A Movement-Building Strategy-Part 1

by: Paul Rosenberg

Sat Dec 01, 2007 at 17:00

This is a response to an exchange earlier this week, ressurecting an idea I put out several months ago.

Earlier this week, Matt posted a diary, "The Local Media Crisis", and I commented, referring back to a proposal I made in diary in late August, "Beyond Bush Dogs? Proposal For A Pro-Active Battleground District Organizing Strategy,".

It turns out that Matt was perplexed :

I read it and spent time trying to figure it out.  I just have no idea what any of it meant.

And mitchipd said:

Paul's proposal
is worth reposting, accompanied by a request for questions about it. I generally remember its key points similar to what RandomNonViolence lays out.

I thought the proposal was worthy of consideration and follow-up discussion for its potential strategic value and also because it contained enough practical "to do" steps to serve as a good starting point for a focused and action-oriented discussion.  I also like that it seemed designed to accomplish a number of significant goals with a single project.

One suggestion is for Paul to post it in multiple pieces, maybe starting with an overview and then drilling down into specifics and eventually to proposed action items.  At each step, we could raise questions about what we don't understand and what we like and don't like about it.  In addition to helping to clarify the post's content and purpose, this multi-phase approach might help Paul integrate questions and feedback into his follow-up posts.

So that's what I'm going to try to do.  I'm at a conference today, but I will try to respond to comments by late afternoon or early evening, West Coast time.  Hopefully we can discuss it on into Sunday, and I can do a second installment sometime Sunday afternoon.

Paul Rosenberg :: A Movement-Building Strategy-Part 1
Project Basics

I first presented this proposal from the point of view of how it would start, which placed the emphasis on the relatively immediate.  But it's equally, if not more important to consider what it aims to do-which is to build movement infrastructure--especially in battleground districts--an open-ended way that is not heavy-handedly top-down.

As I said in my comment earlier this week, three very important aspects of this proposal are (1) reaching local media, (2) coordinating with local activist organizations and individuals, and (3) building relationships to establish an ongoing progressive pressence and influence in these districts.

I'm going to start with re-presenting the original summary:

Project Summary
My proposal is simple: Use an initial organizing project to establish a national battlegound district* [*with a safe Bush Dog annex] network that combines national and local activists and organizations.  The initial project centers around fielding a poll--much like MyDD did [for those not familiar with it, Mystery Pollster discussed it here and  here]--that can yield us important information that we can use to lobby and pressure Dems in marginal districts, while mobilizing coalitions of local activists and organizations--and that can be used to energize Democratic challenges to Republicans in marginal districts.  If we field a national swing district poll, similar in scope to the recently-released Democracy Corps poll but with our own carefully-crafted question set--again see the MyDD example--we can generate some extremely useful ammo for making our arguments.  What's more, simply by fielding a poll ourselves, we start to alter their perception of us.

Repeated exercises of this same organizing formula-at least once a year, but possibly more often-will provide a solid framework for continued organizing, while a variety of simpler actions can be developed as well.  Establishing lateral networks, so that activists in different battleground districts are in much closer touch with one another, is a key goal of this project, which will allow for a much more continuous flow of organizing activity than a purely centralized effort could effectively mount.  Ideally, these networks will become increasingly active and capable of spontaneous organizing as important issues are being debated in Congress.

The above presentation hasn't been altered from the original, so it still leads with the immediate emphasis.  But I hope that my introductory remarks will sufficiently stress the point that this is clearly intended as the start of a long-term project.  However, because it is intended to be cooperative, and to nurture local autonomy, it would not be consistent with this purpose to propose too much in the way of detailed planning in advance.  A menu of possibilities would be much more in keeping with the spirit of my proposal, and I'll be happy to get into that as a later step in this process, if it plays out the way that mitchipd suggested.

That said, I don't think it's premature to add some more detail, by re-iterating the following list:

Project Aims

The purpose of this project (subject to revision) is 7-fold:

(1) To create a national framework for pro-actively and continually influencing conservative Democrats and Democratic officeholders in swing/battleground districts, and supporting them in getting a progressive message out.  We're about carrots as well as sticks.  Once we really get rolling, we should be increasingly about carrots.

(2) To influence the political climate in battleground districts held by Republicans to make the environment more favorable for Democratic challengers, and weaken support for Republican opposition in Congress.

(3) To bring into focus underlying shifts and forgotten long-term trends in public opinion that support a fresh, progressive approach to problem-solving and governing.

(4) To highlight new and emerging progressive issues, narratives, and policy proposals.

(5) To bring to the fore salient facts that are otherwise routinely buried by existing political discourse.

(6) To effectively communicate 3, 4 and 5--particularly at the district level--to Democratic officeholders and candidates, local media, Democratic activists and organizations, non-party activists and organizaitons, and directly to the people via new and traditional forms of organizing and outreach.

(7) To build strong bonds between locally-grounded and nationally-focused progressives on a continuing, ongoing basis.

In keeping with what I've said before, I would just like to emphasize that #7 is not an afterthought.  Rather, it is the culmination of everything that goes before it.  By having a strong, and somewhat detailed-but still flexible-sense of shared purpose, I think we will have a much stronger foundation for long-term collaboration between local- and national-level organizing efforts.  Thus, everything that comes before (7) would be much less effective and much less worth doing were it not intended to lead into (7).  Similarly, (7) would not be much more than a wish without the specific detail of the points that go before it.

I'll conclude by reiterating what I said in my comment earlier this week: The polling--although vitally important--was only the launch point of this project. The district-level progressive infrastructure development was the real long-term point of it. And communicating the progessive message through the local media was conceived as an integral part of that infrastructure development from the very beginning.

The point here is simple:  we do have the means already in hand to engage in agenda-setting. Not to succeed right away, but at least to get into the game.  That is the purpose of this proposal-to engage in movement-building that has an immediate payoff in getting us out of a purely reactive mode.

Comments? Questions?

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okay, I like it, but I have one small question: (0.00 / 0)
Who is "we"?  An organization is required here.  Could OpenLeft be that organization?  I don't think so.  There is too much division here, and rightfully so.  Could OpenLeft serve as a think tank for that organization?  That's how I see it.

But what would that organization be?  You could argue that OpenLeft could further develop the ideas that lead to such an organization.  You could argue that "we" should form such an organization around the broadest principles and then hammer out the details.  Or preferably some synthesis of the two.

But to Paul in the broad strokes?  YES YES YES!

Full Court Press!  http://www.openleft.com/showDi...

New Organization Backed by Progressive Blogosphere (4.00 / 1)
For this to be effective, the organization has to have clout. In this case

I see "we" being a new organization but one that clearly has the backing of the progressive blogosphere -- like ActBlue or BlogPAC or the Sunlight Foundation. The organization has be vigorously backed by prominent bloggers to demonstrate that it is a powerful force -- a force to be reckoned with -- so that conservative opponents and mainstream media have to address us (instead of ignoring or ridiculing us as they typically do).

[ Parent ]
I Think This Direction Makes A Lot of Sense (4.00 / 1)
Though it's important to recognize that the credibility question is dealt with on several different levels, some of which--such as the rigor of the polling method, or the nature of the local coaltions--don't necessarily depend on the perceived powerfulness of the online entity.

Our first targets in terms of reaching beyond the progressive movement should be local and regional media, who aren't necessarily as lockstep in their thinking as national mainstream media.

And, frankly, who cares about conservative opponents taking us seriously?  The longer they live in ignorance and denial, the better, IMHO.  After all, it's what they like.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Paul is right... (4.00 / 1)
...pretty much across-the-board but especially that the credibility question involves multiple layers. It, in all its glory, is a fundamental and critical question, I have found.

Paul knows I was the pollster on the MyDD Poll and credibility of that poll was an overriding strategic point for us from the get-go. We successfully dealt with it *by working multiple layers* of the blogosphere, Beltway and non-Beltway universes. There was a lot a great work done on this score by Chris, Matt and Rick Jacobs of the Courage Campaign (a poll co-sponsor).

Further, once credibility was established, we took advantage of the situation to tell, over and over, the research 'truth' found in the poll. We hit Iraq as an issue hard, elevating it (because it deserved it) to Highest Priority Issue in communications before any campaigns did and directly took on Rahm's attempt to silence campaigns on that issue. Many of our netroots campaigns took our advice. Read the 2006 Campaign Memo here for our full recommendations.

This whole issue Open Left has raised is a vital one. We must build the capacity and capability to communicate political messaging and organize voters ourselves. I am highly supportive of this effort, especially since I've been sounding out some folks along these lines for many months now. It's a slow process, unfortunately.

Finally, I agree a separate organization is needed. I believe, but am not sure, a federal 527 and/or PAC would allow us to both communicate and organize in any Bush Dog district.

[ Parent ]
Thanks For Weiging In! (0.00 / 0)
I haven't talked a lot about the polling side here, because it seemed that people needed to get a stronger sense of where we would be going.  But the innovative possibilities in the polling Sun Tzu did are a vital key to the whole concept.  It's not just about identifying issues that are being ignored, but also about how these issues hang together, where their salience lies, and how groups of voters can be identified by shared concerns and attitudes in a more sophisticated way by building up from empirical data, rather than imposing pre-set categories.

I'd really like to see a diary about the possibilities from you at some point soon, Sun Tzu!

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
I'm going to (0.00 / 0)
Respond to all of the posts above in here. Not just Paul's directly above post.

Organization wise we would want to have a new organization. Probably a a federal 527. Adam B is a campaign finance lawyer and now posts on the front page here. Maybe Adam will see this and give some advice. We could also hire him or convince him to be our lawyer. A PAC is only needed if we are going to endorse or work for specific candidates from my understanding. The organization would need backing from people all over the netroots. Something like the Donna Edwards coalition that ran the fundraiser but also with more grassroots groups like MoveOn, DFA and the Courage Campaign. Maybe we could even get people from what Matt called the "Old Left" to get on board.

I'm glad Sun Tzu weighed it. On that polling note does anyone has a estimate of how much it would cost to do this even for one district? That's the main problem I see here. Unless MoveOn gets on board it would be hard to raise that much cash. I mean BlogPac has only raised a bit over 100,000 and they have been around for years.

I'll post my thoughts on the project in general now.

John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power

[ Parent ]
Just To Be Clear (0.00 / 0)
I wasn't proposing that we do a poll for every battleground district, but rather a nation-wide poll of battleground districts.

District-by-district polls certainly could be done somewhere down the line, but the initial rationale is that these are all districts seen and talked about in similar terms at the national level, and we would ride with that, but work to show that they are significantly more interesting, and more progressive--at least potentially, if the right approaches are taken--than is generally assumed.

I want to stress that this idea is intentionally conceived to not be tremendously onerous.  Money for one poll, not 70.  Arrange for press conferences in each district to announce the results, not marches or townhall meetings. (Though it would be great if local organizers wanted to do more.)  The idea is to start with something that can be scaled upward as more resources become available, but that can be worthwhile from the very beginning.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Is that (0.00 / 0)
Possible? If it is that's great. But we'd still have to decide what a battleground district is. And any idea how much that poll could cost?

John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power

[ Parent ]
Democracy Corps Has Already Done This (0.00 / 0)
I mentioned this in my original diary on this.

Democracy Corps has already done polling on battleground districts for the 2008 cycle, and is obviously poised to do more.  It makes a good deal of sense to simply use their same list of disticts, since this means that we will be able to directly compare our results with theirs.  We can use some of the same questions to provide more data points for continuing series, and we can use the results of those to extrapolate likely figures for the questions we ask that they didn't.  (The former is very solid methodologically, the later is clearly speculative, but better than sheer guesswork.)

There are Bush Dogs outside of this list, and I would propose that we do a auxilliary sample of Bush Dog districts to cover them.  We need to recognize the Bush Dogs in safe districts are a different sort of target, and act accordingly, beginning with separate samples.

Here's the first Democracy Corp memo [PDF] on their 2008 Battleground Poll.

Here's the executive summary for their second 2008 Battleground Poll, which also has links to the full memo and some other documents, including the district list [PDF].

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Polling costs... (0.00 / 0)
...can get up there, way up there if the data collection requires identifying narrow consituencies or multiple voter groups (e.g., various specific states) to survey. It really boils down to the amount of time it takes to do the data collection (ask the questions and spit out the numbers generated). I've seen polls run up well into six figures before.

I'd probably recommend the community considering something like what we did on the MyDD Poll. That was to establish a strong sample size (we did 1000 cases on the national poll and 600 cases on the CA-50 poll) and then keep the interview length reasonable (12-15 minutes). Qualified respondents were defined as likely voters in both cases (how to define likely voters varies among polling outfits but I've found the best identifier is past voting history. Actual voting behavior. That info is now available in most states.)

Finally, additional costs can pile up with analyst/professional pollster fees (one reason Chris did not choose Greenberg Quinlan to do the CA-50 poll, I recall). Up until this point, the discussion above is all about raw, out of pocket costs. There's no profit in my data collection because I pass those costs on at cost. In both the national MyDD Poll and the CA-50 poll, I volunteered my time pro bono. So that kept our costs to absolute minimal. I recall we came out of both polls at about $20K each in that scenario. (Honestly though, the pro bono scenario is a very tough one to sustain over extended time. For me anyway.)

Hope this gives some idea of what it takes.

[ Parent ]
I Liked The MyDD National Poll Model Very Much (0.00 / 0)
And that's what I had in the back of my mind when I first proposed this.  I realize that limiting it to the 70 battleground districts will make it more costly, but hopefully not too much.  And I do think it's time we started paying for profressional pollster services.

Ideally, two or three years down the road, I'd like to see us doing polls during the legislative phase that are looking at major issues as they come up--3-6 a year.  This is where you can really start to bring much more specific pressure to bear.  That level of activity really requires that you be able to pay  for professional services. You can't be asking people to donate such big chunks of professional time.  So it makes sense to start paying those true costs sooner, rather than later.

When you consider how effective such an operation could be, the polling costs, even for 6 a year, are pretty darned small.  Certainly less than just a single competetive House race.

What's really key is making it so that the local coalition partners are happy to participate, because it's worthwhile to them as they define their own missions.  If it can feed fairly directly into what they are already doing--or would like to do--so that it's not really a stretch for them, then the resources they devote to it will not be seen as going to something external.  It's very much worth our while to devote time and energy to help folks discover how to make this happen.

In short, the more value we can add for different participants, the more folks will want to be involved, and the easier it will be to pull off.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Okay (0.00 / 0)
That sounds possible. The netroots came together to raise 100,000 for two different candidates. If we could get all the major blogs united behind this plus maybe the Courage Campaign, DFA and MoveOn we could easily raise that money.

Agreed on the major issue polling. Plus on those issues once we had credibility we could get financial help from groups that work on the issue. If we were talking about workers rights we could get unions to co-sponsor the poll, if we were talking about global warming we could get the Sierra Club to co-sponsor the poll, etc.

John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power

[ Parent ]
Thanks very much! (4.00 / 1)
I'll definitely do that, Paul. I've been so busy over the past months trying to get research and communications going that I haven't had time to contribute much at Open Left. That's why I'm so thrilled to see you taking this issue and engaging the Open Left community on it. Bravo!

I actually have some new developments in research to report to everyone, so I'll do my best to get a post out this week.

*Really* looking forward to this vital conversation. Thanks again!

[ Parent ]
Who, what, how, etc. (0.00 / 0)
It seems important to have the support and involvement of local organizations and activists within the battleground districts, as well as from leading national blogs, as RandomNonviolence points out. 

This gets back to jeffroby's question about what the "organization" is and how it would operate.  How would this multifaceted involvement be organized/coordinated, how would decisions be made about priorities, use of resources, etc.?

It seems that the ideal would be some blending of big-picture perspectives gathered from national blog communities with a lateral sharing of ideas, experiences, etc. from local activists in swing districts.

Since the project would require significant funds, there'd need to be real accountability.  I assume there are good models for this already in existence, and also for organizing and decision-making that encompasses local and national levels of activity and decisionmaking.

Since the goal is to create something sustainable, these organizational questions seem important to address early on, though balancing accountability and organization with flexibility and adaptability also seems important.

Can anyone suggest and describe any existing (and successful) projects/organizations that could serve as models for something like this?

[ Parent ]
An Excellent Question! (0.00 / 0)
My first draft of an answer is that first we have to have a conversation about the idea, and that the organization will emerge out of that conversation--though certainly not out of it alone.  I don't think that OpenLeft wants to be that sort of organization, but it could certainly choose to play a significant role in bringing a wider range of folks together to form it.

Identifying solely with one blog would not seem to make sense.  Blogs are their own reason for being.  There's a world of difference between pushing a project of limited duration, which is readily compatible with that, and becoming permanently associated with a major infrastructure project, which seems significantly less compatible.

But one blog taking leadership--at least initially--for getting the idea off the ground would seem a sensible way to go, especially with a blog that's all about pushing into new territory, while re-examining and strengthening ties that already exist.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
yes, leadership is the key (0.00 / 0)
Mitchipd says, "It seems that the ideal would be some blending of big-picture perspectives gathered from national blog communities."  I heartily disagree.  A new organization that is only a relection of what already exists will, at best, result in what already exists but with better communication.  (Pour water on a drunk and you get a wet drunk!)

"One blog taking leadership"?  This blog?  It's a start, but shouldn't be exclusionary, as you make clear.  What we lack is a collective coherent understanding of the world, to provide a context for such tactics as you delineate.

Individuals certainly have coherent understandings, but how to develop a collective one for our times?  And how to develop one without becoming a leftist debating society.  An organization born too early becomes a sect.  An organization born too late is born dead.  I have hope.

I keep going back to the Port Huron statement.  Not that I would revive it, not that it wasn't, in light of subsequent events, shockingly naive.  But it provides one fairly successful example of the confluence of ideas, movement and organization.  Why did it not turn into a leftist debating society?  There was a living movement that allowed tactics to be developed, tried, and either replicated or discarded.  History was the decider.

I have hope because I feel the breezes of a developing movement.  As the Beach Boys said (not the Incredible Hulk), "Catch a wave and you're sitting on top of the world!"

Full Court Press!  http://www.openleft.com/showDi...

[ Parent ]
Good Idea (4.00 / 1)
I like this idea a lot.

It is sufficiently flexible that we can adjust it for the particular circumstances in a district, but clearly includes several important things -- promoting progressive ideas and frameworks, introducing facts to the discourse (including the results of good opinion polls), and working with local progressive groups (both electoral and issue-oriented) on an long-term basis.

As I see it, the main things we are trying to overcome is the conventional wisdom that (1) progressive ideas are "fringe" -- not accepted by most people, and (2) progressive candidates do not win elections, so therefore it is ok to ignore or ridicule progressive candidates and their ideas. A poll that demonstrates that most people, even in conservative districts, agree with progressive policy ideas would really help to overcome (1). A few good victories and the backing of the progressive blogosphere should help overcome (2).

I totally support this sort of concept... (0.00 / 0)
...and here is why:

At every meeting I'm at folks gnashing their teeth over the latest Republican lie put forth by their bought and paid for media.

Most everyone understands that the people with the best stories are going to win whatever fight they are engaged in...IF; that is....

IF the story gets to the public or even to enough of the people who have the public's ear. The corporatist media is filled with paid liars but there is a growing infrastructure of blogs where we know people are thinking, talking and doing progressive work. Trying, I would submit, to build a progressive network to unleash the problem solving power of the Internet, see Energise America for a sample, has already begun.

A new network for the creation of policy, tactics and stories which would move the progressive agenda forward in the U.S. and around the world.

What Paul is proposing can be a great tool to push the evolving 'blogosphere political fitness space' in the correct direction.

Peace, Health and Prosperity for Everyone.

Allow me to split a friendly hair (0.00 / 0)
"creation of policy, tactics and stories" is essential.  But my concern is the implementation of policy and tactics.  Methodologically, a policy or tactic which does not include specific steps for its implementation is bound to be flawed.  A sequential approach stays stuck at the talking stage.

Full Court Press!  http://www.openleft.com/showDi...

[ Parent ]
Agreed the process of... (0.00 / 0)

.....affecting 'political fitness space' is iterative. Fancy way of saying policy is created with an eye to implementation; is then implemented and then upon the results being studied modified to make it do what it was intended to do in the first place. The evolutionary prinicple applied by us. The only policy which survives one which does what it was created to do. Mostly solve problems at this stage but later get on with advancing our knowledge of how people act and interact with each other and what function politics plays in that interaction.

There is no evolutionary theory of politics.


Peace, Health and Prosperity for Everyone.

[ Parent ]
Local organisations? (4.00 / 1)
I like the general thrust of it, and I'm sure you'll get on to specifics later, but there's one fairly basic question that I feel I should ask now:

What sort of organisations would this strategy link up with? Since it's done by CD, not many organisations will overlap directly with it. With this in mind, might it be worth trying where possible to target bordering districts, so as to draw in more community organising groups that have been gerrymandered into different CDs?

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

Depends (0.00 / 0)
In some suburban or rural swing districts it might make a lot of sense to draw on organizations in neighboring urban districts, especially if the swing district gets its media from the urban district and/or if commuters live in the swing district, but work in the urban district.

It might also make sense to link with some regional groups like religious or labor organizations that cover a wide swath.

On the other hand, people in some swing districts would feel like organizations from neighboring urban districts were intruding onto their turf and/or imposing ideas that don't make sense in their district. This might be especially true in rural districts which are often gigantic and the people at the far ends have little to do with the neighboring urban district.

So it all depends on the district, its makeup, the nature of the progressive organizations in the area, and the kind of links you are trying to make.

By starting with a good poll of the people in the district, you would have a good idea of what kinds of links would make sense and then could reach out to the appropriate groups. Also, by first talking with progressives in the district, you could get a sense of who they feel comfortable working or being linked with.

[ Parent ]
Don't Believe The CW (0.00 / 0)
On the other hand, people in some swing districts would feel like organizations from neighboring urban districts were intruding onto their turf and/or imposing ideas that don't make sense in their district. This might be especially true in rural districts which are often gigantic and the people at the far ends have little to do with the neighboring urban district.

This is the sort of thing that lobbyists, special intersts and pundits love to say that has relatively little basis in reality.  Sure, you can stir people up by decrying "outsiders," but generally the issues and people are not nearly so easily divided as this sort of talk suggests.

Groups that work in such coalitions--which, as I mention elsewhere, are relatively commonplace--are familiar with these sorts of tactics, and generally know how to deal with them.  This includes, for example, giving prominence to local activists even though organizations with large bases outside the district might have significantly more resources involved in making an event happen.

It would make sense to write up an advisory document dealing with these sorts of issues.  But it would also make sense to do a literature search, and see if there wasn't already something out there that would fill the bill. 

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Here I go splitting hairs again ... (0.00 / 0)
... but a strategy doesn't link up with anything.  An organization with a strategy can make decisions, based on that strategy, for whom to link up with.  Your question THEN becomes pertinent.

Consider Paul's points:

(3) To bring into focus underlying shifts and forgotten long-term trends in public opinion that support a fresh, progressive approach to problem-solving and governing.

(4) To highlight new and emerging progressive issues, narratives, and policy proposals.

(5) To bring to the fore salient facts that are otherwise routinely buried by existing political discourse.

The proposal goes beyond determining which races are strategic and funneling support there.  That would be making the best of what already is.  By pushing "underlying shifts ... fresh, progressive approach ... EMERGING progressive issues ..." and salient facts otherwise buried," it implicitly entails creating something new.

I can't speak for Paul, but recall, "The initial project centers around fielding a poll" which would show that certain incumbents and/or candidates are out of synch (to the right) of their base.  I believe this plan implies a challenge.  I believe that fundamental is using the poll as the foundation for bringing the unmobilized progressive base onto the stage.

Not everyone will be thrilled by this.  But we would gain our legitimacy from the base, and navigate the consequences.

Full Court Press!  http://www.openleft.com/showDi...

[ Parent ]
There's A Very Important Point Here (0.00 / 0)
This relates to a discussion that arose in one of the panels at the conference I attended the last two days. (See my diary, Birth of a Movement?).

On one hand, any time you start doing something new, some people are going to resist.  On the other hand, there are all sorts of things that people would like to do that they just don't have the resources for.  Both sorts of people are likely to be found in any organization we might want to engage in this process.  So it takes considerable willingness to engage with people in sorting out what makes it really worthwhile for a particular organization to get involved, and how deeply.

This is a major reason why the local organizations should have the lion's share of control over what happens on the ground.  The more say they can have, the more they can shape the actions to have maximum benefit in terms of everything else they are doing.  The more that they can realize a synergy between existing work and the new ground we are trying to break, the more readily they will commit.  And the more say they have from the getgo about how the process is run, the more certainty they will have that such synergy will be sustained.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
This Really Isn't A Problem In The Real World (0.00 / 0)
Organizations lobby congressmembers all the time.  Here in the LA area, it's fairly common for organizations to set up a series of meetings with different representatives.  This goes for national organizations that have local chapters, it goes for local organizations that are part of regional, statewide or national coalitions, and it goes for everything in between.

People in different organizations work together all the time, and the sort of organizing that I am proposing is not a radical departure from what they are already doing.  In fact, on some of the issues we would poll on, it would make good sense for them to lobby state representatives as well.  That's not part of the explicit model, but giving the local groups encouragement to shape their own strategies allows for them to do this as well, if it makes sense for them.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
First of all Paul (0.00 / 0)
I love the idea. I'm not going to go ahead and do this because it is you're idea but I feel strongly we should set up a Google Group or another way of communicating and have maybe a weekly post on here with updates and as a place for discussion. We need to get active on this.

If we are going to do this I assume we want to do this before the 08 elections. So I'd hope that within a month or so we could start talking to lawyers and such to find out what kind of organization we want and start working on the paperwork and all that seeing as that takes awhile. In the meantime I think we need to identify our target districts do we want to focus on making districts with Democrats more progressive or districts with Republicans more to the left so a Democrat can be elected?

One of the most import thinks I think is the local media and I'm glad we are finally talking about that. I would be willing to start working on a directory of local media once we have our targeted districts. In the mean time I'll try to find a sample for swing districts in my state (Minnesota). One thing we might even want to do is focus on the districts with good local media or even start another project to help fund and develop progressive local media.

Another idea on some action we could do for now is try to reach out to progressive organizations like the Sierra Club, USAction or Common Cause and try to see if they will tell us there membership for each swing district. That would be hugely helpful and give us a sense of how strong a presence there already is on the ground. We could also ask what work they have done in those districts if any or any other information they might have.

We need a name for the project too. Although this will be about moving the country to the left I think it should be more something like Campaign for Our Values or something like that. Essentially the project will be trying to find progressive issues that are important to the district and stressing them.

That's it for now but now that I am thinking about it I think it would probably have to be a PAC. We are focusing on CD and it would be easier to get around legal stuff as a PAC. Plus the only big advantage of a 527 is that it's donors can be bigger but this is a grassroots project so it would be fueled primarily by small donations so it doesn't really matter.

John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power

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"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

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