Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Party activists untie... er, UNITE!

Or something like that.

Back in the day, testing telecommunications systems during my enlistment in the US Air Force, we would send the message, "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country," to a distant terminal, hoping it would get there without being garbled in between.

Nearly forty years later, I'm USING telecommunications systems more than testing them. And I've been a Democratic Party activist for the last couple of years. So, it's more than just a test to see if the message gets garbled up before it reaches its destination.

Now IS the time for all good people to come to the aid of their (state and county and local district) country.

Soon, it will be time to analyze the election results (the official canvass is due to be signed by the Secretary of State and the Governor, and posted online on Monday).

Comparing voter registration numbers with the election results will provide important insights. That will be a good place to start the next step in grassroots political (party) activism.

The 113th Congress will convene on January 3rd and the 51st Arizona Legislature on January 14, 2013.  The next election for lawmakers hoping to serve in each will take place on November 4, 2014.

But grassroots activists do not take the year 2013 off.

The last few months of the 2012 primary election season (which coincided with the long hot Arizona summer) exposed issues that became difficult to address at that time.

Namely, that the Democratic party failed to field candidates for a number of key elected offices. Yet, for others races, multiple Democratic candidates exposed other problems, like whether Party officials could, should, or would support particular candidates in those contested primaries.

At the time, it occurred to me that many of those questions could not be appropriately addressed in the middle of the situation(s). So, when should they be brought up? That brings us to Party reorganization time. Which is now.

I'm not conversant on bylaws and rules or regulations for running the Party. I don't even know if the bylaws or other written documents are the proper place to provide for guidance on addressing the foreseeable problems.

Next Saturday (12/8) , the Maricopa County Democratic Party meets so that elected Precinct Committeepersons can elect new leadership. It occurs to me that THIS might be THE time to work out the hows and the whys and the wherefores to decide how inevitable tensions (reasonably expected in the Spring and Summer of 2014) are properly anticipated and addressed when they do arise.

Fellow activists groused from time to time about the fact that no Democrat challenged Republican County Attorney Bill Montgomery in his re-election campaign. Besides failure to field candidates for all open offices/seats, the other big problem was the deep divide that occurred because of the contested primary between Paul Penzone and John Rowan to see who would challenge Maricopa County's controversial nativist sheriff.

Wouldn't it be better to have a robust discussion NOW than when history repeats itself in 2014?

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All of that leads me to address an op-ed column the Arizona Republic ran in its December 1 (Saturday) edition written by Nomiki Konst.


I was immediately intrigued when I first read this Friday night. But not necessarily in a positive way. The very first thing Ms. Konst says is that "Arizona Democrats blew it."

"Wow," I thought. "What on earth does she mean?"

Of course, I knew that results for the only statewide races for public office in our state were disappointing for Democrats. Come January, when all five members will be Republicans, the Corporation Commission becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of ALEC. That SUCKS big time.

Then there was the opportunity Democrats had to have former US Surgeon General Richard Carmona represent us in the US Senate. However, having closely observed quite a bit of that race, it is apparent to me that simply claiming that "they" blew it does more to spread a cloak over the situation than to illuminate it.

I don't know that I am qualified to definitively pronounce the reason(s) why Arizona hired a former mining industry lobbyist (Flake) to represent us in the Senate, but I'm confident there's a whole lot more to it than just "they" blew it.

Should we really believe there were NO factors other than what the Arizona Democratic Party could control? Just how big of a role did Citizens United and SuperPACs play? I don't have those answers, but legitimate understanding can only be had by delving into the data.

Here's a first glance, according to unofficial vote counts posted by the Arizona Secretary of State:

  • Richard Carmona (Dem) 1,036,542 (46.16 %)
  • Jeff Flake (Rep) 1,104,457 (49.18%)
  • Marc Victor (Lib) 102,109 (4.55%)
  • None of the above (aka, Write-In) 2,501 (0.11%)
Voter turnout: 74.36 % 

Final voter registration numbers for the 2012 General Election: 
  • Democrat 952,931 (30.5 %)
  • Republican 1,120,992 (35.88%)
  • Green 4,863 (0.16%)
  • Libertarian 22,086 (0.71%)
  • Americans Elect 237 (0.01%)
  • Other 1,023,603 (32.76%)
Total active voter registration -- 3,124,712

Clearly, in spite of a LOT of SuperPAC money pouring into Arizona, Democrats didn't fare as badly as Big Money had hoped. I'll save further analysis for another time.

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Okay, let's get beyond the fact that the brash Ms. Konst had to know she was going to make Arizona Democrats defensive from the start. Whether they (we) rightfully should be defensive is a different question altogether. The net result of Konst's opening salvo is that whatever insight she might present will be met with, at best, skepticism.

But let's take a look at her claims.

Starting out with HUGE generalities, she says President Obama won because he
constructed a coalition of new voters. Nationally, Republicans lost because they didn't get this message -- but neither did the Arizona Democratic Party. 
Really? I've not seen ANY analysis of national voting data providing legitimate insight or a demographic profile of the "typical" Obama voter. While Democrats picked up a couple of seats in the Senate, the US House will still be run by John Boehner and the GOP.

Where exactly does Konst come up with her claim that Democrats in Arizona are making excuses such as that Hispanics do not vote? Or that messaging was ineffective or organizational strategies were weak?

On November 18, I published my initial, very cursory analysis of the results of Congressional districts 1, 2, and 9 races. (Last night I updated the vote totals with the latest data from the Secretary of State's website). The three districts were the only ones with voter registration balance that provided any possibility of a competitive contest.

Based on the data in that post, and the fact that Democrats picked up a few seats in each chamber of the state legislature, I believe Ms. Konst to be VERY FAR off the mark in her characterization of the election outcome.

Political Scientist Jennifer Steen, an assistant professor at Arizona State, specializes in analysis of election and voting data. She told me:
My take is that the three “competitive” districts are indeed competitive and could have been won by either party... The five Democratic winners will all enjoy the advantage of running as incumbents in 2014; however, it will be a midterm election with a lame-duck Democrat in the Oval Office so if the GOP nominates strong candidates with broad appeal in any or all of the three competitive districts...
... it is possible the Republicans could retake the majority of our state's House delegation.

Let's step back a bit. From a critical thinking look at Konst's column, she cited NO DATA on ANY of her claims. She made specific accusations against the chair of the Arizona Democratic Party as well as the Pima County chair. She said her volunteers were threatened. She stated what she thinks Party officials are using as excuses, but cites NO source for quotations. Of course, there are several other holes in her "logic" and "reasoning."

Let's change direction for a moment. Konst says the party has but one duty -- to grow. Okay, well, outside of the fact that she has not made a case for her being a voice of authority, growth is STILL very important. What ideas did she provide to make that happen?

Did she, instead, really just unload on Arizona and Pima County Democrats out of frustration and unrealistic expectations for not getting support to which she felt entitled -- in her quest to become the youngest Member of the 113th Congress? Besides vigorous debate about the direction of the Democratic Party, this is also a good time to spell out what potential candidates should be ready to bring to the table and what they can reasonably expect from the Party.

Having never heard of this brash young lady before reading her letter, I turned to Google to learn more. I found that she has been published on Huffington Post. Her HuffPost bio says she's "a former 2012 Congressional candidate for Arizona's second district. [sic]" Her personal website says:
Nomiki (Nomi) Konst was recently a Congressional candidate for Arizona's second district. Running in the district formerly held by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, at 28-years-old, Konst was vying to be the youngest woman to ever serve in Congress.​ Currently, Konst is a political strategist and organizational and start-up strategist.
I have to give her credit for being willing to take risks*. She is young and she is brash. My impression of her op-ed is that she is both mistaken and expressing frustration.

Friday night I posted the column to facebook and asked my friends for their impressions. Most read the naivete and sour grapes aspect of it without me having to expound on it. But a couple of people said they agreed with her on a point or two anyway. Clearly, young people with drive and ambition are worth having in the Party. I'm not sure how realistic it is to allow her to be "the" leader, but she has as much of a right to have A voice as I do.

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Apart from analysis of what Konst wrote, I have to wonder why the Arizona Republic decided to publish Konst's op-ed. On the surface, one possibility is that they saw it as an opportunity to bolster the paper's bona fides with its conservative subscriber base. Because it seems obvious that the GOP would relish the thought of turmoil and division among Arizona Democrats, and the potential for this letter to the editor to cause tension certainly is pretty high also.

Of course, the Republic MIGHT have had altruistic motives and simply wanted to give Arizona Democrats the chance to change our ineffective ways. Hmmm... right.

Nevertheless, all politics is about conflict. We certainly do not increase our chances of winning by shying away from disagreement. Instead, let's use this to generate robust discussion and ideas to do better in the next election cycle.

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* "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly." -- Robert F. Kennedy

2 comments:

  1. I don't see where Konst ever ran for anything. The Secretary of State's website (http://azsos.gov/election/2012/Primary/fulllisting.htm) does not show her as running in the primary - not even as a write-in.

    Apparently she didn't get enough signatures to get on the ballot, a chore that is entirely the responsibility of the candidate. How can she even be considered a candidate for Congress when she didn't even quality to run in the primary?

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  2. Of course, you are correct, Bob. There's actually very little substance in Konst's op-ed. But I think it is very important to have robust discussion on the issues right now. That can prepare us for when the questions come up in the summer of 2014. And I'd be awfully surprised if they don't come up again then like they did last summer.

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