Writings and observations

Three web pluses, noted

Jim Hansen web siteThree likeable things jump out from the campaign web page of Jim Hansen, now the sole Democratic candidate for the House in Idaho’s 2nd congressional district.

One of them is the clear statement, up near the top right, saying: “Jim Hansen – an Idaho Democrat.” There: He said it. He’s a Democrat. A lot of other Idaho Democrats seem to do whatever they can to play it down. Hansen plays it up, and that’s good politics: You should always wear what you have as a badge of honor. That may mean being despised by your own party’s leadership (in the case of Republican Bill Sali) or may mean any number of other things. In Hansen’s case, he’s doing something a little audacious and wise, defining himself as an example of the species Idahoa Democraticus. He has something to live up there, since other Democrats will be tagged with him. But if he carries himself well, his whole party benefits. This kind of approach done in mass can do a lot to define who a party is, through who its people are.

Second thing is down toward the bottom of the page. There, he includes links not only to the web site of his recently-departed primary opponent, Craig Cooper, but also to his Republican opponent, incumbent Mike Simpson. Subtle, but something you don’t see often – and another smart move. It’s an open invitation to contrast and compare, with the implicit message: I’m not afraid of what you’ll think about me after you check us all out. It puts him out there and above it all at the same time.

Third, which is about the campaign as well as the page, is the campaign contribution statement, that he will accept only contributions of $100 or less. His statement on that: “If at least 5,000 people donate $100 that ought to be enough to run a congressional campaign without going to the PACs and lobbyists that are strong-armed by Congress to fork over huge contributions every day. It is a leap of faith based on Jim’s convictions. The consultants inside DC think it’s nuts, but virtually every person Jim talks to in Idaho – ordinary voters – appreciate it as a principled stand. It is only risky if everyone who agrees with Jim sits back and does nothing.”

It’s not nuts. Leaving aside here matters of principle (not that we dismiss them – the PAC system is a true civic illness), it makes great strategic sense. Hansen would raise only a fraction of the PAC money Simpson would get anyway. In a year when “culture of corruption” is becoming a topic of everyday discussion even in Idaho, the value of seizing moral high ground is more than worth the tradeoff. And don’t assume Hansen’s half-mill can’t happen. Efforts like this one have begun to show some serious traction around the country, especially with candidates who have a knack for organization. And Hansen, who has spent the last decade and more working on the organization of various social interest groups, does know something about organization. If he understands the potential of the netroots as well, he could wind up with a very decently funded campaign. As noted, such a result is still not commonplace, but it’s hardly unprecedented either.

One final point on this, the key final sentence: “It is only risky if everyone who agrees with Jim sits back and does nothing.” Come November, consider the results a measure of to what degree the public – that part of it, as noted, that does agree with Hansen rather than Simpson – really is willing to take part. It’s a challenge, and entirely apropos. WIll the people on Hansen’s side sit back and do nothing? We shall see. (Simpson, for that matter, could do the same.) If they do . . . well, there’ll be a lesson to be learned there too, won’t there?

Obligatory perspective, for a moment: What Hansen is attempting – to beat a very popular Republican congressman in the Idaho 2nd – is immensely difficult, and his odds are not good. Which doesn’t mean the good stuff isn’t worthy of attention.

Share on Facebook