I was a bit surprised that the political press didn’t comment more last week on the stunning success of the “Burn Bush” netroots fund drive. $125,000 from over 3,200 donors. 14-months before the election. Over a weekend. In August. Unprecedented.
But with the sudden withdrawal of state Sen. Rodney Tom only seven weeks after he jumped into the race, the pundits are starting to take notice. In a brief post on TIME Magazine’s political blog Real Clear Politics, Reid Wilson describes WA-08 as “a great pickup opportunity for Democrats,” but for “one major problem … a competitive primary.”
Well, it turned out not to be much of a problem for Burner after all, and Wilson puts his finger on one of the reasons why:
One source close to Tom said the decision was made all the easier after President Bush came to the state to raise funds for Reichert. During that time, Burner used her credentials with the netroots to attract 3200 new donors, raising more than $125,000 over three days. A Burner strategist said it was conceivable that she could raise as much — or more — than Reichert did from the Bush visit. Tom raised about $100,000 in a month, though the source admitted Tom couldn’t compete with Burner’s national fundraising potential.
“You have thousands of people giving twenty, thirty bucks. It’s how campaigns should be run.”
It may be premature to say that the rules have changed, but there is no doubt they are changing. New technologies now enable progressive candidates with broad netroots support to run a “people-powered” campaign capable of matching a handful of rich folks dollar for dollar. And by so effectively merging the old campaign paradigms with the new, Darcy Burner is fast becoming a model for congressional candidates nationwide.
How did she do it? That’s what a number of bloggers and congressional campaign staffers have asked me after the stunning success of Burner’s virtual town hall and netroots fund drive, and our conversations always seem to devolve into the same question: “Who is handling Burner’s netroots outreach?” But unfortunately for those hoping to quickly replicate formula, the disappointing truth is… nobody. Burner has no “netroots outreach.” The netroots are an integral part of her campaign.
You could almost say that Burner has “gone native,” except that would wrongly imply some sort of personal transformation. In fact Burner has always been smart, driven, progressive, passionate, technically savvy, and well… a bit of a geek who famously installed the phone system herself in her first campaign office. Burner is the netroots, except rather than just blogging about politics and contributing money, Burner decided she could make more of a difference by running for office herself. And had the local and national netroots been as mature two years ago as they are today, I’m pretty damn sure Burner would be running for reelection right now rather than Reichert.
Now, I know there are some, like Democratic state Rep. Deb Eddy, who worry that Burner’s close identity with the netroots might be as much a liability as it is an asset:
Primaries bring out the party faithful, said Eddy, and “Darcy was more left wing than [Tom] is.”
However, the 8th District, which stretches from Duvall to Eatonville, is not as liberal as Burner is, Eddy said, and that could spell trouble in a race against Reichert. While Burner is popular among left-leaning bloggers, that may not translate to the average voter.
“One thing that worries me is she has not naturally gravitated to more nuanced positions,” Eddy said. “Sometimes it’s hard to get perspective or distance from the net roots. They can create a lot of smoke.”
Hmm. The “Burn Bush” campaign generated fire, not smoke; that’s what drove Tom so quickly out of the race. And if Eddy is going to lazily adopt the Republican frame that Burner is somehow out of touch with her district, perhaps she could explain exactly what it is about Burner (and us “left-leaning bloggers”) that is “too liberal”?
Is it “too liberal” to fight for a responsible close to our occupation of Iraq? Is it “too liberal” to support reproductive rights, and the civil rights of all citizens regardless of race, creed, gender and sexual preference? Is it “too liberal” to oppose warrantless wiretapping, torture and suspension of habeas corpus? Is it “too liberal” to offer a quality public education to all our children and affordable health care to all Americans? Is it “too liberal” to consistently oppose drilling in ANWR, to accept the scientific consensus on evolution and climate change, and to reject estate tax repeal?
According to opinion polls and recent initiative tallies, Burner is smack dab in the mainstream of 8th CD voters on these and many other issues, and while I’m sure there must be some issues on which at least a slight majority of district voters side more with Reichert than with Burner, none immediately come to mind. If Burner were so liberal, so out of touch with the needs of her district, she had the perfect opportunity to prove it during a recent live chat on the progressive blog FireDogLake, where she was all but begged to pander to the audience on the issue of H1B visas. She refused. So in the future, when Eddy publicly frets that Burner is “too liberal” for the district, reporters might want to ask Eddy for some specific examples before repeating the claim unsupported. And it is ironic that Eddy would accuse Burner of not gravitating toward more “nuanced positions” when it is not at all clear from her comments that Eddy has studied Burner’s positions at all.
The fact is, it is Reichert who is out of touch with his constituents, who is too conservative for his district on Iraq, on FISA, on children’s health care, on reproductive rights, on Social Security reform, on estate tax repeal and on any number of high profile issues. It is Reichert who refuses to address climate change because the overwhelming scientific consensus somehow threatens his political ideology or religion or both. It is Reichert who only four years ago — in the wake of the invasion of Iraq — was recruited by both parties, yet chose to be a Republican.
Burner’s critics routinely accuse her of being “too liberal,” while never offering a single example to back up their claim, and yet Reichert is demonstrably outside the mainstream of 8th CD voters on issue after issue after issue… not the least of which being his almost sycophantic support of our profoundly unpopular president and his disastrous occupation of Iraq. By comparison to Reichert, Burner may indeed be liberal, but then by that measure, so is the 8th CD.
Last year Karl Rove and the Reichert campaign (with the active cooperation of the Seattle Times editorial board) were somewhat successful at defining Burner, simply by calling her names. This time around it won’t be so easy. Burner is better, smarter, and more experienced than she was two years ago, and so are the netroots who have her back. We’ve already seen everything the other side has to offer, but they clearly have no idea how to parry the growing strength of our people-powered movement. As Burner stated in a recent video, “There are more of us than there are of them.” And in electoral politics, that’s ultimately all that matters.