In 2006 Dr. Dean showed us how to win with brilliance and common-sense. The 50 State Strategy was not only a stroke of genius, it was a return to our grass-roots and it was long over due. In fact, I think we should co-opt it. Call it a 114 County Strategy.
Ever since the Republicans took control of both chambers of the statehouse in the 2000 election, I have been constantly reminding people that Missouri is not reliably red, it is a swing state in the truest sense of the term. We have elected seven presidents in my lifetime, three Democrats and four Republicans, and in every single one of those elections, Missouri has gone to the victor.
And in this swing state, we have a true swing district…The Sixth.
Since the post-civil war era drew to a close early in the 20th century and brought the curtain down on Democratic dominance, no party has dominated that district. In fact, with the exception of the span of time from 1955 until the death of Jerry Litton, whose plane crashed hours after he won the Senate primary in August 1976, neither party has held the seat for 10 consecutive terms. The Sixth historically tends to go back and forth every few years. In fact, using history as an indicator, it is due to flip this election cycle. Just in time, we have a real candidate who can beat Sam Graves and flip the federal representation to advantage Democrats. (Right now, it is five-four to the Republicans, with one Senator from each party.)
The Sixth came into being in the first half of the 1850’s, which coincided with the rise of Kansas City and St. Joseph. Since the district came into being, it has been represented by 27 different people, members of four different parties, and the average term of office has been just over five years. Graves has been there seven, and the Sixth is due to flip.
Like I said, it’s a swing district in a swing state.
I am backing Kay Barnes for Congress, and I am in this to win. History and circumstance are on our side, but it is going to take more than that. It is going to take organization. It is going to take a presence. A reintroduction, even. We might start with “Hello, we are the Democrats. Remember us? We’re the people who brought you electricity and Medicare.” In other words, the state organization needs to step up.
The district takes in all or part of over 20% of the counties in the entire nine-district state. Of those 26 counties, exactly one (Platte) has a Missouri Democratic Party affiliated organization, and it is part of the Kansas City metro area. The Sixth is vast in area, and a whole lot of rural folks have been directly hurt by Republican policies, at both the state and federal level. That isn’t just in the Sixth – that is the story in every rural county in the state.
Here is what this daughter of the Sixth thinks the state party needs to do…
First, they need to get an office in every county in the state. It can be as simple as a dedicated cell phone that a real person can answer or return calls from. Someone who can pass out signs and answer questions and give out information.
Second, start showing up everywhere – this goes for both the candidates and the state party. Don’t just show up at the county fairs; show up at the town fairs as well. Get the sports schedules and attend every homecoming game in the district. Show up for football games in Princeton and basketball games in Eagleville and softball tournaments in Gilman City. Read the weekly papers and follow the fall church events. Be at every Lord’s Acre Sale and Harvest Moon Bazaar that takes place between now and Election Day 2008.
Concentrating on the metropolitan centers and ceding the rural areas to the Republican noise machine is not a winning strategy for Democrats, and it is frankly insulting to the people in those areas. No, the population isn’t dense up there in the northern tier counties, but the people aren’t either. Listen to their concerns and give them a fair hearing. In other words, give them a reason to come back to their natural home in the Democratic Party, and I have confidence that they will.