Notes from June 19, 2022 meeting

Many thanks to our short-notice replacement hosts.

I started with a discussion of current prospects for Senate (pretty good) and House (major improvement needed nationwide). My remarks on California are further down the post.

Sister District has an analysis of the value of postcards and letters based on their own experiments plus others’. Let‘s say the results are scattered. The best result was a postcard campaign to sporadic Democratic voters. One campaign showed equally poor results for letters and postcards: neither improved turnout. Tony the Democrat is more upbeat and less scientific, seeing postcarding as an intermediate step between mass emails (useless) and targeted social media networks (effective). He cites this paper from Yale. And Vote Forward has surveys showing significant turnout improvement from their “hybrid” (part pre-printed, part handwritten) campaign, better than any postcard campaign. I guess you pays your money and you takes your choice.

As requested, Obama’s interview in The Atlantic. It may be paywalled.


We are resetting our Act Blue thermometer. New recipients are Carolina Federation, which is working hard for progressives across the board in North Carolina, and the campaign funds of the Michigan and Arizona State House Democrats. In a good year, we can flip those.

California primaries

Some of our incumbents looks good. Katie Porter (CA-47) got over 50% by herself. Mike Levin (CA-49) had 49% and a random Democrat had another 2%. Similarly, in CA-09, Josh Harder had only 39%, but the Dems together had 52%. In CA-27, Christy Smith’s third run against Mike Garcia starts with only 37% (Garcia had 47%), but the Dems combined had 50%.

There are other districts where we came close, but we need to run 5 points better in November. Kermit Jones (CA-03) was first with 40, but Dem total was only 46. Activate America is pumping Will Rollins (CA-41); he got 46 against MAGA incumbent Ken Calvert, but he was the only Democrat on the ballot. Rudy Salas’ run against David Valadao (CA-22) netted 45 in the primary, but he was the only Democrat. Valadao does have the weakness that he voted for impeachment and some constituents will rather leave the race blank. Conservadem Adam Gray cashed in on endorsements and placed second in CA-13 with 31. Add in Phil Arballo’s 17, makes 48. Less promising: Jay Chen (CA-45) is a great candidate by both résumé and on the issues, but he had only 43 to incumbent Michelle Steele’s 48, and the third candidate was a Republican. And expect to see fundraising by Asif Mahmood who finished first with 41 against Young Kim (CA-40), but he was the only Democrat. Kim had MAGAs running to her right.

In Los Angeles, once (almost) all the votes were in, Karen Bass was 7 ahead of Rick Caruso for Mayor of Los Angeles. This is one of several races where the Election Night punditry was confused by the continuing annoying habit of liberals to vote late—Caruso was almost even then. The recall of Chesa Boudin led to a lot of stories about crime backlash, but then all the other progressive DA candidates did really well, including Pamela Price here in Alameda County. I’m putting in a map of the Boudin recall vote. If someone can explain it to me, I would appreciate the help.

Source SF Chronicle

Building a political community

We are reaching the point where the Democrats have to start some sort of campaign to turn the House midterms around. Depending on Liz Cheney doesn’t seem like the best plan.

So I was pleased, in a certain way, to see my friend the economist Brad DeLong recommend this piece by Micah Sifry, about whom I know little. (His bio mentions being on the board of Consumer Reports, for whatever that is worth.) The point is that the Dems have to make politics back into a social experience, not try to flood the zone with more and more expensive TV ads.

The national Democratic party is like the Titanic with the iceberg in sight but no ability to steer, struggling to govern with a very narrow majority in Congress and failing to connect much with voters.… This rings true to me. Politics as it is practiced today, in the form of messaging wars on television and online, is just too far from most people’s lives. A well-made ad may “go viral” on social media and generate campaign cash, but there’s not much evidence voters pay much attention or get persuaded by paid media.…[A progressive consultant] goes on to describe what that needs to look like: “Candidates and party committees should be spending time doing things like sponsoring community events like [Ohio Senator] Sherrod Brown’s ‘movie nights,’ which he does in the old movie theaters of Ohio’s mid-sized towns, where the theme is to build community spirit and togetherness…

Micah Sifry: Messaging Won’t Save Democrats; Community Might

Meeting May 22, 4 pm

I received a request for info on the downballot races in the June primary.

Unfortunately, I myself know little about the candidates for County Superintendent of Schools, Controller, etc. So, perhaps we can all look into the values of these worthies, to discuss on Sunday.


I haven’t been able to think through the implications of the upcoming repeal of Roe; maybe it is not even my place to. I want to point out that today, Speaker Pelosi appeared in Texas for incumbent Henry Cuellar (TX–28), who is literally the last anti-abortion Democrat in the House. (He also had his home raided by the FBI, which appears to be looking into his financial relationship with Azerbaijan.) He is in a primary run-off against a progressive young woman, Jessica Cisneros. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders endorsed her.

Pelosi has been the most effective Speaker in memory in terms of holding her caucus together, but this seems tone deaf. The theory is that, with Democrats having done very badly in the Rio Grande districts in 2020, Cuellar has a much better chance of retaining the seat. Is it worth it, for the cost to the image of the party?

You have to admire the Republicans’ commitment to team play and the long game, as enforced primarily by Mitch McConnell and the oligarchs who back him. While Dems cheer the bend of the arc of history, he worked incrementally over decades to orchestrate the takeover of the government to bend it back.

Democrats seem more interested in not losing too badly. Keep the filibuster, so that we can mitigate damage after the Republicans win. (This even supposes a number of Republicans would still support the filibuster when it works to their disadvantage, which is far from certain.) Instead, Democrats celebrate individual performances in a losing cause. You can see this today in the persons enraged at the suggestion cancer-ridden RBG should have retired early in the Obama Administration. Ginsburg’s rhetoric will sound so good in Blue State textbooks, but her last public statement, released post mortem, was a wheedling, feckless request that her successor be nominated by the winner of the impending presidential election. Of course, once they finished laughing, the Republicans did no such thing.

Next meeting is May 8

We did not intend to change the off-week parity when we cancelled last week. However, we have some appropriate May Day activities!

The Focus for Democracy people are doing another fundraiser for their downballot election work.

To attend our next event for the States Project Sunday, May 1st, at 5pm PT/8pm ETclick here or below to register and a Zoom link will be emailed to you.

Bruce brings us some reading material for next week. (This may or may not preview on the web page, depending if WordPress notices which price plan we are on. If not, it should have a download option.)

And perhaps with the distance of time, the experience of these Assembly candidates may seem droll.

‘Zoom-bombers’ drop lewd video, racist comments at Sacramento candidate forum.

A great speech from Mallory McMorrow

McMorrow is a member of the Michigan State Assembly whom we helped get into office. Her race was adopted by Bay Area Sister District in 2018. One of the Republicans in the MI Assembly wrote a campaign fundraising letter featuring the new blood libel that Democrats—in particular, McMorrow—are grooming children for sexual molestation.

This was her response.

I can’t help thinking that if Terry McAuliffe had confronted Republican slander with this outrage, he’d be Governor of Virginia today.

[UPDATE] James Carville seems to agree with me. Two months ago he said the Dems needed to abandon “faculty lounge” wokeness. But it turns out he didn’t mean abandoning the marginalized. He meant abandoning mealy-mouthed evasive defense. He’s a huge fan of this clip.