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Saturday, June 09, 2007

JJ: The Netroots Unites, The Grassroots Validated

Cross Posted: FLA Politics, Florida Progressive Coalition

What can I say? Where can I begin? Today was one hell of a day - and I mean that all in a good way. I went to JJ two years ago, and this was SO much more fun. For starters, I actually knew people. My Dad, Rick Perry and the Van Heydes from the Marion DEC, in addition to Ken Quinnel, gatordem, and many others were all there. Did I mention that other cool people like Karen Thurman, Nancy Pelosi, Dave Aronberg, and others were there, too!?

I could recite the whole day, but that would be ridiculously long - I'll point you to Ken Quinnel's masterful day-long coverage over at Florida Progressive Coalition. Don't worry, I called 911, and the EMT's are taking care of Ken's carpal tunnel as we speak.

The netroots really came together for the first time today. Not all of us were there, to be sure, but all were certainly there in spirit. HUGE kudos to meowmissy for suggesting this idea - and then following it up and working really hard to make it happen. Also a big thanks to Phil Perry and his team for pulling all the logistics together, and getting us credentials to cover the dinner with Speaker Pelosi. What a group of wonderful, practical people! Nonetheless, as typical Democrats and progressive do, we talked endlessly about various topics, and found it hard to focus on the subject at hand: planning a big netroots coming out party at the state convention. But we did, and I think we're going to have a really great shindig later this year. For now, I think were going to have several panels: technology and the blogosphere, why the netroots is critical to candidates, how the netroots and party (both state and DECs) can better work together, while each maintaining their integrity. I think we'll also have a panel on how to best promote our blogs and bring in larger audiences. The big draw is hopefully a prominent blogger as out guest speaker. I personally suggested the lead bloggers at Raising Kaine, a real model for statewide blogospheres to follow.

The other main lesson I learned today was how the idea of strong local parties and grassroots systems was validated - and validated again. It really hit home with me, after bringing Reforming Florida's DECs (which I plugged unmercifully today) back from the digital dead earlier this week. No matter where I went, whether it was the DEC chairs breakfast, the DCCA meeting, the Legislative Liaison and Campaign Committee, and particularly the Netroots luncheon - the same theme remained. We have incredibly smart, energetic, and passionate people at the FDP, which can use resources the best ways and come up with the best plans - but it all rests on the shoulders of the DECs, the grassroots, and yes, the netroots to get the job done. The conversation about how we modernize, streamline, and make more effective the grassroots is more critical than ever.

We Democrats and progressives stand at yet another crossroads. With a fresh round of victories behind us, will we rise to the challenge of building a long-lasting majority party and movement? Will we not only win elections, but push valuable issues and legislation with our new majority? And of course, will our communities be better than when we found them?

I know we can do all of these things, because the people I met today are patriots and know in their souls that this country can be better tommorrow than it is today.

Friday, June 08, 2007

At JJ For The Weekend

Hey all. Wanted to let you know that I'll be at the Florida Democratic Party's Jefferson Jackson Dinner this weekend down in Hollywood, FL. I'll see if I have time to post anything this weekend. I'll certainly try!

If any of you are also going to be at JJ, if you see me, just say hi. I promise I don't bite :)

Applebee's America: A MUST Read

I bought Applebee's America: How Successful Political, Business, and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community last summer, after hearing about it from a few liberal blogs as a great new resource for organizers. It exceeded even my expectations. The book attacks many conventional wisdoms that are out there: that policy talks are more critical than community connections, that media buys win elections rather than grassroots organizing. Applebee's was written by infamous Bush strategies Matthew Dowd, Clinton strategist Douglas Sosnik, and journalist Ron Fournier.

Americans are becoming increasingly isolated, and are looking for community. Businesses, political organizations, community groups, and mega churches have figured this out. They do their homework - through demographic data, microtargeting, and long term planning. It is only after these things are accomplished do these institutions build themselves. The name of the game of staying afloat is appealing to niche markets and groups of people. Businesses like Delta have spun off branches such as Song, which appeals to a younger audience. Megachurches have small groups. Because these small groups and niche markets attract people of similar tastes - community is formed.

DECs are institutions which have to pay attention to these lessons. We're on the front lines of the Democratic Party, and its mostly up to us to form these critical community connections. For specifics, buy the book. Its required reading for the Marion DEC Steering Committee. All have found the book to be incredibly informative, eye-opening, and thought-provkoing.

Buy the book by clicking on the picture-link above. Some of the earnings will go to help Reforming Florida's DECs stay in business. Thanks to all our supporters!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

What A Good Website Can Do

Expanding on yesterday's post on the need for DECs to have a website, today's post will discuss a few things that a good website can do.

Let People Know You Exist:
If you include your website on your press releases, logos, and on most of your materials - this will drive traffic. As word spreads, your website will become the first impression many people have of your DEC.

Voting Absentee: GOTV strategies are slowly losing relevance to GITV (Getting IN the Vote) strategies to get votes in the bank before election day in the form of absentee and early votes. A webform can do the trick of increasing absentee turnout nicely. Just have the results of the website emailed to your Supervisor of Elections. You'll obviously need to coordinate with your county SoE to see whether they allow requests to be emailed, and if they do, what is the correct email address to send the information. We did this in Marion County in 2006, and we had several dozen folks request their absentee ballots this way (including yours truly.)

Recruiting Volunteers: Having a webform for volunteers is another great resource to have. Make sure you get all the relevant contact information (particularly their email address), their interests, times they can work, and any special skills they have. Have the webform email results to your volunteer coordinator or the appropriate party official for quick personal follow up.

The ability to contribute online is a quick and easy way for the party to get the resources it needs. However, a slight warning: I've generally found that older folks, including those who surf the web often, don't trust giving online (fearing ID theft and the like.) Giving online is also very impersonal and distant - there isn't the instant "Thank You!" from a fellow warm body. So don't be surprised if your contributions page doesn't make you rich overnight. There are several ways to accept contributions online. The two most used I've seen is PayPal and Click and Pledge. If you're using the Drupal package, the somewhat complicated CiviCRM package is the best way to start accepting contributions.

Build A Strong Mailing List: A good mailing list will allow you to regularly communicate with your support base and keep them informed, drive traffic to your website, and organize more efficiently. With the Drupal package, in order to have an account to do much of anything, you have to give your email address. If you're not using the Drupal package, you can use what we use here at Reform Florida's DECs: Bravenet. I've also seen feedblitz used. I'm sure there are plenty others.

This is a good list of things a great website can help DECs do. There are others, but these are the core benefits.

Update: I should add I will be more than willing to help build or reconstruct your DEC's website. I'll work out a workable price.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Websites for DECs

No matter how small the county - every DEC should have an effective web presence. This is one area where many DECs fall short. Websites are viewed as an amenity rather than an essential. These vital pieces of infrastructure will only become more important as time goes on. This is because more and more people are using the Internet as a means of getting their information, staying informed, shopping, meeting people, and having fun.

DECs have to evolve with the times. Good websites can yield significant results for DECs in terms of volunteer recruitment, contributions, network development, and keeping your supporters well informed and up to date.

What stops many DECs from building a website is the potential complexity and cost. This is only true to some degree. If you're familiar with navigating the web, and using Microsoft Office applications such as Word and Excel (possibly Access) - then you can probably maintain a website.

Building one isn't that complex, either. The only real technical knowledge you may need is a bit of knowledge of HTML, and possibly (though not likely) in CSS. You can learn all the things you need to know and more about HTML and CSS here.

You can certainly build a website purely on HTML and CSS, but that would take a lot of time. There are several packages out there which can do most of the work for you - you just have to fill in the spaces. The package I recommend is Drupal. With this book on Drupal, installing and configuring is easy, easy, easy.

This is what we're doing with the Marion DEC website, which should be released at the end of the summer. I'll talk more about things you can do with a good DEC website later today.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Young Voter Mobilization Tactics

Interesting new report out by the Young Voter Strategies site. I'm going to try and read it this week.

Young Voter Mobilization Tactics: Lessons from 2006 House and Statewide Campaigns

If you want a nice quickie, here's the Top Ten Tips to Mobilize Young Voters.

Young Voter Strategies is an excellent resource which I invite all of you to visit every now and then.

Clubs: The Peril...and the Promise

Throughout my time in the DEC, Democratic clubs have consistently been portrayed as "problems." "They don't do anything", "They're all too old", "What a royal pain in the ass", are some of the sample phrases I've heard. I, too have been frustrated with clubs. Its often like trying to herd cats.

You've seen me write about clubs before, and what they could do if they were better organized.

However, with a bit more experiences under my belt, I want to talk some more about these vital institutions.

Clubs, in my opinion, have been "such a pain" largely because there has been minimal to zero DEC oversight. The DEC is too busy trying to keep its own house together, than it doesn't have the time, the people, or the resources to deal with clubs, which are miniature versions of the DEC. Clubs have been left to their own devices, and because of that, they have found the best way to survive is to be as independent as possible from the DEC and from any outside force.

So when the latest round of regulation came down, requiring that in order for clubs to re certified by the state party - they would have to register as PACs for financial purposes - you would think they were asked to switch parties or something! We were getting calls from frustrated club presidents, saying their clubs wouldn't be able to re certify, as they couldn't get anyone to do the job of being treasurer. To refresh everyone's memory, reporting contributions and expenditures every quarter isn't rocket science. Candidates have to do it, and often in more frequent intervals. So you can understand the frustration on the DEC's end, hearing the blood and tears coming from the clubs.

However, this is also an opportunity. Clubs will undoubtedly fold because of this. But is it a bad thing? If a club can't get the wherewithal to do the very simple task of financial reporting - then they probably won't be able to step up to the plate on bigger items - like actually organizing their communities and beating the Republicans.

Another great opportunity that is presenting itself is the possibility of building new clubs with some youth in them. Most clubs in Marion County and around the state have an average age in the mid 60s probably. Typically people below 60 (the boomers and my generation) don't join "clubs." Clubs are synonymous with old men wearing red fez caps and singing ridiculous songs and performing embarrassing rituals.

We're going to have to transform the club model to make it work for younger people...but that's another post.