Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Stickers Look Like Losers

Sen. Dianne Wilkerson would have us believe she is an avenging heroine, primed for a hard fight to victory in a sticker campaign for the race in which she lost the Dem primary. The alternate image is more along the old country story I grew up hearing.

In the example of conviction and stick-to-itiveness of rural folk, we find a strapping farm lad confronting a minor disaster. The horse-drawn wagon he was driving hit a rut, he was thrown off, and the wagon is stuck in the ditch, with no one around to help. The tale continues that many would consider this an almost insurmountable problem.In this situation though, the farm boy goes around to the downside of the wagon, presses his considerable strength into action, pushes the wagon with all his might...and breaks a collarbone.

The question comes how much we admire resoluteness. When does perseverance show faith and courage and when does it fall on the side of unreality and stupidity?

There are lessons for the larger political world in Massachusetts as well as for Wilkerson in her abutting primary losses. In the short term though, her campaign's insistence that she is the sure winner in November is worth considering in detail.

Obsession Notes:
It's fair to say I have been obsessed with the race for many months. I support the primary winner, Sonia Chang-Díaz, and agree with her that it's time to replace Wilkerson with this honest and honorable version.

In addition, Wilkerson has not responded to me any more than to voters. In particular, after working at length to set up a podcast with her on Left Ahead!, I heard from her scheduler that she backed out the day before. Repeated requests for a reschedule got nowhere.
I have written many (too many?) posts related to this contest, including:

Lately, I have been fascinated by the Wilkerson camp's odd claims that she'll certainly prevail in November and regain the seat seemingly lost. Prima facie, the basest facts say otherwise. Consider:
  • Chang-Díaz won the Democratic primary.
  • She then won the recount.
  • She is the official and only Democratic nominee in a Dem state and district.
  • All but one of the major political figures who previously endorsed Wilkerson are behind Chang-Díaz now. The other will sit the general election out on this race.
  • There is no Republican running.
  • The other on-ballot candidate is underfunded and pretty much unknown Socialist Workers Party candidate William T. Leonard.
So then, what's the source and nature of Wilkerson's confidence? I should note that some online and print folk are buying into or at least repeating her camp's line.

Unquestionably the best coverage of her status will appear at PolitickerMA. For one feature, Jeremy P. Jacobs is keeping a running tab of who's endorsing whom. There, Wilkerson has lost several biggies, like Sen. President Therese Murray and Gov. Deval Patrick, and stands to lose more as they fall in behind the party nominee. Even long-time chum and her primary endorser Boston Mayor Tom Menino said he's neutral on this and won't provide any of his political people or other resources — big ouch!

The same site got quotes from her campaign manager for the November vote, Boyce Slayman. The evening Wilkerson lost the recount, Slayman jumped right in with Wilkerson's three advantages:
  1. We have three things going for us. One, there will be a very high turnout in the Nov. 4 election because of the excitement generated by the presidential election.
  2. Two, we have a campaign organization that ran a successful sticker election just two years ago. We still have an organization that knows how to run a sticker campaign.
  3. And, three, 7,000 people voted for us on a sticker campaign two years ago.
He expanded that slightly with, "So, we have turnout in our favor, organizational experience in our favor and voter behavior in our favor. So what might normally be a very daunting task is significantly less daunting for us."

Moreover, after she lost the primary vote before the recount, Wilkerson told her supporters that she had God on her side. "Last Saturday I was prayed on by 80 ministers, so I know who’s guiding this one." The Good Lord wasn't a terrific help with the recount, but maybe that wasn't enough of a challenge. Perhaps there wasn't enough time to process the multiple requests.

I hold to my prediction that Wilkerson loses big in November and that doing so will turn a single election loss into a perception that she can't win. She's chaining three losses together. Coupled with her seemingly non-stop financial and legal problems, she seems determined to make herself unelectable.

To voters, kingmakers, and politicians, an occasional loss is part of the game. When a pol refuses to follow the rules of law or even common sense, there comes a time when no excuses and no amount of bluster will compensate. This appears to be Wilkerson's time. Three strikes and all that implies...

Consider what's against her:
  • Sticker in the general election. Even her most ardent supporters have to be aware that Chang-Díaz' listing on the ballot gives her a huge advantage. Comparing the all-sticker campaign two years ago is absurd. Chang-Díaz was just getting known; her face and materials have been everywhere for nearly three years. The claim she is still unknown, a blank slate to voters is silly and a lie. The vast majority of voters smudge the on-ballot oval unless they have a super-compelling reason to write in or use a sticker.
  • Disconnect with stickers. A lot more people vote early absentee ballot in a general election. In many places, that's 25% or more doing it. Those are unlikely to be aware of Wilkerson's polling-place sticker campaign. They'll almost certainly vote the ballot instead of writing in anyone.
  • The Lieberman factor. Wilkerson has repeatedly said she's running as a Democrat and is not pulling a Joe Lieberman as an independent. Unfortunately for her, there's a single Democratic nominee for Second Suffolk, one named Chang-Díaz. Wilkerson will lose more interest and more votes by those who feel any party loyalty. Stickers can have her name, but can't claim any party affiliation.
  • Dwinding party of endorsers. At the moment at least, Wilkerson's site still has her primary list of endorsers. There were a lot. For now, she's down to two three Boston City Councillors. It's unlikely that she'll pick up more and there certainly won't be such gimmicks as robo-calls from the governor. Her peers are distancing themselves, even those who so far have been kind enough not to endorse Chang-Díaz openly. Moreover, it's likely that the major media and bloggers will go for Chang-Díaz as they did in the primary.
  • Endless shennigans. Unless she heads off for some serious contemplation and has an enlightenment, Wilkerson seems intent on self-destruction. Just recently, she violated two parts of the plea bargain with the Attorney General on her campaign-finance violations — not paying an installment on a fine and not providing a memorandum on how she intended to stay on the right side of the law. Before that was that pattern of violations. Before that was a judgment for bouncing checks and not paying fees to her condo association. Before that was not filing for or paying income taxes for four or five years, and sentencing to a month in a half-way house for violating curfew. Perhaps the capper is that the most recent violations were when she had agreed to extra scrutiny by the AG's office.
  • Racial and ethnic factors. Wilkerson has done herself no favors casting this contest as black v. other. She continues to say that the turnout for the black Presidential candidate will be huge and suggests that it will automatically translate into stickers for her. In her mind that seems to work because she and her supporters have increasingly framed this election as being for a dedicated black legislative seat, and that somehow a Latina doesn't qualify as of color. After years of winning a lot of Latino votes by calling for diversity and more legislators of color, Wilkerson is likely to lose quite a few votes on this pivot. The Latino community should not be happy about not being dark enough to suit her.
I won't even try to predict what Wilkerson's excuses and whom instead of herself she'll blame. The ones for the primary were weird enough. She held that a single $500 contribution from a white philanthropist from Cambridge was huge. She held that Chang-Díaz' contributions were from out of state, bolstering her supporters' paranoia that some big someone somewhere targeted the black lady senator.

She still holds that nine polling places moved weeks before the election swung the votes. This is despite the fact that the federal government mandated the well advertised move for compliance with ADA regulations, as part of Boston's required changes. There's also no reason to suppose that Wilkerson's claim she had folk to drive those who needed transportation to polls is false. Moreover, the more accessible polling locations likely increased turnout there, which were in Wilkerson territory. She should have netted voters, not lost them.

I do predict that she'll lose this ill-advised, ill-thought-out sticker campaign for the reasons above. If I am wrong, feel free to laugh and leave derisive comments. In that case, expect a big notice that I called it incorrectly.

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Anonymous said...

Even her most ardent supporters have to be aware that Chang-Díaz' listing on the ballot gives her a huge advantage.

You would have to assume that this knowledge wouldn’t make her supporters more likely to turn out in larger numbers.

Disconnect with stickers. A lot more people vote early absentee ballot in a general election. In many places, that's 25% or more doing it. Those are unlikely to be aware of Wilkerson's polling-place sticker campaign.

Again you would have to assume that the increased media attention wouldn’t motivate more voters to get involved on her behalf. Doing so may increase the likelihood that the voters would pay particular attention to sticker campaign instructions. This has been the case in the past.

The Lieberman factor. Wilkerson will lose more interest and more votes by those who feel any party loyalty.

For the third time, the increased media attention, attacks, and stretching of the truth could inspire voters of all backgrounds to support her in greater numbers.

Dwinding party of endorsers. This is factually inaccurate.

Endless shennigans. ??? No response required. This attack is silly and unprofessional. It was meant to sway those who could be deemed “mindless sheep.”

Racial and ethnic factors. Wilkerson has done herself no favors casting this contest as black v. other.

Immediately, you site Wilkerson casting this as a race contest. This is not true. Maybe some want to believe it because it’s good press. This is about process. She has the right to run the sticker campaign. Quit your winning and saddle up for the race…

Semper Fi

massmarrier said...

That's some collection of magical thinking. How did such suppositions work in the primary and recount?

What can't stand is any claim that Wilkerson and her staff and supporters have not cast and do not continue to cast this in racial terms. They have been disgraceful.That has to backfire.

Anonymous said...

More legal problems: now Dianne Wilkerson is facing disbarment: