In response to 'Strip-mining the Grassroots'

I've been frustrated with Greg's series, at first because it seemed to me that he was out to `take down' something that I've put a lot of myself into. I worked in the PIRG world for many years--all my adult life. I was one of the people who built Grassroots Campaigns. I've since moved on from GCI, into a new life; but it still means a lot to me. I've had the kind of experiences that simply can't be nailed down in a few blog posts; Greg, on the other hand, worked for us for ten weeks.

But I'm also frustrated because as he pieced together his critique, I knew that it was something that essentially rings true. And the period of time that Greg worked for us was one of the most intense phases in all my experience with this model. It was intense enough to burn me out almost entirely. In the course of an extended, heated off-blog discussion with Greg, I decided that I would try to help this discussion by providing some context from above. (This is cross-posted from Kos.)

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Campaign Stats Round-Up

Here is a look at some numbers that are shaping the 2006 campaign:
  • The DCCC has surpassed the NRCC in terms of cash on hand, largely because of the huge expenditures the NRCC made in CA-50. I can imagine the strategy now--dup unprecedented amounts of cash into defending the heavily Republican CA-50 in order to change the media narrative on the 2006 election and drive up Republican fundraising. Only problem for Republicans now is that both the NRCC and the NRSC trail their Democratic counterparts in terms of cash on hand. Has that ever happened before?

  • The Democratic lead in the congressional generic ballot is still hovering around 10 points. While it is comforting to have a lead in polls and a lead in cash on hand (again, when has that ever happened before?) I still worry that we are under-performing and about what will happen to our lead when it comes time to measure likely voters instead of registered voters.

  • Survey USA has its latest 100 Senator approval poll. Kos highlights some of the numbers. Note that Lieberman's disapproval among Democrats is now net negative.

  • In Ohio, according to Survey USA, Sherrod Brown has pulled away from Mike DeWine, and now leads 48-39. If another poll confirms that result, then Democrats have moved a second race into the "likely pickup" category. Interesting that one of the more conservative Democrats running for Senate, Bob Casey, and perhaps the most progressive Democrat among the top tier, Sherrod Brown, are both doing so well. Clearly, it is not always about ideology.

  • As Democrats look ready to secure another likely pickup, the best Republican chance is fading. In New Jersey, Bob Menendez leads Kean 43-36 according to Qunnipiac. Considering the way polling has functioned in New Jersey over the last few years, a seven-point lead for a Democrat probably means a comfortable, double-digit lead. Why has Menendez taken the lead? I think the answer is easy: Scott Shields. First Matt elects Corzine, and now Scott elects Menendez--New Jersey owes MyDD big. J

  • According to Rasumssen, Whitehouse and Chafee are statistically tied in Rhode Island. With Chafee at only 44%, he is real trouble. It will be a sad day for the progressive advocacy establishment when Democrats retake the Senate because of Rhode Island. Maybe they can endorse Trent Lott for minority leader.

  • In Virginia, with the race at 51-41, Webb is on the brink of putting another Senate seat into play, once again according to Rasumssen.

  • Days until November 7th: 140. That's twenty weeks.

  • Days since I promised you permanent election forecast pages: nine. Days until I can make it happen: at least seven more.
The is an open election thread.

Strip-mining the Grassroots (conclusion): Toward a progressive canvass model

bumped - Matt

-/-

(This will be the final post in this series. I apologize for the delay -- my time was taken first by YearlyKos and then in preparation for my next series.)

Grassroots Campaigns Inc's canvassers are out in twenty some-odd cities right now, wearing Democratic National Committee t-shirts and asking citizens if they 'want to help end the Republican majority.' They tell people that they are 'working to build support for this November's elections'; they imply that they are part of the DNC's 50 State Strategy, and they claim that a 'big show of grassroots energy' in the x days before the election will ensure victory for the party. Finally, they say the best way to help is with a $100 check made out to the DNC.

This is all rather misleading.

First of all, GCI's canvass campaign is entirely separate from the DNC's 50 State Strategy (more about this separation here, 1/3 of the way down); it's not a field organizing operation, but a financial base-building operation. And as with most base-building operations, most of this money will actually go to cover the canvassers' own overhead -- the DNC's benefit is primarily in the long-term, from the new donors added to its membership rolls. When it comes to influencing the 2006 election, those $100 checks would be far more effective if given directly to state or local parties.

The underlying justification for the campaign is that each donation is an investment that strengthens the donor's bond with the Democratic party. But so far in this series, I have  argued that this is an unhealthy investment relationship. These canvassers are not trained to articulate the Democratic party's message, and they are uninformed about the state and local politics. They are instructed to direct every conversation towards the maximum possible donation, and to cut off conversations that don't appear to be headed that way. The young, passionate management staff works for less than minimum wage, 12 to 15 hours a day, seven days a week, and almost inevitably burns itself out. The result is a system that is efficient at getting names onto a list -- but at what cost?   

This canvass campaign is adopted from the same model (developed by the PIRGs/Fund for Public Interest Research) that has driven much of the non-profit progressive world for decades. Some have argued that this model of activism is a fatal shortcut that has inadvertently helped to strand the Left in a quagmire of civic disengagement. But we need models for effective collective action, now more than ever. This post will look for a way forward, towards a professional, sustainable, progressive model. (It will be specific to the DNC's campaign, but I believe it's an example of the kind of rethinking that is needed throughout the world of this model.)

There's more...

Larry Kissell, NC-08 Kicks off June Fundraisers in a Big Way

Tuesday evening was the first in a series of June fundraisers for Larry Kissell. Young Professionals for Kissell, held their first fundraiser at the Thomas Street Tavern in Charlotte's Plaza-Midwood neighborhood. The back deck provided an excellent venue for the event and the great music was provided by Autumn in August. Artist Terry Thirion offered two beautiful works of art for raffle. I failed to get a picture, but her paintings and sketches can be found at Red Sky Gallery. Pictured at right are Tami V., who organized the event and Megan R., who helped Tami with the details of the event.

Please join me below the fold....

There's more...

On To Yearly Kos

From now until Monday morning, my netroots efforts will be almost entirely devoted to Yearly Kos. This is going to be huge. Here are some notes before I leave:
  • With off-line donations counted in, the BlogPac fundraiser has now reached $7,158.66. That puts us nearly halfway to our goal for the week. Thank you to all those who joined with us. We are on our way, but we need more.

  • Democracy for America has new voting for its next grassroots all-star. Three netroots candidates are on the list: Patrick Murphy, Joe Sestak and Eric Massa. Go vote.

  • James Boyce has the third installment in his excellent series, Meet The Blogger. This week, he features someone you may have heard of by the name of Jerome Armstrong.

  • The only thing I have to add to the many post-mortems on last night elections has to do with absentee ballots. As absentee ballots continue to rise as a percentage of all ballots, Big Dog's strategic advice on absentee ballots must be taken seriously. Within a couple hundred votes, Bilbray received almost precisely the same number of votes among absentee ballots as Republicans who voted absentee. In other words, no matter how poorly a party is doing, an absentee vote is still basically a party-line vote. Absentee Republicans voted straight Republican. While Busby defeated Bilbray by at least 3-1 among independents last night, the absentee voter program never reached the level it should have. Republicans should never have defeated Democrats among absentee turnout by 10,000 votes. Had that margin only been 5,000, Busby would have won last night.

  • As if I needed any more excitement this weekend, the World Cup start on Friday. Fortunately, I will be back in Philly in time to see the USA's first match on Monday.

  • Don't expect much blogging from me this weekend. I will see what I can do, but my schedule is packed. I have a caucus, a workshop, three panels (including two I am moderating), several meetings, numerous interviews, and a few parties to attend. But if you can't rad me online, follow me offline, on either Air America or C-SPAN.
I'll see you in Vegas.

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