There are warning flags flying for Rep. McGovern.
◆ Brown won by an overwhelming margin in McGovern's district outside Worcester, and now the right wing money-bags, the Republicans and the Tea Baggers smell blood in the water. With the recent "Citizens United" Supreme Court decision we can expect to see a flood of national right-wing corporate money and national Republican "strategists" (a.k.a. dirty tricksters) into Massachusetts. Brown's campaign was almost certainly just a first taste of what is in store for us.
◆ My Google news and blog alert on Rep. Jim McGovern regularly turns up reasons to remind me why I strongly support him. But in recent months there has been a steady stream of blog posts, both national and local, fingering him as enemy number one and targeting him for defeat in 2010. These cite among other things his leadership role on ending the Afghan war, on immigration reform and on lifting the siege of Gaza. The number one issue on voters minds however is JOBS. McGovern has a lot to say about jobs and a lot to show, but if the Republicans can put the focus on his foreign policy positions and distract attention from jobs, they win - unless we can help the voters connect the two issues - Jobs Not Bombs, Health Care not Warfare - and help them see that ending the wars is also a jobs issue.
◆ Perhaps Deval can squeak out a win in a three-way race, perhaps not. But the thing to look at is that if Patrick is the nominee, absent a sudden economic recovery and a sudden change in his m.o., there is going to be a great outpouring of "Throw the Bums Out" voters. This will put everyone down-ticket at risk, and we will have serious work to do defending McGovern's seat - and the seats of all of our progressive state legislators. Even a Patrick squeaker in a three-way race still leaves a lot of people coming out to vote against a Democrat.
◆ The polling data on the Massachusetts Governor's race isn't encouraging on this. The Rasmussen Poll from last November highlighted that his "strongly disapprove" rating, at 37%, was more than three times higher than his "strongly approve" rating of 11%.
A Globe poll from January 11, before the Brown election, showed Patrick with 30% to Baker's 19% and Cahill's 23%, with 72% either undecided or saying they could change their minds. His un-favorability rating was 52%, 56% among the un-enrolled who make up more than half the voting population.
◆ McGovern won election the first time in 1996 with a great grass-roots organizing campaign. But in American politics today these grass roots campaigns for a particular candidate blow away like last year's grass in the wind when the election is over. Moreover, McGovern's district is substantially different now from the one in which he ran that campaign. What McGovern has gained in its place is the web of personal relationships that he's built with his constituents. But if the Republicans can stir the waters and get a high turnout, then the infrequent voters who are less likely to have interacted with him will be voting.
◆ The Democratic Party structure, seen from the perspective of electoral work, appears to be a hollow shell with almost no direct contact with the voters. My door to door work talking to neighbors convinces me that even for the most frequent Democratic voters, identification with the Party is shallow, based on sentiment, tradition and liking for particular office-holders. To the extent that the voters do identify with "the Democrats", frequent evidence that the label has little real meaning for many office-holders is dismaying.
My suggestion is that - whomever the Democratic Gubernatorial nominee is for November - we should be talking urgently about rebuilding the Democratic Party from the ground up.
We should be looking at flooding the Ward and Town Democratic Committees with volunteers (and organize Precinct Democratic Committees,) and use the Committees as a base for organizing a real grass roots campaign of neighbors talking to neighbors to spread the word and get out the vote.
This will of course only succeed if a great many of us personally commit to doing the work of going door to door to talk to our neighbors, build political relationships with them and get them to the polls. The hardest part of this is risking the disapproval of friends and neighbors, but once people get used to doing this it becomes enjoyable and intensely interesting. Beats the heck out of phone-banking!
Lt. Gov. Tim Murray's initiative in organizing the Worcester County Democratic League is a useful step in this direction, and Worcester's new mayor Joe O'Brien has given some strong indications that he may be thinking along these lines.
Finally PDA's national monthly Brown Bag Lunch initiative - taken up in CD-03 by the Worcester Chapter, Progressive Democrats of Greater Worcester (PDGW) under the leadership of Elizabeth St.John - can play an important part in organizing support for McGovern. I urge you all to read your messages from PDA about these, and participate!