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Thursday, November 18, 2004

Reform the DNC

I am a Reform Democrat

The Democratic Party
needs reform. Without discussing whether we need to move to the right or the
left, what can we do to reform the way we do business?

The following is my "if I were in charge" compilation of some of the best
ideas I've read coupled with my experiences as a political hack young enough to
have grown up with computers but old enough to have a few cycles of experience
in traditional Democratic campaigns (in both red and blue states).


A modern Democratic Party needs leaders who can
format a hyperlink. Not only do we need leaders who understand current
e-campaigning, but we need visionaries who can see how vast potential that lies
in the future of the internet. We need to fight in real-time across the
internet, the blogosphere, and on the search engines. We need an online war room
that never stops and interjects our side into every conversation online. Every
site with a conversation needs our comments and links.


No more fundraising emails. Period. If the Kerry
campaign had asked the Dean campaign, they would have learned that constant
cash-appeals turn people off. The Kerry campaign burned their list. As people
stopped opening the emails the campaign suffered a huge opportunity cost when
they needed to organize supporters in the end. Emails should only be used to
initiate interaction, once people are vested in our actions they'll help fund
the effort.

End Sentences with Prepositions

We need to campaign like we
have an seventh grade education and unlearn the linguistic hindrances that hold
us back. The people we target with our ads don't talk like the people who make
them. Our candidates need sentences with a subject, a verb, an object and then a
period. Look how people write emails, forget what you learned in English class
and talk to people. Tell a story. Focus on connecting to the audience instead of
winning the hearts of the proofreaders. What do you think you're more likely to
hear at a small town diner an hour before sunrise, "Its the economy, stupid" or
"A Stronger, Safer America"? We can earn street cred with our writing without

Lead America

If we only follow polls, we will be reactive to
the whims of Americans and will not be able to win in the long run. We need to
lead on issues, decide issues by value not polling worth and lead the people.
This Gonzalez nomination is a great example, instead of having a debate about
whether we should oppose him we should have a debate about whether a torture
supporter should lead the Justice Department and then hit him with everything we
have. No more conversations about whether it is strategic to follow our gut,
instead we need to stand up for what we believe in and fight with everything we


The DNC should invest financially in the
blogosphere. The DNC should have an ad with the message of the day on every
single liberal blog (new every day, even Sundays and holidays). For a million
dollars we could have two thousand points of TV in a major media market or
subsidize hundreds of bloggers fighting tooth and nail online, 24/7.

Go Young

People under the age of thirty are the only age group
that we won. The young vote was turned out by young people managing
organizations with enough resources to succeed. We need more young people in
decision-making roles at the DNC and in positions where they have the resources
to maintain and expand our domination of young people.

Ask The Right Questions

The question wasn't how the war
started; it was whether it should have started. The question wasn't how we were
waging the war, but whether we were winning. The question wasn't how the economy
was managed; it was whether it was good or bad. The question wasn't how we
fought the terrorists; it was whether we were winning or losing. Kerry was too
focused on the first questions to realize we needed to win the second questions.


We need to learn to distill issues. The right will
never say an issue is complicated because every possible situation fits into
their worldview in a manner where they know what to do. People learn our values
by seeing how issues fit into our worldview, not because we say, "God Bless
America" at the end of our speeches. When we turn our backs on our values,
people lose respect for us.

Bold Action

Only looking at this calendar year, I think it is
easy to conclude Gavin Newsom is the only Democrat with any guts in America.
Newsom reframed the issue of gay marriage as equality and personalized a
narrative for the issue. His strong offense shifted the country the few points
we needed so that we didn't get burned on the issue as badly as the right had
planned. For the first time in a generation, a Democrat held the national stage
and talked about equality and civil liberties. If Kerry had been as bold on any
single issue, we would have won. It could have been Iraq, health care, jobs --
it really didn't matter.

Value work

Kick consultants off percentage, pay a good hourly
wage and demand results. Have you ever heard a consultant on percentage
recommend not spending more money on TV? Even in the battlegrounds with markets
so saturated with political ads that people are 100% tuned out? We need to
budget according to results which is impossible when consultants have a
financial incentive to spend on distribution instead of creation.


How many trainings on e-campaigning has the
Democratic Party hosted? With a couple of cycles experience in online politics,
let me be the first to say it would have been nice to have had somebody teach
the tactics instead of having to figure things out as I went. I've been to
multiple Party and progressive organization trainings on organizing which taught
me a great deal. Other than the one training I have given myself, I have yet to
hear of any trainings on how to campaign online.

Make News

Dean understood this, but Kerry didn't get it until
he brought in the Clinton people and by that time everything that happened was
news. We can decide what we want the headlines to be with bold action. The
further up the ticket the greater the role the media plays in the outcome.
Instead of complaining about the coverage, we need to understand the media's
perspective and needs, then create campaign storyboards too good for them to
pass by.

Non-political Geography

When we look at maps, we look at
color-coded representations based off of political boundaries drawn by
city-folk. Looking at everything outside of the suburbs as rural America is
simplistic view repeated by people who live in urban environments. Instead of
focusing on red or blue squares on maps, we need to focus on geography. We win
near large bodies of water, near the Great Lakes, the oceans, and the
Mississippi. We can win in the mountains easier than on the plains. We do better
where it is cold and where it is sandy. When we talk about campaigning outside
of the cities we need to focus on the extremes, big water, big mountains, bad

Rapid Response

We got our asses kicked, yet the DNC posted
three posts on the official Party blog in the following 12 days. WTF???


We cannot offer compromises, instead we need to
offer coherent alternatives to Republican proposals. These proposals must be
crafted with an eye towards framing the next election, not influencing the
outcome since we will be fighting to prevent any change from occurring.


Any changes advanced by the GOP will regress our
country. We need to fight every proposal. Choosing battles is a strategy that is
inherently flawed. Compromising is likewise flawed. We need to fight to win and
plan to lose strategically. As an opposition party, we must evaluate our leaders
by their success at opposing. If they are ineffective, we must immediately
replace them.

Operate with Transparency

Who is doing what, with results
results and what costs? Much of the disgust directed at the party by the
grassroots is due to poor communication. The Party needs to do good things and
keep the grassroots informed by involving them in the process. We need a modern
party that is beholden to the grassroots. We need to work smarter by questioning
and quantifying, then calculating how we can do more.


The GOP is better at stage lighting. They learned the
lesson of Nixon and spent the eighties bringing Hollywood tricks to political
events. Clinton understood, but as recently as this year Howard Dean flopped
after a snafu that would never had happened if the campaign had used a mixer
before the mult-box for the press pool.


Elections are about votes. We need to make voting for
Democrats easier by making voting as easy as possible. We need same day
registration and vote by mail. We need to make sure every vote counts and
provide a paper trail for black box voting. We need more machines, less lines.
More access to democracy and participation.


DaveOinSF pointed out in the comments that the above
point didn't really belong here as it was not something Democrats could do
unilaterally. So I removed it. What a great illustration of how "responsiveness"
should have been included.

West Coast Offense

Yes, I saved the sports analogy for last.
We had the largest GOTV ever and we still finished 10 points shy from where we
needed to be. The Kerry campaign thought they were going to win and tried to run
out the clock in the last two weeks. The Democratic Party has been silent since
the election. We can never let this happen again. Elections come and go by the
battle for America's future never stops. We need to campaign every single day of
every year like we are 10 points down, because we are. We need a passing game
and a strong blitz, we must never again finish an election like we only needed
to make it to field goal range and GOTV will put us over the top. No. We need to
be winning beyond the margin of error and let our hustle and determination show
that we want to win more than the GOP. We need to contest every down, force
turnovers, and inside the pile we need to claw and poke and squeeze and do
whatever it takes to make sure we have the ball in the end.


The issue of DNC Reform is a continuing conversation. Please post
your ideas here or email me at bob.brigham [at] with more suggestions.
Thanks for reading, feel free to recommend.

- Bob Brigham
Bay to the Beltway
+ San Francisco Campaigns + San Francisco Politics + San Francisco Elections

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