The Credit Game
Atrios has a nice piece about "credit" today. This has become a DCCC vs. netroots battle royale, and considering that there are as many as 10 undecided seats it's distracting from a campaign that's still ongoing. But it's important to have this debate, at least online, since the national media can't understand it and give all of the credit to Rahm Emanuel and his foresight.
Emanuel did a good job raising money, though I'm wary of the sources (he's from the corporate/DLC/Clintonite school). I immediately thought Rick Perlstein's take was significant:
The Democrats have won back the House. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), nearly tripped over himself on the way to the microphone to claim the credit. In fact, while the tidal wave in the House looks like a bit of strategic genius by Emanuel--and pundits are starting to call it that way (Howard Fineman on MSNBC noted that the Democrats even picked up a seat in Kentucky, where the 3rd District candidate was John Yarmuth--"Emanuel's fourth choice!" Fineman exclaimed, as if in awe of the power possessed by Emanuel's mere table scraps)--in race after race, it actually represents the apotheosis of forces Emanuel has doubted all long: the netroots...
The bloggers, blunt as they may be, think they have a better plan for building a lasting Democratic majority. Last night's results suggest the rest of us should start taking it seriously.
Of course, the late money Emanuel threw at certain candidates, like John Hall in NY-19, did make a difference. It also would have been put to excellent use earlier, like with Larry Kissell, still in the hunt but only 400 votes down in NC-08.
It'd be impossible for the netroots to raise the kind of money that a house organ like the DCCC can. Similarly it's impossible for the DCCC to know exactly what the mood is on the ground in local races, and to parachute their own candidates in and expect them to do well. Both can and must mutually co-exist, along with the DNC and their party-building 50-state strategy (which deserves a lot of credit), local blogospheres (which operate far differently than national ones) and the traditional liberal organizations like the Sierra Club and Common Cause and PFAW and MoveOn.
I don't think it's important to clamor for credit, but I think it's important to note that the tactic that won this election more than anything else was an insistent focus on the disaster of the Iraq War. That came from the netroots and the progressive movement, and can be attributed to no candidate more than the dearly departed Ned Lamont. Rahm Emanuel and the DC cognoscenti didn't want to talk about the war because they thought they'd lose another election on national security, when it was clear that people were fed up with the war and desired change. Getting back to Atrios:
All I know is months ago it was conventional wisdom in DC that the Democrats couldn't take the House, that candidates shouldn't talk about the war, and that the best way to try to win 15 seats was to throw all your money into about 18 of them and hope for the best. In the end that's not how it played out. The field of candidates widened, more campaigns were centered around the issue that voters consistently said was the most important one, and we did win the House. The real question is precisely how that happened. My sense is that candidates managed to build really great grassroots campaigns, managed to get some poll support by doing crazy things like talking about the war, some of those campaigns managed to get netroots attention from excellent local bloggers and from here and firedoglake and the axis of kos-mydd-swingstate (mostly the latter 2), creating additional buzz and media coverage which allowed them to attract more donors and finally some attention from Rahmbo. And then some, including one that I know the DCCC was, early on, actively hostile to, managed to win. Yay them.
I really don't care who gets "credit." I just know that it's silly to set this up as a competition, and some of the hostility you see from some in the party organizations to the "netroots" is absurd. Whatever role people online play- and the money raised isn't the most important role - they're, you know, trying to help Democrats get elected.
I hope that all sides learn lessons from this and put them to use next time. Nobody has a monopoly on how to win elections (not even Karl Rove!). There's no reason to bicker over things that don't need bickering, especially when there are still races out in the field to support.