An associate offering condolences for this past Tuesday’s election results offered the reminder that we need a Constitutional Amendment to fix campaign finance. Amending the Constitution is the only certain means of leveling the playing field between self funders trying to buy seats, those willing to sell their values for special interest money and establishment support and those tried and true progressive warriors honestly trying to make the world a better place.
The decline in the quality of media coverage of elections has been a perverse accelerator of the downward spiral, favoring big money, the establishment and creating the illusion of similar qualifications/values where vast differences exist. Why? To make money, profit over truth, profit over quality of governance, profit over everything.
Until we have major campaign finance reform and media reform, we as progressives (and Democrats in general) need to stop making the same mistakes campaign after campaign. We need to invest drastically more in infrastructure that supports candidate campaigns. The key phrase being, “that supports candidate campaigns.” We have a number of great organizations out there that are improving some of the message and starting to push back on some of the right wing attacks on our Democracy in favor of the 1%, but they aren’t doing nearly enough to help us actually win elections and shift the balance of power.
We need a return to the 50 State Strategy. It isn’t even debatable which strategy is more effective. When we run more quality campaigns, we do vastly better at controlling the message and we win more seats. We raise more money. We inspire future candidates and activists. Incumbency protection is best served by expanding the playing field, not contracting it to a defensive posture.
We must do more to provide candidates with the resources to compete – not just money, but training, quality staff and research. Candidates need to start by recognizing that being a candidate is not easy, and they should do more to learn to how to be better as a candidate. Progressive organizations need to begin their actions six months or more before primaries/elections, they need to get in early to make a big impact. They need to to do more to promote the positive narratives for progressive candidates.
We need to stop hiring/promoting staffers based on arbitrary measures, winning or losing a prior race isn’t necessarily indicative of any one individual’s talent and capacity. Being on a winning team in one capacity is not at all indicative of a capacity to succeed in a completely different capacity on the next campaign. Carrying staff not getting the job done is extremely detrimental to campaigns, where resources are highly limited and the impact of team morale is far greater than many recognize. A person not living up to the responsibilities of their job will drag everyone else down, any temporary drop off felt from firing that person among the rest of the team will be overcome by the greater impact of bringing in someone capable of doing the job. Rip off the band aid, don’t let it fester.
We should be willing to pay quality wages for quality staff. When you buy at a bargain rate, too often you get less than a bargain of quality and capacity. Which leads to this – donors need to get involved earlier, need to get involved in primaries, and need to recognize that their money can and should be spent on things other than TV. When progressive donors opt to sit out primaries, they are giving a huge advantage to the big money/establishment candidates and crippling our progressive heroes. Money has a decreasing value over the course of a campaign – the earlier you have it, the better you can plan and execute a campaign for victory. Late campaign TV is rapidly declining as an effective means of communicating with voters, the value of field, online and targeted mail campaigns are all increasing rapidly. All of these require having money earlier. More staff, less consultants.
We MUST MUST MUST do more to keep quality staffers in the campaign system between cycles. We must pay them living wages in and out election season. We must provide health care and career advancement training. We must strive to keep the best of our warriors on campaigns for 5 cycles. 10 years. That should be the goal. We need to make it a viable option by increasing the quantity and quality of mentorship, by providing employment options designed to fit between campaigns that continue the work for advancing progressive values, and by doing more to make sure the right people are hired by the right candidates at the right time to be successful.
We have a handful of strong progressive candidates running across the nation and Democracy Corps tells us 54 House Republicans are in danger right now. We can make gains this November, and we need to work our butts off to make that happen. We can make bigger gains in 2014 and beyond if we start learning from our mistakes instead of repeating them over and over.
For my part, I’m currently looking for the best opportunity to make a difference between now and November 6th. If you have ideas about what I should be doing, use the contact form.
Four years ago (8/29/2008), I wrote the following as a reaction to the pick of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate:
Following the premise of Head of State, McCain chooses Sarah Palin as his running mate, undercutting his own arguments for his own selection, but (possibly) opening new doors for the party’s future.
After an intense three months spanning the nation, working with Connecticut’s Chris Donovan to sharpen his message and write an acceptance speech for the nominating convention and then packing the car, passing through Mount Rushmore and on to the Pacific Northwest where I ran Darcy Burner’s campaign for Washington’s First Congressional District, I’m now looking for what is next.
Does your campaign need a communications director? Some quality control auditing? Training and process improvement? I can make your campaign better. So long as you are a progressive Democrat that is.
Whether you are looking to hire a consultant or a full time staffer, you should contact us here.
Back in December of 2010, I reflected on the previous RootsCamp. Among the biggest negatives was the large crowd & less than stellar session leaders. The positives? The wonderful people and efforts of the New Organizing Institute, the activists and enthusiasm.
A little over a year later, we returned to the scene of the first RootsCamp (2006), the NEA Building. Attendance was limited to a more reasonable number and the quality of experience was back up to the expected (very high) levels.
There was one session that was horrifically bad and I would certainly like to see more content geared at challenger candidates/campaigns, but overall it was a great experience with some wonderful sessions/presenters/discussions.
One of the more amusing sessions Saturday was led by Adam Green & Stephanie Taylor of the PCCC, “Fire the Consultants: Venting & Solutions.” Similar to sessions they have conducted in the past, the intent is both therapeutic and to stop so many campaigns and organizations from repeating the mistakes happening far too often every cycle. Among the more amazing revelations, one participant discussed how a consultant was 4 months behind schedule on a 6 week deliverable. They asked what they could do about that, several in the room responded, “Fire them.” A better question would be, why weren’t they fired after passing 12 weeks on a 6 week deliverable?
Too often candidates and lefty non-profits find themselves in this sort of situation. Sometimes the result is a poorly communicated proposal, an inadequate or absent contract, or just the unwillingness to demand what was paid for by the organization. Refer back to the Rules of Organizing, #9 If it isn’t written down, it doesn’t exist. The consultant telling you they have written a plan, collected the data, and so forth isn’t good enough. They have to both write down the plan and share it with the customer. A good contract will specify that all data procured or created by the consultant in the process is also handed over (or shared digitally) to the customer.
Some RootsCamp attendees were put off by the title, and the animosity directed at consultants. As a consultant, I say get over it. The profession is rife with leeches, hacks and stuffed shirts. The few good and honorable among us need to understand that, accept it, and not get hostile about being mistaken for one of vast majority of vultures that dominate the profession. Unfortunately the burden is on us to prove we aren’t part of that majority that serves only to inhibit or exploit challenger candidates.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be on the road, attending the Florida Young Democrats 2011 Convention which will be occurring in conjunction with the Florida Democratic Party’s Jefferson Jackson Weekend at the Westin-Diplomat in Hollywood, Florida and Netroots Nation 2011 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
At the FYD Convention, I’ll be conducting a training session on planning and executing events, joined by FYD Convention Chair Shannon Love. Here’s the blurb from the FYD Website:
Meetings and Events
If you and your chapter are interested in hosting events that kick ass and raise money, please join Democracy for America Trainer Mario Piscatella and Pinellas Young Democrats President Shannon Love as they explain great ways to plan, organize and execute successful events large and small. From building spreadsheets that track progress to finding different ways to bring in money, this session will provide you the tools you need to host everything from a regular meeting to a dinner, convention or other exciting event.
In Minneapolis, I’ll be conducting free consulting sessions with candidates of today, tomorrow and someday, as I posted about already.
Later in the summer, I expect to be at the Young Democrats of America National Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, and who knows where else I may end up.
I got up early this morning to appear on WJCT’s First Coast Connect, hosted by Melissa Ross. I was joined by Republican political consultant Jim Varian and Abel Harding of the Jacksonville Times-Union, we discussed Jacksonville’s Mayoral election results featuring Alvin Brown, Audrey Moran, Mike Hogan and Rick Mullaney.
Here is the link to the audio via MPA Political’s Media Archive: 3/23/2011 WJCT with Melissa Ross: Jax Mayor’s Race
My adventure to the Nation’s Capitol, with a fantastic 1-day conference hosted by Campaign for America’s Future, “Summit on Jobs and America’s Future” and a Democratic Municipal Officials conference where I will be leading a training session on speaking as a surrogate. You can find a pdf of my training materials for the DMO session here. Much of the following was written at a fantastic new DC coffee shop, Pound Coffee, which is very close to the Eastern Market metro stop. Did I mention the owner is a fantastic Young Democrat? (Karl, my drinks are free now right?)
The Summit on Jobs was a fantastic presentation of a great variety of brilliant presenters, including AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Van Jones, Represenative Keith Ellison (MN), Representative George Miller (CA), Mayor Antonio Villaragosa (Los Angeles), and both an economist and a pollster that I liked, Robert Pollin (Umass-Amherst) and Celinda Lake (Lake Research Partners). There were a number of other great presenters as well, it was informative, entertaining and well executed, a great job by the folks at Campaign for America’s Future.
I didn’t take notes at the Summit, I did live tweet throughout, so now you will get the results of that, with additional commentary.
The first bundle of tweets above, the top tweet, which occurred chronologically last in the sequence, is mis-attributed to Campaign for America’s Future’s Co-Director Robert Borosage, it was actually a statement by Umass Amherst Economist Robert Pollin. The four tweets in the next block below are all from Robert Pollin’s presentation, mis-attributed to Borosage. My apologies to both gentlemen.
In the set below, there is a tweet with the attribution correction, the 3rd tweet down is also from Pollin, not Borosage. The first tweet relates to Pollin’s discussion of the unemployment situtation in 1981-82 and the failures of Reagan’s economic policies. I’ll take this opportunity to put my favorite Reagan quote on labor:
“They remind us that where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost. They remind us that freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. You and I must protect and preserve freedom here or it will not be passed on to our children and it would disappear everywhere in the world. “ – Ronald Reagan, former President of the Screen Actors Guild, Labor Day, 1980
It seems clear that President Reagan would see Governors Walker, Kasich and Scott (WI, OH and FL respectively) as well as the GOP’s national leaders to be enemies of Freedom. I disagree with President Reagan on nearly everything else, on this point though, he was correct.
The next block is from the presentation by Celinda Lake, the polling numbers she cited and the ideas she presented were both the support for progressive candidates and the foundations of strategies that can lead progressive candidate to victory. The last (top) tweet is the one that really puts everything in perspective, by 2 to 1, American’s believe the next generation will be worse off than they are. That is both a sad state of affairs for our nation and a positive reflection on the awareness of voters. They are starting to see a bit further down the road and understand that long term outcomes are not all that rosy. Celinda Lake dropped in a nice aside suggesting Robert Pollin run for the US Senate seat in Massachussets currently held by Republican Scott Brown. I’d support that notion, an intelligent progressive economist would have a profound impact on the Senate.
The Keynote speaker of the Summit was Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, and he did not disappoint. He spoke about the politics of fear, the corruption of officials catering to the greedy demands of their super-wealthy donors, and the positive values of the American Labor Movement. He closed by squelching a Fox News Reporter’s attempt to distract from the evil behavior of Governor Walker and the GOP with finger pointing at President Obama. President Obama didn’t bolt the windows shut to keep protesters from getting food/water. President Obama didn’t lock the doors keeping not only protesters, but elected legislators out of the Wisconsin Capitol. President Obama didn’t subvert democracy to pass a legislative agenda of greed and corruption. I’d like President Obama to do more, but not more of the intolerant, greedy and just plain evil propaganda that Fox News pushes. He can start with media reform, there’s nothing “news” about the Murdoch and Ailes Propagana Network.
On the next panel Robert Kuttner of the American Prospect made some great points about the current state of public opinion with regard to labor and the disfunction within the Democratic Caucus of our Federal Legislature. He called Third Way out for what it is, a mechanism for selling out Democratic Values for the benefit of Corporate America’s wealthiest. In his words, “the spiritual successor to the DLC.”
Kate Gordon, VP for Energy Policy at the Center for American Progress, made a great presentation about the economic opportunites in moving to a greener America, the benefits to workers and investors. She called for the elimination of all subsidies for Oil and Coal industries, redirecting all of those funds to clean energy research and development.
Representative George Miller of California’s 7th Congressional District delivered what Representative Keith Ellison later referred to as a “stemwinder.” Miller spoke of the systematic approach Republicans are taking to stripping communities of resources from the top down, putting the governing a the local level, such as by Mayor Antonia Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, in to a constant situation of impossible decisions. He talked of how the GOP is intent on blaming hard working Americans for the crimes of big banks and the super-greedy, at the behest of their donors. He spoke of the tragedy of the entension of the Bush Budget Busters and how the wealthiest corporate tycoons are trying to impose a new “China price” on American Labor, driving wages down to unlivable levels in the interest of excessive profiteering.
Represenative Ellison opened with a reminder of his home state hero, Hubert H. Humphery’s governing philosophy, as summed up by the following quote:
“The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
Ellison went on to note that if the GOP was interested in creating jobs, they would have submitted at least one jobs bill by now, rather than wasting so much time on ceremonial displays and ideological vendettas.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa started by telling us he was going to abandon his speech and tell a different story. The story was one he has told many times before, about his grandfather coming to America 100 years ago with the shirt on his back and little else. Through hard work and relentless dedication, his grandfather provided for his family, later his father did the same, allowing Antonio the opportunity to succed and become the Mayor of the great city he was raised in. He also spoke about the brutal decisions he has had to make, cutting 4,000 of 14,000 civilian employees as the funding mechanisms for his city have been choked off by the state and Federal government, as Representative Miller had described earlier.
Villaraigosa spoke of how as a child, he was a latch-key kid, that the local library was their day care center. He went there every day after school and waited for his mother to pick him up when she got off work. Mayor Villaraigosa has a plan, America Fast Forward, which you can read more about here.
Van Jones closed out the show with his tremendous oratory capacity spinning a fantastic narrative of the origins of “Hope” (2003), the first steps to developing a progressive infrastructure as they unfolded in 2005/2006 and where we need to go from here. His new American Dream is a vision of the better nation we want for the generations that come after us. He emphasized that the phrase “homeless veteran” needs to be gone from our vocabulary, we need to do everything possible to make sure every veteran returning from war (as well as all of our young people) can find a job in the private sector, or if needed, create public sector jobs for them, similar to the notion of a 21st Century WPA mentioned throughout the day.
These two statements from Van Jones are emblematic of his leadership, empathy and strength wrapped in a graceful eloquence:
The Summit was fantastic and similar events should be held around the country. Campaign for America’s Future did a tremendous job organizing and executing this event. If you aren’t following their actions, you should subscribe to their email list now and start visiting their website regularly.
A couple weeks ago, amid the discussions of Egypt’s uprising, this came in to my email box:
What Country Is This?:
“The state was thus increasingly seen to be a state for the few. Its old base in the rural middle classes was rapidly declining as young people moved to the cities. It was doing little for the urban working and middle classes. An ostentatious state business class emerged, deeply dependent on government contracts and state good will, and meeting in the fancy tourist hotels. But the masses of high school and college graduates reduced to driving taxis or selling rugs (if they could even get those gigs) were not benefiting from the on-paper growth rates of the past decade.”
With a link to the following story, explaining, in depth, the background of what has been happening in Egypt: http://www.juancole.com/2011/01/egypts-class-conflict.html
How many of you read that paragraph and thought, “that doesn’t sound any different from what is happening here in America.”? It was President Eisenhower who first spoke out in concern of the Military-Industrial Complex in his January, 1961 Farewell Address. Since then, what have we really done to alleviate the dangers? What would President Eisenhower have to say about behemoth defense/government contractors like Halliburton? What about enormous subsidies to companies pulling in record profits and paying no federal taxes? Of course, if you really wanted to piss him off, you could have had a large state, like say, Florida, tell him, “No thanks, we don’t want your stinkin’ Interstate Highways.” Which is what Governor Rick Scott did this week.
Over at Hullabaloo, Digby posted a Judy Woodruff/PBS interview with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, talking about the budget proposals. The piece that sticks out to me is Senator Bernie Sanders reminding us of this:
This year, ExxonMobil, the most profitable corporation in the history of the world, is not paying a nickel in federal income taxes, despite having made $19 billion last year. In 2005, one-quarter of corporation — large corporations in America making a trillion in revenue didn’t pay a nickel in taxes. You have got a military budget which in many ways is still fighting the old Cold War.
We have the Right banging the drums about regulation and tax oppression, crying that they can’t create jobs with out tax cuts. But reality tells us that tax rates are at their lowest point since 1950 and most of the biggest corporations doing business in America are not paying any Federal taxes. None. Some of the largest recipients of government contracts have moved “off shore,” to avoid paying corporate taxes on their massive profits, including Halliburton.
Union membership has fallen to less than 12% of the American workforce, wages have been stagnant for decades, all the while executive compensation and the wealth gap have expanded exponentially. Wall Street’s massive arrogant gambling led to economic collapse just a couple years ago, leading them to beg for relief from the tax payers. Last year, Wall Street responded by paying out the most compensation EVER. Huge bonuses, large salaries. What lesson should they learn from this?
State Governments, like Wisconsin’s massive overreach by Governor Walker and Florida’s crushing proposals by Governor Rick Scott are all intent on dismantling unions and privatizing every aspect of the state. No lessons were learned from the deregulation of California’s energy sector (Enron), from decades of data showing that union states outperform non-union states in nearly every educational metric, that costs go up, not down, when services are privatized.
So in Wisconsin, the teachers, students and so many of their supporters have stood up. They have organized and acted. They are living in the capitol and telling their government their voices will be heard. Just as the people of Egypt stood tall against their repressive and corrupt regime, Americans are doing the same. In Florida, organizing has begun, with more than 1000 people following “Awake the State“, an idea conceived just a couple days ago, which could lead to our own “Madison Moment.”
The focus I wish to convey is that it is organizing in action that drives these actions to success. A few students showing up with signs at the capitol will be written off as nuisance and achieve nothing. To make lasting change, one must make a case for such change, one must convince others, en mass, to stand up and express their belief in that change. Violence is not the answer, organizing is. Use your phone, your Facebook AND your twitter, not one or the other, to engage and activate your friends and family. Give them a direct action to take, not just a vague statement of support. Call your Governor, Congressman AND Senator. Tell them it is time for the nonsense to end. No more Corporate giveaways and worker sell-outs. Education must be fully funded and accessible to every child, free and in their neighborhood. Voting districts should be drawn with the communities interests first, not to benefit the incumbent office holder or party in power. Women should have the absolute right to make decisions about their bodies. Human rights should be extended to all within the borders of our nation, regardless of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or how they came to be here. Every man, woman and child should receive the absolute best health care possible, without having to sell their home to pay for it. We must look forward with investment in infrastructure, innovation, imagination and inspiration. The cost of not doing so is too great. It is the permanent economic collapse of our great nation.
What are you doing to make your voice heard? Are you calling the Governors office? You can reach Gov Rick Scott at: (850) 488-7146. How about your Congressman? Senator? The time to act is now.
I appeared on Action News Jacksonville (www.actionnewsjax.com) with Catherine Varnum at 5:30 tonight (2/16/2011) commenting on “Viral Campaigning,” or what I would refer to as New Media in campaigns. They were focused with the utilization around the upcoming unitary elections. Here’s the clip:
You can see the printed story and the original video here: Action News Jacksonville
On Sunday, nearly 100 of Florida’s top progressive activists from around the state gathered in Orlando to discuss and prepare for the upcoming State Legislative session. The event was the brain child of the very bright Mr. Edwin Enciso, and organized beautifully by Susan Smith, Kenneth Quinnell, Ray Seaman and a few other wonderful people. The event had some wonderful sponsors, The Orange County CTA and Progress Florida.
We started with an introduction to the un-conference concept, manymoon.com and the objectives of LegiCamp 2011, led by Edwin. From there we filled in much of the day’s sessions with participant driven content, including the session I promoted in advance, during the first time slot, Candidate Development.
My session was held in “area 3″ which was the center of a cubical office area, open to the outside world, but cozily confined. Roughly 25 activists joined me and participated in a lively discussion about where candidates come from, how to evaluate their capacity to run, and what we can do to ensure they run better campaigns than history tells us to expect.
Among our actions items coming out of the session we got commitments from activists from 4 or 5 counties to recruit one new progressive candidate for 2012. Those actions will be tracked with manymoon and hopefully result in progressive seat pickups.
Counter programming my session was what I am told was a wonderful session on Reproductive Rights, led by Susan Smith and Staci Fox. These women, and all the women of Florida, need our help fighting back the oppressive measures being put forward by Governor Rick Scott and the State Legislature.
During the second time slot, I bounced between the session in the main room on redistricting led by Scott Randolph, Susannah Randolph, Josh Giese, and Edwin, and the session on using Facebook as an Organizing Tool (for legislation) led by Ray Seaman, with assistance from Kenneth Quinnell. Both sessions were fantastic, discussions were vibrant and it appeared (from all the smoke streaming from peoples ears) that people were learning and thinking on levels unheard of at that hour on a Sunday. You can learn more about redistricting with this post from the Florida Progressive Coalition or via FairDistrictsFlorida.org, and at FloridaRedistricting.org. The most important thing learned in the “using Facebook” session? CLICK THE DAMN “LIKE BUTTON” and remember that online action is a supplement to, not a replacement for traditional organizing.
We broke for lunch, where I again split my time, between a table with several former (and hopefully future) progressive candidates from around the state, and another with one of Florida’s brightest women’s rights activists (Staci Fox of PPNF) and a bright young future leader and/or journalist (Jason Henry). Good discussions and pizza occurred.
The third time slot I joined Ray Seaman’s session on Twitter, where we learned and discussed basic usage, hashtags, the 140 character environment, use of RT’s (re-tweets), and how to combine all of those things to effect change with regard to legislation, campaigns and issues. Some great questions were asked and some ideas for providing better resources to the activist community were put forth. Ray and Kenneth have agreed to deliver some of those resources, and we will hold them to it.
In the final session, Susannah Randolph and Ray Seaman talked about DirtyHari.org and other ongoing and upcoming ideas, and presented Ray’s “Awake the State” idea. (Follow the link and CLICK THE LIKE BUTTON…NOW!)
Edwin closed out the day by moderating a summarizing of the day’s sessions, thanking all those that helped organize and execute the event and directing us to head out to a local watering hole to continue discussions.
Kenneth Quinnell posted his Monday “Word of the Day”, LegiCamp, you can watch here: