Thursday, November 18, 2010

What does a good coordinated campaign look like?

Tonight, a few members of my Town Democratic Committee got together to discuss the past election -- and most of it revolved around the Coordinated Campaign, what we liked and what we thought could be improved.

We all universally thought the Coordinated Campaign was a good idea and was largely responsible for our State Party's success, but that doesn't mean there weren't some frustrations observed by members that should be resolved going forward.

In that effort, I created a trusty Venn Diagram that attempts to look at the strengths and weaknesses of the groups that comprise the Coordinated Campaign -- the local campaigns, the Statewide Party (including State Campaigns) and local town, city and ward committees.

(Click for Larger)

Obviously, this is an overly simplistic look at the players, their strengths and weaknesses -- and I encourage anyone's thoughts, critiques and improvements in the comments.

Understanding the strength and weaknesses between state and local campaigns, as well as state and local committees, is of paramount importance to correcting any of the mistakes made in the last election, as well as improving the things we did well to maximize our effectiveness.

The lesson that really screams out to me is that the more local control that's given, the more powerful the effort is going to be. The larger the organization or campaign is, the more capable it is at creating powerful tools and having ample resources, but the less able it is at dealing with local problems. Therefore, the State Party should set the basic strategy and goals, and provide the resources local organizations can't provide for themselves (including training in how to run good grassroots campaigns), but the local campaigns and committees have to be the on-the-ground commanders issuing the orders when push comes to shove, because they're the ones who know the conditions in which the battles take place. This includes GOTV -- and being responsible for lists used on Election Day.

I think John Walsh and the State Party realize the importance of empowering local individuals and committees, and certainly the trend in this state has been in giving these groups more power and tools, not less. In a world that's becoming increasingly difficult to reach people at the macro level, where phones are ineffective and mail is thrown away, empowering people at the local level is inevitable -- because it's going to be the only way that works. We're moving in that direction, but not completely there yet -- and we certainly haven't perfected this new way of organizing.

My second recommendation is on improving communication -- something that may be best done in between elections, anyway. It behooves everyone to improve this aspect of the campaign -- local committees and campaigns need to know the State Party is listening to their concerns and answering their questions, and the State Party needs to be responsive to local needs -- all the while the State Party needs to know that the local committees and campaigns are getting the job done, especially when not all local committees and campaigns are created equally.

One thing I am sure of is the fact that our State Party is only going to get better at campaigning. We could only coordinate as much as local campaigns were willing to coordinate -- and it took a lot of courage for so many local campaigns to go as far as they did this time around. Now that they know it works, they'll go much further -- and the holdouts will see that it suddenly makes much more sense.

Lastly, I think it's important to take a second to remember and thank the person who brought us this effort -- John Walsh, Deval Patrick and the rest of our statewide and local leaders who came behind this effort. Running the style of campaign that Walsh did -- and getting everyone to come on board -- is something that's almost unheard of in politics. When, in politics, anything new is seen as risky -- and anything risky is usually crushed by the virus that infects almost all politicians (risk adverseness), it is simply amazing what we did. People may have thought John Walsh would be remembered as a small footnote -- the guy who helped bring us Deval Patrick -- but it's becoming clear that he's just written the metaphorical book on how to run campaigns in the 21st Century.


Anonymous said...

To think I derided him after the Special Election in January. No, I'll say it loud and proud, John Walsh izza genius.

Elias Nugator

Ryan said...

Well, in a lot of ways what I think John Walsh is best at is having good ideas followed up by a *lot* of hard work, with an amazing ability to get people to buy into things, at least buy into them enough to succeed.

About Ryan's Take