There are some truths that aren’t just hot takes.
When someone comes to the table with actual calculations, data or knowledge, it is less of a hot topic than information about what happened within a campaign. For example, if members of a campaign staff or party machine come out and say, “Okay, we don’t know about the rest, but we know that one part really went wrong, and here’s what we think that just avoids the blanket statements, who make big assumptions. In many states there will be races that can be quickly summed up: One candidate did not work. You haven’t raised any money. You did not qualify for the position. These things can all be done in a way that leaves a path forward and says, okay, here’s how we fix things.
When I speak to campaign staff and candidates, most will tell you that they are open to postmortem, re-examination, second guess, or even blame when due. However, if you do want to have your opinion, keep it directed and include certain points that you can address or that can be corrected. To say, “We need a better long-term investment strategy for the party infrastructure, and it may not pay off for years” is different from saying, “Our party sucks.” There are indeed bad district and state organizations. Throwing bombs, however, has to come with a combination of truth and solution. Before discussing problems, see if you can find solutions and speak to those who know if solutions have ever been attempted to problems you see and how they were solved. Your criticism can help improve organizations if you do this productively – and if you decide to embrace that change, just do it and run for your own local party office, whether it be a district chairman or one Position on a state committee.
Most of the district-level data is not yet available.
It will take some time before the complete district-level data is available again, which can be reconciled with election goals and election results. Before we know how many of our voters actually voted, or how successful our voter ladder plan has been, remember that we don’t yet know the full universe of elections.
I look at the Kansas map and one race that I notice is House District 70. Here the same two contestants stood for several years. They faced each other in 2016, 2018 and 2020. In the first two years, this Republican district became Republican. The Republican representative received approximately 5,400 votes. In 2020? There were 8,186 votes for the Republican – nearly three thousand votes that year. I’ve seen similar trends in many red states, where the data was often Republicans who didn’t normally get to the ballot box. I have some theories on this – but until we see better data all we can say is, wow, that’s interesting and listen.
It’s often easiest to blame everyone but the campaign itself. To say hey it was a salesman. It was a national trend. It was the environment. It was a different reason. All of these things work out. However, this doesn’t mean that not every campaign can learn a little each cycle. Campaigns can run in absolutely non-winnable districts and still come back to the table and say: Okay, what went right? What went wrong? Be open with yourself. Don’t start screaming and yelling and blaming, but openly evaluate the things that were under your control and that you would have liked to have done differently.
When you’re ready, you’ll get better with every cycle. Part of the growth you want as a volunteer, campaign worker, or candidate is to sit back and say, Hmm, I liked that, and I didn’t like this article in our campaign. Looking back is always 20/20. Even if it didn’t make any difference to the outcome of your race, looking back at those decisions can give you something to pass on to the next candidate, or to yourself when you run again. Too many candidates say, “wipe it off your head, just record and move on.” While you don’t want to deal with a loss, taking some time to reconsider it is often comforting and can help you think about your race from a new perspective.
If a take can be summed up in 140 characters or by people who don’t make a living from you, it generally sucks.
It takes a lot more time to develop a really informed situation. There are many people who want to make assessments of your county, campaign, state, or district and have absolutely no idea what your district looks like. Appreciate those who are closer to the situation far more than those who are far away. They have a better understanding and institutional knowledge that simply cannot be gained with a large board.