Monday, October 25, 2010

What Brown can teach other Democrats

Ezra Klein finds a really hilarious closing ad by Jerry Brown:

Meg's closing ad is a bit less cheery.

I have to admit that I'm still surprised by how this race has turned out. Brown has turned out to be a stronger campaigner than I thought he would be, it's true. But what's helped him the most is that Whitman's megabucks and the associated huge ad buys have become a big-time problem for her. Brown is partly responsible for making an issue of it, but the thing is that while attack ads can be quite effective, there is a need for proportion in these kinds of things, and it's important to be wary of overkill. Whitman is a novice politico, and evidently thought that applying enough resources to her strategy would be enough to win. This has not remotely come to pass.

There is a lot to learn here, actually. Democrats tried for a time to hit the Chamber of Commerce for its highly partisan role in this year's elections, but evidently the complaints of David Brooks scared them off. The simple fact is that most of the money in politics pays for ads, and the enormous surge of Republican money has led to an increased capability to run lots of negative ads. Turning that into a liability might have made helped out the Democrats, as in, "Notice all those ads for X? They're being funded by outside groups, paying X's ad bills with money raised from sources they won't disclose. What happens if X gets to Washington, and those groups' bills come due?" My perception is that people say they're concerned about the deficit but that they're really worried about the state of the economy and the power of corporations over our politics. Too many Democrats seem to buy the media's perceptions of the public (which are indebted to the right's perceptions of the public) as infuriated over deficits, instead of taking these complaints with the grain of salt they require. Maybe it's different for someone with lots of training and experience in the software game, but my view of clients is that they usually know what they want, but they don't always say what they want, and it's part of your job to cut through the inexactitude. I think it's wise for politicians to view voters in the same way.

The military after Vietnam used to have as a mantra the saying, "You can't win a war with only air power." That seemed to go away after Desert Storm, when we basically won a war with air power. But it's true in war and in politics. I don't think you can win a campaign just with ads, and the Brown campaign managed to neutralize a pretty important asset to Whitman's team. If the other side is bombing you relentlessly, try to use that to bring together the other people on the ground against the common enemy. That's just common sense.

Additionally, if you're interested in California politics, this is a valuable piece from TPM.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.