California Democrats awoke Wednesday morning to election results that largely were as pleasing as any in recent memory. And certainly far better than most parts of the country. And so while we sipped our lattes and basked in the warmth or our victories up and down the ballot, we should also be taking a moment to reflect on what caused this happy turn of events.
Sure, California is amongst the bluest of blue states. And certainly we have to thank the Republican strategists who ran the Whitman and Fiorina campaigns with breathtaking ineptitude. But our inquiry into the diagnosis should not stop there because California has been known to elect Republican Governors with disturbing frequency. The breadth and depth of the Democratic reverse-tsunami here begs us to look further.
This was, after all, a midterm election in which the demographics of the electorate should favor Republicans of the conservative stripe. And Democrats were out spent here by hefty margins, particularly in the Governor's race. Yet we managed to have some impressive wins. Perhaps our Democratic candidates did something differently than their counterparts elsewhere, like for example, in Pennsylvania.
At this hour it appears that San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris has pulled out a win over Los Angeles County D.A. Steve Cooley, the Republican. Just being from San Francisco and being female ought to have made Harris a huge under dog. And as one high placed Republican recently expressed, "this race ought to be Steve's to lose" But lose he apparently did. Why?
Kamala did not talk past her voter.
Kamala was running for Attorney General but her most prominent ads featured her speaking about defending the environment. She spoke to her voter. She did not dwell on being "tough on crime," or get sucker punched into discussing the pros and cons in the immigration debate.
Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer also did a better job of speaking to their voters than did Democrats in other parts of the country. They spoke about education and defending the environment, while elsewhere Democrats sounded like wanna-be tea partiers. When Democrats talk past their voters, their voters stay home. We ought to have learned this in 1994 when the angry white man monopolized the debate with immigration and term limits. We played by their ground rules and got shellacked.
When the postmortem is finished, don't be surprised if it looks like California survived the Republican wave because its candidates remembered to talk to the voters who were likely to vote for them in the first place.