Saturday, August 28, 2004

Safe Disctricts and Consequences

What a weird week it's been. I'm totally discombobulated compared to the state of mind I've come to expect on a weekend. I honestly couldn't answer the question, "How are you?" at the moment.

But let's not dwell on that.

I was going to review a wine tonight. But then I opened it, drank it, and eh. It was decent. Not too bad. Not anything special. Not a rip-off for the price. Not really a bargain either. Kudos for attempting something different though. It was a California blended white table wine, unoaked, Pinot-Grigio/Chardonnay with a dash of Sauvignon Blanc. I like the concept more than the execution. Oh what the heck, let that stand as the review. It was Coppola Bianco, 2003. There you go.

Thinking about the big hoo-hah at Keegan's last Thursday, I remembered something which I forgot to mention in the post on the topic. And it's the forgetting that makes me want to talk about it now.

I met Daniel Mathias (and his wife), who is currently running as the Republican challenger to represent me (and Keegan's) as Congressman. Dan (I hope he doesn't mind the familiarity) is running in Minnesota's 5th District, which is currently and perenially represented by Martin Sabo. It is the very definition of a "safe seat" for the Democrats.

Being such a solid Democratic district, and being that Dan was thoroughly trounced the last time he ran by the exact same opponent in the exact same district, one would think this guy was some plucky challenger trying to make some sort of impression or point or impart a message. But no. Dan is very serious about winning to the point of a fault, and seems to not appreciate humor about his slim chances (as I found out the socially awkward way).

Here's the trouble. If you go to his website for information as of tonight, you will notice that the "Next place to meet Daniel" spots are from last June. So at the very least whoever runs his website has clearly thrown in the towel already.

Dan himself is not the most personable fellow, though he's not a bad guy either.

But Keegan's is in his own darn district, and that night it was full of Republican activists and supporters. Hugh Hewitt was working the room like a pro, popular with everyone, and loves to give free pub to any Republican challenger. You would think Mr. Mathias would try to get Hugh to toss an endorsement his way or call him to public attention or something. But no. Instead he wandered up in total obscurity (I only recognized him when I heard him mention his name, and recognized the "vote Mathias" sticker he and his wife both wore) and struck up a conversation with someone next to me, which I overheard and thereby recognized him. He earnestly lectured and kvetched for about five minutes and then sullenly wandered away.

What's more, when I mentioned that I lived in the very district he was running for, I got a somewhat annoyed glare from him. Like I was distracting him from something more important than talking to a constituant.

Now, to be fair, I wouldn't expect to find a truly polished politician running in the 5th as a Republican. And Dan seems to be a generally decent guy, in a way polished politicans generally do not. But he does not seem like he has the remotest concept about how to run for office, how to work a crowd, or how to get a message out. For gosh sake, I'm having second thoughts about voting for the guy after meeting him (don't worry, the head will ultimately rule the heart here), and I'm a broken-glass Republican.

And that somewhat worries me, because there are a LOT of safe seats for both parties out there. And in this one the Republicans seem to not only have abandoned hopes of winning the seat, they've abandoned the idea of getting their message out. And that's how a guy like Dan Mathias becomes the nominee twice in a row.

And so, for lack of an alternate message, the 5th sinks more deeply into the advanced stages of "Moore's disease." From a national level that seems acceptable. The electoral math still works after all. But the same thing goes on among Democrats in safe Republican districts. And what does that mean under the radar?

In my opinion it's contributing to a national Balkanization along party lines. Here in the 5th the public political dialogue will portray Bush as Hitler. Head a few miles north, and everyone will "know" that Kerry is a lying Commie lover.

I know the answer is not to expect the Republicans to throw wasted money into the Minnesota 5th district, nor is it to dump on poor old Dan Mathias. But there is a problem here, and it has real consequences in the everyday life of people all over the country.

Maybe the blogosphere will have to come to the rescue. Who knows where we'll be in two years. But Keegan's could becone a headquarters for conservative activism by then (no foolin'. The political influence represented in the bar that night was stunning.) . And perhaps we can devise a strategy for making even "safe" disctricts for Democrats useful to our overall goals.


Blogger TFB said...

I do not live in that district, so I don't have much of a say, but I feel you made some very good points.
If one is to be running as a sheep among the wolves, get ALL of the free publicity, networking opportunities you can for cryin' out loud.
I'm sure you will catch some slack for this post. People will say we need every seat we can get and I agree but your observations are worth some thought.

12:13 AM  

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