One problem with the Blue Dog Democrats is that they’re corrupt, venial, and cowardly. Sadly, there’s not much to be done about that. Another problem, and usually much less noticed, is that many of them are dumber than a fucking sack of hammers, with a good dash of ignorance to boot. Certainly, they have never heard of viral marketing. More about that in a bit.
When thinking about reelection, most Blue Dogs still seem to be focused on traditional fundraising, although a couple probably realize that they could get some money through the intertubes. Let’s not be naive about the role of money: money does matter for re-election campaigns. Stuff needs to be bought, staff needs to be paid, and radio and television aren’t going to disappear. But I think the Blue Dogs have overemphasized the need for campaign funds, and underemphasized ‘buzz’ or viral marketing.
Part of that stems from the ease of quantifying how much money one needs to wage a successful campaign. One can determine precisely how much TV and radio buys cost, for instance. This means that a candidate can plan a concrete reelection strategy (usually to the detriment of the country) built around how best to raise funds (i.e., which sons-of-bitches to sell out to). But, when thinking about ‘viral’ campaign strategies, how do you measure what, to a considerable extent, is unmeasurable? How do you quantify its effects? Opinion polls only capture part of the story: a dispirited rank-and-file member might vote for you, but do little else. They won’t argue on your behalf when talking with friends and neighbors. Hell, they might even join in with a new line of attack–think of it as a ‘bipartisan consensus’ that Candidate X is an asshole. Likewise, they won’t encourage others to support–both by voting and donating–to friends and neighbors. The ‘buzz’ will be quite muted, or even, overall, negative, particularly if the opposition smells blood.
In a district that usually has overwhelming blowouts, this won’t matter. Even if people are upset with Pelosi or Durbin, for example, these Democrats aren’t going to lose their seats. Sure, the results might be closer than they thought they would be, but they’re not getting booted out of office. It’s the Democrats who win by small margins, in districts that typically don’t strongly trend Democratic who will be in trouble: at the margins, everything matters. Chris Bowers made this point a couple of weeks ago:
…if no health care legislation passes, and Democrats lose seats as a result, Blue Dogs are the people who will lose the seats, not Progressives. Even if Klein is correct and Democrats lose a bunch of seats because Progressives blocked it, Blue Dogs are actually the ones who will bear the brunt of those losses. As such, Blue Dogs have more to lose if health care fails to pass than Progressives.
….as soon as we make it clear that we don’t feel much of a need to protect Blue Dogs, then they are the ones who have a lot more reason to cave into our demands [rather than vice versa]. If another Republican wave really is coming, Blue Dogs will be the first Democrats to lose.
And this idea is now hitting the Washington Post op-ed page:
And as for the centrist Democrats who represent swing states and are trying to reduce the whole exercise to “reform lite,” who do they think will be most vulnerable at the polls if the reform effort fails and voters decide to punish the party? Do they think they have a chance of beating their next Republican opponents if progressive activists aren’t enthusiastic about writing checks, making phone calls and going door to door?
And John Aravosis has a collection of emails and comments that should give every Blue Dog pause.
Regular readers will know that I’m not enamored of the ‘WE HAZ INTERNETZ’ triumphalism. But I think Blue Dogs are really underestimating how much a crappy healthcare bill will hurt them, in part, because they are completely unaware of how important the buzz and viral marketing are in a close political race (and mainstream political consultants who are paid by the amount of TV ad buys have no incentive to convince their employers otherwise). You would think $400,000 raised online for progressive Democrats–and organized outside the scope of the party apparatus–would be a big hint.
Then again, a lot of Blue Dogs are also fucking morons.