Every cent and precious time spent by progressives in California that is not dedicated to voter registration and turnout is a questionable use of resources for their cause. Put another way, the top three strategies for their agenda should be: (1) voter registration and turnout, (2) voter registration and turnout, and (3) voter registration and turnout; with emphasis on the Latino population. Everything else should be on a back burner, at least so far as 2014 is concerned.
This is neither rocket science, nor an especially original insight. But, I make a point of it because here in the San Diego area, where I live, I see national and local groups right now devoting a lot of effort to advance progressive (liberal, Democrat) causes, like the minimum wage, immigration reform, climate change, economic inequality, or health insurance, by spending a lot of time trying to change hearts and minds.
That is of course admirable. How can anyone question focusing on the issues in an era where attack ads are the main tool of political campaigns. I realize that many activities related to voter registration and turnout are more appropriate and effective the closer you get to the election date; and that getting “your” voters excited about an issue is one way to get them to the polls.
But, if I was directing strategy for progressives in San Diego County, I would seriously question whether a letter writing campaign to Representatives Duncan Hunter and Darryl Issa, asking them to support a higher minimum wage, is worth more than a laser beam focus to register voters; even accepting that October/November is a ways off. I would err (greatly) on the side of turnout; the rest takes care of itself. Besides, the California hourly minimum wage is already scheduled to rise to $9.00 per hour starting July 2014; and to $10.00 in 2016; just ten cents below the President’s proposal.
The needle on Latino turnout has a lot more room to move than the one on policy, either for elected officials or (already registered and engaged) voters. Latinos represent a large percentage of the population in California, but a much smaller proportion of registered and participating voters. For the state as a whole, Latinos accounted for nearly 40% of the population in 2012, but just 20% of voters. In off year elections, the Latino segment of the voting population tends to drop by about 5 percentage points. About 75% of Latinos in California voted for Democrats in 2012. Again, there is much more room to move the needle on voting participation than policy.
If progressives here persist in their idealistic plans to engage Messrs. Hunter and Issa directly on issues like minimum wage or the President’s overall economic agenda, I would advise they skip the arguments about why those policies are good for the economy.
Skip that entirely, and appeal to their conscience about the workings of representative government. Just (respectfully) request they, and their caucus colleagues in the House, allow an up or down vote on matters like minimum wage, immigration or an infrastructure bank. Just an up or down vote on bills coming over from the Senate.
That approach hasn’t got much more of a chance to affect Hunter’s or Issa’s votes than the issue oriented discussion, but at least it shows some sophistication on the advocates’ part,, and thus the capacity to be formidable down the road. Progressives should devote the freed-up resources to the three things that matter most: turnout, turnout, and turnout; not necessarily in that order.
If conservatives want my unsolicited advice on strategy in San Diego — the advice to progressives was also unsolicited — I would point to the recently successful Faulconer mayoral campaign in San Diego, Faulconer downplayed his Republican affiliations and appealed to moderates. Democrats were not able, as they were in 2012, to turn out the Latino vote. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the election was being held to fill the vacancy caused by a Democratic mayor who was accused of serial sexual harassment. Nothing that R’s can do strategically to induce that set of circumstances. My own take was that the reputation of the deposed mayor was less of a factor in the race than weak Latino turnout, compared with 2012; and an inexperienced opposition candidate.