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Weak Strategery

December 29th, 2004 - 2:36 am

An insightful WaPo op-ed today from liberal activist Michael Gecan. Here’s the meat:

Scores of thousands of people, many of them paid (how else do you squander $200 million?), knocked on millions of doors during this campaign. The Democratic-leaning canvassers left information, repeated a canned sales pitch and moved along. They did not engage the people in real conversation. They did not listen to their concerns. They did not recruit real volunteers to work on their own blocks. They did not take the time to find out which pastor or rabbi was a leader in an area and which congregations people attended. They were progressive salespeople with a high quota of contacts and no time to relate, who disappeared from people’s towns and lives the very moment, on election night, that they learned the sale had not been made.

It was as if they had never been there. And in a way, they never were. These two tendencies — celebrity worship and quick-hit canvassing — betray the central problem at the heart of the Democratic Party’s political culture. The party has no time or patience for the complex work needed to listen to Americans, to understand their range of views and positions, and to engage them on their deepest interests. Even worse, many in the hierarchy of the Democratic Party have contempt for ordinary Americans — for their red faces and moderate churches and mixed, often moderate, views.

We didn’t get a lot of Democratic canvassing in very Republican Cobb County, Georgia, but Gecan’s description tracks very closely with the kids I saw in Seattle last summer campaigning for Kerry against Bush. Back then, I had the strong suspicion that they weren’t going to be terribly effective; they were just repeating cant, and obnoxious cant at that. Even if you agreed with them, you weren’t likely to stick around and listen to the same canned script for very long–and if you didn’t agree, you were going to shrug them off in a heartbeat.

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