Wednesday, August 30, 2006

There's turnover, and then there's turnout

Surrounding the exciting upsurge in national attention to the ID-01 race candidate Larry Grant, there's been some discussion of how much attention is too much. Idaho may not be as conservative as the infamous red-blue map might make one think, but Grant's uphill battle is about as steep as they come.

At Liberal Idaho, Chris' announcement of Cleland's impending visit and hopes for other big name Democrats like Edwards or Clinton were recieved somewhat coolly:
by maquesta on Wed Aug 30, 2006 at 08:53:09 AM EST
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I am excited to see him come here... he's had nothing but good things to say about the progress of the country. But with this comment you made...(read: Edwards, Kerry, Clinton, Reid). I agree with the last comment made on your site, We need to be careful about what liberals we wish for, cause their views might scare the people on the fence.
You can see Chris' response here, but I think that there's a bigger issue at play here than how many Idahoans still think Clinton-sex jokes are funny.

One word: turnout. As far as a rousing speech by John Edwards goes, I'm guessing it will have a much larger effect on the apathetic Democratic would-be voters in this state than it would on someone who would even consider voting for Sali. True, there is a significant yuck-factor that is pushing Republicans away from Sali, and a certain frustration that's pushing others toward Grant, but those are hard votes to fight for. And, despite the (current) stranglehold on political power that Republicans have in this state, there are a lot of Democrats here, too. It would be moronic to ignore this low-hanging fruit. Consider this, from a Boise Weekly article back in March:
...To the best estimate, he says, the Idaho's First Congressional District has about 230,000 voters. It would take, he speculates, about 115,000 of those votes to win. In 2004, John Kerry got about 96,000 votes from the district. Go down to the legislative-level races, he said, and 118,000 people cast votes for Democrats.

"Add some independents and disaffected Republicans," Grant says as he digs through his apple pie, "and it not only shows that a Democrat can win Congress but also in the State Legislature."
The county I live in, Latah, was 256 votes away from voting Kerry in 2004.

What's either the best part or the worst part of this is that I can think of several Democrats I know who didn't drag their sorry asses down to the polls because the they were sure their votes wouldn't count. As a Democrat in this state, it's easy to look past local politics where you're likely to be outnumbered, and salivate at the chance of effecting decision-making on the national scene. Larry Grant makes that national politics connection for the pity-party-voter-apathy Democratic crowd in this state. As Grant gets more attention at this level, people are likely to become more and more energized at the possibility that finally, after all this time, they might be able to swing a district.

As Grant says above, this has a lot of good implications for the Democratic party in this state as a whole. An active voter base can do a lot more than get Grant elected, after all. There's a constitutional amendment barring legal recognition of non-heterosexual unions to be defeated. There's a lonely minority of Democrats in the state legislature who could use some help in getting some business done. We not only have at least 118,000 voters to work with here, but 118,000 Idahoans, their families and their friends, who we don't want to continue disappointing with ineffective governing.

What this all means is that it's time to get to work. There are lots of volunteer and advocacy opportunities appearing as election time comes nearer. Contact the Idaho Democratic Party here to see about volunteering. If you live in Latah County, email the county party at democrats@moscow.com , or come down to Moscow's Drinking Liberally to get connected with local left-leaners. Students can join their campus chapter of the Young Democrats as the new school year begins. And if you don't have the time to spare, perhaps send a dime in the direction of the state party, your county party, or a Democratic candidate such as Larry Grant or gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brady.

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