Busby definitely reached out to bloggers. She was on numerous conference calls, her staff returned phone calls and emails immediately, etc. Her campaign engaged in much of the kind of blog outreach that is actually fruitful, even if they didn't fly in people to drink beer and "live blog" on election night.
You describe the way in which the right built their grassroots ELECTORAL/VOLUNTEER network. The right built their national DONOR network with expensive, painstaking, and often money-losing direct-mail prospecting (which was always sub-contracted; see Rove, Karl). The DNC canvass is an alternative to that, not an alternative to grassroots volunteer mobilization (which should also be happening, and not through GCI's model).
Your comment sums up a lot of how I feel about GCI. I was not one of the first directors in the field, but I came on in June and worked as an assistant director on the DNC canvass and a field organizer for the MoveOn project. I remember constantly feeling like this company was a great idea, but that it was executed poorly.
I disagree with you on one thing, though, when you say: They did not hire enough central staff people to deal with all the issues building an organization from a dozen offices (pre-summer) to 50 offices (in late june) would bring in.
I think this misses the point. There is no number of activists (no matter how smart and hard-working) that is adequate to turn office-work into activism. GCI's higher ranks were smart, accomplished political people trying to run a business, and this led to both critical mistakes and a fundamental misunderstanding of how to treat employees. I think the answer to a lot of their problems is probably as simple as hiring a company like Paychex.
Generally, they had a scorched-earth approach to recruiting and treating their employees that I think was grounded in a campaign mentality--and a lack of business mentality. I probably personally had 50 conversations with individual canvassers about why their paychecks were f'ed up, and I wasn't even the director in charge of such matters. Yet, when illness caused me to miss lots of time on a campaign in Winter, 2005 (yes, I went back for a while after the election), GCI's central staff were extremely accomodating and caring. They're all good people, they just need to subcontract the boring business shit to reliable business people. But their failure to do that in 2004 cost them long-term relationships with literally dozens of the most bad-ass 20somethings in America. For a company with GCI's long-term mission, that should be horrifying.
If this costs more, they should ask their clients for more bread up-front. It will be worth it for everyone involved.
How would you suggest the Democrats become financially viable in the wake of campaign finance reform that crippled our big-donor/institutional fundraising base? How do you build a from-scratch donor list without "overhead eating up a huge chunk?"
Should the DNC just accept a permanent disadvantage? Do you know of a way to use mail/phones/internet for donor prospecting in a way that isn't as expensive (hint: nobody else does)?
If your attempts to volunteer get stymied, you might try looking a little further down the "pecking order." For most of us (though not all), there is a competitive state legislative race within a half-hour drive. These are campaigns where they really need your help and where the couple hundred votes a committed volunteer can help create may prove critical.
Here is a sure sign that you've contacted a campaign that will treat you like a person, not an ATM:
ANASTASIA: Hello, could I speak with Jane Smith?
STAFFER: MOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!! PHOOOONE! Just a minute, ma'am....
JANE SMITH: You want to volunteer? Great. Come walk with me tomorrow night, would you?
Just some advice. I hope it isn't the case that you've tried more local campaigns and also been rebuffed. If so, move to Oregon and we will hook you up.
I agreed with the central premise of your last post, but I think that this one is off. When you talk about the "anti-donor" methods, you are just describing effective fundraising strategies. Is a repeated ask "anti-donor" when a candidate uses it on the phone, or only when a young person uses it on the street?
And as for ignoring requests to volunteer... I agree that this could have been done more effectively. However, in 2004 the fundraising was (largely) all about taking money from "safe states" and putting it into "swing states." Now, I think that the 50-state strategy is better, but my flux capacitor is in the shop. No matter how money got raised in 2004, the DNC was never going to have anything constructive for volunteers in Berkley or LA to do.
It is strange to be taking these positions, because I am the opposite of a GCI shill. They especially bungled the MoveOn "Leave No Voter Behind" campaign (and in a way that calls a lot into question). But I've got to say that the DNC canvass, especially in 2004, was a brilliant idea that was executed in a fair-to-good manner. Basically, McAuliffe (the ultimate corporate Dem) left Howard Dean with a giant, shiny new small donor base. In a summer the DNC built the kind of network of small donors that it took the GOP 30 years worth of direct mail to put together. I think this ended up being a fantastic bridge between the crappy old DNC and Dean's grassroots-centered operation (it was just administered by a company that treats their emplyees badly and went on to cause some other problems).
I agree that GCI is--on balance--a crappy company. Basically, their leadership includes a lot of great political minds but no one who knows how to run a business. I worked for them for almost a year, and while I can say I learned a fair bit, I also got treated like something other than a valued employee.
The worst part was that (other than Doug Phelps, the CEO and a world-class jackass) I could tell that the leadership of the company actually DID value the employees. But they were all lifelong activists who had become OK with making $20G/year and they never had a person with real business experience to explain that, in general, getting good people means paying them enough to eat and wear clothes. Ultimately, it ends up with GCI having the same problems with retention and class/ethnic diversity as the PIRG. This isn't shocking, as GCI is modeled as a for-profit (I mean that in a legalistic sense, not a derogitory one) PIRG clone.
Now, I do have to disagree with the (implication?) assertion that there is something wrong with running a break-even membership canvass. People complain--and VERY rightly so--about grassroots dollars pouring into consultants' "beach house funds," but none of this cash did. It went to build a grassroots donor base that (over the medium-to-long-term) is going to leave the Democrats in better shape after McCain/Feingold than before it (and nothing worked better at the door than telling people exactly that). Any kind of startup fundraising (be it for business/politics/non-profit) has a to-be-expected break-even prospecting period. Do you think it would have been better to take people's money and blow it on crappy commercials?
In my opinion, there are things for which GCI ought to be seriously criticized. And treating their employees poorly is only one of them. However, the basic model of running a fundraising canvass as a party-building tool is smart and effective. It is also in NO way "astroturf": the canvassers are realy local people and they are obviously not just doing it for the money.
I'm afraid I agree with you. I'm "on the ground" right now in a swing district of a swing state, and when my canddiate knocks on doors, almost all she hears about is immigration (and she's running for the state house, and Oregon has no international border).
I think that by Matt's/Matthew's analysis, the GOP didn't "accomplish" anything with gay marriage in 2004. Sure, they're never gonna get that damned ammendment through the Senate, but they used the gridlock to their ADVANTAGE in an election. They can do that with immigration, especially if they can point to a scene of Democrats gladly stalling while evil gays immigants ruin marriage take our jobs.
Right now the public--sometimes even across ideological lines--is amped up about immigration with an intensity that is pretty freaky. This will turn into GOP votes in the mid-term, for two reasons: the GOP will prove its racist bonafides to the far right and that same show of hatred will keep independents at home. I think that the only politically smart move on immigration is for Democrats to quickly seek out room to the right of the GOP, but I find such positions to so personally and morally abhorrent that I am thrilled to not be working a federal race this cycle. Prove me wrong, somebody.
The AAPC is--from my reading, and I may be wrong--more of a guild/union sort of setup. Basically, a place to get health insurance and maybe accreditation or something. I doubt they would offer comparative or subjective information on their members. Again, I may be wrong.
There have to be other campaigns all over who have worked with younger or more local consultants who did things right. I'm glad someone agrees that it would be a good idea to catalogue those experiences.
Another dreadful effect of the Shrums in this business is that they are going to give a bad name to some truly brilliant and committed media people. For every campaign that they fleece with advice geared toward their own interests, they also hurt the ability of honest and smart consultants to have their judgment trusted. I think that there should be a netroots directory of consultants--like a consultapedia--not necessarilly put together with the goal of being kind or unkind. Candidates and staff don't want to be in the position of having to design and produce their own direct-mail campaigns/radio spots/etc., but we also don't want to be ripped off.
I am working right now with a consultant who very clearly (from the way we pay him to the kind of advice he gives) holds winning this race as a higher value than padding his pocketbook. In his case, I think it is just because he is a good guy who wants Democrats to win more than anything else. But much of our arrangement is also codified and formal, and that could all be replicated. For instance, he is paid a flat-fee to consult, and but only gets the second half of it after we win. That was his idea, but we could have insisted on a similar arrangement with someone else, no?
If there is a silver lining to the cartelish behavior of certain DC consultants, it is that opportunities are being created for younger, fresher minds. I'm pretty sure that a media consultant could still make a very nice living while severely undercutting the rates of the top dogs/professional losers. If more information were made available to local, state, and mid-tier congressional campaigns about a wider variety of media companies/consultants, the free market could well kick Shrum's ass (I understand that he retired, which makes this a metaphorical ass) itself.
If we're looking for keys to building a better absentee ballot model, we should look to people who've run GOTV in Oregon. Kerry/ACT/MoveOn/etc. had massive, successful operations in Oregon--and everything was vote-by-mail, which is much more analgous to absentee voting than it is to dragging people to the polls.
I've worked GOTV plenty, and I live in Oregon, yet somehow I've never actually worked GOTV in Oregon. But there are plenty of folks who have, and they know how to get people to vote by mail.