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Flashback: The Road Ahead

Last of a four-part series. In this piece I’d laid out what needed to be done in a local organization which was, well, not organized. This is equally applicable for any other political party if any Greens, Pirates, Libertarians, etc. want to make a credible attempt down the road to local party development.

The Angry Left: A Starter Map for the Road Ahead

I’ve already published a 50,000 foot view, a personal look back, and a personal account of getting to this point in the rather bumpy road.

And now here’s a “road map” used along the way, stripped down for use by any local Democratic Party, third party entity or activist organization wanting to start their own journey.

Shortly after I took Howard Dean’s recommendation to heart and joined the local Democratic Party in order to change the system, I read the work of another progressive activist in Maine. They were kind enough to share a basic plan they were using to turn around their local party, based on a plan yet another had used in different state. I guess you could say this is a very old meme which I’m willing to spread around.

It was this same plan, customized for our county, which initially was welcomed by the local party, and which they began to push back against as too radical, too aggressive, and a bunch of other not particularly nice adjectives and adverbs to boot depending on which faction one belonged to in the party.

These goals are the kinds of things that every local party organization should consider carefully as a goal, even if not realizable now. One example is a local office: if you live in BumFrick, North Dakota, you may not have the means to have a permanent office, let alone the traffic to warrant one. Table it for the future in case things change, but it’s probably the very last goal your group needs to be concerned with. But if you live in a much more populous area of the country, setting up a permanent office may be one of the key and early objectives to establishing a brand identity in the mind of the voting public in your locale. A permanent office tells voters the organization is serious, not a fly-by-night, it’s going to be there to serve voters; it’s hard to put a price on that. If you build it, they will come.

Take a look at these and evaluate the circumstances in your county or parish; which ones will work inside the first year? Which ones are most critical? What kinds of numbers in terms of quantity you think belong in such a document for your area?

And how many people can you muster up to do this work, now, and year after year?  . . .

TEMPLATE: ORGANIZATIONAL GOALS

Communications Groups:

  • Fully develop communications groups, both at the city/township and County levels.
  • Develop strategies to cover properly the issues, media and frequency needed to be most effective.
  • Plan the strategy for the campaign re: supporting specific candidates.
  • Contribute articles and support to the [Group Name] newsletter.

Voter Lists:

  • Maintain lists for County, and city/towns/townships/villages in adjoining counties (for our dual-county candidates), at the County level with the commitment to provide key data elements to the State Data Base.
  • Add voter histories whenever elections occur.
  • Completely update voter lists for all County and non-county municipalities by January 1 of the next year.

Absentee (Early) Voting:

  • Continue to develop a process that includes City/Township Clerks.
  • Insure the presence of sufficient Notaries on Election Day (where applicable).
  • Include an “early voting” question in our Voter ID scripts (where applicable).
  • Continue to strengthen our process for tracking applications and resulting early votes (where applicable).
  • Start our planning earlier to insure a strong early voting program (where applicable).
  • Better training for our Voter ID callers to insure proper emphasis on “early voting” (where applicable).

Candidate Development:

  • Strengthen the Candidate Development and Support Subcommittee.
  • Survey all 20X0, 20X1 and 20X2 municipal, county and State office openings to determine the offices we need to focus on.
  • Define attributes of desirable candidates.
  • Develop a list of potential progressive candidates in the County.
  • Use all potential contacts to find potential candidates and screen to find most qualified.
  • Help potential candidates get exposure and experience.

Candidate Support:

  • Develop training session for new candidates.
  • Develop candidate orientation and training program.
  • Train and mentor all candidates, especially new candidates.
  • Provide candidates with advice regarding the recommended campaign organization and offer help to create the needed organization.
  • Increase efforts to communicate County support capabilities to candidates.
  • Provide Voter ID calling results as soon as available, especially undecided voters.
  • Have town sign captains and a County coordinator to handle candidate sign distribution, maintenance and retrieval.
  • Provide volunteers from County list to candidates to support all desired activities – literature distribution, drive candidates around, canvassing on behalf of the candidate, persuasion calling and canvassing, etc.
  • Provide “walking around” lists when needed for previous tasks.
  • Do preliminary research like a district profile.
  • Provide forums, house parties and fundraising events for each candidate.

Voter ID Calling:

  • Using the HQ phone bank and municipality quasi-phone banking, make Voter ID calls (including all candidates and all parties) during the period from August 1st (or date immediately following primary) to September 15th. Include a volunteer question and an early voting question. An estimated [XX,000] calls will be needed to achieve at least a X0% hit rate on our list of phone numbers in each town.
  • Improve phone caller training.
  • Provide data to candidates ASAP.

Volunteer (or member) recruiting:

  • Recruit XX,000 volunteers over the course of the next two years.
  • Recruit and train a volunteer coordinator and volunteer coordinator assistants.
  • Develop more “key” volunteers who can run HQ on their own to enhance the effectiveness of current leadership.

Canvassing:

  • Develop canvassing teams in each town able to do literature drops, informational canvassing, persuasion canvassing and candidate support.
  • Over the next two years, have these teams visit each voter at least three times and hopefully more, to insure the accuracy of our lists and knowledge about town voters.

Persuasion Calling and Canvassing:

  • During the period from September 15th until October 25th pre-election, provide persuasion work for any candidate desiring support.
  • Use canvassing teams and phone bank capabilities already developed.
  • Do extensive training in persuasion techniques during the next two years.

GOTV:

  • Utilize town GOTV captains to coordinate GOTV calling during the week leading up to the election, recruit poll watching teams, recruit poll runners, sign up drivers, and oversee the GOTV activities.
  • Develop a list of lawyers who will be available to assist during that period, especially on Election Day.
  • Establish the procedures for interface with towns regarding poll watching and early voting early in the process so there are no misunderstandings.
  • Prepare detailed calling sheets including all 1’s and 2’s (1-Identified as supporter and 2-Identified as a leaning supporter).
  • Prepare detailed poll watching sheets for Election Day.

Technology:

  • Develop an approach to a County Database.
  • Develop the County website and publicize effectively.
  • Expand the County and municipality email lists, automate sign-up and sign-off and utilize email and social media communications more fully.

Events Calendar:

  • Recruit municipality coordinators who will keep coordinator informed regarding upcoming events in their city/township/town/village.
  • Establish a County coordinator who will insure that event information is put on our web site and communicated to all our candidates.

Community Outreach and Issues Development:

  • Establish and invigorate an Issues Subcommittee.
  • Develop a strong message/vision statement.
  • Help candidates develop their own message to the voters.
  • Call on High Schools to reach future voters.
  • Develop special events.
  • Develop more media contacts/opportunities.
  • Nurture strong town leadership.
  • Host forums for candidates.
  • Host issue-based house parties/forums.

Municipality (City/Township/Town/Village) Committees:

  • Insure that every municipality has a functioning committee with strong leadership.
  • Conduct education-training session with each municipality committee individually (e.g., Wellstone) as many times as necessary to support their development.
  • Expand the regional municipality committee meetings throughout the County to insure proper coordination in Headquarters.
  • Year-round presence – A headquarters office with volunteer staff open 2-3 days per week for part (ex: 1pm to 6pm) of the day with staff and open other times as needs become clear.
  • A campaign office which ideally will be open for 5 months (Mid-June to Mid-November) in campaign years – 7 days per week, 12 hours each day (8:30am to 8:30pm).

Fundraising:

  • Raise a total of [$XXX,000] over the two-year cycle, [$XXX,000] to finance the off-year and [$XXX,000] for the election year. Be realistic with this plan. [NOTE: If this is a new organization, be sure to research and establish legal entities according to local, state and federal regulations. All fundraising must be compliant with local/state/federal laws.]

Issues Forums:

  • Have an issues forum in each municipality or grouping of municipalities to develop “What it means to be a [Group Member]” and the “Three Principles that will be our message for 20XX”. Have a County process to create a consensus document.
  • Have regular monthly issues meetings around the County.
  • Have an issues portion of the monthly [Group Name] meeting.

So there you have it, a general template “road map” to building your activist organization should you choose to accept it. There are a few items which aren’t included in this list of objectives; they’re what we might call “advanced activism” and the kind of thing we’d consider “proprietary knowledge” unique to the locale and to the organization. Once you get a handle on this map and begin to make some traction on the items, you’ll soon figure out what the “advanced activism” components are for your area.

Oh, and for those of you hungering and yearning badly for a third party: Get going. I can’t make it any easier for you short of spoon feeding while holding your hand.

I’m too damned busy to do that for you.
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And that’s it for this series. I sure hope we continue to have a representative democracy for which this map still works. Best of luck to us all in the days ahead.

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, geek since birth. Opinions informed by mixed-race, multi-ethnic, cis-female condition, further shaped by kind friends of all persuasions. Sci-tech frenemy, wannabe artist, decent cook, determined author, successful troublemaker. Mother of invention and two excessively smart-assed young adult kids. Attended School of Hard Knocks; Rather Unfortunate Smallish Private Business School in Midwest; Affordable Mid-State Community College w/evening classes. Self-employed at Tiny Consulting Business; previously at Large-ish Chemical Company with HQ in Midwest in multiple marginalizing corporate drone roles, and at Rather Big IT Service Provider as a project manager, preceded by a motley assortment of gigs before the gig economy was a thing. Blogging experience includes a personal blog at the original blogs.salon.com, managing editor for a state-based news site, and a stint at Firedoglake before landing here at emptywheel as technology’s less-virginal-but-still-accursed Cassandra.
5 replies
  1. Rayne says:

    Looking back, I don’t think I would have changed much of this save for greater awareness of voter suppression tactics and adding allocation of training and resources for poll observers and voter support. We know now these were critically needed in 2016 election.

    Needed going forward: regular sessions for party activists on information security and operations continuity — the latter important if the organization is hacked in spite of best efforts to safeguard information. Also need more and better sessions on effective messaging combined with social media outreach.

    IMO, we don’t have much time. I don’t even know if we have a year to make a good try. But try we must, and we should already have started. Get cracking.

    • lefty665 says:

      Think you’re generally right.

      The largest voter suppression tactic this year was the profoundly negative campaigning by two profoundly disgusting candidates. The measure was that the winner got fewer votes than the loser in ’12 and the loser under performed the ’12 winner even more. Certainly voter id crap and other state run disenfranchisements were significant.  Didn’t seem like there was much out of the ordinary polling place intimidation. Don’t expect the Dem funded Green recounts to change outcomes either.  Certainly having people present to ensure things like provisional balloting is important. Having polling place observers cuts down on voter harassment. Lawyers at polls with a history of problems is effective, but we really only see that effort in presidential years.

      Boy, if ever information security had a spotlight on it, this was the year. Panetta was cautioned to use secure email as long ago as 2009. That he had not smartened up by 2016, and fell for chump bait phishing, says everything about Dems failure to “get it”. Banks kept the old manual business machines around for years after they automated to ensure they could function if the automation went down. You’re right, operational continuity assurance needs the same kind of older, lower tech, systems in place.

      You’ve also got it on effective messaging and social media. Scary as it is, I’m afraid Trump broke new social media ground with Twitter and with MSM exploitation.  George Lakoff is about as good as it gets for Dems on effective messaging at https://georgelakoff.com/

       Time’s a wastin’ and it is a sad commentary that in 2016 Dems have so many basic competencies to acquire.  But if Dems don’t ditch the neolib elites running the show too it will all be for naught. Lots of heavy lifting to do.  Second your “get cracking”.

      Again, your organizational “road map” is a great guide to local political organizing.  Three ‘atta persons to you.

  2. lefty665 says:

    Very nice road map, it’s a good one.  A couple of comments on how things vary from place to place, not criticisms.

    In Virginia, not even larger county/city committees (areas with 100k + population) tend to have bricks and mortar presence. My impression is that the overhead both in dollars and staffing is higher than they can stand or are willing to support.

    Data bases are an ongoing bone of contention. Keep it locally or use the state (VAN – national Dem data technology administered locally by states) facility. There are arguments for both methods, but I’m not aware of folks having the resources to devote to maintaining both. VAN is interesting because of the flexibility it provides both in the data collected and in configuring areas like multi committee state lege or congressional districts. Those were changed in Virginia by the courts earlier this year. It is updated from localities for new voters and after each election in addition to information inputted by localities or campaigns from canvassing. Since the merger with NGP several years ago it also provides a very good campaign donation tracking and FEC reporting capability.

    On the other side, the VAN data available to localities is at the discretion of the state party, and that can be capricious. For example, at one point they decided to filter phone numbers and email addresses even though the local committee had input them. Didn’t want the locals pestering voters, even for a local election phone bank or email blast. If you want to maintain control of your data, ya gotta keep it yourself even if that means forgoing the features that VAN provides.

    In Virginia local committees tend to be organized by magisterial (BoS, city council) districts and voting precincts within those. Statewide campaigns really don’t care about districts and have tended to go around the local committee and organize directly at the precinct level. That leads to precinct captains having two bosses or having people the committee does not know, and at times not members of the party, organizing and operating at the precinct level. That can be frustrating.

    Like everything, details vary, but Rayne has provided a very good guide for local political organizing. As she notes, it’s a lot of hard work.

    Now, if we can just purge the corrupt neolib elitists from the national Dem leadership and install a new generation to replace us tired, aging old boomers, maybe the Dems can return to core New Deal values and win more seats than they lose in the ’18 midterms.

  3. martin says:

    Holy shit Rayne!  Godbless.. You’ve laid out things the average person doesn’t have a clue about.  Thank you. Now I see, because of your eyes, ears, willingness to share, and your hard earned insights into the world of political activism.  One more thing. It’s taken almost a year, for me to follow your posts, to finally understand the definition of an activist.  Go woman. I’ll be here to spread your insights and hopefully, the real reason for your activism. Please share it. I mean..what part of the so called “Democratic Party” aroused your inner passions so much, to change the trajectory of your life?  This is what I want to know. WHAT..does the DEMOCRATIC PARTY stand for. PERIOD.  If you can define that.. you’ve accomplished what I’ve searched for my entire adult life.

  4. martin says:

    BUMP? Rayne? I asked some valid questions. I’d appreciate a response, even if it’s short,  or whatever.

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