I read it and really enjoyed it. This is what I wrote about it as a "review"
Lush. Bai has a way of setting a scene, from a smoke filled dive bar in CT to the swanky pads of some of the country's billionaires. What's more he seems to never take himself too seriously as he aims to tell this tale. The first chapter is worth the price of admission alone.
Bai's personal bias is clear, and at some points, perhaps unfair, but for the most part he paints a compelling picture of a burgeoning movement and the people who are helping to shape it. On the blogger side, he leaves out a lot - but a book could be, and has been, written on just that alone. He could have written much, much more, certainly if he had a different guide to the upstart side of things, but where he draws the line will satisfy most, with only the insider type saying things like, "but he should have added...could have said..."...
Overall, I think some people will hate the book, but most should appreciate it, because even if it isn't a perfect assessment, even if Matt doesn't have the whole story here, he clearly spent years trying to find out how the new progressive movement wanted to work and puts up a mirror to show us all how it actually is working. What is clear is that we have work yet to do. And that is ok.
Yes. Absolutely. However, I'm saying is that there aren't always enough tasks for every creative type. So you go with the folks who have proven themselves.
I think you could also argue that crappy field lit or websites are evidence that there is a place for people to do something more suited to their interests. And if that is true - then just do it, prove yourself that way.
Look at the YearlyKos organization - that's a group that has really mastered getting the best out of people. Gina Cooper and her team worked very hard to utilize people's talents and skills, they are an all volunteer organization that did an amazing job and they did it because Gina asked, "What can you do? What do you want to do?" But also because people came to Gina and said, "I'm gonna do this" and they did.
I think everyone can learn from that model and I think people tasked with volunteers should be trained how to utilize different skill sets; we can certainly do a better job of that. Campaigns/Organizations aren't perfect, but we can be better.
I would also say, that especially with local campaigns, if you are ignoring these more creative pools of talent when you are recruiting your volunteers, you are missing a huge pool of talent.
I've always advocated for touching base with the creative outlets on campus and seeing if folks are interested in helping design websites/flyers/materials, but I was also an oddly eager theatre major once upon a time. The problem goes back to the demand for these skills sets is small and the pool of people who want the job or want to do this is usually pretty big and you can only fill it so many ways. I'd always fill it with the person willing to do the mundane work rather than the person too good to canvass or pick up a phone.
My thesis is that there are other things that those folks can be doing - graphic design, web design/construction, video and audio production, event planning - that are valuable to youth organzing, and efforts should be made to capitalize on those skills and bring those folks, who have a different perspective on political activism, into the fold of Democratic youth organizing.
I agree. However, adults have these skills too. And it's rare for someone to walk into a campaign and be entrusted with a task like this. Campaigns are delicate things and relationships are based on trust. You have to prove yourself. That's true of campaigns and it's also true of any business. Say you were a young professional who worked in the TV business, before you get to direct, you're likely going to be a PA. Same with retail - before you become a manager, you're gonna be a sales associate. Why should politics be any different?
Like I said in my post above, if young folks want to take part in these more creative tasks, they need to get their foot in the door. So the question is how do you do this? And how can we help young professionals find this entry point?
The volunteer and leadership opportunities in youth activism are similarly limited: donate money, canvass, phone bank.
Mike - Great post.
First off, as a former field organizer and someone who will always think in organization terms first and foremost, let's acknowledge that the reasons these forms of action are so wide-spread and available is because they require the largest number of individuals to be accomplished. Secondly, let's note that the most effective way to turn out voters to the polls is by voter contact, so phone banking and canvassing are crucial to any campaign operation. Field is critical. Third, let me say that ALL volunteers are asked to do these tasks before they are asked to do anything else - that is not an age thing at all - it's a numbers thing.
What you point out though, is that young activists should not be limited to this. That's absolutely true. What's also true, at least based on my personal experience, is that they aren't.
There is always a void to be filled on campaigns; there is also always a lack of people to fill them. Individuals who step up and fill these voids are quickly snapped up and utilized. My own path to a political career got started because I signed up to canvass for Kerry/Edwards in late 2004. By election day I was running an entire field office's GOTV operation. Making that move took less than 8 weeks.
By March of 2006 I was employed by the DNC working as part of their internet team. Certainly, not a job I expected to have back at the end of 2004, but I took the work I could get, moved around a lot to get experience and I found my niche...
These days, I'm on the other side of the fence - I'm the campaign staffer and not the volunteer or entry level staffer, and what I see in campaigns that I've worked on, and that I've volunteered on is pretty much always the same - the folks who prove themselves on the phones or in the field, doing what could be considered menial work (but which I would argue is actually pretty critical), are noticed and they move up in the food chain.
This is a young person's business, but it's not an easy one. But dedication and willingness to work hard are quickly rewarded. I think I'm proof of that. I think my friends who work in this business are proof of that too. Young people are doing amazing work on campaigns - and doing a lot more than phones and doors. They are also doing amazing work running progressive youth organizations, YDA has really been impressive the last few years, ForwardMontana continually amazes me - just to name my two favs.
The issue I think we need to address, as young professionals, is how we support each other and how we help each other move up the ladder. There are a lot of great organizations, like DemocraticGAIN for one, that offer training, job lists and networking opportunities. For women their is WIN, The Women's Information Network, which helps train and network young professionals in DC. I know there are a lot of similar organizations in states and within different YDA/CDA organizations. I think this is a crucial part of the equation. If you want to start a career in politics, you've got to do your homework. Like anything else, it's a business, and it's one that relies very strongly on relationships. And learning how to find these networks isn't always all that apparent. I know I spend a lot of time talking with newbies on campaigns or interns or volunteers and I try to help them make these types connections.
I know I am where I am because I met people who did this for me, who helped me get the lay of the land and who showed me the ropes. I fell into this business, so maybe my story is a little bit odd. I never aspired for the career I had when I was in college - but regardless of that, it didn't take me long to get the career I wanted once I discovered how much I love doing what I do.
So I would ask, to other young professionals or young people who want to be political professionals, what organizations, resources have others found helpful on their path. Or, if none have been helpful to you yet, what information do you need?
GAIN is truly a great service to young progressives. Plus its 100% free to join and they offer great trainings too. Personally, I've gotten a job and hired off of GAIN and can't say enough good things about their leadership and organization.