What Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor wanted the Easter Bunny to bring him.
South Mississippi Living 4/07

Friday, November 09, 2007

National Implications: The Color of Mississippi Politics

by Ana Maria

What is it about Mississippi that makes its politics so sadly predictable? Yes, of course, color plays a central role in our political landscape. With the regularity that comes in a campaign like the sun rising every morning and night falling upon the earth in the evening, the Republican party roles out its plays and here in the deepest of the Deep South, no crystal ball is needed to know what those plays are or the final outcome, particularly if the Democratic candidate is African American.

But the color that makes a real difference in an election night outcome isn’t necessarily the color that is found on a candidate’s skin. At some levels, campaigns aren’t all that black and white of an issue. Oh, yes, race and gender and sexual orientation can be factors. They are HUGE factors here in Mississippi while not so in my previous state of residence, California.

However, the color that makes a difference here in Mississippi as well as in any electoral campaign across the nation is the color green—and I’m not talking about whether we’re environmentally sane, the color of well manicured grass, or whether envy has overtaken one’s senses. I am talking about the color of money and what that green affords us.

Take this analysis a step further and we uncover a Democratic challenge when it comes to how we tend to think about money—either personally or as a class of individuals who overall feel the delights and pains of life in ways that we believe our Republican counterparts do not because the main organ in that equation appears to be wholly missing from them—their hearts.

Think about it. If Governor Barbour, the Republican Party, and its partners in the insurance industry all of whom operated within a well-refined political organizational apparatus had competed with an equally well-refined Democratic organizational apparatus with our own industry partners and statewide leaders, the outcome of this and any other electoral contest would routinely be different and certainly much less predictable.

When a Republican campaign breaks out its coded advertisements as often happens here in Mississippi as well as plenty of places throughout the nation, can we imagine the difference if these ads or speeches or other tricks were responded to in the same way that Coca-Cola responds to Pepsi increasing its market share? Can we imagine the difference in election night results if any time the Republican Party rolled out one of its routine operational schemes it were to do so in the context of the Democratic Party already preemptively thwarting the historic effectiveness of those tactics?

Well, if those of us on this side of the political aisle imagine these things THEN we can go in the direction of those dreams to make them reality. I can already here the grumblings from both sides. The Dems will mumble something about not having money to do this. Republicans will talk among themselves about their perception that Dems don’t have the discipline to make up their minds and we have an aversion to money. All the answers, of course, have merit.

We will have money when we put our mind to raising it remaining focused on raising it until it is seared into our brains with new synapses affirming the naturalness with which we automatically bring into our side of the political equation plenty of financial prosperity and abundance to fund the campaigns to win at the ballot box which is the precursor to winning the votes to pass great legislation, confirm stellar judges, and appoint expert managers to head one or another government agency.

The old adage is so accurate: if you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right. It’s perfectly fine for my side of the political fence to complain bitterly about Barbour’s money and organization as long as that propels conversation about what Repubs do well that we should also adopt. Let’s go back to the Coke and Pepsi comparison. In the early 70’s, Coca-Cola launched it extremely successful ad campaign with the famous lyrics “I'd like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.” This proved to be one of the most successful campaign ads the Coca Cola company ever ran.

Some ten years later, Pepsi scored big with signing on the ever-popular Michael Jackson for its commercials. Rather than just being content to launch one very popular commercial, Pepsi signed up as a major sponsor for Jackson’s tours, which proved to be an incredible investment.

And so the competition for market share goes between companies. Politics is an industry. Adopting some baseline business perspectives would do our Democratic Party quite well.

In this regard, the Democratic base would do well to think of our party, itself, as a business. Every business needs to raise capital to buy real estate, construct office space, acquire new businesses, provide good compensation packages through which to hire, train, and retain great personnel, and develop marketing strategies to retain the current customer base while implementing new strategies to capture new customers and turn them into routine customer base. Thriving businesses think like this, act in accordance with their thinking, and their results speak for themselves.

Yes, yes, yes. I can hear my side already. But what about businesses like Halliburton and Black Water? We’re to emulate those?

Oh good grief! Why not think of Ben and Jerry’s?!

Look, whether the business is a thriving local merchant that provides the best donuts around or a major multi-national corporation, basic principles apply. Most basic to them both is the simple fact that capital is the oxygen for their operations be it the most delectable donuts ever placed in our mouths or rotten food served up to our brave soldiers in Iraq.

We HAVE to think of our politics in an organized business-like fashion so that we can compete successfully in electoral campaigns anywhere in the country and come out victoriously with election day outcomes.

We have great values—just like many businesses. We have great products in terms of the public policies we seek to implement.

  • Democrats want public schools that are great places to educate ALL of our children—and not just the elite. We want our public schools to be a wonderful place that teachers want to work.
  • Democrats want a clean environment that sane public policies can create because we want EVERYONE—and not just the elite—to enjoy the beauty of this gorgeous planet and EVERYONE to breathe clean air, drink pure water, and eat healthy food grown from Mother Nature’s belly.
  • Democrats want EVERYONE—and not just the elite—to work inside thriving businesses where workers and owners are excited to be there and take pride in the services and goods offered so that we develop ever-evolving communities where children are raised in safe, loving, vibrant environments, where we grow into young and middle aged adults with a stable and ever-expanding economic opportunities that afford us the financial resources to provide for ourselves and our families, and where we grow old gracefully with plenty of resources to maintain our health and enjoy life to its fullest.
Democrats want these things for EVERYONE, not just the elite. To do so requires that we think of our politics in terms of our values and positions AND in terms of having the organization and infrastructure through which we can more easily and routinely dominate the political market, if you will.

We focus our attention on having a great candidate, and having great candidates is important to us. But it is like a business focusing on its sales people only as if they operate outside of an having an accounting and finance department to bring in the money owed, pay the bills, and project future cash flow with one or another business development model. Or outside of a marketing team to position the company in a way that opens doors easily to the sales people. Businesses have to have the less than glamorous nuts and bolts so that their company can shine above the competition.

The same is true in politics.

Besides, it’s so obvious that lesser candidates get into office. The Mississippi Insurance Commissioner race is a prime example. If Mike Chaney had to campaign inside a party structure on par with the Democratic Party, I don’t think he would have come out ahead.

But Chaney did compete with the backing of a party structure that has invested plenty of money in knowing who will come out to vote and what the party must do to inspire their loyal voters to cast their ballots come election time. And the party did it. Hardly rocket science, but it has eluded too many inside of my own party.

To return to the Coke-Pepsi analogy, Pepsi didn’t just complain that Coke had had a stroke of genius with its "I'd like to buy the world a Coke" campaign. Pepsi took what it could from its competitor then bested Coke in the signing up Michael Jackson whose stardom had reached legendary proportions at that time. Brilliant marketing and business development!

The day that plenty more members of my beloved Democratic Party think strategically about how to position ourselves collectively so that we compete on an equal footing as our political counterparts, the day we start saying to ourselves and each other that we’ll raise the money, that we CAN raise the money, that we have plenty of deep pocketed supporters as well as everyday smaller donors who we can develop into regular investors, and when the Democratic Party commits in heart, mind, and soul to invest in baseline infrastructure rather than ONLY in this, that, or the other candidate--looking for the savior syndrom, THEN we’ll be able to meet the racially-tinged messaging and other dirty political tricks and meet them with our own political machine to produce election day results that can tell a different tale about election day results.

The Republicans have their racial bias that often comes out in their campaigns. We can count on it just as we can count on the sun rising every morning. But infusing meaning into the outcome of those elections as if it were a forgone conclusion forever written in concrete is erroneous until the day that those racially tinged campaigns are met with an equally well-oiled Democratic political machine who institutes tactics and strategies ahead of time so that those tactics begin to lose their potency.

Until then, the Repubs will continue their ways because their success depends on the status quo from my party, a status quo that says defeat is inevitable. Well, triumph will be inevitable when we say it is and act upon what we tell ourselves and each other. We must say things differently to ourselves and each other. Then, we must act differently to bring different results. We have to feel things are possible and see things as possible, then we must go out and be open to the myriad of ways that will make things different. Besides, none of this is rocket science. We just have to do the baseline things so we can begin to see an improvement in the results we are getting.

That is how we give real competition to the racially-tinged and coded campaigns of our competitors and test the true strength of their tactics here in Mississippi and elsewhere throughout the nation.

The question of how to elect a well-educated, articulate, polished, eloquent, and experienced hometown Mississippi African-American Democratic man to a statewide office for which he is the most qualified candidate rests with developing a well-organized, well-funded political apparatus dominated with folks who have not only the desire to win but who have the determination to think like winners do—as if the end result of triumph is our natural destiny.

It begins with changing how we think and how we act based on our thinking. This is a key element, and it is within our grasp. Grab it.

© 2007 Ana Maria Rosato. All rights reserved.
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goldeneagle said...

Could you please tell me what part of Gary Anderson's resume makes him better suited to head the Department of Insurance than Mike Chaney?

Ana Maria said...

Are you goofy? Come on, if you have to ask then your intellectual acumen is sorely impaired. Good night.

goldeneagle said...

Typical response, instead of responding to a simple question you attack someone's intellect.

Chaney has multitudes more experience in both state politics and insurance.

Casey Ann said...

Nationally, Democrats are doing exactly what you propose. And the National Democratic Party has invested money in organizing Mississippi - which Democrats elsewhere thought was a waste of money. But we're a tough group to organize. I look at my local Democratic Party, and it's a joke. Whereas the local Republicans are very organized. I do my best, but it is definitely frustrating.

Ana Maria said...

Yes, I'm fully aware of the national effort. I'm fully aware thet there was a long and remains a hard struggle internally to organize everywhere.

And THAT is my point. It is our COLLECTIVE mindset that we need to flood with the idea that, of course, we're investing plenty of money to organize EFFECTIVELY--on the ground, with technological infrastructure, etc.

My point is to push further, to change our mindset, to move us to think bigger than a lemonade stand.

As you know, Casey, I've worked for the DNC and plenty of progressive organizations and in substantial positions. I understand the struggle to have gotten where we are. I'm tired of having to make folks feel good about putting up lemonade stands when we need a mindset that is bigger than that.

Understanding that running our politics in a sophisticated business-like manner is important and central to that is our mindset.

Saying, thinking, writing comments about us being hard to organize only affirms that very concept. We keep thinking that and saying that and writing that and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I know from whence I speak having organized here in Mississippi and Tennessee and California achieving objectives no one thought possible. Those objectives were achieved, quite frankly, because I only thought and spoke of success as being inevitable. No excuses. No more "organizing Dems is like herding cats" metaphors.

Thinking bigger. Dreaming bigger. Being grateful in the meantime and feeling excited about what is unfolding for the future . . . as I walk and talk and do what will make those things possible.

I know that Dean had one hell of a time convincing the DNC to go along with his strategy. THAT is the point as well. So, he has had to start off with a little and we will build upon it.

Where as before we had no business, we now have a lemonade stand. That is a start, and it is only a start.

Let's dream, think, talk, and act in ways that lets everyone understand that a lemonade stand is great for kids to get started in business. It is not the same as Ben & Jerry's ice cream--sold in grocery stores everywhere.

KingMaker said...


Ana has no answers. All she has is insults. Drop a few facts in front of her and she throw the RACE CARD at you so fast it makes Jesse Jackson blush.

Ana Maria said...

HA! What a silly little guy you are, an impudent little guy with all the class and manners of a gnat--not to be rude to gnats, mind you. How's this for an insult, dahlin': I imagine your brain is the biggest organ--other than your skin--that you possess and it, uh, is itty bitty. Imagine what the rest of you is like.

Your manners are also pathetic. How dare you email me personally to invite me to attend something you are putting together then you ahve the audacity--like many of your ilk, to throw insults at me on my own blog.

You are such an rude one. Besides, you apparently failed to read the piece I wrote after this one. Such a silly, silly, little one, you are.

Young, foolish, silly. You make me laugh! Now go play with your tonka truck until you learn better manners.