Posts tagged conviction
Play this video and listen as you read this post. You’re welcome.
Jill Sobule @ Netroots Nation 2011
I sent the following to a request for comment/advice regarding a bright young man’s effort to make a difference through a “bi-partisan organization”:
I don’t do anything (political) non-partisan or bi-partisan. Partisanship isnt the problem, blind extremist ignorance is. Good ideas are good ideas regardless of party and corruption is corruption regardless of party, party is a key feature of our current electoral system and it is the party with the strongest brand that holds the advantages (and wins more often, enacting their ideas in to law). Until we stop tripping over ourselves to disguise the problem to make it more palatable, we wont start making real progress. Stand up, speak out and have no shame for your chosen party id.
Note that this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever criticize or question your party of choice. Quality control is needed. Badly.
Change the electoral system and then we might have a different discussion.
While the Republicans pursue a hyper partisan agenda, with remarkable success, Democrats – under the leadership of our President and Senate Majority Leader are striving for “bi-partisan compromises,” seen by many of us as solving little while giving away tax payer money to the wealthy, gutting regulations and axing social programs crucial to the survival and recovery of so many Americans. No where in the Republican sales pitch do they disguise their allegiance to “conservative ideals”, no where do they beg for approval from Democrats. They make declarative statements about what (they believe) America needs and package their pitch in an emotional, passionate narrative. They embrace the Tea Party, ignoring or approving of the xenophobic racism and bigotry. They use fiery rhetoric and aggressive campaigning coast to coast to raise money and shift the debate radically rightward . That’s important. What they are doing IS radical. The proposals and ideas of progressives today are not at all radical. They are rooted in the preservation of the New Deal, the regulations and social mechanisms put in place to end the Great Depression and prevent a future economic disaster of similar magnitude. Republican’s, joined by a relative handful of corporate crony Democrats committed terrorism and/or treason in decimating the regulations and systems keeping corporate greed and the financial sector in check and stable. We need to remember that. It was radical action by “conservative leaders” in the 1990′s through 2006 that turned our economy in to a mob run casino and mired our nation in wars on multiple fronts without clear objectives or adherence to the Powell Doctrine. Actual wars, with huge costs, human and financial. Accompanied by none of the planning and consideration needed for such endeavors. They didn’t pay for the wars, they slid them off the books and made major tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest 2% simultaneously. Now they object to raising the debt ceiling, something they did repeatedly without reservation while George W. Bush was working with them to rapidly inflate the debt.
What’s my point? We don’t need less partisanship. WE NEED MORE. We need progressives to stand up and speak out about the atrocities foisted on the Nation and 98% of the population. We need to speak about the young men and women serving their country returning broken or worse – while Republicans work to diminish the services available to those soldiers and their families. We need to stand up for educators and the institution of public education, it is the future of this nation that is being destroyed with every cut and every profit based decision. Decisions in education must be based on one thing and one thing only, the highest possible quality education provided to every child everywhere in this great nation. They aren’t less partisan with their attacks on these vital components of America. Why are we (Democrats) acting under the premise that reducing our level of partisanship will be beneficial?
We have some great speakers unafraid of the partisan labels and attacks from the right, but we need more of them. If I could clone Van Jones and run him for Senate in every state, I would, but reality requires we all stand taller and speak louder, that we join great voices like Van Jones and take on the Republican Greed & Hate Machine.
We must have one hundred bold progressives come forward between now and the end of 2011 to run for Congress and Senate. They must be willing to do the hard work and under the sheer brutality of a Congressional Campaign. As it reaches the peak of stress, frustration and exhaustion, they need to remember why they are fighting and say, “I Fight for We the People! I Fight for America!”
We need bold progressives to run for State House and State Senate across the country. To step forward to lead their community back to a path that gets them an opportunity at the American Dream. We need men and women to stand up and declare that equality is a right of all Americans. That greed is not a right and should be put in check. That corporations are not people and are not entitled to act with impunity, manipulating elections and destroying America’s people, land and resources with little to no concern. This is the time to act. We have to be the ones we were waiting for, there may not be future generations if we don’t stand up to the GOP now.
Are you ready to join the fight as a candidate? A volunteer? A donor? Contact us today, we need your Talent, Time and/or Treasure ASAP to win this war, what investment can you make in America?
Conventional Un-Wisdom: We lost because they beat us at Vote by Mail (or Early Voting), next year we will focus on closing the VBM (EV) gap.
This Un-Wisdom was heard in a number of states following the 2010 elections, often spoken by prominent establishment figures as part of recapping the 2010 elections and setting the agenda for 2012. I can’t know that they weren’t just trying to put forward a positive tone coupled with an easily quantified and correctable problem. What I do know is that this is a dangerous path to follow if we want to actually do better (which would include winning) in 2012.
Why? Deficiencies in Vote By Mail and Early Voting GOTV efforts are real, and should be taken seriously and corrected/improved wherever possible. However, in many cases you will find it wasn’t the GOTV programs that were deficient, it was the inputs to the GOTV program. What are these inputs? Quality candidates and campaigns that motivate people to want to volunteer and vote. If people are not motivated to volunteer, not enthusiastic about the candidate/campaign, they don’t transfer their energy to others, successfully activating them to vote and volunteer. Hence, they don’t Vote by Mail, nor Early Vote…because they don’t vote at all.
That makes the correction even more obvious, and yet infinitely harder to enact. Present conviction and activate the base, by spending the early phases of your campaign identifying, energizing, and empowering those most inclined to support the campaign. Too often Democratic candidates are or project themselves to be moderate, or soften their stances on key issues, making them less appealing to the Democratic Base, less likely to activate and energize. The end result is less support of all types and a greater reliance on expensive media efforts, particularly negative advertising.
That is why we, as the base, must get more engaged at influencing the process much earlier. Like now. Whether a candidate emerges from being “pushed forward” by the establishment or “from the grassroots,” or they just stumble (or charge) on to the stage seemingly from nowhere, we must aggressively vet them, for their values, their capacity to campaign and for their conviction. We must think about what inspires candidates to run and how we can improve the quality of their candidacy and campaign, should they prove worthy of our support. We must speak out and challenge flawed candidacies early, and demand primary challenges of both challengers and incumbents when they fail to measure up. Primaries are good, they make good candidates better.
We must help all candidates running as Democrats run better campaigns, be better candidates, it is our brand they are diminishing when they flounder. We should trust that in the end, the voters will judge their worth, and we will likely play a role in influencing that process later in the campaign. From the onset, we must direct all candidates interested in running as Democrats to taking the right first steps. Once they have built their foundation and given us something more quantifiable to judge, we can choose among them the strongest and best voice of our values. Polling in the early stages should be ignored, or even mocked. It has little bearing on the outcome unless you give in the credence to sway hearts and minds. It is a flimsy campaign that focuses on insignificant factors to trumpet their strength. Look for the candidate/campaign the portrays confidence without expressing disdain for their opponents in diminutive terms.
When we empower all those willing to step forward and put their names on the ballot as Democrats to run higher quality campaigns, we as a party emerge victorious. We will have activated more voters, more volunteers and more donors. We will strengthen the candidate and campaign that wins the nomination for the rigorous challenges of the general election. They will already be on a steep upward trajectory when the flag drops to start the general election campaign, volunteers and staff moving at full speed all the way to the finish line. The emotional bonds from supporter to candidate will be thick and durable, a strong deflective shield for the upcoming attacks of their opponent and even potential missteps of your own campaign/candidate. Or you could coronate your candidate as the nominee two (or four) years out, ignore the issues that motivate the base, and lose to a billion dollar thief.
Vote by Mail and Early Voting should absolutely be a part of your GOTV Plan, but the first component to your GOTV plan should be to remember that it is “Get out THE vote,” which should indicate to you that you need have already identified and motivated people to want to vote. Otherwise it should be “GORV”, Get out Random Voters. Before you can GOTV, you must know who your voters are and that there are more than enough of them to hit your win number. To get your win number, a GOTV plan and to be sure you are doing it right, contact MPA Political now.
Focus on closing the vote gap — be less concerned with how people vote and more concerned with getting them to vote at all. It would be great for your entire universe to vote the first moment they can, but you keep working for more votes and get them in by whatever method you can anyway.
In honor of the FDP’s dentist endorsed sugar coated retrospective of the 2010 election season, a look at how candidates and campaigns should handle the aftermath of a campaign in preparation for a future campaign.
First, despite amusing quotes projected by some of 2010′s candidates, no campaign is perfect, no campaign is without mistakes, no campaign is without missed opportunities. If you can’t locate your mistakes and missed opportunities, you need to seek help with the process from actual campaign professionals, not sycophants or cronies with titles of professionals, actual professionals.
Second, admitting weaknesses is the only path to correction and (continued or future) success. Often the notion of “protecting morale” is put ahead of admitting weakness, thereby causing the use of excuses. The biggest problem with excuses used to protect morale is that the people projecting them, begin to believe them. Those that are ignorant of the reality of history, including their own, are doomed to screw the constituents of their district again. Please spare us from that – we have too much experience with that already.
In the later stages of a campaign, there is value to morale and the general projection of a positive attitude, in this retrospective time, preceding the next campaign cycle, there is only value in honest assessments that result in improvements for the campaigns to come. However, even in those late stages of campaigns, while projecting confidence and positive attitudes, you must be able to assess your weaknesses as a candidate/campaign and take action to correct those weaknesses or mitigate the impact of those weaknesses on the outcome of the election. This is something that Republicans traditionally do very well and that Democrats typically do terribly, particularly in states of “inbred talent”.
If you ran in 2010 and are considering running again, in 2012 or some other future date, how do you proceed? First you need to start from the beginning, what were the goals set at the start of the campaign, where they the correct goals? Were those goals achieved, where did the campaign come up short? How does the landscape assessment from the start of the campaign match with the reality of what happened during the campaign? Were key factors ignored in the setting of goals or drafting of the landscape memo? What additional goals should have been set and tracked? What goals were set but never measured? Can we go back and measure them now?
Second, look for the most obvious mistakes, identify them and follow the trail thereafter to how many later missteps were caused by that “big mistake”. Identify each individual component of the mistake and think about how you/the campaign could have better handled the situation. Look at both the near and long term effects thereof…such as supporters you had that were lost and the potential future supporters that were lost before they could even be found. Utilizing timelines of different aspects of the campaign can be very helpful, charting fundraising, volunteer hours, voter commitments, event attendance and other measurable aspects of the campaign and then being able to overlay those timelines with the “missteps” as well as the “shining moments.”
Given a thorough assessment of the campaigns goals, mistakes and a complete timeline of the larger events/actions of the campaign, now we can drill down to more specific time usage. In campaigns there are three primary resources:
While many (novice) advisors will focus on the first two, as they are easily measured and leave a direct impression on observers, the most important and the only non-renewable resource is time. You cannot get back time wasted, you can recruit more volunteers and raise more money, but you can’t go back to the beginning and apply those volunteers and money to the campaign retroactively. The easiest time to gain money and volunteers is in the last stage of the campaign, the final 15-90 days preceding election day, they are both infinitely more valuable 91 to 300 days prior to the election.
Look at the candidates time expenditures in the first stage of the campaign, how were the hours of the day consumed in the first weeks and months of the campaign? Was there a staffer or volunteer assisting with the management of time and ensuring that time was utilized efficiently and effectively? Are there notes and reporting of productivity? Did the candidate have tangible goals throughout this early stage or were they flailing around trying to generate support haphazardly? Were long term relationships being built and did those relationships bear fruit later or was time invested that never paid off? Why? Was money being spent in this early stage wastefully?
In most “blow out” campaigns, you will find that the biggest problems occurred in the early part of the process, candidates were not provided with the proper training, knowledge and/or staffing to adequately build an effective campaign — or the candidates rejected that training/knowledge in belief they could do it different. If you as the candidate still believe you can win your race by having a million dollars fall in to your lap from some miracle online action, I can’t help you. If you expect the party (local, state or national) to carry you, raise the money for you, convince people you are worthy of their votes, I can’t help you. If you are ready and willing to do the work, the work starts now.
Through this process one must assess every staff person, from candidate on down to super-volunteers, and assess whether the person was in the right position, up to the tasks and responsibilities they had or would have in an alternate position and whether or not that person should be a significant part of any future campaign involving this candidate or district. Often we are quick to promote people in Democratic campaigns strictly based on the “top line” of their experience, the title they had — we need to look deeper and assess actual competence, talent and whether or not they learned and grew through the experience. Were they provided mentor-ship for moving to the next level? Expecting someone to magically attain the knowledge, training and understanding to do a very intense job through enthusiasm and desire is foolish, and yet common in Democratic campaigns. There are a number of great organizations that provide training like Democracy for America, the New Organizing Institute (new toolbox here), Emily’s List, Wellstone, and of course… MPA Political.
Many of the “powers that be” in the Florida Democratic Party and 2010 statewide campaigns are pushing out the notion that “national messaging” and “factors outside of Florida” doomed the 2010 campaigns in Florida. This is ridiculous. Was National Democratic messaging bad? Yes. Did it have an impact on Florida in 2010? Yes. Was that the most significant reason Florida Democratic candidates got smoked up and down the state and lost the Governorship to an unlikable crook? Hell no. Florida Democrats failed to project any quality messaging while the opposition worked unified effective messaging from early 2009 and through election day 2010. Florida Democrats campaigned for just a portion of the state while Florida Republicans went after the whole state. Fun fact: had every minimally financially viable Democrat running for state house and state senate won, we would still be in the minority in both bodies. In nearly all of the counties Alex Sink lost by 10% or more, we failed to field a candidate at either State House or State Senate. This failure to recruit and even try to compete was extremely costly, we also failed to effectively compete at the Congressional level, even in districts where we fielded quality candidates. Further costly was Democratic candidates being ashamed of Democratic values and attacking Democratic achievements. You didn’t see Republicans, even Tea Party super conservatives, trashing Republican achievements or distancing themselves from the GOP brand. They found ways to provide contrast without projecting embarrassment. If you are running as a Democrat, here’s a newsflash, the Republicans are going to portray you as a raging liberal, whether you are or not. The people who buy that aren’t ever going to vote for you, you can’t win them over by taking stabs at the left or adopting anti-progressive positions on key issues. All you will do is fracture your base and reduce the quantity and quality of volunteer support you will receive. Project strength and confidence in your values, whatever they may be.
None of our statewide Democratic nominees had good messaging post-primary, the first demonstration of effective unified messaging by the slate was 1/8/2011, with the projection of the message that the FDP committed no crimes and endured no investigations under the reign of Chairwoman Karen Thurman. Congratulations on unification, now lets find messaging that doesn’t suck. Being proud to have not (been found to have) committed crimes is the epitome of aiming low.
Nearly all of the emphasis at the 1/8/2011 meeting was put on improving performance in the later stages of campaigning, GOTV, Vote by Mail, etc, where yes, improving systems and strategies for those aspects of campaigning is always good, but problems in those areas can also be a symptom of greater problems in the early stages of campaigning, for which late stage process improvements cannot help. The greatest problems we face are in recruitment and training of candidates AND STAFF and message development and dissemination. Those problems won’t go away because we came up with a killer method of signing people up to vote by mail or a great database for managing volunteers on election day.
Maybe the projections and posturing of the 1/8/2011 meeting was just that – not the realities of the focus of the FDP, just a projection to maintain and improve morale while real changes are being made behind the scenes and honest assessments of mistakes have been made and significant changes are being made to correct those flaws/weaknesses in 2012. But, I’m not optimistic. I’ll wait for my phone to ring, I’m sure the FDP will call me to help train candidates and/or staff any day now…
In the wake of what was a devastating election to Democrats, particularly here in Florida, most people are having trouble finding things to be thankful for as Democrats, here’s a few things I’m thankful for as a Florida Democrat:
-I’m thankful for unrelenting progressive leaders continuing to fight, including these two exemplars of backbone in Orlando:
I wish I had video of more of Rep. Randolph’s recent speeches, his personal, passionate and heart wrenching testimony against HB 1143 was an exposition in courage, passion and leadership. Time and again, Representative Randolph has taken on the greatest challenges and worked not for his own personal benefit but for the benefit of the People of Florida. Randolph also deserves a great deal of credit for his management of Alan Grayson’s victorious 2008 campaign, his guidance brought a great leader to the forefront of American Politics.
I’m thankful for these two leaders and the men and women that fought for the Human Rights Ordinance that passed yesterday in Orange County.
- I’m thankful for science and math.
For too long we have heard arguments that for Democrats to win elections in Florida, they must position themselves to the center or center-right, the results of the 2010 elections show without a doubt that this election was lost among liberal and minority voters. All the Blue Dogs who want to argue otherwise, I’m not interested. Bring me a strong progressive leader, confident of their Democratic values and unashamed to talk about those values and I will deliver you a statewide victory.
- I’m thankful for young people with the interest and courage to get involved. Young people like Andrew Gillum, thirty-one year old City Commissioner of Tallahassee, who has thrown his hat in the ring for State Party Chairman, bringing forward energy, passion and new ideas. Regardless of the outcome of this race, we, as a party, would be foolish not to take this opportunity to have an open discussion of where we should go and how we can best get there. Commissioner Andrew Gillum is doing what needs to be done to bring that discussion forward, to challenge the long-unchanged party/power structure, to shed light on new ideas, and bring in to focus different strategies and opportunities for Florida Democrats. I hope that during this holiday season the roughly 200 county chairmen, committeemen and elected officials that get a vote in this contest will give thorough consideration as to whom to vote for on the expected January ballot.
- I’m thankful for the Florida Progressive Coalition, Progress Florida (particularly their Daily Clips service), Democracy for America (which has promised more trainings in Florida in 2011/2012), and all of the fantastic activists, bloggers, organizers and people from all walks of life that make the Florida Democratic Party a vibrant hub of America’s political culture. The path to holding the White House in 2012 is widest right here in Florida, we must get up, dust ourselves off and dig back in. The fight starts now.
Around the state and across the Internet, a number of voice are chiming in with their ideas of what went wrong and/or how to do better. Some of these ideas are good, some are bad, and some are a bit of each.
At The Political Hurricane, Dave Trotter lays out his ideas and commentary in two posts (here and here). The first post is focused on geographic targeting/strategy. Some of the thoughts contained with in this have merit, but the premise of the piece is lacking a fundamental understanding of campaigns and elections and how they effect communities over time. His basic conclusion is not to waste time or effort on “North Florida” (which he defines to 17 specific counties from the panhandle to north central Florida), instead to focus on Democratic strongholds and the metropolitan regions surrounding the big cities of south and central Florida. This is a very common strategic idea I refer to as “Terry McAuliffe’s idiocy.” The Democratic Party used that strategy for a number of years, in whole or in part, through the Clinton era, up to the 2005 selection of DNC Chairman Howard Dean – he brought forth a more intelligent strategy we will call…”Howard Dean’s 50-State Strategy.”
- The McAuliffe strategy/idiocy: Focus on the areas we have strength or the signs of future strength to create immediate gains and channel every dollar to those areas/campaigns. The strategy has at its core that there is a finite number of resources/dollars available to Democratic campaigns and thus they must be horded to the highest priority races and all other races must be kept down out of mainstream attention.
- Howard Dean’s 50-state Strategy: Focus is on fielding competent and capable candidates for every seat, everywhere – nothing goes uncontested. Provide training, mentor-ship and wisdom to as many of these candidates and campaigns as is humanly possible. Train staff and surrogates everywhere. This strategy has a base premise that donors and resources expand as the quality and quantity of candidates and campaigns expand. A person willing to give $100 to one great candidate will likely give $50 to four or five good candidates if engaged and activated. More donors will be found and engaged as we expand the reach of our campaigns.
In the real world, the McAuliffe concept is far easier to wrap your head and hands around, it is easy to to tune out all the peripheral noise and focus your efforts on one candidate and community, particularly when that community is already inclined to support your message and values. The Dean strategy takes far more work, has more challenges and takes more time to “pay off”. This makes the choice similar to the standard politics of elected officials, short term benefits equate to re-election, long term strategies lead to greater chances of not being re-elected.
Long term however, the benefits of the Dean strategy are infinitely better and the negatives of the McAuliffe strategy become brutally oppressive. Over the long term, neglected communities, places where Democrats don’t field viable candidates, local party orgs aren’t given the resources (money, training, visiting candidates/surrogates), these places rescind farther in to becoming Republican strongholds. They become echo chambers of unchallenged ideology and rhetoric, phrases like “death panels” and “socialized medicine” take root and skew debates at the national level. Margins of 60%-40% quickly fall to 70-30 or 80-20, making it that much harder to in larger overlapping districts or statewide. Dominating apathy to the party brand becomes contagious, spanning outside the district to adjacent districts, people become less willing to admit they are Democrats, let alone show pride in those values.
On the other side. in the Dean Strategy, over time, the competition and challenged arguments/messages lead to small gains over time. Given an opportunity, whether it be a local event (scandal, tragedy, triumph), or a national event/attitude, having a competent Democratic candidate running a solid campaign makes the district winnable. National debates are able to rely less on cherry picked extremism, as there are fewer “echo chamber” enclaves that just parrot back the far right’s talking points on the given issue of the day. The margins slide closer together, 70-30′s become 65-35s, 60-40 becomes 55-45, eventually with the right combination of candidate, campaign, events and overarching energy, they flip. Democrats come out of hiding, they become more willing to display their values with pride. They push back at local small businesses that openly promote intolerance and support candidates that push far-right ideology. They become more likely to support local, state and national candidates and Democratic organizations.
So, geographically limiting our focus? That is some of the right intention with the wrong action. We need to stop selecting candidates designed to cater to those “more conservative regions” and instead select the best Democratic nominee based on their ability to communicate Democratic values, without shame or defensiveness. They should be proud to support tolerance, education, women’s rights, the environment, workers and all of the other causes and values that make us Democrats. Then those candidates should focus on rallying the bases in Democratic strongholds before moving out and campaigning in the more marginal and Republican base communities. There should be a full time, paid FDP staffer in (or responsible for) every one of the 67 counties. Not one staffer responsible for organizing the 17 north Florida Republican counties as Mr. Trotter laid them out. You can have more for larger counties, but each county should have one organizer, one voice, working hard for every Democratic vote in the county, doing the full time administration of the County DEC, of planning and coordinating FDP level events occurring within the county or promoting and coordinating travel to events for county dems to big events elsewhere.
I’m sure someone will respond to me something along the lines of “you just don’t understand how conservative it is out there…” — give me a damn break. Go campaign in Utah county Utah (think the Osmonds and BYU) or western Iowa (oldest congressional district in the nation, 50% of Iowa’s geography, 10% of the people) or the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia (think Jerry Falwell). I know red territory, few democratic activists have the experience and understanding of red territory I have. I’m not impressed by your claims of how conservative it is. I’ve been all over Florida too. Do the work, put in the resources and effort and you will get results.
More conservative (or falsely moderate Democratic candidates) gain us nothing and lose us great deals. There is no benefit. We need candidates up and down the ticket to stand up for the values of our platform. Conviction and passion are what motivates supporters and wins elections, not artificial width of appeal. They need to be unafraid of taking on attacks, they need to reject the premise of ludicrous Republican allegations. They need to stand tall and speak loud. They need to bring energy and enthusiasm. They need to shake every hand and acknowledge their supporters. They need to be party builders, before and after their election. There is no substitute for good candidates. Quality control is OUR RESPONSIBILITY.
So the title of this post was “a Map to the Path Forward”. Here’s what my experience tells me – we the activists cannot just throw down a list of changes and demand they happen. We cannot demand new leadership and expect that to magically work out. We need wholesale change, attitudes and ideas, policies and procedures, but we need that to happen without losing access to the resources that provide opportunity to function at all. Am I saying bend to the will of the big dollar donors and institutional players? Hell no. One of the problems we have is donors/financiers dictating policy and action counter to the long term interest of the party. We need to bring as many of those players along with us, they need to want to come with us. We need to make a case that these ideas, our ideas, will give them greater “bang for the buck,” that we will deliver the results they seek.
To do that, we need to recognize that we cannot draw or suggest the path Forward, only begin illustrating a map to that path. We can do certain things on our own:
- We can begin recruiting future candidates, up and down the ticket, bringing them in to the discussion and directing them to the resources, groups and individuals that can assist them in first determining if they should run and second giving them the guidance to build a strong foundation for their campaign should they choose to run.
- We can provide resources online and off, that make the process of building and executing a campaign, at a variety of levels, far easier.
- We can provide positive and constructive coverage of these candidates, assisting in the promotion thereof where warranted, both online and off.
- We can avoid being the tabloid journalists that are dominating the political media landscape, both in Florida and Nationally, by providing fact based coverage on things that matter, rather than material better suited in a supermarket rack or on a roll in a bathroom stall.
- We can assist our local Democratic organizations, DEC’s, Clubs and others in organizing, promoting events and where applicable encouraging and assisting with the use of technology.
We can and we must do these things. We must lead by example. We must do the work, within the whatever limits our “real lives” allow. We must be the ones we have been waiting for.
UPDATE (9:00pm 11/8/10): In my haste to post this and get out of the Panera Bread I was working in, I neglected to say something very important: Dave Trotter’s postings at The Political Hurricane have been constructive and positive additions to the discussion of improving the state of the Florida Democratic Party and cause, for that I thank him and hope he will continue to contribute to the discussion, whatever direction we take from here. The quality of discussion is increased when dissenting views are brought forth and considered.
The effort to reinstate Keith Olbermann to his spot in MSNBC’s lineup is impressive, but is that really good for the progressive movement’s future?
Does it seem like a good idea to keep providing profits and authority to a network and corporation so clearly bent to supporting the other side?
Why not find some alternative in which Keith Olbermann’s tremendous talent, intellect and charisma are channeled in to benefiting the progressive movement without the side effect of buckets full of profits to right wing overlords?
…not that anyone will listen.
The media, the rumor mills, the pundits have been pushing the notion that Kendrick Meek should drop out of the Florida US Senate race and support Charlie Crist – this is a giant pile of Un-Wisdom.
For roughly twelve years, Charlie Crist has been terrible to teachers, students, parents, schools and communities. He has been no friend to women, seniors or state employees. He supported oil drilling and over development. He brandished his conservative credentials proudly and loudly. Now he professes to have changed his mind, standing up for teachers, women and against off shore drilling. He is admitting for twelve years he did the wrong things and now he wants to do the right things.
The right thing is easy. Kendrick Meek has been a friend of teachers, students and women. He has held the positions Crist now believes are “right” since he was first elected. What Crist should do to make good on his commitment to those beliefs is step aside and endorse Mr. Meek. He should use every ounce of energy he has supporting Meek and attacking Rubio’s destructive values and corruption between now and Election Day. He should fiercely attack the RPOF for all of their corruption and scandal. He believes that there is a problem with the party system, but Florida only has one party. Controlling strong majorities in the State House, Senate and the Cabinet, they have been the architects of the State of Florida’s current economic situation. They have had the power to do things differently. It is time for Charlie Crist to admit his own responsibility in that process and direct the blame to ALL of the responsible parties, led by former Speaker Rubio.
As for Mr. Meek – his campaign should take advantage of all of this “he’s going to drop out” hype and play the media. He should allow them to believe at a schedule press conference he will be dropping out, but instead march out a line of respected endorses from around the state reminding people why they support Kendrick Meek and why they will never support Charlie Crist. Local electeds, State Senators, Congressmen, and members of the Democratic Caucus of the US Senate and House. The Meek campaign needs an explosive kick start and an event of this magnitude, if executed correctly, could do the job.
Stop trying to convince me Charlie Crist is an acceptable option, electing the most morally bankrupt and self centered person in the state with the Democratic Party’s seal of approval is just plain stupid. If we lose, so be it, I’d rather win, but making the situation even worse isn’t going to help us at all. The Florida Democratic Party needs a top to bottom culture change. We need more confident and aggressive attitudes, we need to not be afraid of primaries and debates of our values. We need to stand up for our values. We need leaders that will take on the tough issues, speak with confidence and passion.
This is the second of a series of post that will take on some of the myths and mistakes that circulate campaigns and the pundit-sphere unchallenged. We will be provide links on the sidebar to the right to resources for people seeking employment in progressive campaigns, from direct job listings to career and training resources. If your candidate or campaign is in need of training or other assistance, please contact us.
Conventional Un-Wisdom : In this district, you need to project a more moderate message, avoid Democratic/Liberal symbols and rhetoric. To win, you need to win Republican votes, so you need to target them from the start.
This is very commonly recited in long held Republican districts, and some of the most established and well regarded political consultants and “celebrity politicos” push it on TV and in print. I’ve worked in some of the reddest districts and communities across America, from Utah County, Utah to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia to western Iowa, to north Florida. I’ve found it doesn’t matter where you are in America or where you actually fall on the political spectrum, what matters most is the conviction you project. People respect leaders with the courage of their convictions, they want to know the person they are trusting to represent them in the halls of government have confidence in their own capacity and beliefs.
If you are running as a Democratic candidate and have Democratic/Progressive/Liberal values, whether your district is the bluest blue or the reddest red, the first steps are the same – build your base by engaging and motivating your base. As donors, as volunteers, as word of mouth message dissemination machines – you need this base to support the growth of your campaign to the strength needed to motivate the conversion of “less likely” supporters to join the team.
If you are a moderate, tried and true (which is exceedingly rare), you should be both proud of the party designation you have chosen and the beliefs you hold. You should project those beliefs with confidence and conviction, just as a liberal or progressive should. It is the strength of your projected conviction that carries your support, energizes and motivates volunteers and donors to part with precious time and treasure. It is that perceived conviction that will get people on the opposite side of the political spectrum to support you, despite disagreements on a few particular issues or even nearly every issue. When you have a high level of distrust/dissatisfaction for the incumbent, this is the greatest opportunity for these “cross over votes” from registered members of the opposite party. You don’t target these votes, they come to you as a result of the strength of your campaign, the desire for a change and the passion and conviction you project. Some will be caught by mass media efforts, some will be motivated by earned media coverage, but the most impressive means of “converting” registered members of the opposing party is word of mouth/personal networks.
For word of mouth/personal networking to have any chance of playing a significant role in the outcome of an election, you must understand the ‘physics’ of communications among a chain of people. The minimum chain of communications is Candidate > Supporter > Voter, where the candidate has
direct and intimate contact with the supporter who then is motivated and conveys their passion to a voter they have a personal relationship with, persuading them to join them in support of the candidate. If you are running in a district of 10,000 votes, this short chain may work fine, but if you need upwards of 30,000 votes, you will need to recognize that with every ‘link in the
chain’, the level of energy/passion/conviction dissipates a bit, until you reach the Ferris Bueller chain of indeterminable relation where the end of the line is not going to convince anyone to join the cause. The stronger the projection of passion and conviction from the candidate, the more ‘links’ can be placed in the chain and still support campaign growth. If you start from mild, lacking conviction and passion, minimally inspiring, you aren’t going to gain any votes beyond direct contact. If you are Rep. Alan Grayson or Senator Bernie Sanders, you can support chains longer than a dozen people (which luckily for Sanders is nearly all the voters in his state).
In a well executed (and some what idealized) situation, by the later stages of the campaign, a number of registered Republicans who passionately support the campaign will have been identified and those supporters will make calls to potentially persuadable registered R’s and NPA/3rd party voters. Using their own personal narrative, why they have chosen to cross party lines, they will have a much better chance of persuading conversions, and be less likely to motivate voters for the opposition. Liberal volunteers calling registered R’s is never a good idea. In a particularly wild demonstration of “Un-Wisdom”, a 2008 Congressional campaign gave Jim Dean of DFA (brother of Howard) a canvassing list that was 50% R, 40% NPA and 10% D. Exactly what does Jim Dean say to a Republican to convince them to vote for a DFA Endorsed candidate for Congress?
In the late stages of a campaign, the focus must be GOTV, reaching out to your own identified supporters and high percentage unidentified voters (registered D’s of favorable demographics) and getting them to the polls. If you are putting your resources in September and October into contacting Republicans and unknown NPA/3rd party voters, you are more likely to active votes for your opponent.
Back to the beginning, if the district is 28% Democratic, 38% Republican and 44% NPA/3rd Party, basic math tells you that you need all or nearly all the Democratic vote, a majority of the NPA/3rd party vote, but keep in mind some percentage of those voters are more conservative than the registered R’s, so maybe 25% from D’s, 22% from NPA/3rd, leaving you a need to get 5% from the Republican spectrum, since we aim for 52%. If you focus on getting those 5% of R’s, you will bleed voters from the other two spectrum, requiring you to get more R’s to compensate – this creates a situation were you are basically bailing out a sinking boat with a spoon. If you project strength and passion, you will gain votes you were never accounting for and gain more monetary and volunteer support with which to further disseminate your message.
Beyond the numbers above, one must further understand the dynamics of cyclical elections on communities. If there is no competitive candidates from one side for a number of cycles, the other side gains ground in both the numbers and the rhetoric projected by the community, inserting strong candidates to counter that for one or more consecutive cycles can neutralize that effect and create a very competitive district where it appeared impossible previously. The numbers can also be overcome with a very emotional action or event, from personal scandal/corruption to a devastating blow to the community like a natural disaster or economic strife.
The long term effects are more pronounced and dangerous – if today’s candidate avoids progressive symbols and rhetoric, they reinforce the negativity of those symbols and positions, making it even harder for the next candidate. If you win eschewing the party, you make your re-election harder and you make it harder for candidates above and below you on the ballot. While you should not blindly support anyone who carries the same party identifier as you, you should support those who share the bulk of your beliefs and you believe to be honorable and decent. In the end it will foster a stronger opportunity for you to effect the changes that motivated you to run in the first place.