The Washington Post

Dems and labor grapple with Walker victory

Scott Walker’s win yesterday is jumpstarting a conversation in Democratic and labor circles about how they should revamp their approach to better cope with the realities of the new ad spending landscape, which were driven home with unusual force yesterday.

One question being asked today: Should labor and Dems rethink their assumption that much outside money is best spent on ground organizing, rather than going toe-to-toe with the right on the air?

After all, until the returns came in showing Walker had won, it seemed clear that the ground operation labor and Dems had mounted was stellar. Yet it wasn’t nearly enough to offset the big ad spending advantage enjoyed by the right.

But as you may recall, big donors are the left are putting together a plan to channel much of their money into grassroots organizing, voter registration, and boosting Democratic turnout.

On a conference call today, AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka also suggested that a major rethink of strategy was not necessary. Trumka did say more money would need to be raised by labor for air wars in upcoming battles, but he said that wouldn’t be the focus.

“Is our emphasis going to be raising money and doing ads? No,” Trumka said. “Our emphasis will be on educating and mobilizing workers on the union and non-union levels.”

I asked Trumka if yesterday’s results bode badly for the strategy of outside groups to focus on organizing, which risks ceding the airwaves to the right, which is expected to spend hundreds of millions of dollars this year. Trumka demurred. “This is a unique circumstance,” he said. “It’s a recall election. It’s only been done twice in history.”

One top Democrat I spoke to earlier today, however, argued that the message of yesterday’s loss is that arguments are won on the air, and that organizing — while hugely important, of course — can’t change that basic fact about our politics today.

At any rate, this is an argument that will grow louder in the days ahead. What are your thoughts about it, readers?

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.


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