voters in the Mountain West are more swayed by results than by process. Battles can be won, even in the most unlikely of places, by taking strong, principled, progressive stands.

Standing up for constitutional rights, a living wage, energy independence, etc., will go far in the West.

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