Posts tagged Organizing
I have two sessions proposed for RootsCamp 2012 at DC’s Washington Convention Center.
Already scheduled for Saturday in Room 149B at 10:30 AM (first session) is: “Where are we & how do we fix it. Auditing campaigns to right a sinking ship, even when already under water.”
You can find the handout for this session here.
Beth Becker of Progressive Social and I have also proposed a session entitled: “The word Consultant really isn’t the dirty word some would have you believe. How to find the good ones!”
You can find the handout for this session here.
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.
A few weekends a year Democracy for America sends me to a new community to participate in their Campaign Academy program as a trainer. DFA posted a profile of me as a trainer on their blog recently. This past weekend, we took the Campaign Academy show to Miami’s FIU Graham Center. Thank you to our hosts, the FIU College Democrats.
As I promised to those in my sessions, here are digital versions of the materials I referenced during the training:
I hope all the trainees had a great time at the Miami Training Academy!
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.
Notes from the closing session of RootsCamp 2012, “Some Guy Candidates: How they Delay Progress & How to Make Them Suck Less.”
You can find some background here: ‘Some Guy’ vs Contender – which are you?
Reviewing, the basics of the ‘Some Guy’ candidate: Lacks money, social network and the experience/understanding of how to be a candidate.
We talked about the common ways ‘Some Guys‘ push back – blaming the system, proclaiming too much purity to be sullied by doing the work, and of course attacking those that try to help them.
We explored the common motivations of ‘Some Guy‘ candidates, that they typically have a high degree of ideological (or egocentric) resolve. This means that if you are trying to move a ‘some guy‘ out of a race, you better have an idealistic win-win proposals for them, the right advocate to make the case and an expectation that their resolve is much stronger than rational logic can conquer.
As an idealist, I admire the confident idealism of these candidates. But, I’m also a strategist – one that recognizes that these candidates running on sheer idealism are hurting the progressive movement and damaging the Democratic party brand.
The best thing you can do to help these candidates is get them to attend a Democracy for America Training, like the ones coming up in Miami (March 17-18) or Gainesville (March 24-25). The DFA Training program is a comprehensive overview of campaigning designed to help people at all levels of experience and engagement. Whether you are a 5 hour a week activist/volunteer, full time staff to a candidate running for office, the DFA Training Academy will make you more effective. The DFA Training Manual (provided to Academy attendees or purchased direct from DFA) is also a fantastic resource that you will use day after day throughout your adventures in campaign politics.
After they attend the training, the next step is rule #9 again, If it isn’t written down, it doesn’t exist. This means writing a landscape memo and campaign plan (and all the component parts, field, finance and communications). Somewhere in the midst of this process, if not sooner, the (former?) ‘Some Guy‘ candidate should begin to recognize that the water is way over their head. This is the best time to do a ‘right size’ analysis. Very few candidates should be running for Congress the first time out. State House, State Senate and city/county offices are much more attainable and can help build the foundation for a later campaign for Congress. This is also the point that we should remember that local offices hold the most power.
Long term, ‘Some Guy‘ candidates need to work to expand their social networks (offline more than online). This means reaching out to like minded organizations, attending meetings and conventions, building relationships and working to earn media. This process can also serve to help (future) candidates improve their campaign skills without the pressures of an impending election. If you are not certain three hundred people will give your campaign money in the first 30 days, you aren’t ready to run for Congress. Write down the list.
It was a great discussion, thanks to all who attended.
I spent this past weekend at the southeastern regional training for trainers (t4t) of PowerShift 2011
This spring, over 10,000 young leaders will converge on Washington, DC to stand up for our future. At Power Shift 2011, we’ll stand together to reclaim our democracy from big corporations and push our nation to move beyond dirty energy sources that are harming the health of people and the planet.
To train 10,000 in DC, they held regional trainings throughout the nation this past weekend. In Atlanta we had roughly 80 attendees learning to be Coaches and Facilitators, sharpening their skills as organizers and activists. PowerShift itself is a program of the Energy Action Coalition, which includes 50 youth oriented environmental and social justice organizations.
Through the New Organizing Institute, PowerShift gains a great program, training materials and some very talented master trainers. The regional program was a three-day adventure, not without logistical & communication lapses and mishaps, but overall execution was very good. The base of the training materials comes from Marshall Ganz‘s organizing model, as many of you may have learned through the Obama campaign. The materials themselves are published by NOI to coincide with the program, with some occurring a bit out of sequence from the program as it was presented in Atlanta. You can find some of NOI’s great training materials online at their Toolbox.
There was a pre-training session for Coaches Friday evening at a quaint little hotel North of Atlanta, with a nice drive through blooming dogwood trees along the way, but the feature venue for the Southeast Regional training was Fuzion Lounge at Atlanta’s Underground at the end of “Kenny’s Alley.” I’ve done trainings in all sorts of venues, from living rooms to civic centers, I even chaired a caucus in a Las Vegas Casino once – this was my first training in a night club, giving or receiving. My team’s breakout sessions were held in the “VIP” Area (I think they call it “the Blue room”), complete with stripper pole. No, I didn’t try it out. I won’t speak for the rest of my team though. Quite an experience, we could have done without the black lights, but we worked through the breakouts and much learning was done.
Saturday started with a narrative journey down the timeline of PowerShift’s history as well as the first examples of Story of Self. For those who never heard of him, the story and actions of Tim DeChristopher are quite remarkable, a young man who stood up against all odds for justice, when few others were even paying attention. We heard about Dan Cannon’s involvement with student organizing on campus and Anita Poushan’s border crossing revelation. Through their stories, everyone became more engaged and inspired, this is the strength of this snowflake organizing model. We found unity when Dan asked the crowd, “Do you know who Monsanto is?” The resounding chorus of boos was instant and passionate. In general session and in our group breakouts we heard diverse stories of how people came to be at this event, part of this movement. Some were well aware of the moment they became inspired, the events and experiences that caused them to join the movement. For others, it was the beginning of a process by which they will gain self awareness and through a better understanding of themselves, become better at understanding and persuading others to join the movement.
If you are organizing an event with a bunch of activists that starts early in the morning and is expected to go well in to the evening, what is the one logistic you can’t fail to deliver? Yeah, so there was a coffee deficiency, it happened, we got through it, and much learning was had. It isn’t a big deal to me, as I don’t drink coffee, I brought my own caffeine source with me, for others the situation was dire. Everyone survived, no blood was shed, and due to hydration deficiencies, there weren’t even tears. Logistics were managed by the Master and Lead trainers, and coffee was had by all that desired – this is a lesson in having faith in organizers. Another lesson was had with the failure of technology was an inability to get a laptop working with the projector, an easel, pad and marker were located, teamwork was employed and training was conducted with great success. One big lesson I learned early in my campaigning/organizing life – things are going to go wrong, in ways you couldn’t have possibly imagined, and some in ways you should have, all we can do is move on and find solutions to accomplish our goals in spite of the unexpected obstacles. Getting through such obstacles is the mark of a good organizer, never panicking, expressing despair, or becoming consumed by the emotional roller coaster – that is the makings of a great organizer.
I was placed in a group that later became known as a the Green Tigers, an homage to the bulk of our group being students at Clemson University. With a wide array of ages, experiences and interests. Through our breakout exercises, we shared our stories of self and helped each other improve our presentation of our individual inspirations. In the process we learned just how different our lives have been, and yet each of us was drawn to the same place and time for this shared experience. In the beginning of every DFA Training Academy, the lead trainer for the opening session informs the attendees, “You are not normal.” Showing up for a training about improving your capacity to participate in Democracy early on a Saturday, that isn’t normal. Knowingly subjecting yourself to the physical, mental and emotional abuse of running for office, that isn’t normal. Volunteering to work (paid or not) on candidate or issue campaigns, very not normal. Within this group, the Green Tigers, the members may feel a sense of normalcy they don’t typically find in other groups and settings.
The second key early morning lesson at a DFA Training Academy is, “There is no magic. There is work.” The PowerShift Training, like DFA is about providing activists with the skills and understanding they need to do the work needed to create change. In a little over a week, 10,000 participants will have the curtain pulled back, they will see that it isn’t magic, that they can make a difference. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? PowerShift 2011 is still seeking facilitators, can you do your part to help achieve the goal of training 10,000 youth energy activists? Discount registrations are available for facilitators who participate in pre-training (5-7 hours of webinar and/or phone based training), contact me directly if you are interested.
From my tweets during the Southeast Regional T4T:
@mpiscatella: I’m @ #PowerShift because as one, my power is limited, as an empowering trainer my power is limitless – join us in dc #pfla #p2
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.
Conventional Un-Wisdom: The Candidate’s spouse is above the campaign, they are not subject to the rules and expectations and should not be subjected to training and preparation. They know the candidate better than anyone and thus are more than capable of representing the candidate’s character and capacity in support of the campaign without guidance or training. Their responsibilities are limited only to what they wish to do.
When you look in on campaigns that are operating without professional direction or even some that do have professional direction, one of the common early failures is not defining the role, rules and hierarchy of the campaign to the candidate and their spouse. This results in the candidate and spouse defining their own roles and making their own hierarchy, which likely doesn’t adhere to any concept of “organized campaigning.”
In the first meeting with the candidate and spouse, the campaign manager should sit down and discuss the rules and expectations for the each of them. There should be discussion of time commitments, health concerns, and priorities. There are two very simple rules for the spouse to latch on to early. Spouse’s Rule #1: If you aren’t happy, you need to notify the campaign manager and discuss the situation. Spouse’s Rule #2: If the candidate isn’t getting enough sleep, food or is otherwise showing signs of declining/poor health, you must notify the campaign manager asap. Some will scoff that these rules border in to “marriage counselor territory” and distract the campaign manager from their responsibilities. The first is true, but, this is your responsibility, if the candidate’s spouse is unhappy or the candidate isn’t healthy, there isn’t much about the campaign that isn’t going to be negatively impacted. These rules are also accompanied by a rule for the candidate, Candidate’s Rule #1: Your primary responsibility is to make your spouse happy, if your spouse isn’t happy, you won’t win.
When you put forward those simple rules in an honest projection of what the time commitment and expectations of the campaign are from the beginning, you are far likely to incur issues later in the campaign. After establishing these rules, you can move on to defining the hierarchy of the campaign and the commitments and behavioral expectations. If the candidate’s spouse wants to play a minimal role in the campaign, that must be established early. If they are interested in playing a large role, that too must come out early. Either way, there is training and preparation to be done. You cannot wait until there is an urgent need to prepare the spouse, such as a pending media story. If the spouse desires to play a small role, is unprepared and then by random chance encounters a reporter, good luck controlling the story. If the spouse expects to play a large role, they need to have the limits and expectations defined early or they will quickly put the campaign in the position of either honoring the spouses commitments, making an alternate deal, or hanging the spouse out to dry. Consider the statement to be made:
“Mr. Dough made commitments without consulting his wife’s campaign, had he done so, he would know his wife and the campaign are already committed to attend a different event on the other side of the district on the evening in question, we apologize to the super_awesome_organization_01 for the miscommunication and hope their event will be a tremendous success.”
Doesn’t exactly leave warm and fuzzy feelings does it? There will likely be additional tension between the spouse and the campaign, and possibly between the spouse and the candidate as well. By properly preparing the candidate and their spouse well in advance, you can avoid all of these headaches a long the way.
Like all surrogates, the spouse needs to talk with campaign communications staff about what they will say when speaking in support of the campaign, how they will answer questions, and what to do when they don’t know or don’t wish to answer a question. Often surrogates think they have the best ‘story’ to tell about why they support the candidate, but it is rare that the story in question fits with the campaign’s message. Some surrogates are such tremendous storytellers that the off-message anecdote may work fine, but more often it will be a too long, too far off course, inside joke that the audience won’t receive in the manner the surrogate intends. The most common mistake for surrogates, just like candidates, is to speak too long. Shorter speech with more Q & A will provide the audience with a better impression and create an environment were the audience is more likely to get engaged in the campaign. A well prepared speaker can put forward a short “stump speech” that evokes questions the surrogate wants to answer. The same statement made as a response to an audience question will receive a far different response from the audience then when made as part of a speech. Given preparation and practice, surrogates often learn to enjoy this and become more engaged themselves, better displaying their passion and confidence for the candidate/campaign.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks is teaching surrogates, particularly spouses not to inject their own thoughts/feelings/expectations of the candidate/campaign’s positions. Teaching surrogates to say “I can’t answer that, but I’ll be sure someone will get back to you with the answer very soon,” requires a great deal more effort than you might expect, but has long rewards if the follow up process is handled well. The inclination is often to say something more like, “I can’t speak for my wife, but I personally believe that sporks are the best utensils and all others should be banned in the state.” The disclaimer that it is a personal opinion is of no value, the surrogate is standing as a representative of the campaign in support of the candidate. A surrogate should express no opinions that do not adhere to the campaigns message and stated positions.
One thing that is often overlooked is that there is a particular talent and skill to being a surrogate, and it doesn’t always correlate with the talent and skill of being a candidate. Some candidates/politicians make terrific surrogates, where you leave the room wanting to vote for the person they were supporting. Others are terrible at it, alienating potential voters or more often having voters leave the room wanting to vote for the surrogate, not the candidate. Most experienced politicians can learn to be good surrogates, but first they have to understand and admit that they aren’t the best surrogates they could be and ask for help. This is of course a rarity among experienced politicians, admitting weakness. When you are talking about the candidate’s spouse, they may be great about this, coming in with a “I don’t do this, teach me” attitude, or the may come in saying “I know her better than anyone, you can’t teach me how to support her, I’ve been doing it for 25 years.” Again, if you don’t approach the subject early, problems will develop and further complicate the process.
There are some odd quirks that come up depending on the spouse’s life, from career to recreational activities, the campaign needs to be as aware of the spouse’s life as they are of the candidate’s. Financial disclosure should be discussed early on, the spouse should be aware that they will be scrutinized in the public eye just as much as their spouse, if not more so (depending on their situation). They need to recognize that once the campaign begins, all of their actions, no matter how personal they feel they are, can and will impact their spouse’s campaign. This becomes particularly important in dual-career families, where both spouses have successful careers, there is potential for negative impact on their spouse’s career as a result of the campaign. Discuss it early, understand the possibilities and avoid traumatic fallout later in the campaign.
Children, particularly teenage children and young adults, should also be brought in to the discussion of how the campaign will impact their lives. They need to be warned that they could become a subject for gossip and media coverage, that their first kiss might make it to the front of the local newspaper. Use of social media should be discussed and the campaign’s new media person should help the kids “restrict” their Facebook access to just friends and family. Kids are incredibly resilient and much more tolerant to all of this stress if they understand it before it happens, the opposite is true if they are not prepared honestly in advance. They are more likely to lash out and feel as if they are being persecuted, blame their parent(s) and generally disrupt the campaign. I do not recommend using children as surrogates.
When a campaign is built on a strong foundation from early on, with open and honest discussions about expectations and responsibilities for everyone involved, the opportunity for success is far greater. When we make assumptions and leave things ambiguous, they will create problems we won’t know how to fix. With all of this, fold back in those Rules of Organizing, “If it isn’t written down, it doesn’t exist.” Write down the defined roles, responsibilities and expectations for the Candidate, Spouse, Campaign Manager, Surrogates and other staffers.
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.