By Loranne Ausley, on Mon Jul 1, 2013 at 10:00 AM ET
So when I learned that my co-author and friend, Jonathan Miller, is heading back to Vegas today to revisit last year’s incredible 8th place finish in the World Series of Poker, it reminded me of my first gambling experience.
My dad, who I have written about several times, is an attorney and banker and still one of the most well respected political advisors in Florida. Somewhere along the way he learned a thing or two about gambling – and imparted this knowledge to me in a very memorable way.
I must have been about 12 or 13 years old and we were at our family beach house on Dog Island, Florida just off the coast of Florida’s Panhandle. It was a rainy day, so we were holed up inside and my dad was teaching me how to play backgammon. Just as I started getting the hang of it he asked if I wanted to play for money and I readily agreed.
We played game after game and I was really in the money – I was winning 3 out of every 4 games and after several hours of playing I had amassed quite a kitty of about $50 (which was a LOT in the mid 70s!).
Of course, we weren’t playing with real money because I was 13 years old and I didn’t HAVE $50 – but that didn’t matter because I was WINNING! Just as I was dreaming of all the records I could buy with that $50, my dad offered one last game – DOUBLE OR NOTHING.
Just like that, I thought, I could have $100 – and it was so EASY!
I know it isn’t hard to guess what ultimately happened – Dad cleaned my clock…AND he made me work off the $100. Easy lesson for him to teach and hard lesson for me to learn – thanks Dad – I love you!
In an instructive piece in The Atlantic, “Can Democrats Win Back the Deep South?” RP Loranne Ausley’s work in creating the “Southern Project” was highlighted. Check out this excerpt:
In 2000, a national Democratic consultant named Jill Hanauer moved to Colorado and decided the West was ripe for political change. After helping Democrats take the Colorado legislature in 2004, in 2007 she started a company called Project New West to help other Democrats in a region where demographic changes and the Republican Party’s shift to the right had altered the political equation.
Since the days of Arizonan Barry Goldwater, the Southwest had been solidly Republican. But that changed in the last decade. Western Democrats like Brian Schweitzer and Harry Reid won by emphasizing quality-of-life issues like education and the environment, neutralizing the culture war (often by professing love for the Second Amendment), and mobilizing the growing Hispanic vote. Far-right Republicans like former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo helped Western Democrats make the case to moderate suburbanites that the GOP had gone off the ideological deep end. Now, New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado have voted Democratic in two straight presidential elections, and the party has even managed to win statewide elections in Montana and Arizona.
“We moved into the Southwest on the theory that the demographics were changing and Republicans had gone too far to the right,” Hanauer told me. Two years ago, she detected the same thing starting to happen in the South. She changed her firm’s name to Project New America and quietly began to research a new region.
In the coming weeks, Hanauer and Loranne Ausley, a former member of the Florida House of Representatives, plan to launch something they’re calling the Southern Project, which will conduct research and formulate messages that can help Democrats win over Southern voters. A pilot study conducted in North Carolina in February, for example, concluded that under the state’s Republican governor, Pat McCrory, “there is a clear sense that hardworking taxpayers are getting the short end of the stick at the expense of big corporations and the wealthiest.” The set of talking points advises progressives to make arguments “focused around fairness and accountability,” whether the issue is tax reform or charter schools. The Southern Project will equip Southern Democrats with similar examples of messages that have been poll-tested to resonate with voters.
Ausley, who ran unsuccessfully for statewide office in Florida in 2010, said Republicans across the South risk alienating voters with their hard rightward turn. Every Republican-led Southern state has rejected the federally funded expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, she noted; in Florida, Governor Rick Scott tried to accept the funds, but his own Republican-dominated legislature blocked the move. Southern Republicans have recently decried women’s entry into the workforce and advocated teaching schoolchildren about proper gender roles.
“Republicans are doing the same thing over and over again to appeal to their base, and at some point it has to come back to bite them,” Ausley said. Southern voters are generally conservative, but they’re not extremists, as Mississippi showed in 2011 when it overwhelmingly rejected a constitutional amendment that would have declared a fertilized egg to be a “person” with rights. Genteel Southern moderates like Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia find themselves increasingly endangered by Tea Party primary challenges; Chambliss has chosen not to run for reelection next year, setting up a race that will test Democrats’ ability to win in that state.
The Democrats working in the South emphasize the long-term nature of their project. “The South is not where the West was” a decade ago, Hanauer told me. “But there is a lot of infrastructure starting to be built, and Republican legislators are going further than the Southern public wants. There’s going to be a backlash.”
By Loranne Ausley, on Wed Jun 5, 2013 at 3:51 PM ET
Click here to read a recent article from The American Prospect about the “Not So Solid” Republican South. This is the first in a 4 part series, which really lays out the case for our collective work in the south.
Stay tuned for some exciting news from The Southern Project in the next few weeks!
By Loranne Ausley, on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 10:00 AM ET
In the past few weeks we have heard a lot of discussion about the demographic shifts that played so prominently in this election. While it has prompted some discussion (The New Republic), Sunday’s article in the New York Times may have said it best:
“If the Democrats are going to be a true majority party, they will need to build a coalition in all 50 states. So rather than see the South as a lost cause (pun intended), the Democratic Party and liberals north and west of us should put a lid on their regional biases and encourage the change that is possible here.”
We all know that change is possible here which is why we have joined together to create The Southern Project.
Many of you joined our official launch in Charlotte, or have had the opportunity to participate in subsequent conversations in Washington, DC or in Boca Raton before the final presidential debate. We are working on a state by state plan which will include significant post election analysis to help drive pre-legislative session agenda research in key southern states, starting in Virginia, and continuing our work in Florida and North Carolina. We will be in touch with you as this research and analysis becomes available, and as we look for ways to make sure this research is actionable across the south.
I’m truly honored by the group of people who have joined us in building this project and look forward to our work together.
By Loranne Ausley, on Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 1:30 PM ET
No region of America has experienced as much social and political change over the past two generations as the American South. In less than half a century, it evolved from a Democratic stronghold into a region dominated by conservative policymakers. Not surprisingly, such a change profoundly impacted the lives of Southern citizens. It also altered the American legislative dynamic.
However, the South remains in flux. Driven by changes in demographics, it has over the past few election cycles shown increasingly Progressive tendencies. Accordingly, Project New America – which was formed five years ago as Project New West by Western leaders, thinkers, and strategists as a tool to interpret and exploit the values and attitudes driving two decades of dramatic growth in the West – has now turned its resources and expertise to the South.
In an effort to gain a deeper understanding of the opportunities inherent in the South’s changing fabric, Project New America officially launched The Southern Project at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in September, 2012. Modeled after its successful efforts in the West, this collaboration of Southern leaders will conduct and compile state-based research designed to guide strategy, messaging and civic engagement efforts.
Project New America’s subscription model provides a ready-made dissemination mechanism for its research and strategy tools. Many progressive actors in the South already receive PNA research through their national annual subscriptions. PNA is also developing a robust training program to ensure that its research and data can be easily translated into action. Specific deliverables include a series of trainings and the development of a comprehensive tool-kit of strategies and actionable language that will be made available to PNA subscribers and other Progressive stakeholders in the Southern region.
The Southern Project currently includes a broad scope of research in Florida and North Carolina that will provide a critical foundation upon which PNA can build. Initial research projects and intensive trainings have been completed this summer. Coming next is a regional effort that will begin to provide stakeholders with a much richer understanding of Southern voters, and the values-based messaging that can resonate with them. The goal is not merely success over the next few elections, but a state-by-state shift reversing the trends of the past five decades.
By Loranne Ausley, on Wed Jul 27, 2011 at 8:30 AM ET
I have just re-read my inaugural post from April 27, 2010 and it is hard to believe that only 3 months have passed. Way back in April I was trying to figure out what to do with all of the extra time on my hands, struggling with being on the “other side of the fence” and in a general state of malaise as I watched the Florida legislature dismantle everything that I care about.
In the past 3 months, I have joined my husband’s law firm, and started a new statewide progressive research and messaging effort. Our son has graduated from 2nd grade, I have completed 6 triathlons, and we have driven across the country.
There really is nothing like a cross country road trip. I set off with a dear friend from law school and our two sons (ages 8 and 9) from Atlanta in late June. Our final destination was Driggs, ID, but we took THE LONG WAY. I mean what fun is a cross country trip without crashing on a friend’s couch (at age 47 with my 8 year old) and doing a half ironman (in Lubbock, TX during a heat wave/drought)? Nine days and over 3,000 miles later we made it to our final destination with a van load full of laughs and memories.
While my last post was written from a remote barrier island in Florida, today I am writing from the western side of the Grand Teton range – looking at what I believe is the most beautiful view of The Grand Teton — from the back side. I could stare at that mountain all day long – and sometimes I do. Something about the wide open plains that reveal themselves to the dramatic, majestic Tetons has always been magical to this flatlander. It doesn’t hurt that the average high temperature out here is about 85 while the rest of the country is suffering through a major heat wave.
One of the highlights of this trip has been the opportunity for our 8 year old to attend a Rock & Roll Music Camp out here. While the camp is for entering 6th graders and up, they made an exception and let Will participate (thanks to pushy mom who insisted he could handle it…before I told them he was legally blind).
By Loranne Ausley, on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 1:15 PM ET
My dad, DuBose “Duby” Ausley, taught me everything I know about public service – he taught us, by example, the importance of serving your community, your family and your God with enthusiasm and integrity.
Although he has never held political office, he has been a quiet and effective leader his entire life. He was a Captain in the US Army, appointed by Presidents and Governors to serve in very important capacities, has had successful simultaneous careers in law and banking, and is still practicing law today.
Most recently, he served as one of the most important members of my team in our campaign for statewide office. While our efforts were not successful, it was a precious gift for a 47 year old daughter to be able to spend quality time working side by side with her 74 year old dad – still leading by example.
By Jonathan Miller, on Fri Apr 29, 2011 at 12:30 PM ET
Those readers familiar with national politics might remember “Walkin’ Lawton” Chiles, the Florida legend who walked from the western most point of the Florida panhandle all the way to Key West during his 1970 bid for the U.S. Senate. The walk became his signature action, so he incorporated it through his many future statewide campaigns.
In 2010, our own contributing RP Loranne Ausley took the gimmick another “step,” and ventured on a bike trek from Tallahasse to West Palm Beach to convince her opponent to finally engage in a civil debate. (Read about what Loranne is up to in her inaugural post.) Here is a report of her efforts:
By Loranne Ausley, on Wed Apr 27, 2011 at 8:30 AM ET
My name is Loranne Ausley and I am a recovering politician. At least that’s what they tell me… I am not sure I have actually recovered yet, but you can decide.
Let me start out by saying that I never have liked to be called a “politician.” I have always preferred the term “public servant.” Whatever you want to call it the truth is that I come by it honestly. As a 6th generation Floridian, I was at least the 4th generation to serve our state in some capacity. After 8 years in the Florida House of Representatives, term limits sent me on my way, but I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel quite yet. Even after a tough statewide campaign in 2010, I’m still not sure I am ready to throw it in. In all honesty, I am truly struggling with how to “create meaning in my post political life.” I am hoping that this exercise will help.
Dog Island, Florida
So I started out by reading Tom Allen’s post about his “Blissful Recovery” and found myself thinking… that should be me. Consider the following: I am writing this from one of the most beautiful places in the world, Dog Island Florida where I am celebrating 11 years of marriage to a wonderful, smart and supportive husband who I love very much. We have a happy healthy 8 year old son who is an all around great kid and amazing superstar drummer even though he was never expected to make it out of the hospital after his premature birth at 22 weeks weighing just over a pound. I had the privilege of serving 8 great years in the legislature, took a gamble and ran statewide. Anyone watching will tell you it was a smart, scrappy campaign, but it was 2010…I was a Democrat… in Florida. We lost, but ran a good campaign, maintained civility in the process, raised over $ 2 million and got almost 2 million votes… no regrets.
Anyone who is looking at my life from outside would say that my life is blissful, or that I am pretty ungrateful if I claim otherwise. By all accounts, I am living the life… I am a “stay-at-home mom” which means I finally have time to do all those things I have put off.
Here I sit on a remote barrier island on a gorgeous day surrounded by the people that I love… WHY AM I NOT BLISSFUL?!?
For starters, it is past the halfway point of the legislative session and I am watching from afar as all of the things I care about are dismantled. I run into public employees and police officers at the grocery store who are terrified about changes in their pensions. I run into children’s advocates at church who are dismayed about savage cuts to children’s services, and every day at my son’s elementary school I am stopped in the halls by a teacher or a parent with grave concerns about what is really happening and how it is going to affect our kids.
I found some solace in Lisa Borders’ post and tried to take to heart her realization that we don’t have to be players on the field to impact the outcomes. As much as we laugh about the lack of normalcy amongst “our types” and our addiction to crowds and the sound of our own voices and the applause that follows, in all seriousness we entered this arena because we care about our communities, our states and our nation, and we are committed to be the dynamic force of change that we want to see. Let’s face it – we all believe that it is our responsibility to leave this place better than we found it and ultimately that is why we are here… The other stuff is the icing on top.
So maybe this is why I can’t quite yet describe my recovery as blissful… I haven’t yet figured out how to make an impact from this side of the fence.
So I hope that Tom Allen is right that while some of us may be recovering from our losses, that none of us are recovering from politics/public service. And I hope that someone out there can help me make the transition… stay tuned!