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John Foster's Requiem of a Loser
UPDATE 12/4: I changed this substantially from my original post and added links.
Walt Minnick's campaign manager, John Foster, defends a failed campaign strategy and, inter alia, blames Democrats for his campaign's loss. In so doing, John Foster declares the Idaho Democratic Party beyond redemption. And he does this through an interview in the one publication in the state guaranteed to reach a wide audience of Treasure Valley First District Democrats, the Boise Weekly, Idaho's largest counter culture weekly publication. Here's the salient points Mr. Foster intended for Democrats to read.
A lot of the post-election punditry and second-guessing might have had me screaming years ago, but I'm a little older and wiser now. I recognize that most of the people opining about what happened are doing it because they weren't in the middle of it and never will be. So they're inconsequential as a result.
Did you give credence to some of the early polling that showed Rep. Minnick with a measurable lead?
We were ahead in all of our internal polling all the way up to the final days. Every single undecided voter broke against Walt. I'll make one comment about some of the post-election analysis: There seems to be an assumption that Democrats stayed home. The reality is that there are a lot fewer of them. The state has become a lot more red. More Democrats became independent and more independents became Republicans.
What's the state of the Democratic Party in Idaho?
I say this as a former executive director of the state Democratic Party. There is no Democratic Party in Idaho. A party is infrastructure. A party is operation and fundraising. There is simply no party.
But you're a Democrat and your counsel is solicited.
No, it's not. Maybe by a very small group of people.
But if you did have a few minutes with some people who could rebuild the party, where would you start?
By not worrying about rebuilding the Democratic Party. The state is ruby-red Republican, and likely always will be. Any advice I would have to give would be to accept that reality and move on. Do not assume that you're going to get the state to change. It's Republican. It's conservative. Your strategy needs to be built around that reality.
Idaho Democrats are keenly aware of the realities of running a campaign in crimson Idaho. Idaho Democrats were grateful and enthusiastic supporters of Mr. Minnick in getting better representation for the constituents of District One. The fact that Minnick ran as a fiscal conservative fiercely defending the second amendment was familiar territory for Democrats who elected Cecil Andrus. These are common attributes for western Democrats.
The difficulty in the relationship arose when Minnick, Idaho's highest profile Democrat, started showing embarrassment at being a Democrat, cozying up to a group of tea baggers distancing himself from Idaho Democrats. The embarrassment ever so publicly morphed into open hostility towards Democratic policy, running a campaign against Obama, on the man and policies Minnick had previously endorsed. Minnick worked with blue dogs to water down Democratic legislation designed to help the economy and regulate unpopular banksters on Wall Street, which ironically made a blue dog slaughter in the last election a self fulfilling prophecy. Minnick even betrayed his staunch ideological penchant for fiscal conservatism in supporting the Republican push for extending Bush era tax cuts for the very wealthy, basically advancing a Republican campaign plank despite its inherent and obvious contradiction.
There is no doubt that Idaho Democrats felt alienated from candidates who eschewed all things relating to the party and its core values. Foster's initial patronizing assertion that recently published criticisms are from ignorant inconsequential rubes belies the truth about much of the criticism, which was designed to illustrate through empirical evidence the fact that running a campaign against the party and the base suppresses the Democratic vote. Foster's complaints regarding after-the-fact "second guessing" ignores the fact that these warnings have been made consistently for over a year. And while some of these concerns were levied from the perspective of the Democratic rank and file, alienated, abused and insulted by the conduct of these campaigns, the same criticisms were made by party professionals and even party leadership intimately familiar in running campaigns and tremendous knowledge of politics in general. Indeed Foster's use of the word "inconsequential" merely demonstrates an egotistically closed mind on the math.
This should not be a personality clash. Instead it should be a tool for Idaho Democrats to learn in proceeding forward. Instead of grappling with the merits of the post election analysis, Foster's comments are full throated defense of the way he ran the campaign. Foster doubles down on defending his strategy of running away from Democrats and lays bare his hostility for Democrats and the party by continuing to denigrate it much like he did in running the campaign. The death of the party in Idaho will come as a surprise to the committed members in Kootenai, Latah, Nez Perce, Valley and Ada counties all of whom had volunteers working for Minnick. If their numbers seemed light Mr. Foster should be looking in a mirror for the reason why. The mind reels on how a party can support infrastructure and raise funds when its top tier candidates assist Republicans in denigrating the brand.
Foster fails to defend his unproductively ruthless campaign or address the empirical data demonstrating the suppression of the Democratic vote this cycle. The irony of Foster's attack in the Weekly is thick. At no time during the campaign did he utilize the Weekly to reach out to Idaho Democrats. Only after the campaign is over did he deign to address them and only then to berate them for losing his race through their impotence. Idaho Democrats are well aware of the numbers and our weaknesses in a red state. But the incumbent's 10 point loss demonstrated Foster's strategy of running Walt on the Republican platform a loser. Idaho Democrats would be remiss in failing to take note of that "reality" as well. Certainly Democrats should not be blamed for the loss when no effort whatsoever was made to appeal to them.
John Foster demonstrated himself to be very ambitious, capable and smart tactician with Machiavellian tendencies who quickly identified the forces significant to running a campaign. And while these qualities may serve Foster well in his personal ambitions they proved to be double edged swords for Walt Minnick and Idaho Democrats. Indeed Foster's evident hostility towards Democrats when coupled with his caustic corrosive comments about the Democratic Party gives one pause on whether his new found career as a lobbyist might not have been his primary motivation all along. The jury has been out on whether Foster should have been jettisoned early or cloned. His regrettable vindictive comments in the Weekly makes this an easier determination for Idaho Democrats.