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'Mapchanger Attitude' Needed for a Blue America

by Pete Ross

The premier issue of The Democratic Strategist is out, with a host of progressive heavyweights contributing interesting articles, all of which are highly recommended. Today we plug TDS's lead piece by My DD's Jerome Armstrong, "Replacing the Battleground Mentality with the Mapchanger Attitude in the Democratic Party," a call-to-arms that opens with a stirring vision of victory:

Ten years from now, the Democratic Party will have fully broadened its election strategy beyond the battleground mentality that dominates strategic thinking today. Democrats will be a national party, leaving no uncontested race anywhere in the nation, and will have rebuilt a party infrastructure down to the precinct everywhere in the nation. The Democrats will have regained their majority status as the governing party, and the mapchanger approach to elections will have been the reason.

Armstrong lays out a persuasive case that cherry picking states, races and districts is a strategy that never really served the party well:

As the Democratic Party shrinks from a national party into a regional stronghold, the battleground also shrinks further and further. In the 1992 and the 1996 Presidential elections, with three candidates in the race, as many as 30 states were viewed as competitive battleground contests up through Election Day. In 2000, that number dropped to just 17 by Election Day. In 2004, the number of contested states early in the presidential contest stood at 18, and was whittled down to about eight by Election Day.

The battleground strategy - or more accurately obsession - that the Democratic establishment in DC pursues of narrowing electoral campaigns to ever shrinking "swing states" is self-defeating. It does not build any new converts to the party, it makes it easier for the Republicans to walk away with huge chunks of the country unchallenged and it starves the Democratic Parties in those "red" states.

...Further, the battleground mentality leaves half the country without a contest of ideas. We abandon progressives in rural areas of the country and let Republicans rule there, without even a contest - and those Republican incumbents then go out and raise money for Republican challengers in contested races.

Armstrong has a lot more to say about the merits of the "mapchanger" approach vs. the "battleground" strategy, and also the destructive effects of the paid consultant system. We'll just conclude with this sample:

In contrast, the mapchanger attitude urges an aggressive and broad challenge to Republicans. It provides the national party with the best opportunity to utilize the tens of thousands of grassroots activists in every state and congressional district. The power of people becomes the strongest resource and gives the national Party the ability to pour resources into those states or districts that become surprisingly contested.

TDS will not be narrowly focused on short-term goals like winning the next ('06) election. Instead co-editors Stan Greenberg, Ruy Teixeira and William Galston and their writers will explore longer range strategies for building a permanent Democratic majority --- a welcome and much needed challenge to be met by Democrats in every state.