Posts tagged 50-State Strategy
With the passing of Neil Armstrong this weekend, we lost an American hero. His giant leap for man was an inspiration for mankind. His courage inspired the nation to consider new possibilities.
Just a few weeks ago, Sally Ride passed away. She too was an inspiration for humankind. The first woman in space, a hero to all young women inspired to reach for the stars. Her legacy is a generation of female scientists, astronauts, and barrier breakers driving America to greatness.
Today we must not mourn the loss of these heroes, but instead honor their legacies. The burden is on us to return this to a nation that values inspiration. A nation that invests in science and technology, invests in teachers and education, a nation that provides every child a world class education.
With the party conventions upon us, each side will present their vision for the future of America. The Republicans will put forward Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. Their vision is to double down on shifting the tax burden to working Americans, slashing investment in infrastructure and the next generation. They want you to forget about the collapse of Wall Street just a few years ago, gambling with the Social Security and Medicare you paid for and earned, offering you coupons instead of health care.
President Barack Obama and Joe Biden will present a vision of fighting to make America work for working Americans again. To reinvest in our roads, bridges, and schools. A vision to move this nation forward by investing in the next generation while preserving the right to dignity that FDR promised our nation’s seniors.
Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride may no longer be with us, but their spirit, their inspiration, their courage lives in all of us. We have the power to keep that legacy alive.
Founder, MPA Political, LLC
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.
As the American media focuses on the circus that is the Republican Presidential Primary, people all over the spectrum are commenting. Near all of the people commenting from the center to the left want the primary to go all the way to the end, bloodying the eventual nominee as much as possible. Many on the right are calling for an end to the process for the same reason. Some on the right can remember way back in history, in a galaxy far far away, way back in the late…4 years ago. They remember that Obama v Clinton all the way to the end of the primary calendar generated additional data, money, excitement, volunteers, a huge chunk of energy. They remember that the Republican primary contest in 2008 had the same potential, but was resolved quickly producing a flat general election campaign. In the end, Obama had nearly 270 electoral votes locked up by the time he addressed the crowd at the DNC. The contest was all but over, and he was just moments out of one of the most brutally contested primaries in history. The “3AM” Clinton ad that was supposed to be a devastating attack on Obama? Well, he didn’t win West Virginia, but he was never going to win West Virginia. He cleared 270 by a huge margin. Republican strategists remember this, and I suspect some are wondering if President Obama can repeat the feat without the intra-party foreplay and associated energy for change. They remember and hope that an extended primary will do the same for them it did for Democrats in 2008.
Primaries aren’t bad. Challenger campaigns can and should benefit from competitive primaries.
The un-wisdom is that primaries burn resources (money) needed for the general election, that it is a zero-sum situation and only xyz dollars can possibly be raised by pdq candidate. The un-wisdom asserts that the competition of a primary will expose the flaws/weaknesses of the eventual nominee diminishing their chance to win the general significantly.
All of this is of course stupid. I’d be more delicate, but that wouldn’t penetrate the level of stubbornness within which this particular un-wisdom is sealed. Bad primaries are bad, of course they are. When two (or more) candidates forget what their message is, lose all sense of discipline, and generally demonstrate how much they suck as candidate and campaigns, it certainly does make it likely they will lose the general election. But not MORE likely, they were already likely to get waxed, they just got exposed themselves a few months earlier than they would have otherwise. Even in this scenario, the primary is positive, because it provides the nominee the chance to evaluate where things got so off track and implement corrections before the general election campaign is at full throttle.
In a good primary, two (or more) competing candidates get to articulate their values, present their vision of how the district/state/nation would be better if they were to be elected, they get to promote the party’s values for however long the primary lasts. The process of the primary campaign will generate energy, enthusiasm and DATA. Data about donors, volunteers, the concerns of the district, all sorts of information that can help win the general election.
The money? It isn’t Zero Sum. Howard Dean proved that with his 50-state strategy and the overwhelming success it provided. Success that laid the groundwork for Obama’s 2008 victory. Done well, the primary will dramatically increase the fundraising capacity of both candidates during the primary period, and in the aftermath they will have broader reach to bring in as much or more for the general election than they would have without a primary. More good candidates and good campaigns means more money, not less.
Candidates that benefited from competitive primaries in the process of ascending to high offices? We already discussed Barack Obama, who had a competitive primary for President, most don’t know that he broke in to the Federal Campaign scene with a failed primary challenge in 2000 of US House Member Bobby Rush, and then faced a multi-candidate primary for US Senate in 2004. Today he is the 44th President of the United States, those primaries really hindered his success. Other candidates to have benefited from primaries include Florida US Senator Bill Nelson and Governor Lawton Chiles (against each other for Governor), California Governor Jerry Brown, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senator John McCain, Senator John Tester, Senator Mark Warner (won primary, lost general for US Senate in 96, won Governor of VA in 2001)…and Governor Rick Scott who stole a billion dollars from medicare and was trashed by his eventual running mate during the primary. This is just a small sample.
I would encourage the Democratic Party to embrace primaries, not play favorites in the process and instead do everything they can to make sure ALL candidates running under the Democratic banner and supporting the (bulk of the) Democratic Platform run the highest quality campaign possible. Doing so would improve the strength of the Democratic brand, grow fund raising, improve candidate recruitment and of course, elect more and better Democrats. Personally, I only help the liberal/progressive candidates. If you aren’t for equality, election reform and women’s rights, call someone else.
As for that Republican Presidential Primary? Let’s end it right now, let’s give Mitt Romney the nomination and start the general election festivities right now. Since we can’t do that, how about the Democrats stay out of it and focus our attention and energy on recruiting more and better Democrats to run sea to shining sea and then do everything we can to provide them with the resources and training they need to succeed. I’m looking at you DNC, AFSCME, etc, spend that money recruiting, promoting and supporting candidates that support your values instead of trashing a potential Republican nominee 8 months before persuadable general election voters are paying attention.
More specifically, my holiday wish list:
1. I’d like to celebrate the season with some good cheer to children who have done no wrong, passage of the DREAM Act is the right thing to do for America. The Senate may vote today and it may be in the President’s hands before you read this…but I’m not counting any chickens, call your Senator now.
2. A return to the successful and long term benefits of Howard Dean’s 50-State Strategy. Bunker defensive mentalities provide only one thing, assured defeat. We must be on offense, everywhere on the map, reclaiming ground lost in November and decades ago. Any district left uncontested is a district of right-wing echo amplification. It is time to get serious about recruiting, training and supporting candidates in all 435 districts and every Senate seat, nationwide.
3. Publicly financed elections at the Federal level. We need to end the circle of corruption and lower the barriers for entry to running for Congress. Too often the best and brightest are turned away from even running while the daft and morally bankrupt are catapulted to victory.
4. A real media revolution, a return to ethical journalism and a presentation of the news with integrity, not skewed to please demographics or a big money sponsor.
5. I live in Florida, why is it so damn cold? Lows in the 20′s are not ok. Climate change doesn’t exist and man and dinosaurs shared the Earth…right.
6. 10 Candidates for Congress and the Senate in 2012 that will be proud liberals, complete with backbone and intellectual curiosity. They needed to be willing and able to learn about what they do not know, particularly with regards to “how to be a candidate” and they must support publicly financed elections.
7. Redistricting across the nation that puts the people first, with contiguous communities and compact districts trumping incumbent security and majority protection. And to have those maps finalized in 2011, before it is too late to build a campaign for 2012.
8. A Democratic President who is not playing his game after Congress, but before. A President who presents his agenda and then campaigns for it, aggressively, convincing the people and their Representatives that he is right and they should support him. Republican Presidents have never had problems passing their agendas, regardless of having minorities in one or both houses of Congress, they never needed 60 votes in the US Senate. Republican Presidents have crafted a message, and brought it to the people, won the people, and then worked with Congress. We need a Democratic President to do the same, with the right solutions for America, not the crippled and corrupt mangling of solutions the Republican Congress will write and pass. It is your time to lead Mr. President.
9. A Democratic Senate Majority Leader. For too long the minority has dominated the chamber, it is time to recognize the problem and kick it right in the teeth. We need a Democrat that will stand up for our values, that will bring our legislation to the floor and make the Republicans vote or filibuster, no free rides. Make them stand up and tell the people why they oppose reform, we need them to go on the record and show the people who corrupt, greedy and self-interested they are. There is no reason to believe picking a Democrat from a Purple or Red State has benefit, it has none, we’ve proven that over and over. Who ever is the Democratic Majority Leader, Minority Leader, Speaker, etc will be painted as a far left liberal. We need someone who is proud of that to use that as a weapon, not a weakness.
Of course, I live in a state where the Governor-elect is a crook that stole billions from the government via fraud, the opposition party breaks every law related to elections, gets caught, and still wins, and after a lifetime as a conservative elected official, Charlie Crist was able to snow the media and about 1/3 of the electorate that he is an “independent.”
Have a great holiday season, regardless of your religious beliefs, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, height and/or shoe size. Peace and Joy to all. Except the corrupt, intolerant and greedy, lumps of coal for them.