ELECT THE PEOPLE'S LAWYER: David Van Os, Democrat for Texas Attorney General

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Dinosaur Called Consultantocracy

I am responding to Larry Wilson's post about the absence of support for me last night at Drexler's from other Democratic candidates and official Party apparatus. Thank you very much, Larry, for pointing this out. I am gratified that someone finally took enough note of it to start a public discussion. I am sorry, but this post is necessarily going to be long due to the subject matter. One might want to save it for reading at further leisure. I only ask that you give me the courtesy of reading and listening.

This is the 3rd time I've run for statewide office. (1998 for Texas Supreme Court, 2004 for Texas Supreme Court, and now for Attorney General). Every time I pound away at the same themes. In 1998 for example I hammered hard at the takeover of Texas by the corporate power elite through their mouthpiece the Republican Party and the role of the Republican-dominated Texas Supreme Court in cementing the takeover. Did the Texas Democratic Party publicize my campaign and my mission? No.

In 2004 I did it again, this time with more proof in hand in the evidence of what Bush has done to the country thanks to his rise out of Texas. In 2004 I also hammered at the assault on civil liberties and what having a voice for the Constitution on the Texas Supreme Court could do by raising awareness through the ability to write dissenting opinions. I worked it hard, as some readers here will know. Did the Texas Democratic Party publicize my efforts? No, except in the barest of lip service.

Instead, the TDP spent its time concentrating on the minimalist strategy of publicizing 10 select state legislature races out of the 150 seats in the legislature. An even more glaring fact is that in both my 1998 and 2004 runs I campaigned for the whole Democratic ticket in all my stumping, but that did not change anything in the Party establishment's continuing disregard of my efforts. Ironically, both times I advocated more on behalf of voting straight Democratic than the Texas Democratic Party did.

Now, I've been campaigning and stumping for over a year in my candidacy for Attorney General. Surprised to hear that? I'm not surprised that you're surprised, since the Party's public relations capacity never has been, and I am certain will not ever be, used to publicize my efforts. A lot of voters in the Texas countryside do know about my message, but Texas is a huge place, and a hell of a lot more need to know about it.

This is where the Democratic Party comes in. The nominees of a political party must be able to rely on the party to mobilize the party's base to turn out for them. However, since at least 1994, a nominee of the Texas Democratic Party for statewide office in Texas cannot rely on the party to mobilize the party's base for the nominee. Note I am not talking about swing voters. I am just talking about the party's own base. At a minimum the party has to make sure that its base is turning out for all the nominees on the party's ticket. Thus at the barest minimum the party must apply its public relations capacity to publicizing its own nominees to its own base. Repeat, the Texas Democratic Party does not do that. Instead, the Party selects its favorites and publicizes them, period.

And in 2004, the party's PR capacity applied only to 10 select candidates for the state legislature. Go back and research the Party's web pages in the fall of 2004 and follow the links to the party's "take back Texas" project, and read about the targeted 10 legislative districts. I am very much in support of every one of those 10 candidates; the merits of their candidacies is not in dispute. However, this tactic meant that the party's body language to the public was, "we can only win 10 legislative seats out of all the races on the ballot." It should not be a surprise how discouraged many Texas grassroots Democrats feel when that is their Party's message year in and year out!

I believe the message of my campaigns is strong and important. Most who have been exposed to it agree. I work my tail off to advance my message and I pour my heart and soul into it. Yet there is a particular reason that the TDP apparatus does not and is not going to support it. This is the same reason Larry didn't see staff of Bell, Radnofsky, or other Democratic candidates or elected officials, state or local (except for candidates Hank Gilbert and Janette Sexton, and staffer Melissa Taylor of the Harris County Democratic Party, who are three marvelous exceptions to the consultantocracy's paradigm). Now please keep reading.

The reason is that I directly challenge the premises and tactics of the professional political operative class (I call them the "consultantocracy" for short) who run the Democratic Party now, who have been running it for 30 years, and who have come very close to destroying it. The consultantocracy runs the state party, they run the national party, and they run the campaigns of most Democratic candidates, including many very progressive candidates, who are all mesmerized into believing they have to have representatives of the consultantocracy in order to create, articulate, and implement their strategies and their messages.

The "swing voter" strategies, "chase the middle" strategies, and "packaging and positioning" strategies that have progressively over the last 30 years ripped the Democratic party away from its historic coalition base, and left it wandering in the desert searching for its soul, are literally the creations of the consultantocracy. These strategies all rely upon increasingly sophisticated polling and marketing techniques, all of which cost great sums of money, and all of which put great sums of fee money into the pockets of the consultants who peddle them as their wares.

You may find it difficult to believe how incredibly simple it would be for Democrats to recover their soul and their winning political base, but I am saying to you that it would be incredibly simple. Throw all of the polling, marketing, and packaging techniques and strategies out the window along with the consultants who vend them. Period. Do it. Instead, as a Democratic Party, as a Democratic community, as individual Democrats, and as Democratic candidates, say what we mean and mean what we say, and say it with unwavering sincerity and passion. My prescription sounds simple, and it is simple. Winning back Texas and the country is this damn simple.

If you doubt me, please call up the Texas Secretary of State's website, go to the Election Returns for the 2004 General Election, and look up the county-by-county returns in the contest for Place 9 on the Texas Supreme Court. In particular, look at the 17 counties I carried. You will see some very "red" rural counties. Expand your focus to counties where I ran competitively at 40% and up, and you'll see some more very "red" rural counties. I went to those counties personally. I spoke the truth to the "conservative" voters there, directly challenging and confronting Republican corporate and rightwing power elites.

I didn't say anything different than what Larry heard Saturday night at Drexler's, and I said it with every bit of the same forcefulness, loudness, and passion. I will tell you with 100% confidence (and I won't brook abstract debate over it, because I've done it and I know; the only way I'll take the time to let anyone debate me over it will be if they've been there and done it, too, and can honestly claim a different experience from personal empirical evidence) -- that those "conservative" rural voters LIKE progressive Democratic messages, they LIKE and WANT someone to run for office in order to fight the power elites on behalf of the people, but they gave up on the Democratic party at some point over the last 30 years because at some point they concluded that Democrats who run for higher offices just weren't ever going to be Harry Truman Give 'Em Hell Fighting Democrats again.

Friends I am 100% certain of this because I have "been there and done it" in plenty enough places to give me a valid conclusion. I wish you all had been there to see the ovation I received when I spoke at the Monahans Lions Club or how the Pecos local radio station talk-show host raved over what I was saying.

Over and over people in such places have told me that they and their friends and family quit voting Democratic because Democrats stopped being fighters and stopped being straight-talkers. Over and over again they tell me that Democrats stopped being like Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson. Keep in mind Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs as a group represented the most progressive legislative initiatives this country has ever seen. They loved LBJ and still do, because he talked straight and he fought for the things he wanted to accomplish, and the things he wanted to accomplish represented big bold ideas, big bold vision, and big bold aspirations for the country. (Whereas in 2004 the Democratic Party establishment's national campaign deteriorated to the point of telling most of the national populace their votes didn't matter, the national campaign was not interested in sharing its message with them, the national campaign didn't trust its message enough to believe they would like its message, and instead of boldly seeking a national mandate the national campaign's strategy was to eke out one more state than Al Gore won. How very inspirational.)

And I am very firm when it comes to fellow citizens who disagree with me over "cultural conservative wedge issues." I make it very clear that in the matter of the state's issuances of marriage licenses, everybody is entitled to an equal shake at the courthouse regardless of the discomfort that some people may have at who the particular two consenting adults are who are getting married. Period, no ifs and buts. I make it clear that it is absolutely essential in a Constitutional democracy that every citizen enjoy this equal shake at the courthouse because every citizen is a 100% equal part-owner of the government. I don't tap-dance around with consultant-speak "swing-voter" packaging like, "we don't need to enact this because it's already illegal anyway" [wow, what a compelling message - it's already illegal and we're not fighting that]. I just speak the truth unvarnished, that the state has to treat everybody the same when the state is granting licenses, and that it can't be any other way when you live in a Constitutional system of democracy and equality.

When they hear me put it that way and they see the firmness of my conviction about Constitutionally mandated equality, they are satisfied with me even if they still don't think gays should be able to get marriage licenses, plus they are going to do some thinking about whether they are on the right side of the issue or not. They don't expect a candidate they support to agree with them on every issue. They are looking for honesty and conviction and decisiveness, and when they see those attributes it doesn't matter that there may be some some issues they don't agree with the candidate on, especially when the candidate's conviction is Constitutionally based.

The same thing happens with regard to my unswerving conviction about the Constitutionally protected right of an adult female to her personal sovereignty over her pregnancy. We can beat "bible-thumping" with Constitution-thumping every time.

Fighting back against the corporate and political power elites is far, far more important to them anyway than the fate of gay couple's pursuit of marriage licenses or mentally sound adult females' pursuit of abortions. What gave these "wedge issues" potency in voting behavior was that the Democratic Party stopped fighting back against the corporate and political power elites and indeed became part of those power elites itself, and thus left a vacuum. To use the "social" wedge issues effectively all the Republican Party had to do was fill a vacuum. Filling a vacuum was easy. And, fellow Democrats, for us to refill the vacuum ourselves and take that easy tactic away from the Rs is equally easy. I guarantee you it is easy. "Been there and done that."

Thank you for bearing with me for the discussion about election results and refilling the vacuum. I went into that in order to further the point that the consultantocracy are so threatened by what I am doing, because I make them and their computer analyses go the way of the dinosaurs. Who needs to spend huge sums of money on "issue analysis" or "swing voter surveys" when all we have to do is say what we mean, mean what we say, fight for our convictions, and do it with the passion of our hearts?

For most of a year I've been issuing press releases and public statements that I believe are worthy of publicizing. Go check out the archive of "In His Own Words" (see right) and the archive of press releases at vanosfortexasag.com and read some of them to make your own judgment. The TDP receives every one. They have yet to post a single one on the TDP website.

I've also been getting some good press coverage. I get greatly favorable press coverage from the rural small-town weekly and semiweekly newspapers. Their reporters and editors always like what they see and hear when they cover me. In somewhat of a breakthrough for me with the metropolitan press, there was a great story in the Sunday edition of the San Antonio Express-News on March 5 about my 24-hour Filibuster on the Capitol Grounds on March 3-4. I send all the press clippings to the TDP, and I went to pains to specifically ask them to post the March 5 San Antonio Express-News story. They never do. Those press stories are at my website also. In particular check out the January 2006 stories by the Kilgore News Herald and the Cleburne newspaper, and the March 5 story by the San Antonio Express-News. You'd never know from the TDP about the party's candidate for Attorney General getting this kind of good press.

So why do the Party establishment and other candidates try so hard to ignore me and my message and keep them from getting heard? Simple. Because in openly rejecting the consultantocracy and its techniques and strategies of manipulation, deception, fear, and self-interest, and in calling them out to fellow Democrats, I directly expose and thus threaten the gravy trains that they slurp up from the Party and from most of our candidates. The consultants who actually run the TDP from behind the scenes (if you want their names I'll be glad to provide them) obviously don't want me to get traction because my message puts an end to their lucrative contracts.

In addition, the TDP and the candidates all have salaried staff. The salaried staff of the DNC, the TDP, most Democratic elected officials, and most Democratic candidates are consultants-in-training. As staffers they are performing their apprenticeships before they can go out on their own and write their own contracts and fees. The world of the staffs is where most of the decisions are made about what gets whispered into their candidate/bosses' ears and printed on their memos. Both at the Party level and the candidate level, these staffers are not going to, and don't, support me and my campaign efforts, and they don't encourage their candidate bosses to do so.

Note the import of what I am saying. The Democratic Party and the world of Democratic campaigns are run and staffed by people whose main priorities are NOT saving our country from the beast that is trampling on it from the inside, but rather are climbing a career ladder in the professional political world and the money that climbing that ladder brings. And further -- that running for political office has inevitably become a rung on that career ladder, and thus we have placed into political office and continue to place into political office many persons whose main interest is -- you guessed it, social and financial promotion. Not the public interest. And in so doing they have turned the party I love, the party of the people, the Democratic Party, into a brokerage agency in place of a real political party.

Now that you understand this, is it any longer a surprise why half or more of the adult citizenry are disengaged and alienated from the political processes of their own self-government? It is because they are not given choices at the ballot box. They know instinctively, and very often consciously, that the political parties are both offering them career self-promoters and opportunists whose messages come from marketing techniques rather than from convictions of the heart. And these are not choices worth choosing from. They know their government and political processes are the domain and preserve of self-promoters and opportunists, and they feel powerless to do anything about it.

Every bit of this is also true about the Republican political world. But, friends, I'm sad to have to say it, it is equally true of the Democratic political world. It is not what the Democratic grassroots people want, and the core values of our great Party -- truly the party of the people in core values and mission -- are completely against this paradigm of manipulation and opportunism, but it is what has happened to us.

The Democratic Party establishment apparatus thus does not and will not publicize me and my message because I am a profound threat to those who have ripped off the party of the people from its own people. Two subsidiary reasons here. (1) They know that if my candidacy and its message receive wide exposure and publicity I will win, and if I win a major statewide office without using the wares of the consultantocracy, the consultantocracy's hold will be gone. Why should anyone pay huge sums for consultants' services and techniques if it is proven that we can win wihout them? (2) They know that I go around informing my fellow grassroots Democrats about the truth of the consultantocracy's hold, thus if they help me get heard more widely I'll inform more fellow Democrats about it and eventually my fellow Democrats will stand up en masse and roar "enough is enough!"

I'm going to win, by the way. But I wanted you all to know what the deal is. I do need the help of all of you. By winning, we can prove that the bankrupt techniques and strategies of the consultantocracy aren't needed. Come on aboard, it's fun.

posted by snarko! at 12:22 PM

Anonymous Alta Price said...

Wow! You Texans are so lucky to have a candidate like this! This is a fantastic post about a problem that affects Democrats everywhere - including my state of Iowa.

I ordered 10 buttons with the "Fight them til hell freezes over, and then fight them on the ice." My friends love them! Have to order a bunch more.

Good luck, Mr. Van Os, and thank you for fighting the good fight.

Alta Price (Iowa)

10:22 AM  

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