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As long as we're adding up plusses and minuses, The Hill has a few more ideas on the election and the apportionment for credit

Who won the election for Democrats last week? Apportion a large measure of credit to the national environment and to Republican mistakes. Give the Democratic grassroots, who cultivated candidates, knocked on doors and raised money for people and causes ignored (at first) by the national party. Certainly, Rahm Emanuel and Chuck Schumer deserve their accolades.

And then there’s Howard Dean, the unorthodox, insurgent chairman of the Democratic Party. For more than a year, many of the party’s familiarly named strategists, consultants and hangers-on have been convinced that Dean wanted to shape the national committee as a counterweight to the party committees. So if party committees get credit for the victory, Dean should get none, right?


Dean ran for chairman on a platform to devolve power and spending authority to state parties. Dean believed the national party committees were too closely aligned with – and therefore only serviced – the interests of the Washington establishment. He redirected the flow of money and responsibility outward to his patrons in states. He legitimized the grievances and complaints of the party’s grassroots army, who had grown frustrated with their status as outsiders looking in. The RNC pioneered a ground-game first approach in 2004; Dean became the first Democratic chairman to validate the work of volunteer ground warriors.

Whether Dean was right, in the normative sense of the word, is irrelevant. He did what he did, and the consequences speak for themselves….

But beyond the Beltway CW attribution and credit-assignation dance, Paul Lukasiak crunches some real numbers over at Down With Tyranny:

Despite all the praise being heaped upon Rahm Emanuel for the Democratic Party takeover of the House of Representatives, his strategy was a failure. The simple fact is that Emanuel's plan was to target 21 Republican seats as part of his Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's "Red to Blue" strategy, and as of right now, while Democrats needed to take 15 seats to regain control, only nine of those 21 DCCC picked seats have changed hands (three are still in contention). Most of these candidates were "hand-picked" by Emanuel, based on his perception of their prospects to win election—and most of them failed, often by significant margins– and at great financial cost.

The real source of the Democratic victory can be attributed to six other factors– all of them related to progressive politics.

1) National "Netroots" activism which raised funds for, and awareness of, progressive candidates in races being ignored by the DCCC. At least 9 of the Democratic gains can be directly attributed, at least in part, to collective blogger efforts like of DailyKos, MyDD, and The Swing State Project's NetRoots Campaign, and Firedoglake, Down With Tyranny, and Crooks and Liars' BlueAmerica Campaign, and a host of individual bloggers like Duncan Black (Eschaton).

2) The creation of ActBlue, a PAC organized by progressives that made it possible for anyone to raise money for candidates through their own websites, and for progressives to give money to candidates with just a few mouse-clicks.

3) The efforts of progressive politicians like Wesley Clark (WesPac) and Russ Feingold (Progressive Patriots Fund) to support grassroots candidates, and financial contributions of other progressive organizations and their membership, such as People for the American Way, Emily's List, and The latter organization deserves special mention for its efforts to encourage progressive grassroots participation, notably its "Call for Change" program.

4) Howard Dean's 50 State Strategy, which poured money into state party organizations and helped empower grassroots activists.

5) Grassroots (including local "netroots") efforts (encouraged by the Dean strategy, as well as the victory of Ned Lamont in the Connecticut primary) which energized progressive grassroots activists nationwide. Another 10 seats which were ignored by Emanuel, and which did not have significant "national netroots" backing, changed hands.

6) The number of scandals plaguing the GOP this election cycle– a factor which the progressives identified and attempted to exploit to the hilt (with moderate success) but which the DCCC only attempted to exploit when entrenched Republican congressmen were forced to resign– or after progressives who had targeted the races had made them competitive….

There is so much more to Paul's article, and it is worth a full and thorough read. Here's to apportioning all the credit, not just little bits of it — because an energized group of volunteers is a valuable commodity, and a lazy story line that allows a reporter to simply apportion things to one or two people — even if it does make writing up a short article much, much easier — misses the whole story. It misses the best part of the 2006 election:  that it took all the groups working together, from small neighborhood groups that did spot canvassing to the most expensive campaign consultant to everyone in between. 

Here's to learning from ALL of the mistakes…not just the ones that make one side or the other look good or bad or whatever. Very interesting reading, indeed.

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com