Karl Rove had an op-ed piece in the WSJ today (he writes for them a lot these days) expressing grudging respect for the "brilliant ground game" Barack Obama’s put together. For Democrats, of course, this is like receiving an admiring nod from The Devil Himself, especially since the Atwater cohort is saying that Obama is using his — Karl Rove‘s — ideas. An excerpt:
For starters, Barack Obama’s manager admitted to the New York Times that he wanted an "army of persuasion" modeled explicitly on the massive Bush neighbor-to-neighbor "Victory Committee" of ’00 and ’04. Those efforts deployed millions of volunteers to register, persuade and get-out-the-vote….
Like Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama has harnessed the Internet for persuasion, communication and self-directed organization. A Bush campaign secret weapon in 2004 was nearly 7.5 million email addresses of supporters, 1.5 million of them volunteers. Some volunteers ran "virtual precincts," using the Web to register, persuade and organize family and friends around the country. Technology has opened even more possibilities for Mr. Obama today.
The Obama campaign is trying to catch up with the GOP’s "microtargeting" program, which uses powerful analytical tools and extensive household consumer information to focus on prospects for conversion and extra turnout help….
All of which emphasized two points: First, people like Karl Rove think this is a "Game," and therefore alternate hitting the opposition as hard as they can with sportsmanlike expressions of admiration when the other side scores a good hit. (Subtext: I’m a professional, not one of this "true-believer" losers.) It’s not about trying to accomplish something for the country; it’s about playing hard and winning.
Second, it makes me think: Why can’t this kind of energy be devoted to accomplishing some good for the country after the hoopla of elections is over? What if we were to enlist millions of motivated and dedicated volunteers to push with all their might for National Health care, or a solution to the coming Social Security crash, or an honest-to-goodness Energy Policy that would improve our economy, our strategic position and the health of the planet?
Or, to think of it another way, what if Mr. Bush, after winning that 2004 election, had put enough boots on the ground in Iraq (the comparison to the army Rove assembled seems apt) to nip the insurgency in its bud, long before he finally agreed to the Surge?
All the money, and all the effort that goes into political campaigns… what a waste, unless an equal or greater effort is mounted after the campaign to accomplish something in office.
But that’s not the way the Game is played, is it?