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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Small Mobs

There’s not much doubt right now that conservatives are feeling their oats, now that the President’s approval ratings have dropped, health care reform and climate change legislation are in doubt, and in general, Republicans have no responsibility for governance in Washington.
But they’ve got a problem. Their activist “base” remains too small and too wacky to represent an effective grassroots force. We saw that in the earlier Tea Party protests, and we may soon be seeing it again in August Recess events where small groups of angry people demonize Democratic members of Congress. Certainly the shrieking protest held in Austin over the weekend against Rep. Lloyd Doggett, isn’t likely to influence him, insofar as he denounced it as a “mob” put together by the local Republican and Libertarian Parties. Like the angry crowds that materialized at McCain-Palin rallies in the latter stages of the 2008 campaign, such hate-fests tend to draw more attention to their own participants’ behavior than to the targeted Democrats.
On another front, efforts to create a “rightroots” to rival the progressive blogosphere as a force in American politics are moving rather slowly. This last weekend RedState.com, the site often touted as the conservative counterpart to DailyKos, held its first “Gathering” in Atlanta. 200 people showed up, and mainly spent time listening to conservative primary candidates fighting uphill battles against other Republicans, along with familiar right-wing firebrands like Jim DeMint. In a couple of weeks, 1500-2000 attendees are expected at the Kos-inspired Netroots Nation event in Pittsburgh. It’s not clear who the headline speakers will be (as is appropriate for an event focused on workshops and small panels, not speeches), but in 2007 the event attracted a major presidential debate.
It all comes back to a point that conservatives really need to internalize: “base” energy and “noise” can be a significant political asset, but only if it’s focused, strategically deployed, representative of actual rank-and-file sentiment, and attractive to “outsiders.” If it’s none of these things, it’s worse than useless, because it simply serves as a reminder of why so many voters don’t like the Republican Party in the first place.

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