For anyone interested in understanding how they might personally wield some influence in politics, the stories emerging from Cantor’s loss are a rich trove of insights. Particularly interesting is this piece in the Washington Post published by a young Democratic political volunteer. He helped organize a left-right collaboration between Democrats and Tea Party Republicans in Cantor’s district that gave Cantor’s challenger access to badly needed tactical resources.
The truth is that Cantor’s electoral demise did not occur overnight. It was the culmination of more than four years of grass-roots organizing, from both the right and the left, to unseat him. Behind the scenes, Cantor opponents who otherwise had little ideological common ground cooperated in his demise. I know, because I helped engineer it.
So how did fire-eyed Tea Partiers and East Coast leftists manage to meet and find common ground? It wasn’t easy.
After Cantor’s 2010 victory, a group of anti-Cantor activists from both left and right met in person to discuss campaigning against the man who would soon be majority leader. We met several times over two weeks at coffee shops and pubs in strip malls throughout the Richmond suburbs. At first, we were suspicious that one side was trying manipulate the other, but soon we developed a sense of trust over our shared frustrations with Cantor.
How did their alliance influence the course of the 2014 campaign:
We shared data-science techniques for voter targeting and for evaluating the relative cost of earning the votes of different types of voters.
There was a problem: the-easiest-to-use political data is owned by the two major political parties. The Democratic campaign was over, so how could we ethically share information that we thought would serve the greater good? Stevens used his statistical knowledge and near-photographic memory to work from crude, publicly available State Board of Elections data, then manipulate those data into targeted sets of voters more like those that would be available to a large campaign from one of the two parties. He created tidy data sets of voter information and preferences of a sort typically unavailable to independent or insurgent campaigns opposed by a party establishment (like Mr. Brat’s this year).
It’s an interesting look at how the sausage is made. It’s also a very insightful peek at the way American politics is coming to resemble the coalition politics of Western Europe even without a parliamentary system.