Monday, June 01, 2009

Note to Politicians: Bring Ideas to the Table

Politicians and wannabees hopefuls need to realize that you can't just talk to bloggers and expect glowing praise for giving us attention. You've got to deliver us the goods -- and by goods, I mean actual ideas with some beef behind them.

There are few things better for a blogger than hearing real, reality-based policy ideas coming from politicians. It makes our day. Mike, Lynne and I get a lot of that over at LeftAhead, whether it was with Jen Benson, Sonia Chang-Diaz, Boston City Councilor John Tobin or any of the literally dozens of candidates we've had on for State Representative, Senate and Mayoral races. All of them brought ideas forward, backed up with hard facts. We don't always agree with every single policy point, but we appreciate the fact that these ideas are usually made with great care and precision.

Mike didn't get many ideas and policy points with city council hopeful Ayanna Pressley at a recent breakfast he went to (and I skipped). Consequently, he spoke the truth about his meeting with Pressley at his blog. Pressley was vague. I don't know if she expected a glowing report, but the most important thing in any campaign is time -- and she clearly tried engaging the blogosphere in this race as time she thought worth spending. I'm glad she did give bloggers that time - I hope she'll continue going forward - but without ideas, opinions and at least some substance, it's a useless endeavor. Unfortunately, more often than not, the takeaway politicians usually make in this regard is to despise spend less time with bloggers. In reality, the real lesson to learn is to bring more ideas for constituents to the table: that's how to get a blogger's glowing report as well as win an individual vote.

Mike referenced Deval Patrick at his blog -- and how being vague was good for the Governor at a statewide level, even if it's not good at a city level. I disagree: broad strokes and inspiration can win a City Council seat just as easily as it can the Corner Office. However, what made Deval Patrick's broad stumps effective was that they were balanced by the fact that no one had more concrete policy percolating than Deval Patrick -- be it through his website or frequent pressers. He may have spoke in the big picture, but he always backed that up with real ideas for the wonks and political junkies among us, ideas that trickled down the water cooler and caught on as his campaign did. Even for those who weren't interested in the minutiea of Patrick's every campaign policy stance, they knew he had a lot of them. The same can be said of an even better politician, President Obama.

If people want to run "big picture" campaigns, they need to back up that big picture with concrete ideas at their website and when pressed by media, including the blogosphere. While no one wants a 30 minute stump speech bore at a neighborhood coffee hour, they do want a specific, detailed answer to a personally important question -- and if a city council candidate can't do that, they're not going to get onto the City Council.

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