Grassroots Campaigns, Inc's Great War of 2004 (p4): Masters and Slaves

So we've been talking about MoveOn PAC's 2004 GOTV campaign, Leave No Voter Behind. About how the company that MoveOn subcontracted, Grassroots Campaigns, Inc (GCI), was significantly delayed in getting its campaign off the ground, and about how its `cutting edge' internet-based computer system (the Web Action Center) collapsed barely a week in. About how, in order to make up for these setbacks, GCI forced its organizers to redouble their recruitment, at the expense of training their volunteers--which effectively `broke' its own campaign model, but succeeded in getting GCI re-hired by MoveOn for 2006. All along, I've been saying that this conversation is building to a constructive point - but before that can happen, it's important that I fully illustrate the rather bold claim made in the first post: that the result was, for many involved, `a soul-crushing experience.'

I want to make sure that when you read that 'half of the organizer staff didn't make it to Election Day,' you see more than a number. But so far, this analysis has been mostly macro -- largely because I didn't want our discussion to get bogged down in tedium and quibble. After all, campaigns are `hard work,' inevitably there are going to be some feelings hurt along the way, and as Zack Exley pointed out in the comments:

the problems you're describing are systemic to all politics...and really to the question of organization in general.

Indeed - but if we can identify a pattern to the problems, then we can think about a solution. So let's get micro. Here are four stories that are representative of the dozens of people I've interviewed - they are mostly about the relationships between the Field Organizers (FOs), who worked directly with the volunteers, and their supervising Lead Organizers (LOs). I've changed some details to keep things anonymous, but there is no invention here.

- / -

John's crew arrived in their assigned city to find that their office was an open floor in a basement -- "no desks, no wiring, no anything, and it took two days for anyone to figure out that no one was coming to set us up." John, who had worked as a Canvass Director for months at a minor DNC office, and had run a very successful campus organizing office for Gore in 2000, offered to arrange and manage the utilities himself.

He was told that his LO would handle it.
Days passed without progress.
"It eventually became clear that it wasn't just the fault of our lead organizers there," John says. "She was getting mixed signals from above on whether she had the authority to make the necessary calls."

In the meantime, organizers weren't allowed to use Starbucks or the facilities of a nearby university (for wi-fi security concerns). Instead, the LOs printed up call lists of MoveOn members, and the FOs used their cell phones to recruit volunteers.

Communications dysfunction was the lesser of John's problems. His assigned precincts were in a town a full an hour away from the office -- he couldn't get any recruits to attend the MoveOn meetings. Along with another FO whose precincts were 'out there,' John began to schedule meetings that were more local -- but his LO insisted on being present to run them. This chained the meetings to the LO's schedule, which rarely allowed for the several hours of driving time required. When clearance finally came for John to run his own meetings, management insisted that he drive back to the office in between every local session. This put him in the car for upwards of five hours a day.

John did some research and found a small office near his precincts, complete with phones and internet access. "We did the math, and ran all that gas mileage up against the cost of rent, and it would have cost about twenty dollars more to just get the office."

But they were not allowed to do so.
"The LOs claimed that they didn't have authority to let us go, and more importantly, the state directors wanted them to keep monitoring our calling hours."

John wasn't the only one struggling -- even those organizers who had precincts closer to the office were still way behind in their numbers. "It wasn't working for anyone. But when we would go to [the LOs] to tell them about something that was keeping us from getting the numbers, we'd always have a proposed solution. 'Here's the problem, here's what we can do about it.' Every time, they reacted as if we were complaining. They'd actually tell us, 'I don't think you really care about this campaign, you're totally replacable, any number of people would be here in your spot.'"

The working atmosphere steadily worsened. At one point, the LOs started making all FOs place their cell phones in a box, so that their volunteers could not reach them during calling hours.

"A lot of [the FOs] were ready to quit together, and it became clear that something had to give -- I was at the point where I just couldn't stand to see anyone treated like this, so for my own sanity I went to talk [with the LO] about it, to see where the cards would fall."

The cards fell with the LO in tears, and John leaving the campaign. The other LO told him to get his stuff and leave during lunch without speaking with his co-workers. John originally intended to go volunteer for the local Kerry campaign office, but he found himself broke from a $600 cell phone bill and various other out-of-pocket expenses, and he had to return home.

        - / -

Esteban had briefly trained and worked under John on the DNC campaign; he had virtually no organizing experience prior to that. But Esteban went into Leave No Voter Behind with an advantage that most organizers lacked: he was assigned to his hometown.

Yet when he arrived at the MoveOn office there, he discovered that the organizers' precincts had been assigned almost randomly, scattered amongst each other, far and wide across a large metropolitan area. "People questioned that," Esteban says, "but [the LOs] just told us we didn't have time to change things around. This was my home neighborhood, though--so I found the time."

Esteban pressed his LOs on the issue "about four or five times a day," and a few days later, he was switched into his neighborhood's precincts.

This would grant Esteban another, unexpected advantage when a new problem revealed itself: the MoveOn office was about forty minutes away from his home neighborhood, assuming good traffic-- not quite as far as John's, but few of his recruits would ever make the trip. Esteban immediately scheduled special bi-weekly meetings at his home. At first, his Lead Organizer insisted at being present to run these recruitment meetings. But when the WAC began to crash, and the office as a whole fell farther behind, Esteban was allowed to run the meetings himself.

"That was pretty lucky -- most organizers were locked into working out of the office, without any control over how their volunteers would be recruited. But by that point my LO was willing to at least try to let us do whatever we had to do." He adds about his LO: "He'd been hired by MoveOn, not GCI, and was kind of baffled by the PIRG mentality."

Using the meetings as an excuse, Esteban was able to work away from the office almost every other day. Two weeks into the campaign, he started making up his cold-calling numbers.

"I found that I could call for three hours the night before a meeting and get eight people to my house the next day. I didn't need any more than that." The rest of the time, Esteban worked one-on-one with precinct leaders and canvassed with groups.

In all, Esteban says that four out of fourteen people in his office stopped calling regularly and instead made up their recruitment numbers -- two of those four met their final goals of 1625 voters contacted. Out of the other ten organizers who were stuck in the office calling for six or more hours every day, only one met the goals; the rest didn't come close.

However, just 36 hours before the election, Esteban and the three others came very close to getting fired.

"The Assistant Organizing Director guy realized that we were basically calling our own shots, and he told our Lead Organizer to get rid of us on the weekend before the election. But our LO was just like, 'that's ridiculous, they have the best teams in the office.' I think he almost got himself fired for that."

    - / -

Several times a week, when being "scolded" for low recruitment numbers, Esteban's office would hear about the office from across the state, run by Lead Organizer Mel -- Mel's Field Organizers were, apparently, hitting all their numbers.

Those organizers confirm that Mel was a strong meeting leader, and would regularly turn a more half of the recruits in a room into Precinct Leaders. But their office still struggled to make the model work. Mel found that many of their volunteers were elderly, and not prepared to use the computer system or canvass substantially. Early on, Mel encouraged her organizers to vary their volunteers' roles, so that every person recruited would be able to perform a service. In a few cases, she also stationed her FOs in satellite locations, closer to their precincts. She adds that this was the kind of thing other LOs often weren't allowed to do, but she slid it past her superiors (Mel's management skills apparently work up as well as down).

But after the WAC crash, her office slid far behind the recruitment goals as dictated from above, and Mel was under great pressure to get their calling hours even farther up. Mel, who had a good deal of management experience from before the campaign, saw that her organizers would be better able to contact more voters by working closer with their existing volunteers. So Mel kept reporting the correct voter contact numbers to her superiors, but began to 'sex up' the recruitment numbers.

"Days before the election, we were still supposed to be cold-calling 6 hours a day. I'd told my people a week before to stop calling and start dealing with their PLs," Mel says. "The average age of our people was 60 years old -- those fuckers were old, they didn't know how to deal with the WAC, we have to pay attention to them."

By the final weekend, Mel's office was one of the best in the nation. Not one organizer had quit, and most of her team successfully recontacted their IDed voters. But Mel was not invited to GCI's post-election debrief. She thinks it might be because she was still an 'outsider' (without any prior PIRG experience) -- but more importantly, they probably knew that she had fed them false recruitment numbers.

    - / -

The Las Vegas office was staffed with organizers of considerable experience. Several union organizers, a couple of people with years of work in the Fund, and several organizers who had risen through the ranks of GCI to become personal assistants to executive directors. Their Lead Organizers, however, had no campaign experience. This revealed itself early on.

"I couldn't believe the phone lines weren't up already when we got there," said Lisa, who had assisted helped plan the LNVB national training in Milwaukee before voluntarily stepping down several rungs to be a field organizer. "Fortunately, I still had access to the right people and files in Boston [GCI headquarters], so I just made it happen without waiting for anyone to tell me I could do it."

The office still quickly fell behind its recruitment goals.

"There were parts of the model that we could see right away weren't working," Lisa told me, "so we made proposals. We wanted to try different things, like having some volunteers do our recruitment calling. They were totally unreceptive. Wouldn't even talk about it."

"People in Las Vegas work strange hours," said Stacy, an organizer with two prior years of experience with the Fund. "In some precincts it was just clear that no one was home during the evening. So we wanted to try calling at different times, just to see whether we could get better numbers in the late morning, in the afternoon -- but our LOs just didn't want to hear about it. It was just, 'that's the model, you're sticking to it.'"

At one point, Lisa turned directly to the executive management of GCI, with whom she had worked closely for months. "I called them up and said, `look, if you listen to anyone, let it be me -- it's not working.' They were at this really weird stress point because everything was going wrong everywhere in the country, and that pissed them off even more. They were like, `you need to stick to it as it is.'"

Over the course of the first week, the FOs began meeting separately to talk about the problems, and to try to work up solutions. "The meetings [the LOs ran] were all just about the numbers. So we'd be like, 'ok, we're going to go have our own meeting -- you're welcome to come.'"

This tension within the staff only escalated as the WAC began to crash, and the calling hours were raised to six or more per day. On October 7th, just over a week into the campaign, one of the LOs called one of the FOs into his office.

"She'd been really struggling with her recruitment, and she was very emotional," Stacy said. "But she was totally committed, ready to do anything, even if it wasn't working at first. Then they called her in and said, 'this just isn't right for you--go get your stuff.'"

When word of this firing reached the office, the FOs called a meeting and demanded that the LOs attend.

"They really didn't want to do that," said Lisa. "They were like, 'we'll talk about this tomorrow.' We were like, 'no, we'll talk about this now.'"

The FOs refused to let one of their own be fired for 'not hitting the numbers' -- "especially since so much of it was out of our control," Stacy says. But the LOs refused to engage with the group, and threatened to fire the whole office, and the FOs unanimously walked out.

"At the time, we weren't really thinking, `oh we just could go work somewhere else,'" says Stacy. "We wanted to be a part of it. We came here to see it through. We were frustrated, but we were all still trying to do our job."

Later that night, senior GCI management announced that the office was closed. The next day, GCI called all of the Las Vegas host families to tell them that their guests had been fired; some report that they were told to stop housing the ex-FOs.

"I was devastated," says Dana, another FO. "I'd been so committed, it was my first campaign experience, we'd moved there so excited for this, only to be constantly frustrated at everything we tried to do, to be told we weren't doing it right...and then we find ourselves having to stick up for what we believed in by walking out. It was really shocking to me - but the others told me, `this is not how it usually goes -- the process can be better.' And that immediately proved to be true."

Almost the entire group was hired the following day by another major GOTV operation. They would go on to be canvassers and field trainers, and they report that the rest of their month in Las Vegas was very fruitful.

"There wasn't ever a question," says Dana, "that we would continue working together until the election. For me, that actually made the experience a positive one -- that we all stayed to help each other get through it."

    - / -

I'm sure anyone with extensive campaign experience could pull out a couple of stories that match those of John and the Las Vegas office, in terms of wastefulness and folly.

But the pattern here is clear -- and it is not a simple matter of good managers and bad. In fact, it's the inverse. The LOs in Las Vegas and John's office were merely following the orders passed down from above. In the meantime, the managers who managed to run the best operation (Mel, and Esteban's LO) were those who broke from their instructions. (This pattern can be confirmed by comparing these stories to this comment, which is the most favorable review of the campaign yet to come, at least from outside of GCI management; also see this comment for some quality chuckles). It's also important to note that no one was trying to "break free" of the campaign model - rather, they were all receiving information from the ground and trying to implement the model in the way that best responded to that information. But in doing so, they had to act covertly -- or they had to leave.

This is more than startup company trouble - the pattern reveals a deep institutional imbalance. In my next post, I'll talk about the managerial paradigm behind this imbalance, and explain how it functions to protect itself from feedback and change - so thoroughly, in fact, that the crisis that tore through Leave No Voter Behind continues today within Operation Democracy. I believe this is what people meant when they wrote: "I think this model is broken."

Tags: GCI, GOTV, grassroots, Leave No Voter Behind, master/slave, MoveOn, PIRG, TheFund (all tags)

Comments

17 Comments

Re: Grassroots Campaigns, Inc's Great War of 2004

Thanks for this series Greg. I live in an area heavily targeted by GCI (a town that is a veritable hotbed of liberals). And, although I was briefly a PIRG canvasser in Berkeley many years ago, I didn't put two and two together and recognize that all the canvassers from Human Rights Watch, the DNC and Maryland Environment Watch (and outright PIRG group) were employees of the same company. I did find them similarly annoying and lamented the fact that the only time any progressive group came into our neighborhood was to try and suck more money out of the underpaid progressives who lived there.  Not a word about getting involved in other ways.

But, your post makes me hopeful as it seems like it is more about these groups buying GCI's product than the groups themselves not getting it  (they just "don't get it" enough to hire GCI instead of an alternative -- is there one?).  I'd like to shout out to MyDD one issue we can address - why is Dean's DNC using these soul crushers to build up his donor base?  I signed up for the 50 state pledge and -- after the third DNC canvasser came buy sticking their foot in my door to bleed blood from the stone that is my bank account -- I was about ready to withdraw my pledge.  Dean needs to not rely on these folks. The only purpose -- IMHO -- they serve is to get a short term burst in revenue not to rebuild the party....

by lojo 2006-07-27 09:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Grassroots Campaigns, Inc's Great War of 2004

Eh, that's the thing.  The fundraising canvass is about building a donor base.  The dirty not-so-secret that we've discussed is that canvassing for cash tends to break even, but gets you good names for resolicitation and other types of support.  I don't think the problem is GCI trying to pull blood from the stone (nice phrase!), I think the problem is that the DNC isn't following up to ask for other things like volunteer time.

The question, really, is is there a way to break even or net a minor amount, still gather about the same number of names, and run a canvass that doesn't burn people out in a week?  I'm honestly not sure that it's possible for fundraising (gotv/voter id is another matter...).  It really comes down to how much value you can add to each canvasser hour by increasing training and decreasing staff attrition.  I've never worked as a paid staffer for anyone other then GCI, so I'm not sure if a more progressive model has ever been tried, especially on a large scale.

I do know that it is possible for telephone fundraising (http://www.sharegroup.com/ these guys are unionized, last I've heard).  I've been told by a former co-worker that it's possible for non-fundraising canvassing.  I have no idea if you can put the two together and still break even.

by dansomone 2006-07-27 09:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Grassroots Campaigns, Inc's Great War of 2004

Well, when you're talking about non-fundraising canvassing, there is no "breaking even."  It is certainly possible to give paid canvassers adequate respect and salary--you just gotta have enough money and make the decision that you think it is worthwhile to spend it on field.  Lots of campaigns--at many different levels--do just that.  

I'm going to be hiring some paid canvassers (for a candidate, not a group) soon, and they will be paid decently and not subjected to any bullshit that isn't intrinsic to walking outside on the Oregon Coast in the fall.  We feel that the knowledge and relationship-building benefits of having continuity and quality in these positions will be worth some extra bread.

by Patton 2006-07-27 09:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Grassroots Campaigns, Inc's Great War of 2004

Love to hear more about what you are working on. Is it a state level campaign? (and as a former campaign worker, thank you for sounding like a decent boss)

by Our Gal in Brooklyn 2006-07-27 10:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Grassroots Campaigns, Inc's Great War of 2004

It is a state legislative campaign, but we are heavilly targetted (my candidate lost to this same incumbent by only 400 votes in 2004--despite jumping at the filing deadline with staffing/funding problems) and we'll have the resources to run a bad-ass field program.  

Thanks for saying I sound like a decent boss.  I hope that I am.  A frustrating counter-argument in this whole GCI discussion is that to question GCI's model is to be afraid of hard work.  I think one can be very demanding and still be straight with the people who work for them.
   

by Patton 2006-07-27 12:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Grassroots Campaigns, Inc's Great War of 2004

To be clear about organizations, clients, relationships, etc.:

GCI: DNC, MoveOn, PFAW, Environmental Action (and EAPAC), other partisan stuff

Fund: State PIRGs, State Environment Groups (like Environment California, or Environment Maryland), Human Rights Campaign, Save the Children, Sierra Club, (formerly) Greenpeace

Fund was created by PIRGs in 1980s to run canvassing ops and centralize/integrate admin functions to save on overhead.  They do strictly non-partisan work, and are in fact openly hostile organizationally and personally to partisans and Democrats.

GCI was started by former Fund and PIRG people, who left specifically for creating GCI.  It uses organizational techniques and models, strategies, and tactics that have developed via the Fund/PIRG.  There is no connection, formal or otherwise between PIRG/Fund and GCI.  GCI is overtly partisan to Democrats and Democratic groups.  They are not a non-profit like GCI/Fund because they are partisan.  They are not a "for-profit" in that they do not operate as a business to turn a profit.  They are simply classified differently because they are not non-partisan.

by Peter from WI 2006-07-27 11:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Grassroots Campaigns, Inc's Great War of 2004

There is no connection, formal or otherwise between PIRG/Fund and GCI.

The "or otherwise" part of this statement is where it starts to break down heavilly.  Is not Doug Phelps the CEO of both (this is an honest question, maybe I'm wrong here)?  Has not USPIRG contracted with GCI to run campaigns (the answer is "yes," because I worked on such a campaign--The New Energy Future campaign)?  Did not PIRG grant leaves of absence to literally hundreds of staff who went to work for GCI in 2004?  

Do you reall want to stand behind the statement that there is no connection between PIRG/Fund and GCI?  I mean, that is laughable on its face.  Also, whether GCI actually turns a profit is not relevant to its legal status as a corporation (hence the "Inc" in "Grassroots Campaigns Inc").

by Patton 2006-07-27 12:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Grassroots Campaigns, Inc's Great War of 2004

That was a mis-statement on my part for sure.  My bad.  Thanks for calling it out.  

There are connections in that Doug is the CEO of GCI and Chairman of the Board of USPIRG (there is no CEO with PIRG).  As far as contractin for NEF, you'll have to enlighten me on that.  NEF is a PIRG campus chapter creation.  

PIRG has a policy that people are allowed to take leaves of absence to work on electoral campaigns, though while they do that, they are not supposed to have contact, formal or otherwise, with PIRG staff for working or coordination.  Recruitment of staff is another matter.

There was and continues to be (to a lesser extent now) a controversy about PIRG/Fund people leaving their PIRG jobs for the 2004 elections, because it was so en masse.  The amount that did leave in 2004 was essentially because GCI was being started and run by ex-PIRG/Fund people and there were a lot of friendships and professional connections people had that GCI relied upon to build a staff.  

But PIRG will maintain that they do not coordinate on a high level with GCI.  On a local level, they'll try to coordinate canvassing turf grids so as not to mix things up.  When I was running a canvass for PIRG, we ended up on exactly the same turf as GCI one night.  I didn't want to coordinate before that so as not to risk the image of impropriety.  Afterward, the local RD and I sat down and coordinated solely when we would have our certain months in certain towns, but not on anythign else.  I think that's how they still want to do it.  

But what I'm saying is that GCI and PIRG/the Fund are not the same monolithic organization, and both have differing goals and strategies.  

"Inc." in the name of GCI I think was included to convey that they were a "professional" grassroots organizing outfit.  I'm not certain, but all non-profits have to incorporate in the loose sense of the term, in some way.  What I wouldn't want to imply is that because GCI has an incorporation status by their partisan nature that anyone is getting rich off of it.  That is not the case at all.

by Peter from WI 2006-07-27 01:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Grassroots Campaigns, Inc's Great War of 2004

In early 2005 GCi served a contract for the PIRGs whereby they sent field organizers (I was one) to some number of Congressional Districts to do grassroots organizing against the Bush energy bill.  It was called "New Energy Future."  My paycheck said "Grassroots Voter Outreach, Inc.," but I was to say "OSPIRG" when I phonebanked.  Now, I don't mean to suggest that this was not on the up-and-up (or that I know for a fact it wasn't, for that matter), but this was a clear example wherein the PIRG (of which Phelps is a Director--thanks for the clarification) is deciding to pay money to GVO (GCI's legal entity du jour) a company of which Phelps is the CEO.  This is very simple to the kind of conflicts of interest that are sometimes present with Democratic media consultants, but it is paid for by members of non-profits (Sierra Club, PIRG, etc.) rather than by political donors (who you have to assume know at least that their money will go to commercials).

Oh, and I am definitely not a lawyer, but I know at least in my state the "Inc." is not a voluntary buzzword but a meaningful legal distinction.

by Patton 2006-07-27 02:03PM | 0 recs
For profit vs non profit

GCI is a for profit company.  GVO (which did the work for the PIRG affiliated contracts like the energy thing and EAPAC) is a non-profit.  AFAIK, GVO is not tax-exempt, although that could be wrong.

A non-profit can not put any corporate profits or assets to benefit a private individual, although they can, of course, compensate people for goods or services.

Again, AFAIK, GVO was created so that Doug Phelps wouldn't derive any benefit from the contracts and leave of absense people moving over from the PIRGs.

One thing I'm reeeealy curious about is how a nonprofit like GVO or the PIRGs can pay bonuses to people based on fundraising performance, my understanding had been that that was forbidden.  But I'm not sure, and it's something I would have to do some research on.

by dansomone 2006-07-27 04:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Grassroots Campaigns, Inc's Great War of 2004

Doug is the CEO of GCI and Chairman of the Board of USPIRG (there is no CEO with PIRG).

What I wouldn't want to imply is that because GCI has an incorporation status by their partisan nature that anyone is getting rich off of it.  That is not the case at all.

I have hesitated to comment thus far because I am in no way an expert on this topic.  I did work for GCI, Inc. during the DNC & MoveOn efforts, but prior to that I had never heard of the PIRGs, nor do I know much about them now.  

However, from an outside, objective perspective I know that Doug Phelps is brilliant.  I knew this the moment I first saw him and heard him speak.  He is a clever, clever entrepreneur and he sure is fooling a lot of people.  

One concrete example of his brilliance (and probably evidence that he has nice lawyer friends) is overtime pay.  In the US, any worker who makes $23,660 or less a year automatically qualifies for overtime pay.  Do you know how much I was paid as an Assistant Director in the NYC DNC office?  $24,000 a year.  Oh, and I worked about 80+ hours each week.  I was rare in that I demanded sick time and didn't work on my birthday.  Many of my esteemed colleagues worked their asses off for that $24,000 a year.  No overtime though. Clever businessman that Doug Phelps is.

I work with an entrepreneur right now.  They are a rare breed, and I am learning a lot about taxes, the legal field and the "Inc." at the end of a company's name.  We briefly considered developing two organizations - a non-profit and a for-profit, for various reasons that I am not going to list here.  My boss would have been CEO and Chairman of the two organizations and trust me, whatever façade Phelps puts up to make it look like those two organizations are separate entities is simply to avoid the chances that he will be audited.  So far, he must be doing a good job of it.

I guarantee you though, a little bit of research - and access to Doug Phelps attorney's or accountant's password protected files would prove that the people at the top are making a pretty penny off of his insanely good business plan that no one else is doing.  He's a smart guy.  And, he repulses me.  That's why I quit one week into the MoveOn torture.  I finished up the rest of the election work as a volunteer for the Victory 2004 campaign - and convinced my host family to do the same.  We had a blast and felt that we accomplished a lot.  The atmosphere in the Victory 2004 office was significantly more enthusiastic, energetic and optimistic.  I am so happy I switched.

GCI, Inc.'s model is not only broken, but in my opinion, driven by Doug Phelps' selfish desire for more money.  I would be willing to bet my own money that this is true.  But then again, I could be called a cynic that thinks money makes the world go `round.  Bottom line is, W is back in the white house, and Phelps still has a lovely spread in Colorado...am I right?  No sweat off his back.  Plus, W's tax cuts probably sounded pretty good to ol' Phelps.  

by LLC 2006-07-27 07:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Grassroots Campaigns, Inc's Great War of 2004

Which reunion are you going to?

by Orlando 2006-07-27 09:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Grassroots Campaigns, Inc's Great War of 2004

The question about the DNC reunion was in response to Lojo

by Orlando 2006-07-27 09:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Grassroots Campaigns, Inc's Great War of 2004

When I got to Ohio, it was a major clash of worlds for me. I heard from all my old DNC directors about how awful it had been, but my first instinct was, that's just how it is, that's how campaigns are, they just have to stick to the model.

But in the course of the week, when I saw how fucked everything was as I tried to get my precincts up and running, I realized -- my old staff was right. Something had really  gone  wrong.

I did see some great organizers doing the best they could out there, but the best decision they made was to let me be in charge of my folks and do whatever I wanted with them. If I had gone to the MoveOn campaign as an LO (and again, I'm so thankful I didn't) I don't know what I would have been like. I'd like to think I'd be like Mel.  But throughout my career I'd always, always, toed the management line, and I can't say for sure that I would have been ready, then, to act any differently.

by Lockse 2006-07-27 10:27AM | 0 recs
Re: DNC v. MoveOn experiences

I will say it before and say it again, but the DNC mode versus MoveOn mode is not necessarily the best starting point for discussion.

The DNC thing was using a model that had been created over 25+ years by the Fund/PIRG people and built into a model.

The MoveOn thing was a mixed creation of GCI and MoveOn people (MoveOn did the tech stuff - the WAC) and was based on nothing really in particular except their thoughts on running a large-scale GOTV effort and probably what some consultants said.  Combine a poor plan and overall strategy with a management model that in bad situations devolves into dogmatism to "the Model," as it truly is reverently referred to as in PIRG-ish circles, and it's easy to see how it became F'ed.  Create a better plan, and that management model might not devolve into irrational dogmatism and silliness - it might be just the thing for strong, disciplined hard work to focus the talents and passions needed to be super effective and win.  

I don't know.  

There are are variables between the discussion that don't allow for apples to apples, oranges to oranges.

by Peter from WI 2006-07-27 11:49AM | 0 recs
Re: DNC v. MoveOn experiences

MoveOn thing was a mixed creation of GCI and MoveOn people (MoveOn did the tech stuff - the WAC) and was based on nothing really in particular except their thoughts on running a large-scale GOTV effort and probably what some consultants said.

Mixed creation? You mean, MoveOn provided the call lists, the whack-ass WAC, the name and the money, and GCI provided the campaign--right? Is a GOTV campaign something you just think up?

a management model that in bad situations devolves into dogmatism

Where do you think this devolution happens? Are you saying that the LOs became dogmatic, like they'd fallen ill? Where did the dogmatism come from?

Create a better plan, and that management model might not devolve into irrational dogmatism and silliness - it might be just the thing for strong, disciplined hard work to focus the talents and passions needed to be super effective and win.

What was wrong with the Leave No Voter Behind plan? Aren't we talking about the implementation? What do you mean by `strong, disciplined hard work'? What do you mean by `super-effective'? What has the model ever `won' since the 80's?

The DNC thing was using a model that had been created over 25+ years by the Fund/PIRG people and built into a model.

If this model has been around for that long, and Leave No Voter Behind was being run by an entire "progressive army" that had been trained by it, and this was the single most important campaign in the history of the model by oh I don't know a jillion times over, and it had the most ready and willing and dedicated foot soldiers it would ever come across, and a liberal base more desperate to be organized than at any point in forty years, and it failed this miserably, do you think maybe we want a better metaphor than apples and oranges?

by esteban 2006-07-27 02:39PM | 0 recs
Re: DNC v. MoveOn

Also, fundraising canvassing for defeating George W. Bush in cities like Berkeley, Manhattan, and Chicago is like shooting fish in a goddam barrel.  Strap a "Beat Bush - give $" sign on a monkey and dangle a banana from a window a story above him, watch him dance, and see that monkey raise roughly a billion dollars every day.

Recruit, train, activate, and manage volunteers in battleground states and do it in a somewhat coherent manner: not so easy.

The actual day-to-day details of work being harder and less manipulable definitely affected this whole thing.  Some can do both very well, some can do neither very well, some can do one or the other.  

by Peter from WI 2006-07-27 11:52AM | 0 recs

Diaries

Advertise Blogads