Monday, January 23, 2006

Redistrictgate 2006: JMac gets it right, the ACC Dems kind of get it, the DPG doesn't get it at all

Two redistricting things we’d like to draw your attention to today.  First off, Jmac has two pieces up at his blog.  (“Is this the End” and “Roundup of the Absurd”)  We’re not so sure that the Chamber is making itself totally irrelevant, but we’re open-minded on the issue.  JMac makes good points.

In our continuing coverage of redistricting, we submit to you today’s opinion piece by John Jeffreys, chairman of the Athens-Clarke County Democratic Party.  (ABH: “Democrats offer views on redistricting bill”)

Jeffreys makes a good point, and one that most of the opponents to the redistricting have missed.  Ralph Hudgens and his gang did pretty much slip this one in under the radar, and decided to forego the common courtesy of letting the local government know, to say nothing of notifying the other members (who happen to be Democrats) of the Athens legislative delegation.  Why all the secrecy?

However, we have to take issue with Jeffreys on another point.  Sez Jeffreys:

“…it would weaken, not strengthen, the voices of the majority of citizens of Athens-Clarke County, if the most Democratic-leaning county in this area is ‘represented’ by two Republican state senators.”

Hold on.  Last we checked, the bill was going to carve ACC in half, which is bad enough, but apparently the bill mandates that, regardless of how the actual vote turns out, the winner will always be a Republican?  Hooboy, that’s some mighty fine bill-writing there.

Or maybe not.  Obviously, the voters still get to decide, and clearly, Jeffreys is stating the obvious – the districts are drawn in such a way that a Democrat being elected in either is somewhat less than probable.  So why are we making a big deal about this?  

Well, Jeffreys’ comment kind of sums up a major problem we have with our local Democrats around Athens.  They just give up too easily.  If the ACC Dems owned a peach orchard, we would hope that none of their trees grew more that four feet high, because all they want to do is pick the low-hanging fruit.  

When the going gets tough, the tough get going, and the ACC Democrats default back to the races that they were already going to win.  That’s the kind of behavior that helped Brian Kemp beat Doug Haines by a handful of votes in 2002, and it’s the kind of behavior that helped Kemp beat Becky Vaughn by more than a handful in 2004, while the local Democrats ignored non-partisan elections and concentrated on “helping” Jane Kidd, who already had her House district sewn up anyway.  

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, and you miss almost 100% of the shots you half-ass.  Speaking as a local Democrat who has no connection to the local party (Those guys can’t stand me.  Wonder why?), I would love to see them getting in Bill Cowsert’s face, and especially in Ralph Hudgens’ face.  Look at the numbers in ACC.  In 2004, we went 58% for John Kerry.  The Democrats in ACC are the big dogs in the kennel, but instead, they’ve spent the last few years acting like a puppy who just got nipped on the rump.  As John Jeffreys himself says today, we are, “the most Democratic-leaning county in this area.”  

We think it’s high time our local party started acting like it.  Just win, baby!

However, as annoyed as we are at the local Democrats, we’re equally annoyed at the Democratic Party of Georgia.  Where’s Bobby Kahn on this one, and why doesn’t he have the local party’s back?  The state party needs to come out and take a few swings at this one too.  Unfortunately, they haven’t made it to the dugout yet.  If this were a solid red county, we would understand the DPG’s diffidence, but then again, if this were a solid red county, Ralph Hudgens wouldn’t be trying to carve his own personal road to glory outside the Loop.  


Anonymous said...

I can't figure out what you're slamming the local Dems about here. The Athens-Clarke County Dems have won all those races hugely in the area in which they, by definition, are working in - Clark County!

Check the maps and then do the math. In the previous senate races, the local Dems hit or exceeded their targets of overwhelming, landslide Democratic votes. The ACC Dems can't do much about the fact that Oconee, Oglethorpe, Jackson, and Barrow county voters won't ever vote for anybody with a "D" and that's just a plain fact that we have to live with unless you can find us some kind of Super-James Carville Monster Guy that can change the votes outside Clarke County. I don't think that person exists.

If we get those new districts, it won't matter one bit if we get 100% of the votes in Clarke County to go for the Dem - we'll still get 2 Republicans.

Nobody is giving up on anything but you'd do well to remember that all the Clarke County Dems are volunteers - there is nobody who is paid so we all have to work at regular jobs all the live-long day. You got the money to hire a team of Carville-types? Me neither.

Publius said...

Fair point, and I do appreciate the volunteers that staff out the local Dems. But you guys (I'm assuming that you're on the committee, since you used "we" there) also totally fell asleep at the switch on nonpartisan elections.

It seems to me, from my outsider's viewpoint (the few times I've been to Democratic Party meetings, I've felt like high school all over again, trying to sit at the cool kids table), that the Clarke County Dems are more concerned with their internal office politics rather than the external politics that I'd rather see you guys work on. By the way, this isn't limited to the ACC Dems, it's pretty much every local democratic club I've ever seen/worked with.

But, it isn't all the fault of the local Democratic Party. It isn't as though you're getting any support whatsoever from Spring Street, is it? They've left ACC out in the cold, and no, I'm not being facetious.

There are good people in the ACC Democratic Party. I know a lot of you (heck, I might even know you!), and respect a lot of you. But the party as a whole is pretty ineffective outside of the easy races, and as you implied, and I will now distort in true psuedo-journalistic fashion, in Athens, most all the races are easy races.

Could the ACC Dems have done more for, as an example, Becky Vaughn? I think so. Those votes in Athens were never in doubt, but I see two areas for improvement. So, if you'll pardon advice from someone who doesn't participate in your process, here goes:

There are a lot of folks out there in ACC who are registered to vote but don't. A significant number of those used to vote fairly regularly, but stopped. My opinion only, but that is far more fertile ground than voter registration. (Registration is also a noble cause, but it's much harder to activate those newly-registered voters.)

Also, why couldn't the ACC Dems hit the streets in Oconee, Oglethorpe, Madison, and Jackson counties? Or phone bank? Knowing Dan Matthews, I can't imagine that he would refuse the help or start some kind of turf war. (Oconee's in gear, our cylinders are clickin'...ACC will steer clear, 'cause every Athenian's a lousy chicken!)

Would you rather limit yourselves to ACC, or would you rather win more races? I don't think we need some sort of super-Carville to win. There's a great column by Molly Ivins that I'm going to be posting on shortly. If you accept her logic, and mine, then all folks need is a solid message, because they agree with us in overwhelming numbers on the core democratic principles. We don't need James Carville, we just need some more hard work to get our message out. And in Jackson, Oglethorpe, Barrow, etc, the county party organizations don't have the resources to do that on their own. In the interests of getting more votes, it might be time for the ACC Dems to lend more of a hand. Will it help? We won't know until we try.

Anonymous said...

you're not really wrong but, you really do not have a grasp of the resources available. Everybody was doing all they damn could do and most of them were doing a bit more.

I've spent at least 1,000 hours deep in the trenches on all these state senate races and even more on the local ones. Let me tell you - it's lonely in there! Plenty of room for any of y'all who feel like jumping in at any time.

Damn excellent point on dropping the ball on the non-partisan issue, though! Really, it was not forgotten as much as we were just out of warm bodies - everything we had was thrown at the other races. The Republicans, and let nobody doubt that it was all a Republican (non-partisan, my ass!) raised and spent a ton of money on this issue and the Dems had nothing left in their pockets but lint by that time. Most of the best and brightest politicos on the D-team are active in the gay and lesbian community and I think you can remember that they were a little bit busy around the last big election.

All any of us could do was just stand there and watch the bulldozer running us over. I asked myself a hundred times if I could find anything left to use for non-partisan but, all the soldiers were already in the field and the money was all gone.

Have their been failings? Gawdamnright! But, it ain't the fault of the ones who were doing the work (as you seem to be saying) - it was the fault of the ones not doing anything to help. I have no idea if that includes you or not - I have no idea who you are.

Publius said...

That's one of the reasons I started this blog, actually. Candidates need help, and free help is the best of all. As I've said, ad nauseam, the folks who are on this blog arguing local politics ten months before the elections are fertile ground for any candidate who bothers to post and respond here.

Trust me, I've been there. I was there in elections past, and will be there in 2006 and beyond.

Resources, resources, resources. One resource that I encourage the local Dems to use is right here. Need volunteers? We'll hype it. Got an event? We'll hype it. You'll get more ink than in the Banana-Herald, albeit with a significantly lesser readership, but it's a resource, nonetheless.

I'll call out the Democrats when I think they need it, but at the end of the day, I'm ready to try to elect a few.

And to get back to the original point of the post, I don't think that John Jeffreys effectively ceding those two seats to the Republicans is going to help us do that.

Anonymous said...

and a little more...

phone banks? door-to-door? in the neighboring counties? Wow! why didn't we think of doing that?! Oh, man!

LOL! You're just revealing that you don't know what level of effort was put into those races. All of that and a whole, whole lot more that I will not tell you about was done everywhere you suggested. OK, I don't mean to be ugly but, you really, really don't know...

on the subject of fighting the impossible fights that you think we don't fight - I give you, as Exhibit "A", Amendment 1. A little fight that we could have just passed on since there was never any way to win it, right? Low-hanging fruit, my ass!

In fact, I argued that we should have given that one a pass and focused on the state senate race and the non-partisan because those were winnable. Think I was wrong? Hmmm...but, that would have been just taking on the "easy" races and so we'd be right back to getting slammed for our 4-foot peach trees. Of course, Athens would have been a helluvalot better off if we had but, I sure wouldn't want us to be exposed to criticism in a blog or anything.

Oh! I almost stupid did we look campaigning for Kerry and Denise Majette - shoulda let those go because those were really just too hard. Everyone of those losers used up our limited resources and, for what?!

So, here's the point: politics is damn hard and you have to work just as hard on the losers as the winners so, it's just dumb to waste resources on campaigns that cannot be won. You call that low-hanging fruit if you want.

Victory parties are a lot more fun than commiserating with the losers and I bet I've been to more of each than anybody (maybe everybody combined) who writes for any local blog except maybe Dan Matthews.