That noise is a light bulb appearing over my head. Three articles I have encountered over the past few days have formed a crude synthesis in my mind, centered on exactly how Demcorats develop and implement the much needed and much desired fifty-state strategy in 2006. Let me see if this makes any sense once I write it out.
The first article was from last Wednesday, and was written by Zephyr Teachout over at Personal Democracy Forum (I blogged about this article here here). In the article, she talks about the way the Kerry campaign, at least the upper echelons of the campaign, stopped pushing Meetup as one of their organizing tools. Without rehashing and explaining the entire article, I'll just provide one important quote:The great missed opportunity of 2004 was the failure of every major leader and leadership group to embrace and nurture the capacity of local groups of volunteer activists to form ongoing face-to-face organizing cells using the Internet. The Bush campaign did this using churches, but no group embraced the unique power of the net to do the same thing. OK. The second article came from diarist susan, which I promoted to the front page around twenty-four hours ago. In it, she talks of the effectiveness of having neighbors talk to neighbors through house parties and the important impact this can have on GOTV. In other words, these house parties could serve as the sort of "ongoing face-to-face organizing cells" that Zephyr was talking about in her article: Bai writes in today's NYT Magazine article that a strategy of having neighbors talk to neighbors is much more effective than flying in outsiders to canvass door-to-door. The Republicans used this strategy and turned out more people. Of course, the Dems did turn out huge numbers and the door-to-door approach does also work. But, we could have done both and I think we would have turned out many more people. Also, since a house party program is more decentralized, we could done it in every precinct in Ohio (and across the country)-- not just targeted solid-blue precincts-- and turned out more Dem votes within purple precincts and even red precincts of battleground states.(...)

So, I know that the Kerry campaign eventually did have house parties and even put a lot of emphasis on it. But, they got there reluctantly and it was too late. My proposal to them talked about the math-- a percentage of the people who go to house parties tend to host their own. The sooner you start holding these, the more people you'll reach over a many-month period. The Kerry campaign didn't get their house party program going for about four months after I had talked with them extensively about the benefits of a program like this for getting out the vote.(...)

My proposal to the Kerry campaign in February was to organize the house parties by precincts in all states, including the crucial swing states. These would be neighborhood house parties, not simply fundraisers of our most like-thinking political friends. The Dean campaign did this in New Hampshire. Cesar Chavez did this organizing Latino migrant workers decades ago. (...)

The GOP Amway-style pyramid relies on neighbors but is so top-down that I don't see it working well for Dems. Dems like creativity and input into how they do things, in my experience. I thought neighborhood-based grassroots house parties could have been a key strategy that might have been as effective or even more effective than the Amway-style pyramids but it was a strategy that needed many months to be built. It would be more decentralized than the GOP top-down strategy, but the Kerry campaign would have given local folks the tools and encouragement to make it happen.

OK, so we needed more neighbors talking to neighbors, and we identify local Meetups coupled with local House Parties as a way to pull this off. However, would it really work, and is it really worth the resources?

The third and final article, the one that completed the synthesis for me, comes from a dailykos dairy by user danthrax. In this article, he discusses a new study and decries the utter ineffectiveness of the large scale marketing during the campaign, as only 4.7% of all voters actually changed their mind from Super Tuesday until November 2nd (emphasis in original):

There are two interesting things about the study. The first is the data itself:

The study reveals that only 4.7 percent of voters nationwide switched their choice of candidate during the course of the election. And while a slight majority (59 percent) of those that did switch did so relatively late in the game (from October through Election Day)(...)

Here's the media math, according to Draft: Presidential candidates spent $910 million on advertising to sway undecideds or switch voters from one candidate to another, an average of $110 per opinion changer. At that rate, candidates might consider bypassing the advertising altogether and simply paying voters for their support. Oh yeah, that's right. Someone already did that. It's called tax cuts.


We live in an age where people are cynical of advertising, and any frontman is looked upon with skepticism. This is how people can hear a fierce indictment of Bush, but then quickly hear a fierce indictment of Kerry, and end up scratching their head about who's telling the truth. Moreso, they may even hate both messengers, since they are convinced that they are both lying.

In marketing-speak, the only messenger that has preserved its power over the consumer is "the influential". The influential is the one person in a small community of friends or relatives who sets the trend for anything, from what music or clothing is hot, to attitudes on celebrity figures, to voting habits. In other words, the most effective way to break through the cynicism that leaves opinions deadlocked is at the grassroots level.

Instead of blowing money on television ads in 16 battleground states, we need to empower our volunteers and help find them a way to meet other likeminded people and turn them onto politics and the Democratic party. And at the immediate moment, that means we need a party that respects and appreciates our volunteers.

And then, it suddenly hit me. We can run a fifty-state strategy while simultaneously breaking through the cynicism of marketing and win people to the Democratic cause by using Meetups as places to coordinate precinct-by-precinct House parties that are hosted by "influentials" who are volunteers but are given at least some guidance by the national and/or local party. The House Parties would focus on the Democratic Party itself. We could do this in every precinct in the nation. We could do this in off years. In fact, we could do this without much money at all!

This is not a silver bullet--nothing is. I am not suggesting, as danthrax does, that we stop our massive advertising campaigns. I am certainly not suggesting that we cut back on our excellent door-to-door targeted GOTV efforts that we implemented this year. However, it seems as though this House Party plan has the possibility to significantly assist the party in turning its fortunes around. We turn over a large amount of the marketing of the party directly to the people who are best able to market it in our contemporary age of political cynicism: influentials who can talk to family and friends. We let them do it in a fun, social and emotional atmosphere. We can do it everywhere, and we can do it on the cheap. We could do it to the benefit of all our candidates and ideas. Considering we already have the Meetup structure and House Party plans in place, we could start doing it as early as February or March.

So, now that I have written it out, you tell me--does this make as much sense as I think it does?

Tags: Activism (all tags)



Introduction:  I'm here to offer a plan of action, one that can get going within months, and one that can hopefully make a difference sooner rather then later.  Read, and offer me feedback.      
I.    We need to gather ideas and form an agenda:

A.    There are think tanks that already exist with very good, very bold ideas that have appeal, especially for moderates.

B.    Setting the top priority is important, and I say let's go right at the right wing's supposed strength, defense, and the war on terror.  

C.    Gathering the ideas, and boiling them down into a rich sauce that the public will slurp down with ease is the top priority of step one.  Polling will be done, and we will see where the ideas are meeting the biggest resistance, and sell twice as hard in those areas .  We will not be the revolutionary that asks where the group is going, we will be the revolutionary that leads the group our way.  

II.    Selling the agenda:

A.    Hiring a PR firm is step one.  We need a point person who knows reporters, and can get us booked on all the talk shows.  I'm thinking Mike McCurry, he's a hack, but if paid properly he'll be our hack.  

B.    Getting good looking, smooth, educated folks, to push the agenda on television is step two.  We scour the colleges for liberal communications majors who want a career in broadcasting, they'll have been practicing and we'll be able to mold them the way we want.   We'll have a boot camp for perspective reps, and pick the best of the best.  

C.    We need a grassroots campaign to hammer on the media for being too conservative.  The blogs will be the place where this can be organized and carried out.  We need a catchy tagline for this, submit them here.

III.    Getting the Democrats on board:

A.    We've laid the ground work, and now we need politicians to push our ideas onto the floor of the House, and Senate.  We'll need to write legislation, and give it to the politicians we feel can, and will push the issues.  

B.    We'll do this by targeting Senators and congress people whose pet issue is the one we are trying to get heard in congress.  

C.    We'll have to show politicians we have changed minds, and influenced enough people in their state or district, they will not take chances, that is our job, we'll take the chances for them.  We'll have initial poll results, and we can compare them to new poll results, and show the politicians the shift in public opinion.  

IV.    Fighting the right wing:

A.    We need catchy tagline phrases with mass appeal, we need to use comedy, and not annoying Michael Moore comedy, we need Daily Show funny.  

B.    We need to be more appealing then the right wingers, this means no annoying accusatory attacks, we need to be smooth, we need to be funny, and we need the facts to back up what we say.

C.    If all else fails, we cloud the issue the way the right does.  We can revisit it at a later date.  


You must be asking "how will we get this done?", well, I'm in contact with the money men, and women looking to fund a liberal/progressive pushback in this country.  They are looking for fresh voices with good ideas.  I've posted my initial outline for you all to critique, and offer feedback.  I want the best voices out here to get involved, and let's present something to these folks, and start taking action.

by jbou 2004-11-22 04:05PM | 0 recs
don't know if it's a silver bullet

but I've certainly been dismayed by the amount of recent debate in these parts on how or whether to abandon this or that position ("move right") in order to win over another 3% of existing voters when 40% of those eligible to vote are just sitting there waiting for a good reason to go to the polls.

so your Ding! is at least coming from the right quarter: Meetups + House parties = pulling in some of those 40%.

by spandrel 2004-11-22 04:07PM | 0 recs
your idea is excellent
we can use the grassroots year round to get the liberal Democratic agenda reenforced all across the country.  We can use meetups to do more then just get people elected.  We need to start winning the propaganda war, message is very important right now.  My above comment offers us a chance to build an infrastrucutre for change.
by jbou 2004-11-22 04:09PM | 0 recs
I like the idea...
and it sounds great on paper.  But the one lingering thought I have is :

Aren't the only people that will attend the people who are already supporters of the candidate?    If you were someone not very politically inclined, would you attend one of these events?  Would we just be preaching to the choir ?  

Or am I looking at this wrong ?

by avagias 2004-11-22 04:15PM | 0 recs
Re: I like the idea...
The choir will go out into the community and recruit folks, spread the message and help get people more involved.  This would be done locally so people could get other people involved by rallying support for the latest local issue that has everyone in the communty's attention.
by jbou 2004-11-22 04:20PM | 0 recs
Re: I like the idea...
One of the things missing in most communities, I think, is Community.  People will come to meet neighbors and feel a part of something.  Organizing around "nonpartisan" issues like a youth program, better schools or other concrete local issue is good too and a way to overcome the non-political people's lack of understanding of how politics can be used to affect the quality of ones daily life.
by Mimikatz 2004-11-23 12:40PM | 0 recs
Yes, but the choir gets bigger
In talking with my neighbors through political activism I've met new people I wouldn't have before. It's a support group or sorts that attracts people at first interested. The attracts their friends who feed on their enthusiasm.

Then the end result isn't for one candidate. Sure I went to my first house party to be around other Dean people. But then I learned about Cegelis. Through her, I learned about other local Dems. The trickle down was spred from me to my neighbors as well.

by michael in chicago 2004-11-22 04:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Yes, but the choir gets bigger
I agree with what you are saying.  and I am not trying to sound defeatist, but doesn't that just mean that the choir as you know it is getting bigger.  In absolute terms, the size of the choir is the same.  And through this, we are just more aware of that size.

My other concern which hasn't been addressed is whether moderates or people who aren't passionate about politics the way you and I are, would attend something like this.  

It's great to say yeah lets all get together, but if its going to be a gathering of the same people you would run into on a blog or any other activist site (except that they are living in my area) , what's the advantage?

I could very well be wrong.  I just would like an explanation of what would attract the non-political junkies.

by avagias 2004-11-22 05:06PM | 0 recs
It's got to start somewhere
The choir does get bigger, and at first it is just people like you and me. But how do you think I became people like you and me?

I wasnt active last cycle at all. I put up a yard sign for Gore three days before the election. That was a big deal for me. I felt so out there and alone when I did that.

This time I met people face to face and saw a place I could do something small - writing letters. I could do that safely in my own little space. That led to meeting candidates, posting on blogs, starting my own blog, and working for local candidates.

Everyone has to start somewhere. You see familiar faces, but then they bring a friend. Some leave, and some bring their friends. Some of these go off and start their own group.

What attracts the non-political is often many things. Being dragged by a spouce or friend. A single issue. A Howard Dean type firebrand. Not all who come stay, but enough do that the process does grow, and fairly quickly.

What stops the process is poor organization. It is key to have a purpose. This was one thing Dean meetups did well. We where there for a reason. There was talk, and information. But there was alway a local candidate to talk to or a letter to write or a speech to watch. Organization is key. But here I see the blog fulfilling a role in giving out the general directions of what needs to be accomplished.

by michael in chicago 2004-11-22 07:45PM | 0 recs
neighbors, not necessary like-minded
The MoveOn house parties and even most of the Dean primary house parties consisted of people inviting their like-minded friends.  

What will make this work to rebuild the Democratic Party and make it more progressive is to have neighbors invite neighbors (yes, Dem-leaning or progressive-leaning neighbors).  Hosts can walk up and down their streets (shoe leather) with invitations (or email a neighborhood association), they do NOT find their guests through Left websites (as we did with MoveOn and Dean).

Why will people attend these?  Because their neighbor invited them and they like their neighbor or they think they should get to know their neighbors.  Once they attend one, hopefully they attend another or host one because they liked it and found it valuable or rewarding in some way.

by susan 2004-11-22 06:36PM | 0 recs
Since you first posted
the article on house parties I've been trying to synthesize the same thing. But of course you did it better than i could and beat me to it. So scrap that diary I was to write.

I think you've really hit on something here. All politics is local. And how much more local can you get than face to face with the neighbors?

Precinct organization of house parties is a great idea. Adding someone coming to the house parties with some talking points from the party is a great idea as well.

Ding indeed.

by michael in chicago 2004-11-22 04:31PM | 0 recs
incentives for precinct captains?
A commenter on dKos (James Earl) wrote today that he was a precinct captain in Cleveland a long time ago when Dems had a precinct captain in every precinct everywhere.  He noted that precinct captains were well rewarded with government jobs, Dem Party perks, and various corrupt incentives.  I don't think we want to bring that back, so how do we get people to work hard as volunteers in precinct organizing (whether hosting house parties or otherwise)?  What incentives will work today?

When I was working on Dean house parties, my reward was being part of a very exciting national community and a progressive movement.  I cared deeply about our goals and I saw numbers moving higher all the time.  All of that kept me going.  Is that going to be enough, and can we do this in an off-year without an inspiring candidate?

by susan 2004-11-22 10:00PM | 0 recs
Re: incentives for precinct captains?
The best reward is being part of a community. But, at the same time, I don't take the position that all incentives are forms of corruption. If there are paid staff positions in politics--which are ubiquitous--it seems absurd to say that volunteers should get nothing, or else the system is corrupt.  Things like discounts on books, free dvds, etc. make lots of sense, since these are the people who are the most avid consumers. Weekend retreats also seem quite legit--they build community, enhance networking, provide all sorts of social benefit.

The dange is when this sort of thing goes too far, and the community becomes exclusive. Making ourselves as insular as the big boys is just turning ourselves into the problem.

by Paul Rosenberg 2004-11-22 11:06PM | 0 recs
Participation Its Own Reward?
First, I may have been unclear in my post on DKos.  Cuyahoga County, Ohio (Cleveland), still has PC's in nearly every precinct.

I do not know how it is done elsewhere, but in Ohio PCs are elected in the party primaries.  I think the fact that PC's have to compete in elections for the job is a good idea, one that ought to be put in place everywhere.

Second, depending upon the location, being a PC may still provide benefits like jobs, etc.  Being involved means being connected, and connections bring rewards.  Even if it's done with a nod and a wink.  But I do not think that this should be the organizing principle.  History suggests that corruption, indictments and lost elections inevitably follow.

Third, while I agree with many people posting here and elsewhere that the emphasis on raising money over political activism was unfortunate and perhaps counter-productive, it is a matter of emphasis and not an "either/or" situation.

Despite our success at raising money this election cycle, we should not regard the problem of raising money as solved.  We more or less matched the Republicans, but it took a tremendous amount of effort, and it took the twin disasters of Bush as president and the Iraq War to energize it.  We may not have similar, broad-based and emotionally appealing motivations next time.  The Republicans raise their money with or without them.

Finally, I think it is critical that we rebuild the party from the precincts up rather then from leadership, Dean included, down.  The people who we need for this will be motivated by a different reward system than one based on jobs, city contracts and the like.  The people we need will be those who find that their participation is its own reward.  

by James Earl 2004-11-23 05:49AM | 0 recs
We need to understand what we're talking about...

In the long run, we have to go out into the real world and talk to actual conservatives, and convert them into liberals.  So I see this as a two-step process:

  • Step 1: Influential person goes to meetup, learns how to powerfully make the case for liberalism.

  • Step 2: Influential leaves the meeting, and goes to work, where they spread liberal ideals among their coworkers and friends.

So basically, the purpose of the meetup is to train the influential in the fine art of spreading liberal ideals.  The main things that would be done at meetups would be:

  • Exchange of reading materials: in particular, all influentials would need to read as many inspirational speeches as possible, especially those by the greats: FDR, JFK, Martin Luther King, etc.  The influential would have to practice paraphrasing the ideas in these speeches.

  • Dueling practice sessions: influentials would have to try to "convince" their friends to accept liberal ideals.  The friends would have to be trained to "resist" in all the usual ways.
by joshyelon 2004-11-22 04:36PM | 0 recs
The second is important...
I remember hearing about a caller to the Rush Limbaugh show (this is second hand, i don't watch Limbaugh for better or worse--i live in one of the few places in the nation, it seems, that doesn't get him) talking about how the Democrats "can't do the arguments".

Now, despite the grammatical imprecision the caller in question understood something that i think the Democratic party in general doesn't understand from the top of the DLC all the way down to individual members. Being able to argue a point is vital.

I don't just mean the thick-skulled, no-brained repetition of talking points that all-too-often passes for argument these days. I mean really argue. I mean being able to present a case and defeat objections to it.

That second part is very important. I'd even go so far as to say that you might want to drag in non-partisans and neutral observers for at least the first few times. Although some areas have individual Democrats who can dismantle RNC talking points and whatnot with ease not all do. Some will be starting, essentially, from scratch.

Heck, developing a set of Democratic-style argument techniques to pass around would be nice, too.

I'm actually writing a book that does something like that myself, though it's not anywhere near to finished yet.

by winter 2004-11-22 08:16PM | 0 recs
Don't forget the narrative
I think Carville was exactly on target when he said Republicans have narratives and Democrats have litanies. We have to start telling stories that capture our moral values. That's how Reagan and Clinton both connected with the voters.

What Rush was talking about is that Democrats don't do talking points. Republicans have very well honed talking points that are developed in their think tanks and distributed from the local to the national level. Democrats just seem to all be on a separate page and hoofing it all the time. Every talk show and cable show and candidate is spouting exactly the same talking points on every issue.

On the large point, I don't think it's that we don't do arguments as much as it is that we don't do narratives.

by Gary Boatwright 2004-11-22 08:42PM | 0 recs
one thing I would add
The one thing I would add is that this does not necessarily depend on the official democratic party endorsing this strategy. Sure, that would be the best. But if the new DNC chair/DNC leadership did not have this same vision, why couldn't the left-leaning blogosphere organize itself. It probably would not have the same level of participation at first, but if it proves effective, surely the DNC would adopt this model. At the very least it is something that alot of us could and would do to have a larger impact on elections and political process. I am not advocating abandoning the party ... but this seems like something that we could do, even before the DNC realizes how effective this could be.
by j pratt 2004-11-22 04:36PM | 0 recs
oh, yes.

The biggest barrier, here, is obvious: nobody wants to get into a political fight with their friends or coworkers.  Most people would very much hesitate to go out into the real world to do conversions, because they just plain don't want to challenge somebody else.  But in the long run, there's no getting around it: without conversions, we lose.

So I guess the third thing that has to happen at meetup is this: finding "gentle" ways to express these ideas among friends and coworkers, without creating hostility.

At some point, I think there needs to be some sort of "national exchage of tips and tricks."  Some people will be very effective at "conversion", others won't.  We need to find a way to share the skills of the effective ones among the less-effective ones.

by joshyelon 2004-11-22 04:40PM | 0 recs
and it's ok if some neighbors never attend
Some people like talking politics and even enjoy a little debate.  Others stay far away from both.  That's okay.  

I can't think of any kind of neighborhood party or meeting (even a Labor Day BBQ) that every neighbor would attend.

by susan 2004-11-22 06:38PM | 0 recs
One big advantage of this method...

(Sorry for posting so many comments, but I keep thinking of things...)

One of the biggest "weapons" in the conservative arsenal is the "liberal stereotype."  But stereotypes tend to break down when you're face-to-face with a friend.

I've actually seen this in action! My wife is very liberal, and she has a co-worker who is very conservative.  At one point, the conservative called my wife a "liberal hippy," but the conservative couldn't keep a straight face while saying it.  They both ended up laughing.  The dynamics of a face-to-face meeting make it much more likely that people will set aside their hostility and stereotypes.

by joshyelon 2004-11-22 04:45PM | 0 recs
Any idea that gets people talking to each other is a good idea and this is an especially great one.

It would also be in our best interest to remain extra-friendly to small business interests. Most small business owners and entrepreneurs are in various groups, clubs and organizations that already meet regularly. That thread of small-business relationships could prove very fruitfull.

And finally, one thing that would help us would be to try to understand a person's faith a little better. Getting face to face with people is the only way to get a give and take going which is to say that we have to give and take also. As a whole big gigantic generality, I feel Dems don't "get" faith in the way that republicans do. All I'm saying is after this crazy time passes we try to be a bit more sensitive to a person's faith in order to win hearts and minds and grassroots meetups are a great way to do this.  

by JerrySacramento 2004-11-22 04:54PM | 0 recs
meetups and house parties
I completely agree with the grassroots strategy you outlined above. This is KEY, KEY, KEY. People need to get excited and involved. There was more energy among Dems in 2004 than in 2000, or almost any other presidential year in recent memory (perhaps decades), because of the intensity that developed among Dem candidates (and people who then got involved supporting their chosen candidate) during the primaries. Yet, as the year wore on, that intensity was not as easily tapped, because there wasn't this structured socializing outlet. As technological advances and choices make Americans busier and busier with each passing year, there has to be a way for people to feel free to get involved. GOTV operations often leave one feeling not completely connected to other volunteers. Many Dem volunteers turn out in huge numbers at GOTV time, but because the ranks of Dems are filled with single people (younger cohorts, divorcees, solitary types) who are sometimes not ultra-extroverted, the intensity that is felt by people about issues can't be tapped and developed. The right has churches for this type of thing. The internet has tremendously positive and revolutionary aspects for getting people together(just look at what is going on at this site), but the internet will never be the equivalent of the foyer at church or a house party with microbrews. Many individuals that are in one half of the voting electorate are ready to get more personally involved than the options they currrently have. House parties/meetups are THE solution for expanding upon the networking that has been created by blogs like MYDD.
by JT 2004-11-22 05:09PM | 0 recs
Re: meetups and house parties
Very good points. One thing that needs to be understood, meetups aren't like Labor rallies in the 30's. No Hoffa like character energizing the masses. Most meetups seem more like bookclub meeting than political rally. Its the connections that count. And honestly, having an earnest political junkie talking at me in April of an off year doesn't sound like much fun. But getting together for a beer and making friends does. Come election time making those friends will pay off.
by JerrySacramento 2004-11-22 06:10PM | 0 recs
Re: meetups and house parties--True, But
As I suggest elsewhere, if you tie into local issues, there are reasons to get together in a campaign-like way beginning the day after Election Day. This doesn't mean we should ignore the socializing aspect. I agree 100% that socializing and building relationships is important work in itself. But we can be doing both in various different combinations.
by Paul Rosenberg 2004-11-23 06:59AM | 0 recs
Re: meetups and house parties--True, But
Socializing alone is not what's important -- you have to make events "good" because of the food you serve -- whether the host provides, or if you do pot luck.  (and you can do both).  It's just that you never have an event without "interesting" food on offer and you always advertise the food as a reason for coming to the event.  

I've run over 20 campaigns (won most of them) and planning the food for the volunteers was always top of the list.  I've observed winable campaigns that never thought to feed workers -- and that bond that is created by enjoying good food was simply missing -- and frequently led to infighting and a lost race.  And by the way, I don't mean sending out for Pizza -- I mean real food cooked by people who know how.  

by Sara 2004-11-23 02:25PM | 0 recs
You're still assuming that we lost because we were out-organized.  Like this is the thirties and we're a labor union.  The days when money can be overcome (I'm not talking about how much a candidate spends) are long gone.
Think more fundamental.  Think inside the box for a change.  
by nittacci 2004-11-22 05:09PM | 0 recs
Re: No
are you being sarcastic?  I don't really know what you mean.
by tunesmith 2004-11-22 07:13PM | 0 recs
DFA Gets it
DFA gets it.

Influencing the Future of the Democratic Party
The next two months represent our best chance to influence the future of the Democratic Party. During this period, many local party committees will be undergoing a process of reorganization, where they elect new officers and executive committees. The only way for us to have a role in this process is to get involved and attend our local meetings at the town, county and state levels.

By having a voice within the Party, we will accomplish four things:

Help grow the Party through our participation.

Revitalize the local Democratic infrastructure by injecting our leadership skills and energy into the Party.

Make sure that the Democratic Party becomes a bottom-up organization that is energized and led by its grassroots.

Ensure that the Party supports candidates for every office in every state. The only way to build the Democratic party is to run candidates everywhere--in red areas and blue areas.

Right now, DFA is compiling a scheduling database of local Democratic meetings around the country to help you get involved over the next few months. You can help by calling your state, county, and local committee chairs and adding your next meeting to the DFA database at http://www.democracyforamerica.com/localdems.
Incredibly enough--no one has ever compiled all of the local Democratic meetings across the country in one place. There is no equivalent of Meetup.com or DFA's Project Commons for the Democratic Party. No wonder many people find it hard to find their local meetings times! Over the next few months, DFA is taking the lead on growing our Party and ensuring that the grassroots have a big voice in determining the Party's future.

At the December Meetup, DFA groups around the country will lay out specific plans to get involved in their local parties. What are your plans to take an active role in determining the future of the Democratic Party?

Tom Hughes
Political Director
Democracy for America

by jasmine 2004-11-22 05:10PM | 0 recs
DFA, if not DNC, for the lead
Hi Chris and others,

I'm the "diarist susan."  I'm really glad you are promoting the combo Meetups with precinct-based (or neighborhood-based) Meetups.  That's exactly what I proposed to the Kerry campaign in February.  They considered it for a week, but apparently Mary Beth Cahill (and maybe others) wasn't interested.  At the time Kerry Meetups were really fledgling (maybe 8,000 people signed up nationally) and I could see that they would grow dramatically with him clinching the nomination; I told the campaign staff that this was a huge opportunity and they needed to use it well-- they didn't even seem to know what Meetups were no less agree with me that they wanted these things.  They seemed to think house parties were just about fundraising even though I think that's a minor part of them, and they didn't get that Meetups would generate house party hosts; they thought the house party program would end with the primary campaign and the national convention, and I urged them to see how they would only multiply each month and lead to precinct-based GOTV.  I think the Kerry campaign finally did get it around October, but that was a bit late.  Sadly, they needed to experience things first-hand and weren't willing to trust those of us who had already been experiencing these tools.

Then I presented the idea to the Boxer campaign who asked me to write a detailed proposal, and they called me back very interested.  My proposal was to have Boxer take the lead in building a California progressive grassroots through house parties, but not have the parties just be about Boxer (especially because she had a safe seat and because Californian Dems haven't organized in a grassroots way since about '68 -- according to Kathleen and Gerald Hill who ran Eugene McCarthy's California presidential campaign in 1968).  In the end, they hired David Salie to run it, instead of me (which made sense given he was the head staffer for Dean house parties nationally), but the Boxer Meetups and house parties never really took off.  I don't know why since I wasn't involved, but I would guess that Boxer didn't need to invest much in this since she had a pretty safe seat this election, and/or because people weren't that interested in hosting Boxer house parties because she had a safe seat.  

Locally, we've implemented this in Santa Barbara where I live.  We started it out with a big bang (not my idea - but the creativity of two people named Phil McCarty and Nancy Miller).  In May we held a large, inspirational event.  We attracted about 300 Dem and progressive activists (in a small town) to an auditorium where a few big-name people spoke.  What was unique about the event was that we had a precinct map next to the check-in table.  Each person wrote his/her name and precinct name on the name tag.  Then s/he entered the auditorium which was divided into precincts by names (it looked a lot like a political convention only with neighborhood names instead of states on tall hand-written signs).  People were excited to meet the other Dem/progressive activists in their neighborhood.  They mingled for about ten minutes and then the speakers came on.  I was the third speaker and talked about hosting house parties in the precincts from now (May) through the election.  After I spoke, we had sign-up tables back in the lobby-- one table for house parties, one table for voter reg tabling, etc.  After the event, we had lists of people per precinct interested in hosting house parties, and we followed up with them by email and phone offering coaching in getting their house parties together.  We aligned the dates of our house parties with the national house parties so there were national conference calls with big names (John Kerry, Howard Dean, Michael Moore, etc.) as part of the parties.

In addition to being one of three California Dean house party coordinators, and helping with our local house party program (post-Dean campaign), I've been co-hosting the Santa Barbara DFA Meetup since March and am one of the founders of California for Democracy.  At an early California for Democracy meeting (held in Long Beach in March), I proposed Meetups as a way to coordinate the precinct-based organizing and suggested that Meetups could be like church for the Dems (in terms of a regular meeting place where there is some political coordinating).  Michael Faulkner (of the Dean Restoration Speech "Faulkner Remix" and later of the Southwest Voter Express and Draft Dean for VP) and I brainstormed about this while in Long Beach.  I then wrote a DailyKos blog about Meetups as church -
One idea in the diary was to have local Meetup coordinators meet regionally and choose a monthly call to action.  This would be similar to the way Right Wingers coordinate on sermons and political action for churches.

I think these ideas mostly got lost in the hustle and bustle of the election season; I'm glad to see they are getting some attention now.  We have a lot of work to do!

by susan 2004-11-22 07:31PM | 0 recs
cheap 50-state strategy
I did mention to the Kerry campaign how relatively cheap a grassroots strategy is for all it can accomplish.  

In the case of the Dean campaign, there were 1-3 state coordinators of house parties in all or almost all 50 states.  Many of us were volunteering at least 40 hours/week and were enjoying it.  Whether Kerry could inspire that kind of volunteerism wasn't clear to me in mid-February, but even if part-time state coordinators needed to be paid, it was still pretty cheap.  The house party hosts wouldn't need pay, and the resources for the parties could all be on the web-- no mailings needed.

Meetups are similarly cheap.  The Dean campaign paid just one person -- Michael Silberman -- to communicate with Meetup hosts across the country.  I think the Kerry campaign did the same... although the Kerry Meetup staffer sorta yelled at Meetup hosts what to do (I participated in a few of the national conference calls as research while I wrote my proposal to them and waited to hear their response), whereas Michael was very encouraging of local creativity by Meetup hosts.

by susan 2004-11-22 07:51PM | 0 recs
better context
Chris has done a fantastic job of providing the context for why this approach might work.  The edits he chose from the three pieces are great at building that context.

I wasn't at all surprised that the Kerry campaign didn't hire me, because I was a complete unknown to them from across the country and just about everything I was talking about was completely different from what they were familiar with.  They seemed to have a sense that they needed to figure out some kind of a grassroots program and that things had changed and were changing, but my ideas probably seemed too big a leap.  Chris' contextualization is really good.

by susan 2004-11-22 09:45PM | 0 recs
Re: DFA, if not DNC, for the lead
Your ideas are some of the freshest and most effective I have heard since the election.  Keep pushing these ideas.  I have felt since the beginning of the 2004 campaign that the progressive answer to talk radio was personal word of mouth.  This provides a mechanism for organizing it in a systematic way and giving some coherence and support to the effort.  keep pushing it.
by Mimikatz 2004-11-23 12:31PM | 0 recs
DFA might get it
Oh, and I think DFA is the logical lead on this nationally.  Right now I can't picture the DNC taking the lead.  If Dean or maybe Simon Rosenberg (don't know enough about his views of the grassroots) becomes the chair of the DNC, then I think the DNC would be the logical lead.

I know that a group of the state Dean house party coordinators talked for a while (via a Yahoo group) about getting some national organization to continue to work with us.  We pitched ourselves to the Kerry campaign, to the DNC, to DFA, etc., and no one bit.  A key thing the state coordinators provide is coaching to house party hosts and I think that's really huge.  Potential hosts are often nervous about hosting a house party and the coaching is really a big help to getting the parties off the ground.  The state coordinators also help with recruiting hosts and getting resources (e.g., links to sample invitations, legal advice on fundraising rules, links to online places to buy gear, creative ideas for party activities, etc.) to hosts.  The state coordinators also make sure the hosts are making their parties as successful as possible by encouraging them to invite more people (only about a fourth of invitees showed up in our experience) and providing other tips.

So, the DFA leadership didn't seem to get this about six months ago.  But, they were just launching around that time.  Today might be different.  And, if the DFA staff didn't get it, the DFA Meetups could still do this on their own, because there are national Yahoo list of DFA Meetup hosts, etc.

by susan 2004-11-22 07:38PM | 0 recs
in response
In response to some other recent posts --
The great thing about house parties is that a house party can be set up for any one of the 365 days in the year. If only fervent Dems attend the house parties in 2005, that doesn't mean they won't get more popular in 2006. This a lot better solution than the current model, which is not enough ways exist for people to consistently socialize, exchange books, ideas, etc. Hanging out at the local Democratic headquarters in February of a non election year is not the greatest fun in the world. The great thing about house parties is that no hall has to be rented, and that people can consistently get together. This new model gives people the opportunity to be involved more often than two or three GOTV volunteer sessions once every 2 or 4 years. I have not been to a meetup before, but a good idea might be to have an energizing and popular speaker/writer/ or politician talk at bigger meetup events. For the 40% of people who don't vote and the percentage of people who voted Dem mostly to vote against the other guy, meetups are a tremendous opportunity. People aren't always easily swayed by ads or even by listening to candidates. A moderate or non-voter CAN be affected by a conversation or a speaker that makes an impression on them. One conversation or speaker can cause a chain reaction that gradually, but noticeably changes someone's political temperment, as the person above related about their spouse's co-worker.
by JT 2004-11-22 05:43PM | 0 recs
may not need to be primed and prepped to be "influential." They usually already are. But they do need feed back to help them bear up under the incessant pressure to simply give up put out by the media (give up and just buy, give up and just "have fun") etc.

Another thing:  the one thing that is needed is a strong drive at the local level, not just for the national Democratic aspirations, but for everything from dog catcher to governor.  There are probably more Republican county commissioners than Democrat.  Why?  Because Republicans have seen that they have a vested interest in controlling local property processes, and Democrats haven't.  But county commissioner is a place to start for a lot of people, or school board, or whatever.  

So don't just work at the local level, get local, and grow the party up.

by Carol 2004-11-22 05:46PM | 0 recs
About a week ago I realized that in order to facilitate a cooperative, grass roots policy development effort -- online -- initiated by Dems in my rural area, I'd need to find the right framework online to do it.  We need a conferencing capability.  So I've posted queries just about everywhere and have had no response.

So we Dems are energized and enthusiastic but we're not terribly practical, it seems.  We don't have a whole lot of time before the 2006 midterms. And those midterms are really important.  We need to do whatever we can to change Congress.  No point putting Ms/Mr Ideal in the White House if they're going to have a constant battle with hundreds of Congressional piranhas.

by Bean 2004-11-22 05:52PM | 0 recs
Peter Levine is someone I have a lot of respect for.  He's written eloquently about what needs to be done here.
by Bean 2004-11-22 05:56PM | 0 recs
50 states 100's of CDs & 1000's of precints
The other piece is RTV. Register the voters. Find them neighbor to neighbor and register them. Every state, every congressional district no matter how red, and every precinct.
by Jeff Wegerson 2004-11-22 05:56PM | 0 recs
It Makes Sense
Just rambling out loud here, to refine the ideas, don't think of just a house party by precincts.  Go with the idea of a core group (if possible) of go-to people by precinct.  Where the Democratic Party can put some money to good use is with "professional facilitators" (or something along that line of concept) to assist some hosts with the precinct house party, they can assist with the message, and by virtue of being another invited 'guest' will strengthen the message. (I'm a good example, I don't communicate well, and could use assistance with the nuances and framing of a message).

Perhaps, better yet, take the time to develop a 'core' of people within a precinct, allow and let the core decide as a group how to help divide responsibilities.  There are three churches in my precinct alone, why have only one house party?

The hardest part of this is finding people just outside of your precinct who are willing to head up an organization within their precinct.  This is really where we need to get started soon to nuture and make something like this grow.  

I do believe that neighbors on the ground make a difference.  Of three precincts that vote at my polling place, the two without Party precinct captains went for Bush.  My precinct went for Kerry.  I was unaware that these other two precincts had no local Party leadership until Election Day!  

However, in the beginning it should be a very soft sell, with most of the emphysis on examining the Administration's Faults.  Ask for the money later.  Start the education now.

It think this is an idea that can snowball quickly.  Hope the wanderings make sense...

by NvDem 2004-11-22 06:05PM | 0 recs
My husband and I just hosted our first house party, for MoveOn.  People left with a sense of pride and hope.  We have hard work to do and folks are ready to roll up their sleeves.  We want to have potlucks, brown bag lunches, start a book group, host skills-building workshops, get our message across.

We're going to do it.  We're going to learn how to talk to conservatives.  We're going to infiltrate the local Democratic party.  We're going to read and debate and share ideas.  We're going to win, because the alternative is a country we don't want to live in.

by pammo 2004-11-22 06:07PM | 0 recs
Let me add something else
We continued meetups right through until the end of the election, getting about 150-200 people each month. Though we never did the house parties.

We used our large group meetups to bring in new folk (we advertised it on the Kerry website and the local papers anmd our website) and also to co-ordinate the months coming activities, and training needed. Folks would sign up for stuff. We had a BBQ night, a going up river night and a debate night too, plus a few nights with key note speakers. Was a lot of fun I think, and while it didnt directly help the final vote total, it did energize people and bring in new volunteers that could then go off and help GOTV stuff.

now, the one thing I would add, that worked VERY well, in fact more effective than phonebanking ever was, was we staffed stands at ALL the local fair, and entered all the local parades, so we had regular people coming to us, rather than us going to them. We could talk with them, hand out literature, even get donations (we sold yard signs, buttons bumpers etc) and also signed up maybe 35% of our crew through these events.

The one thing looking back I wished we had done, especially for the bigger weeklong fairs, was invite kids or seniors along and give them a day out...next time we will.

by Pounder 2004-11-22 06:25PM | 0 recs
and what about message?
we had oodles of diaries on this site and others, abuot distilling our message to core principles.

But we have no agreement, and no mechanism in place for crating our core message of rebranding the party.

That's what we want our new DNC head to do, I guess, but there's no sense having these meetings unless the core message is in place.

Other than that, the strategy of empowering and supporting the nighbors and house party people all across the country seems pretty obvious, and essential, and not just during the so-called "election cycle."

by Pachacutec 2004-11-22 06:29PM | 0 recs
my experience
It's really easy to talk to the already converted. When we talk about the organizing challenge (which I differentiate from the frame/message/think tank/policy question, though obviously connected), we need to think about institutions, where they are now, how they work and how they are built...we can't expect for MeetUps alone to extend the conversations outside of the circles we are in.

We can expect Meetups, etc to be a part of the base-building, but we must answer the fundamental questions, for example:

Members of labor unions vote for us in inordinate numbers.  Why?  Because the institution of union raises their awareness of members that they are powerful when they act collectively...and when that's true people begin to value the message of their own experience..not the message foisted on them.

So to create forums where we talk to ourselves is only a piece of organizing our base...critical, necessary, important.  How do we create, support and build the institutions and therefore the conversations that pop across social and class lines?  How do we extend the area where it is okay to have political converstations?

by heymister 2004-11-22 06:41PM | 0 recs
Re: my experience
It's not something that will happen over night would be my answer to you. The solution is to realize that you are trying to convert a small number of people at a time.

Here's how it would work (I am taking this from my experience with business). You have in any given room 100 hundred people. Of those hundred, you can't talk to them all. What  you do is try to pull in a realistic number - let's say 5 people. you will leave that  night out of 100 people with 5 good prospects. You will talk to them, follow up, take them to lunch, and so it beguns a slow shift of multiple conversation. I would argue not waiting until an eleciton y ear. By doing this when it is not in an election  year, the heat of passion has worn off.

I have talked to people who discribe themselves as "conservatives" and in two cases "evangelicals christians." I will recount the evangelicals as a means of how to effectively engage someone on what may at first seem an impossible topic- Gay marriage or Civil unions. I started slow- by first making it clear that I respec their faith. We built a relationship up over time- talking about the various issues- I asked them about fairness- this was the first hook- if they believe in fairness- you can normally convince people of stuff like civil unions. You say to them- you know it's about basic fairness- should I be paying more in taxes than you when we are making the same money? Don't you appreciate not having to pay as much as I do for your health insurance? Now, this in part worked because I put the effort into building the relationship with these two very conservative guys. I added  you know- here's the deal- do you think it's right to even have government involved in your religion at all- do you want them controling it? Isn't that what you are talking about with marriage. This is how these things can work - at least in my experience.

by bruh21 2004-11-22 07:04PM | 0 recs
Re: my experience
Incidentally going back to the numbers- let's say you set targets- 5 per meeting or 2, and you have several thousand operatives per state- if in any given crowd you can convert these numbers over time it will add up to the 3 percent needed to shift to the majority party again.
by bruh21 2004-11-22 07:07PM | 0 recs
Re: my experience
I do think that meetups and the like can be the core for creating new institutions and mobilizing Chris' 21% or whatever it is that calls itself liberals.  That 21% or some significant portion can be a very powerful base..though frankly I'd like the democratic party to be at least one powerful institution that I'd be proud to be a part of, rather than half nauseated.

I just think that Meetups aren't really a method for talking to those who don't yet agree with...they are a method for building the base (which DNC/Kerry Edwards and ACT didn't do a good job of).  Our strategy needs to respect that crossing class and race boundaries with our message takes the kind of transformative, consciousness raising conversations that often come through institutions such as:

-churches (ughh)

where people come together, powerfully and collectively.

by heymister 2004-11-22 07:34PM | 0 recs
Re: my experience
i totally agree with this- this isn't and either or situation- these things should all be used in conjunction and to use a marketing term in order to get into the mindshare of a persons time you need to approach them in areas of which they connect to y ou such as at church or pta or sports or etc. one of the reasons why i think also agood idea is that it focuses on the local rather than on the natio nal which is where it hink the dems have gotten lazy- being in power for 50 years made them not stay attuned to the base- and therefore they are more likely to loose because they are disconnected from the base
by bruh21 2004-11-22 08:50PM | 0 recs
Meetups vs. house parties
If the Meetups are a place to recruit and encourage house party hosts, yes, they might be mostly committed activists already there at the Meetup.  But the house parties themselves can be for a wide variety of neighbors.

Also, I've found that some people attend Meetups because their friend brought them there that evening, or "just to check it out."  So, even at Meetups there are some people who may not be in the solid base.

by susan 2004-11-22 09:37PM | 0 recs
Re: my experience
I haven't had the time to read all the posts on this topic, but having just attended a MoveOn meet up in San Francisco, I have a few thoughts...

I think the value of starting small with regular house parties and then branching out is that you create a social forum that provides an atmosphere of collectivity, action, and community.  The group itself becomes a sort of family, a desired place to go, a social outlet as well a poltical gathering. The group expands beyond socializing and discussing politics to becoming more educated about candidates, issues, etc. More people are brought in, not only because they want to work for change, but because the meet up is a desired place to be.  I think the trick will be to get things done while still making it an enjoyable situation  . But starting small and branching out in a sustainable way can work the best for the long run.

by ksh 2004-11-22 07:57PM | 0 recs
Re: my experience
The process is the solution.
by Gary Boatwright 2004-11-22 08:05PM | 0 recs
so... how?
I'm a web programmer.  So, where do you get a database of precincts nationwide?  And a way for someone to type in their nine-digit zipcode (or address) and find out what precinct (and congressional district, and county) they are in?  It seems that's all you need to start.

The second thing you need is a way to calculate the distance between those zip codes and addresses, so you can have a house party encompass a wider area if there aren't enough people in one precinct.

Anyone know where to get these data sources for free?

by tunesmith 2004-11-22 07:13PM | 0 recs
Re: so... how?
you can get all of this through marketing organizations- these databases are provided based on zip code and can tell you thinks like the demographic make up of these areas
by bruh21 2004-11-22 07:21PM | 0 recs
Maybe not free, but cheap.
Here's a site that sells a zipcode database for $40 which includes longitude and latitude information that can be used to calculate distances. Pretty easy to do.  I use it on my own website to calculate sunrise & sunset times - which drives the look-and-feel of my site - and also fetch weather information from the US weather service.

Online precinct mapping is a much trickier proposition. I've only seen such maps for sale as part of applications that are fairly pricey. Precincts are a finer-grained mapping than Zip Code, and they are managed on a much more local level, which makes it harder to aggregate the data.

by Malacandra 2004-11-22 09:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Maybe not free, but cheap.
Yeah, that's what is needed... a zip code encompasses several precincts and even multiple congressional districts in cases.  Around here, zip codes never span multiple counties, but maybe they do in places.

I don't really know how nine-digit zip codes work... maybe they are more granular than precincts.  But then again, they could still overlap multiple precincts.

Man, a nationwide database of precinct boundaries is definitely something that should exist if it doesn't yet.  Maybe someone could start a company to do the gathering and then sell it.

by tunesmith 2004-11-22 11:08PM | 0 recs
Our county provided precinct maps, I think for free or a very inexpensive price.  I'm sure that varies a lot from place to place.

When we didn't have enough people in a particular precinct to organize it, we expanded to a larger neighborhood of maybe 6 precincts.  We didn't need sophisticated mapping software; the people in the neighborhood knew where they lived.

by susan 2004-11-22 09:34PM | 0 recs
A narrative from "Soul of a Citizen"
by Paul Rogat Loeb:

Rebecca was two months pregnant and

on the spur of the moment, she approaced a woman in the elvator of their large Boston apartment building. The other woman was about eight monts pregnant. Although they'd never spoken, Rebecca introduced herself and blurted, "I see you're pregnant, I am, too. What if we exchanged babysitting?"  ...

She and her new friend invited several others they'd met in the neighborhood to participate, including a nun who took care of the baby of a surgical intern. The group soon became a close-knit extended family, baby-sitting each other's children daily, holding a weekly play group, sharing emotional support, volunteering together at a local community help line, and exchanging tips on raising children, staying healthy, and managing crowded lives.

In time, twenty families were involved, and the co-op had become permanently woven into the fabric of their neighborhood. "It just seems like a more hopeful way to live," Rebecca recalls years later, after she and I met-and eventually married. "Finding group solutions to individual problems, I felt a lot less alone."


Our problems can often best be solved through common effort ... We begin to reconnect with our fellow human beings, with our wisest and most humane instincts, and with the core of who we are, which we call our soul.

by Gary Boatwright 2004-11-22 08:04PM | 0 recs
The Ownership Campaign
I was also involved in Dean House Parties in my neck of the woods (and did some national promotional work for them, too) and I think they were extremely effective in terms of outreach and fund raising...

But I think the one thing that is most salient (apologies to David) features about this effort - and indeed the way the entire Dean campaign was run is that once you get people involved in holding house parties, they're not just voters. They're not just volunteers... it becomes their campaign. I think this helps inspire greater dedication and loyalty.

It's useful to develop flexible grass-roots infrastructure tools to facilitate the process... and the Dean campaign (and volunteers) did. For example, we had customizable event announcements that could be easily localized on-line and printed up by meetup hosts as invitations and posted in libraries, grocery stores, etc. An example is here.

Small pieces, loosely joined: it's a robust model that localizes the campaign, and is a major force multiplier.

by Malacandra 2004-11-22 08:53PM | 0 recs
Brilliant Idea!
This is a brilliant idea, and it's brought out some brilliant responses--as well as some very astute observations about what it doesn't do, or might have trouble doing. I'd like to make 4 comments. One highlighting a benefit this idea would have, and three addressing other pieces that I feel would make it stronger:

(1) One benefit of this approach is that it has the potential to build political community in a very real way that has a direct impact on elections. This is dealt with in a an online chapter from the book The Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy From Extinction, which can be found here, along with blurbs from Molly Ivans, George Lakoff and Wes Boyd.

At one point, he writes (based on empirical evidence):

Voter participation will increase if and when citizens are able to acquire valuable political
information from friends, family, coworkers, or others in their communities. Preparing the ground for such increases in information exchange could be costly in time and money. On the other hand, the
returns increase exponentially.

Three points:

  • Republicans are much better represented in communities where valuable political information is easier to get.
  • Potential Democratic voters are more easily discouraged by nagative campaigning, in part because they don't come by valuable political information in their everyday lives--a condition that Chris's idea would help remedy.
  • Chris's idea is a way to make it less costly in money, and make the time more enjoyable, spread out beyond the normal election cycle.

(2) If we're going to get people together like this, we really need to be working on framing. Discussions of Don't Think of An Elephant would be a great place to start, but we need to be thinking much more long-term about devloping and disseminating frames that reflect the nurturant parent value system--especially among influentials.  I don't know what the best form for this would take. It would probably be a good idea to talk to the folks at the Rockridge Institute and see what ideas they might suggest.  

(3) One of the best ways to draw people in locally is to talk about salient local issues--particularly if there's a real opportunity to have a tangible result that really impacts people's lives. In such a circumstance, public forums can bring out hundreds of people we haven't engaged with before.

Naturally, it's more efficient if we can find broad categories that encompass a lot of local issues. For example, environmental racism is an example of a topic that can really help bring out people in minority communities who are justifiably suspicious of national party leadership. These issues often involve decisionmaking at both the local and state level--sometimes the federal level as well.

(4) Take advantage of public events, especially ones with an obvious political opening: Martin Luther King Day events, Earth Day events, etc.  These are perfect opportunities to do outreach. They are especially good opportunities to listen to people, and learn about what would interest them in working with you.  

by Paul Rosenberg 2004-11-22 09:50PM | 0 recs
yes and no
My experience in the campaign this year included meetups and talking to people who know me about the election, their concerns, and why John Kerry was the better choice.  By far, the second of those two activities worked better.

Meetups can help if they lead to networking and SUSTAINED face to face, especially based on some prior form of association, which could be neighborhood (but how many people actually know their neighbors; there is much more to gain from not talking politics than talking politics in most instances---you want just to get along) but could be through workplace, other organizations, parent teachers, etc.  These need to be peer-to-peer, with nobody depending on the other for their job, or anything else.

If you are a liberal talking to conservatives, it's going to take time and trust.  There is no magic formula.  It starts with listening.  Actually it starts with the other person having a somewhat open mind, which often happens because they are troubled by something---like Iraq, or deficits, or the environment.  

So in organizing, I'd say there has to be followup, there has to be more than one such discussion.  The first might just be listening to them, asking questions, offering some general points but offering to get back to them with more specific information, getting an email address, phone # etc. and responding that way.  

Inevitably,when you listen to people's concerns, and they trust you, you will find that what they need is a mixture of facts and values statements, comparisons, and yes, litanies of programs.  What else were those enormously popular State of the Union addresses that Clinton gave but lists of programs, tied together with themes?  My point here is that you can't pre-craft the message.  You have to be able to respond to their concerns.  That's hard.  But the beauty of it is, you don't have to guess what their concerns are.

As for preaching to the choir, it's a metaphor that never made any sense to me.  Basically it means that nobody else showed up, so the preacher is talking to people who are more or less employees.  There's another expression: preaching to the converted, which means essentially preaching to the congregation, the people who showed up.  And that's simply what preachers do.  All other metaphors based on these need to be better grounded in what they are really trying to say.

Finally, this does need to be part of a strategy, but not the whole strategy.  You increase the congregation by the reputation the preacher gets, which can be based on personality, message, delivery, and usually all of that.  So there's bottom up, and there's top down, and they need to work together.  

Any strategy depends on whether a given person or people are persuadable.  You aren't going to get people who are addicted to Rush, who get their rush from Rush, with a few soirees or even heart-to-hearts. But you don't have to.  We need another 3%.              

by dash 2004-11-22 10:12PM | 0 recs
Deja Vu
It's funny. When you read enough history, nothing looks new anymore. The proposed cell-based strategy bears more than a slight resemblance to the Committees of Correspondence during the American Revolution. These tactics were elaborated by socialists, communists, and the new left in the 19th & 20th centuries (with study groups and cell-based organizations). Heck, even Al Quaeda uses them!

This is not to say they don't work. They are in fact extremely effective. It's just reminds me that there is nothing new under the sun.

Having said all that, I think we need to read up on how these methods have worked in the past. For example, it was usually the place of employment rather than neighborhoods that the cells were structured around. This approach fits better with today's social environment, given the atomized character of contemporary American life.

by thirdestate 2004-11-23 02:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Deja Vu
When considering the workplace, don't forget the army of "stay-at-home" moms.  We'd do well to harness the energies of the many educated, articulate, motivated women ready to do battle with the Right.  Issues that resonate with them include the war, education, health care, the environment, the economy (not saddling the kids with a backpack of debt), and abortion, to name a few.
by pammo 2004-11-23 04:00AM | 0 recs
do both
Parties or meetings can be in neighborhoods or workplaces.  If they are precinct-based, that's likely to be residential neighborhoods.  But, if there are people who work long hours in a downtown location, they could get together socially and talk politics during a work break...
by susan 2004-11-23 08:40PM | 0 recs
we've got a winner
Thanks so much to Chris and Susan for starting this discussion.  I think the meetups is a great idea.  I know a number of  liberals who became active in politics for the first time in '04.  Most of them still want to stay active.  The meetups would be one important step because it would be relatively easy to do.  It would also be a good forum for us to explain ideas: i don't think the 30 second commerical is the best venue for explaining our policies and positions.

We should start in '05.  We can be sure taht the Republicans are alrady planning for the next elections.

by KDMfromPhila 2004-11-23 02:42AM | 0 recs
New residents
One thing that occurs to me is that many, many northerners and Midwesterners are moving to the south and southwest.  While they do bring their slightly more progressive ideas with them, they are strangers in town as far as politics are concerned.  The Meetup/House Party idea is a great way for them to connect with other new residents and to quickly become involved in local politics – a Progressive Newcomers Club.  Instead of them adopting the local conservative culture, they can bring more of their own to the local dialogue.

Consider this – there are now more people living in Mecklenburg County (Charlotte) who were not born in that county than those who were born in that county.  And Kerry carried Mecklenburg County.  

This could be very powerful.

by The Goatherder 2004-11-23 06:38AM | 0 recs
Progressive newcomers club
How funny!  I was in a local meeting this week where we talked about the role of our local DFA Meetup relative to the local Democratic clubs.  I mentioned that progressives new to town sometimes already know of DFA and come to our local DFA Meetup in order to find out what the local progressive community is like.  One person in the meeting said, "So the DFA Meetup is like a progressive newcomers club."

I think it's much more than that -- but that is an important role too.

by susan 2004-11-23 08:42PM | 0 recs
Organize around community service
I realize this thread was started yesterday evening, but thought I'd toss in my own two cents worth in case anyone is still reading.

First, Chris has a great idea - use the local structures developed during the campaign(s)- the meetups and local parties, to extend the  Dem message.

My own suggestion is that these local organizations - whatever one calls them - be organized around community service with politics as a secondary motivation. Local precinct groups can organize around a needed community service like supporting a daycare center for working mums, raising money for after-school programs at the local HS, park and roadside cleanup days, or any of the many other services that are needed in our communities.

The reason for this is that the Democratic Party is no longer perceived to be the party of the common working man that is dedicated to economic justice and the expansion of the middle class. Dems need to reconnect with voters AS PEOPLE, not as political opportunists. By organizing around a community service project, Dems will be able to convert voters by demonstrating that they are the CAN DO PARTY, committed to families, communities, and the nation.

Most importantly, by using this approach, Dems will have the opportunity to meet and speak with people who are of other mindsets, so they are not preaching to the choir. Community service draws in all kinds of people who want to make some kind of contribution to their communities and meet likeminded people.

This is soooo simple that Dems should be kicking themselves for not thinking of it sooner. My own experience raising money for Little League uniforms and equipment convinces me that this is a realistic proposition.

by skrymir 2004-11-23 07:26AM | 0 recs
I Think You've Taken This to A New Important Level
Meetups and House Parties without purpose don't accomplish much but getting to know a few people.

On the other hand, I found that working closely with others on campaign activities built a strong bond with those folks.  Of course, those folks were already of like mind so no minds were really changed as a result.

Your idea figures to bring in a  broader cross-section of people and if Digby and TNR pieces on "the undecided voter" who are the only persuadables, is correct, they regard "doing" politics as they regard doing laundry, a necessity, but not an enjoyable necessity.  As a matter of fact, it's all they can do to manage to half inform themselves every two years and drag themselves to the polls.

Your idea provides a way to POSSIBLY move to something more enjoyable which MIGHT draw them in.  Although I wonder if they have any understanding of the concept of good citizenship and what it means and if they could ever be persuaded to draw themselves away from reality shows, sporting fandom and other distractions which fill their leisure schedules.

And on a related topic, I still don't get the practical application of this "influentials" thing.  If you're not an influential (probably something you're born with or not), how do you get anything accomplished or change any minds? I sure don't consider myself an "influential" but I'm very well informed and I think pretty articulate.  Still, how can I change minds as an influential?  I'm an introvert, more or less, and don't have a large group of friends or a busy social calendar or a lot of money or a high community profile.

How do I fit into this 50 state "influential" strategy?

by Oleary25 2004-11-23 08:34AM | 0 recs
Re: I Think You've Taken This to A New Important..
I don't think this is primarily about undecided voters for the most part. It's about building a political community, and ultimately, in the long run, changing the political culture of the entire country, from the bottom up. That, in turn, will change the political context, drawing in many who currently don't vote, and making politics less of chore in the eyes of the undecideds.

But even without these long run gains, the creation of political community is an important end in itself.  Just the fact that it can be a much more effective GOTV vehicle is enough to justify it, without any of the other benefits it can bring.  Then there's its capacity to be a breeding ground for candidates--first for local offices, such as schoolboard, then for higher office. There's the educational capacity--not just learning facts, but learning to be more effective communicators (listeners as well as speakers). I could go on and on. This is an idea with a wealth of possiblities inherent in it.

Which brings me to your second question. Where do you fit in?  Well, as far as I'm concerned, this strategy is not about influentials. Influentials have an important role to play, absolutely. But it's not about them. It's about building political community. And everybody has a place in a political community. At least, in a liberal political community they do.

Introverts generally have a lot to contribute. They  often think and reflect more. They often have more insight into what's going on with other introverts as well. Introverts often just don't do small talk very well. But get them together with other introverts over a subject of mutual interest, and they are often capable of amazing things.

So, I think that part of the answer to your question is that it's up to you to answer--because you'll probably come up with better ideas than I will.  Think about the ideas as they're thrown out, and think about how you might fit in, both in terms of what contribution you can make and what kind of satisfaction you can get.  Helping to make it a better community for other introverts is big contribution, indeed.

by Paul Rosenberg 2004-11-23 12:51PM | 0 recs
undecideds at house parties, probably not Meetups
Meetups are a great place to build community with like-minded folks.  I see house parties as a way to reach out to more folks, like undecideds.  If a progressive person attends a Meetup and becomes inspired to host a house party, the person then could invite whichever neighbors live on her street.
by susan 2004-11-23 08:47PM | 0 recs
Please Fully Define "Inflentials"
with examples and if they must be born or can be made. Are you really talking about "salespeople."  If they can be made, how can they be made, using the House Party Meetup Strategy?

Are they, for example:

  1. Wealthy?

  2. Highly educated?

  3. Gregarious?

  4. Attractive?

Here's my beginning of a take on how they could be  trained...

If you read the books on Influence by Robert Chialdini, the six principles of influence are:

  1.  reciprocity
  2.  scarcity
  3.  authority
  4.  consensus
  5.  consistency and commitment
  6.  liking

I think that if "influencers" can be trained the training must incorporate these principles.
by Oleary25 2004-11-23 08:54AM | 0 recs
Move On moving forward
Thought some of these comments from move on tie in nicely:

Dear MoveOn member,

On Sunday night, tens of thousands of MoveOn members gathered at over 1,600 house parties, from the "Bush Beat Kerry but He Didn't Beat Me" party on Mercer Island, WA to the "(re)Organize!" party in Urbana, OH, to the "Take Back the Power Testimony" party in Huntington, WV. We talked, we ate and drank, we met new friends, and we figured out some of the key priorities for MoveOn in the months and years to come.

MoveOn's purpose is to give real Americans a voice in national politics. We, the MoveOn staff, have always felt that the best way for us to do that is to serve you -- to figure out where you want to go and to identify the most effective means of getting there. That's what these parties were about.

Before we report back the results, it's not too late for those of you who weren't able to make it to a party -- or those who came up with a great idea as you were driving home -- to add your thoughts to the pot. We've set up an online, reader-moderated forum -- the ActionForum -- where everyone can contribute their ideas, and the ones that people agree with most rise to the top.

You can post your ideas on the forum now at:


In living rooms, bars, and rented church rooms across the country, MoveOn members gathered to discuss two key questions. First, party attendees were asked to determine which issues were most important for all of us to pursue together in the next four years. When all the votes were tabulated, the top issues were clear:

  1. Election reform -- 5691 votes
  2. Media reform -- 4529 votes
  3. The Iraq war -- 4488 votes
  4. The environment -- 3581 votes
  5. The Supreme Court -- 3031 votes
  6. Civil liberties -- 3018 votes

We also asked you to think about the top strategies MoveOn should pursue going forward. On the top of the list was a desire to more clearly articulate commonly held values -- our progressive vision for a free and just America that is once again a model of peace, liberty, and prosperity to the rest of the world (9243 votes). But that wasn't all -- you also felt we should build the political force we're creating together by organizing local precinct networks (5558 votes) and run progressives for Congress (3629 votes).

We take this input very seriously, and as we shape our program, you can be sure that developing a progressive message, building new grassroots leadership, and taking what we accomplished together in Leave No Voter Behind to the next level will be key parts of our plan. We'll report back as elements of our strategy come together.

On issues, we'll start our work today. After pushing so hard to turn out hundreds of thousands of new voters, it's not surprising that many of you were appalled at the way the election was run. We're working to make sure that every last vote is counted, that the thousands of reports of suppression and fraud are investigated, and that laws are passed in Congress to make sure that the problems we saw with voting machines and in polling places never happen again. We're also helping with the expected recount in Ohio.

We'll also keep up our work on news organizations. Ever since the media gave Bush a pass in the run-up to the Iraq war, media reform has been a core issue for MoveOn. In the next few years, we'll be working with media watchdog organizations like Media Matters and media policy organizations like Free Press and Common Cause to make sure that journalists report the truth and are held accountable when they don't.

Right now, the top comment on the ActionForum is, "Bush has been re-elected, and probably feels like he has a free hand to do whatever he likes. We must work to block his dangerous appointments to the Supreme Court. Those appointments will continue long after Bush has gone." We heard interest from many of you in working on appointing reasonable justices to the Supreme Court and protecting civil liberties. We'll certainly be taking that on as well.

Zooming out from the issues you picked, the parties this weekend clearly proved two important things:

First, you proved once again that progressive values are American values. Democracy, liberty, justice, and peace have always been important parts of the American identity. And while we've got work to do to articulate a message that resonates with the rest of the country, we are already grounded in values which people in red states and blue states can agree on. As one party attendee put it: "We need to work on changing the media through laws, etc, but not so much change ourselves as the public perception of ourselves."

Second, you proved that we're not going away, and not giving up -- that we truly are stronger than ever. Host after host reported back that people are ready to do what it takes to get our country back. One host wrote, "This was our first Move On party and our guests were a mix of friends and people from the neighborhood who I've never met before, but one couple lived right across the street. That was the great thing about this party -- just coming together was a powerful and empowering experience." An attendee told us, "Many of us were strangers before tonight, but we found we truly belonged together in a progressive family." And another party host reported, "Energy was high, people spoke passionately and stayed late into the evening forming alliances, discussing project ideas and we also had a great time. A groundswell is happening."

Your energy, action, and continued commitment are the greatest source of hope we know.

This is just the beginning, and it's clear that you're ready to get back to work. We'll support that every way we know how. To quote the title of a Seattle party, "OK, so maybe the next election is the most important."

Thanks for everything you do,

--Adam, Eli, Hannah, James, Laura, and the whole MoveOn PAC Team
  November 23rd, 2004

PAID FOR BY MOVEON PAC www.moveonpac.org
Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

by lutton 2004-11-23 01:04PM | 0 recs


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