BHR Op-Ed: LJ Bryant Discusses Winning In 2012 And Beyond

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First let me thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts and for your support with three races in 2010. Even if you didn’t support our campaign, if you are reading this, thank you for your interest in public policy.

What does it take to win? Let’s answer by stating the obvious. First, you need a candidate. To our fortune, the Republicans didn’t field candidates in many races this time or they would have won even more. The bad news is we let some Republicans walk into Democratic seats uncontested. Yesterday ended last night. So what about tomorrow? Will we have the candidates?

Tomorrow is up to you. Will you run for something? If you do not want to run, future candidates need you to plan contributions into your budget. Start saving now. As soon as our nominees are selected, we need you to send a check to every candidate you can without them having to call you. Let them save their time calling the folks they need to persuade.

In campaigns, a candidate has a finite amount of time, which can’t be changed. The candidate also has a limited amount of money, but that can be expanded with your help. $20 matters. For example, if 1,000 Democrats around the state send $20 to Jerry Rephan, that would nearly fund his race. So plan ahead; today, write four twenty dollar checks that say “____ for Congress.” You can fill in the blank after we have nominees in 2012.

Back to the obvious. Why do we care who wins? There are variations to that answer, but I think all of our answers would share a common theme. We want to elect quality candidates who share our ideas. They don’t have to pass a litmus test, nor can they be a blank slate. They need to be someone who can articulate a vision for the future.

John Maxwell wrote a book called “Talent is Never Enough.” There is a certain science to politics, but even if you do it perfectly, you are still not guaranteed to win (i.e. this cycle, most of our candidates had good messaging and outspent their opponents). So why not you, and why not now? There is no perfect candidate, and there is no perfect time. None of us that filed in March could have foreseen the tidal wave of November. If you want to run, then run. We need you at every level. We lost JP seats and lots of offices in county courthouses across the state. The Democratic organization must be built from the ground up, not the top down. We clearly saw that this cycle as the top of the ticket didn’t translate into victories down the ballot. The same was true in 2002: Huckabee’s comfortable victory didn’t help his wife or others seeking statewide office.

So back to obvious questions: Beyond being a candidate or giving money, what can you do? Well, we all outspent and out messaged our opponents in the final days. However, the other side wins the message war about 700 of the 730 days in a two year cycle. Thus, this is why we need Blue Hog Report, and why we need you to write letters to the editor. Often, we write letters to the editor to complain about the other side. We also need to promote the work of our elected officials, or, should you agree with the other side on an issue you can always say that, too. Certainly, our first allegiance is to good public policy to help Arkansas, regardless of who has the idea. We also need to write letters to lawmakers both when we agree and when we disagree. Finally, when we can, we need to show up to make our views known. This applies to city council meetings or a state legislative committee.

Are you a member of your county Democratic Central Committee? If not, then why not? My understanding is that state party rules allow for most anyone to join during filing and even at other times if the committee is so inclined.

To paraphrase Jimmie Lou Fisher’s 2002 concession: You win some, you lose some, some get rained out, but you got to suit up for them all. We started by talking about winning. We don’t have to win every race in order to justify running. Even if a down ballot candidate in say a JP race is destined to lose, they can bring out followers who can help competitive upper ballot races. Most importantly, they can offer ideas and enthusiasm to our party. We need to be strategic with our resources; however, as long as the challenged candidate accepts that fact, they can serve an important purpose.

The game is played by those who show up. So where are you? Are you a candidate on the field? If not, that is ok; the team also has to have coaches to contribute and volunteer. But no one wins from the bleachers.

–LJ Bryant, March 2011