Posts tagged FDP Chair
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.
The easiest way would be to diminish the support for Democratic candidates among minority communities. Enter the aftermath of Florida’s victory on 5&6, a legal challenge led by prominent black leader, Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-Jacksonville/Orlando) and prominent Cuban leader, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Miami) to block 5&6 on the basis of detriment to black and Hispanic representation.
I will not waste time hashing out whether or not their claim has merit, though I find it without merit, but rather focus my concern on how this will impact the Democratic party regardless of the outcome. The racial equality components of the Voting Rights Act are Federal Law and must be adhered to regardless of state redistricting policy. 5&6 will be utilized within those confines, reducing the incumbent friendly absurdly shaped districts but maintaining majority-minority (or near majority) districts.
The media will be eager to cover a dispute between the Democratic Party and a number of key constituencies of the Democratic party. There will be briefings filed, legal processes, press releases launched and interviews on local, state and national TV. None of it will be focused on what we should be talking about. It will be at best a distraction and at worst, a public relations nightmare. The discussions in the media will not be centered around the tremendous leap forward in Democracy 5&6 represent, it won’t be about the underhanded efforts of the (Republican) opponents to add opposing measures to the ballot, it won’t be about how badly the current and incoming legislatures misrepresent the people of Florida on so many issues. The focus will be about racial conflict where little exists, relatively small disagreements inflated to maximum proportions to sell newspapers and gain TV viewers. At the end of the battle, the loser, regardless of legal outcomes, will be the Florida Democratic Party – if the FDP is seen as the primary defending force of 5&6, which is exactly what it will be if Rod Smith runs the defense of 5&6 and serves as Chair of the Florida Democratic Party. One might even question the desirability of him heading the defense of 5&6 should he not seek the chairmanship officially, as the Democratic Nominee for LG and a past candidate for Governor as a Democrat, there is no doubt he is part of the “Democratic Establishment.”
The notion of one person occupying both of those roles is foolish at best…but really malpractice is the best word I can come up with. This idea flies in the face of the atmosphere that the Fair Districts campaign was based on, separating party from the issue and focusing on what is best for the people of Florida. Why would we abandon that attitude now in such a big way?
I encourage Democratic leaders to step forward and help lead the discussion about why 5&6 are good for Florida, I also hope they restrain their role to unofficial – cheerleaders and counter weights to the attacks lobbed by their Republican counterparts. Let people unaffiliated with the party take up the defense, in a vigorous manner, with minimized detriment to the Democratic Party.
Those in the media, the opposition party and supporters thereof, will do their best to take full advantage of the situation. Images that reflect poorly on our party will be easy to find, emphasizing racial and class based rifts, ignoring the much larger chasms of the same regard within the Republican party. Discussions of the failures of Democrats to correct or even understand issues within minority communities will be given center stage for the duration of the process, re-hashed with each new development, however insignificant. The Republicans know that they just need to suppress minority turnout for Democrats a small percentage to secure victory the Republican Presidential nominee and the nominee for Bill Nelson’s Senate seat (George Lemuix?), not to mention down ticket pickups at all levels.
We must make the 2012 election one of expansion and growth, not retraction. We must have a full time party chair, dedicated to recruiting candidates, developing and disseminating a message, overseeing strategy, training and execution, on a much higher level than the FDP has been operating at in recent years. We need contested primaries and we need candidates that will be proud of their Democratic values.
One attribute being peddled as “key to being a successful chairman” I have seen repeated often is that the next chair must be able to raise money. Indicating there is a talent or history required to show this – in most situations, this is valid, though less of a priority then one might think – more important is the willingness and time to do the work needed to fund raise, the institution and success/competence thereof will drive fundraising, regardless of the talent level of the chairmen. In other words, it is like gym class, the effort is what is graded, not the talent. This is more true than ever in the 2012 election cycle. As in 2008, a guy from Chicago will be on the ballot. President Barack Obama will be seeking re-election, Florida is a crucial swing state and fund raising will not be a challenge for the Presidential campaign, DNC or state parties. It only takes effort. A part time chairman is NOT ACCEPTABLE – this is a full time job that needs a full time commitment. Anyone not willing to give that, and more (40 hours/week doesn’t get the job done) should not apply.
For candidates, the talent of fund raising is more important, but also it is incumbent on the FDP to do more to ensure that all our candidates are better trained at fund raising and all other aspects of campaigning. We left a lot of votes on the table due to inadequate or non-existent training in 2008 and 2010, we must do better in 2012.
Show me… a chairman who will dedicate themselves to improving the way the FDP operates, increasing the talent level of staff and county DEC members through training where possible and replacement where necessary. A chair that will not only recruit candidates themselves, but will provide the resources for staff (current or new) that will systematically work to fill as many races in all 67 counties with viable candidates that can inspire and disseminate the Democratic message. A chair that will encourage primaries rather than compromise the values of the party to avoid them. A chair that will do more to involve young people, minorities and technology. A chair that will act with independence from establishment figures, putting the party as a whole above the election or re-election of any one individual. Show me that chair and I’ll get excited in a hurry…