Comment of the day: Why strong Ward/Precinct culture matters

Moving from “governing by abstraction” to relational, real-world people stuff. From paulsimmons, an elaboration on an old Mike Dukakis riff — read the whole thing — heck, print it out and keep it handy:

Simply put progressives have to relearn grassroots ward-and-precinct politics.

One of those little irritations in my life is that we as citizens have ceded too much power to outside structures – the fact that many of those structures operate with the best intentions is moot – to the detriment of community-accountable grassroots politics.

Over the past forty years, structured Party organisms have been allowed to wither on the vine, the result (in my opinion) is a tendency to govern by abstraction. Corollary to this is a tendency to think of electioneering as synonymous with marketing. A direct result of this was the shifting of resources from permanent, locally-based, volunteer-staffed field organizations to media operations and paid operatives.

The elite political wisdom at the time of Keverian’s Speakership was that there was no need for Party-centric grassroots structures; that elected officials should govern as individuals, with power bases comprised of organized advocacy groups reinforced by media buys. It was this cultural corruption that created chaos in the House. In this context I use the word “corruption” in the software sense, not morally or legally.

The result of this was an elitist culture that soon morphed into class bigotry. It is no coincidence (as the commies used to say) that the first systematic privatization of State services in the Commonwealth occurred in human services, particularly in mental health. We are in something close to a zero-sum game, where average citizens have little to no knowledge of the politics and personalities that are in play on local, state, and national levels.

A first start for progressives would be to get adequate information about the actual dynamics of state politics. THis would require a division of labor, wherein folks who know the actual internal dynamics can obtain accurate information about (for example) the chances of a given bill getting out of committee and why. This requires the ability to relate to the worker bees on various staffs, and the sense to keep confidences when necessary.

Thus, political approached can be premised upon real-world dynamics, not infantile morality plays. for example, it would not hurt to have people capable of reading the text of a bill and analyzing line items and translating same into understandable English. (A good source for the latter is the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center.)

On the ground, we have to come to terms with the facts that the most credible surrogates for issues and candidates are neighbors and other folks who can establish organic ties to voters. These are the people who need to be recruited and nurtured for successful progressive politics.

In particular folks have to understand the difference between mobilizing and organizing.

As a class, progressives are competent mobilizers, but crappy organizers; in fact I’ll take that one step further: As organizers, progressives often default to Orange Hatting, and thus operate as right-wing outreach mechanisms.

So, as a first step, I would suggest taking the time to ask people outside of one’s geographic and social comfort zones what they think the problems are. If a congruence of interest exists, allow the locals to organize each other.

At the local level in, for example Boston, all development has to go through zoning. It never hurts to get on the mailing list for the Zoning board of Appeals.

The same goes for city council/town meetings. One can empower people by providing access to public notices in a timely matter. “Timely” is defined as before the fix is in. Most local and State policy information can be obtained – either directly – or indirectly (through developing relationships) .

Back to the Legislature. The prime duty of Leadership (as perceived by rank and file) is to protect incumbents. That, not abstract political beliefs, is what all the post-Keverian Speakers had in common.


62 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Whenever I read one of Paul's comments,

    I learn something.

  2. Based on my experience...

    ..on the other side, the party structure may resist this common sense approach.

    There’s no money in it for consultants, data mining and robocall companies, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera…

    We LIKE to blame Big Money – unions and PAC’s and so on. They just fork it over – how it’s squandered is more local and more deeply ingrained.

    • Good point

      And one grassroots Democrats have been complaining about since at least the Kerry campaign-if not sooner. Part of the primary reasons for the development of the blogosphere was to end run around the consultant class and the political media complex. Too many blogs have become captured by that culture (the only gates Kos is crashing these days are the DC cocktail parties people forgot to invited him too), and too many grassroots campaigns that get in let their networks die while they rely on the same consultants they ran against (lookin at Patrick and Obama here).

    • they are resisting, or at least ignoring

      I tried to talk to the state party about starting a ward committee and got back silence. Things are pretty sleepy in Medford. One of my friends showed up to caucus as a first time participant and is now a delegate to the next state convention. There’s a vacuum to fill.

  3. So is there any place for outside assistance?

    While the campaigns I’ve worked on which are effective have precinct teams and such, I also have been exposed to “campaign invasions”. When I was in college, for example, College Democrats would organize day trips, or even weekends to a nearby swing congressional district which was trying to pull out all the stops with as many volunteers on the phones and doors as possible. More locally and currently, if I am interested in Democratic congressional majorities in either chamber, my efforts are better spent in nearby and more competitive New Hampshire than at home in safe Massachusetts. I don’t think parochialism should rule the day. After all, NH members of Congress get a vote on laws affecting me so trying to influence that outcome is not completely out of line, especially as long as those with the means are allowed to donate money to races other than those on their own ballots. Besides, plenty of methods and procedures are pretty easily universalized and there’s nothing wrong with wanting the best people. Ideally campaigns would be staffed by a combination of high level experts and those who know the specific area.

    • Re: "Campaign Invasions" in New Hampshire

      The following is from a New Hampshire humor site; however, for precisely that reason, it reflects conventional wisdom up there:

      How to piss off someone from New Hampshire

      1. Be from Massachusetts.

      Please don’t drive a car like you’re from there, mention the Celtics, or drunkenly throw a trash can while lambasting Derek Jeter. If you want to visit from the Bay State, just say you’re from Western Mass. It’s like being an American abroad who pretends to be Canadian. Even if your accent sounds like Eliza Doolittle choking on marbles, people are more likely to accept you if you say you’re from the Berkshires instead of “Southie.”


      6. Use a Boston accent.

      If it’s real, you’ll be regarded with polite scorn and general dislike. If it’s a fake intended to mock us, God help you. We’re not Massachusetts. Don’t get me wrong — we aren’t perfect. We do have virtually no gun control, excessive high-school dropout rates in the north country, liquor stores every ten feet, frequent snowmobiling accidents, and an actual region called the Great North Woods, but my grandfather would rise up out of his grave swinging a backhoe if he knew visitors attributed that abrasive, slack-mouthed inflection to us.

      For Massachusetts-specific iterations of this dynamic, you might want to ask some of your State Committee colleagues about how many doors were slammed in the faces of Coakley canvassers in 2014.

      • a priori animosities...

        The following is from a New Hampshire humor site; however, for precisely that reason, it reflects conventional wisdom up there:

        .. suggests not so much that any given person from Massachusetts is going to ‘piss off’ anybody from New Hampshire. Rather, it suggest that people from New Hampshire are just looking for a reason to express anger. Massachusetts is a… distinct.. target, but that’s hardly the fault of Bay Staters….

        For Massachusetts-specific iterations of this dynamic, you might want to ask some of your State Committee colleagues about how many doors were slammed in the faces of Coakley canvassers in 2014.

        Hardly much of a ‘dynamic,’ izzit? The only ‘dynamic’ thing about it, is your apparent belief that such a priori resentment (sic?) is somehow the fault of Coakley canvassers…

        The overwhelming political ‘dynamic’ in our present day and age, in my experience, is a fear, oft self-fulfilling, of being condescended to… Those who fear, or who have been told, that their intellect does not mach up will often find justification for this fear, even when it’s not present: Any interaction that involves the transfer of information from someone who has it, to someone who doesn’t, has the basic form of condescension; from there, in our present pass, intent is inferred, even when non-existent.

        Used to be, the greatest political sin was to ‘pander’… to obsequiously genuflect to the self-aggrandizing and self-gratifying urges of the voters. Now, it appears, the greatest political sin is to refuse to pander.

        • Here's how it works in the real world, petr

          For a variety of reasons, things are at the point where the only credible outreach mechanisms are people who have, or can create, bonds with voters.

          Out-of-District canvassers tend to be true believers.

          True believers, by the nature of their political cultures, are (as a class) incapable of establishing such bonds where the bonds aren’t preexisting. True believers are generally not given sufficient training to positively interact with people on-the-ground who disagree with them. As a result, they often piss off the locals.

          This grassroots anger can metastasize in one of two ways: Turnout declines and support for the opponent.

          Both happened; here in 2014, and nationally in 2016.

          • non sequitur, redux...

            true believers are generally not given sufficient training to positively interact with people on-the-ground who disagree with them. As a result, they often piss off the locals.

            … being ‘pissed off’ is a choice. It is wholly and completely a choice of the locals. They are not required, by the presence of ‘true believers,’ to go directly to snarl and rage. There is no button that the ‘people on-the-ground’ can push to create that anger, nor any they can push to stop that anger. And you need to stop peddling this notion that they can…

            It is wholly and completely outside of the responsibility of the ‘true believers’ to govern the rage of the locals. Maybe the locals just need to grow up.

            • Actually it follows absolutely

              …given that politics is at base an exercise in applied psychology. In the context of less-than-effective contact from a campaign, it is logical (albeit not always rational) to vote for “the other guy”.

              Having said that, for many voters being generically pissed off is both logical and rational, based upon those voters’ lived experiences. This is exacerbated by the wilful ignorance of many progressives who are often themselves low-information-voters-by-choice.

              Given received wisdom among progressives I submit the following as an example. For those who believe that educational opportunity is a priority in Massachusetts, consider the following (per the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center):

              Massachusetts cut higher education spending 14 percent since FY 2001.

              Higher education spending per student has been cut even more.

              Massachusetts cut state scholarship funding by 31 percent.

              State funding cuts played a major role in driving tuition and fee increases across all of our campuses.

              Cuts played a major role in driving tuition & fee increases of $2,500 per student at community colleges.

              Cuts played a major role in driving tuition & fee increases of $4,700 per student at state universities.

              Overall, the student share of higher education costs has risen substantially.

              Massachusetts ranks 30th in higher education spending per student.

              Now how much do you see in the way of providing higher education opportunity to the families of average lower and middle-income families?
              I submit that you don’t see squat.

              Given the partisan makeup Statewide, it is not unreasonable that Massachusetts Democrats qua Democrats have a certain trust deficit on issues that matter, particularly in working class communities.

              The single most important question asked by a voter is “What’s in it for me?. Any campaign that cannot give an honest answer doesn’t deserve to win.

              Thus the combination of legitimate, albeit unfocused, populism combines with political malpractice to the disadvantage of Democratic campaigns.

              Bourbon pretension notwithstanding.

              • 6 6's again Paul

                The single most important question asked by a voter is “What’s in it for me?. Any campaign that cannot give an honest answer doesn’t deserve to win.

                Yes-I think until we recognize this we will always be waging conventional campaigns against a foe seeped in assymetrical warfare. Lower middle class voters have become so acccustomed to being forgotten by their government that it’s easy for them to be attracted to campaigns that promise lower taxes and better services. They view it as a zero sum game.

                “We lose our jobs/benefits every time an illegal crosses the border”

                “It’s not prejudice-but I gotta look out for number 1″

                I heard that a lot on the campaign trail. I even heard it from family members, family friends and other long time Democrats torn between Sanders/Trump. Some ultimately voted for Clinton or by the general-but others rolled the dice on third parties or Trump. This sentiment also elected Charlie Baker.

                Voters don’t care about abstract issues like foreign policy or civil policy that do not directly relate to their economic lives and well being. By emphasizing economic issues while maintaining our existing internationalist and inclusive commitments on those other issues-we can win back these voters. Primaries absolutely are the time to enforce core commitments on all the litmus tests issues-but those issues do not matter in a general election campaign-or they need to be connected to bread and butter and pocketbook concerns.

                • One quibble, James

                  We’re dealing more with combined arms than asymmetric warfare.

                  And the Republicans at present are better at it than we are. Democrats have this funny idea that they can fight desert warfare with submarines…

                • Just as long as we never...

                  …forgive or excuse the two sentences you put in quotes above. The first is factually inaccurate and my philosophy is if you start a sentence with “It’s not prejudice but…” or something similar then BZZZ – try again!

                  • I redirect those sentences

                    To what the voters uttering them are really concerned about-quality of life issues. Cost of living, quality of schools, lack of good jobs. Once we scratch that surface we find they either have something in common with what progressives want or they are too far gone the right wing rabbit hole. It’s not always a conversion, but at least it’s a conversation.

                    • If you can do that, you're a better man than I.

                      I would have great difficulty continuing the conversation if either of those sentences were used.

              • Odd...

                First, this…

                …given that politics is at base an exercise in applied psychology.

                I think you’re thinking of ‘marketing.’ Or ‘psy-ops.” And, then, there is this…

                The single most important question asked by a voter is “What’s in it for me?. Any campaign that cannot give an honest answer doesn’t deserve to win.

                “applies psychology” is at odds with “give an honest answer.” You can’t actually do both: the only reason to apply psychology is to evade the giving of a truth you know shouldn’t be, or wouldn’t be, accepted. It’s why people don’t want to be condescended to… because they’re know they’re evading a truth.

                And, at least as regards the last Presidential contest, “what’s in it for me” was apparent to even the meanest intelligence: in a contest between the second coming of Dwight Eisenhower and a rolling boulder of absolute fail made up of a Putin-fetishizing zombie Nixon with Joe McCarthy attached at the hemorrhoids, the Republican Party went with the evident fail. The results have been exactly as predicted.

                If if makes you feel better to think that Donald Trump answered the “what’s in it for me?” question better… or even sanely… well… well all I can do is wish you the best in that endeavor… But I won’t sit for the notion that somehow, that’s the fault of Democrats: Democrats aren’t responsible for Republicans or Republicans’ behavior (that would truly be condescending, to think so) . Republicans are responsible for Republicans and for Republicans’ behavior.

                • If you think electionering can be separated from marketing (or pst-ops, for that matter)

                  You are naive.

                  The issue is not that persuasion marketing does not exist; the problem is that Democrats are so bad iat it.

                  There were a lot of analyses of Clinton campaign advertising in professional media, which simply analyzed her spots as persuasion pieces.

                  Here and here are some assessments made during the cycle. Here and here are retrospective analyses; all from Advertising Age.

                  Money quote (at length):

                  The way I saw it, Trump the candidate may have been erratic, but Trump the advertiser was all about highly effective (for its target audience) message discipline — whereas Clinton’s message discipline was basically, Trump is awful. And I’m your only hope. And, Sorry (kinda) about that private email server.

                  The irony is that the Clinton camp actually did have highly detailed plans of attack regarding the economy, ISIS and more — in contrast to Trump’s silly, empty “I alone can fix it”-style declarations. But, again, the Clinton campaign put all its advertising and messaging eggs in one basket — one, ahem, deplorable basket — creating a Clinton-branding vacuum that Trump and his allies were more than happy to fill with relentless messaging about her corruption.

                  All of which begs my primary point that dedicated local surrogates could have resolve this mess, had their warnings been heeded; and had they been usefully employed on the ground.

                  • Which brings us back...

                    …to petr’s arguments about fault. This time, it’s not our fault that people didn’t hear Clinton’s real message, one of experience, nor is it our fault that even if it just came down to DUMB vs. sloppy so many people actually chose DUMB.

                    • Actually it is our fault

                      it’s not our fault that people didn’t hear Clinton’s real message,

                      Why bother replying to Paul if you won’t bother engaging with the substance of his points? It’s really condescending. Likely unintentional-but you can do better than name calling and denial.

                    • Calling a spade a spade

                      If someone is a Dangerous Unqualified Misogynistic Bigot it is political and moral malpractice not to say so! We can shout our message from the rooftops, but it won’t do much good if people are sticking their fingers in their ears. It’s not denial so much defiance, but sometimes defiance is the principled response.

                    • People are sticking their fingers in their ears

                      And they aren’t just Trump voters. Your only response to third party data showing us that the message didn’t get through is “the message was fine, the voters are dumb”. Those that don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it and you have been spending months ignoring the lessons of this campaign. Problems Paul was pretty prescient in identifying before the election.

                    • Not just voters

                      Media didn’t do us any favors either. I also didn’t call voters dumb – remember when I put DUMB in all caps it is a specific acronymal reference to Trump, though some of them are still way too tolerant of such attributes for my taste or willingness to engage. Those are the lessons I learned from the campaign, that America is not the country I thought it was and I am mad as hell about it.

                  • Whenever it is...

                    If you think electionering can be separated from marketing (or pst-ops, for that matter)(1+ / 1-) View voters

                    You are naive.

                    The issue is not that persuasion marketing does not exist; the problem is that Democrats are so bad at it.

                    … that Democrats become, in any way, proficient in it, feel free to shoot me in the head. At least twice. If that makes me ‘naive,’ so be it.

                    All of which begs my primary point that dedicated local surrogates could have resolve this mess, had their warnings been heeded; and had they been usefully employed on the ground.

                    Really? Who’s being naive now? Do you really think that that a better presentation (whatever that might mean) would have affected the outcome in the slightest? People, poised on the very edge of voting for Donald Trump would have been pulled from the brink by the heroic sanity of local surrogates? That an insane outcome might have been affected by a little more sanity on the ground? That’s your argument?


                    • Plus, no self-respecting operative...

                      …would have taken the anecdotes of local volunteers over polling data.

                    • No self respecting operative listens to local volunteers?

                      That’s never been true. Don’t know what campaigns you’ve run or been in-but volunteers always report back what they’ve heard and that does affect the strategy. On the 2006 Duckworth campaign we wouldn’t have known about the robocalls if our field team didn’t hear about it from every voter contact. Weren’t you part of Devals 2006 team? Grassroots field is why he won. This election should have taught us that big data, algorithms and expensive ad buys can’t replace a grassroots ground game.

                    • It should be that way, I agree.

                      I’ve been frustrated as a volunteer or low level staff about not being listened too in terms of people’s reactions, but remember what my background is in? I wouldn’t ask someone to take my word over the polls.

              • Are you suggesting...

                …that progressives don’t believe the above statements about higher ed are true? I think most of us are aware and are disappointed that in this and other areas MA doesn’t stack up to its reputation. I think it’s also true that Dems are still more likely than GOPers to do something about that. As for what’s in it for me I don’t see many campaigns not putting in a good faith effort to answer that, though I would certainly prefer to focus on what’s in it for US.

          • So what's need is a class in human decency.

            I thought it was obvious and I have heard trainers remind this, but you never argue with someone if they have already made up their mind. Simply thank them for their time and move on. Even if the point is to persuade, that should be saved for those who suggest they haven’t given the race much thought yet.

      • OK, a bit off topic...

        …but I’m pretty sure the Celtics IS the NBA team that most Granite Staters root for and identify with.

        • That's not his point

          His point is Bay State progressives would be a lot more effective electing progressives in the Bay State. I happen to agree with it. I’d rather get a progressive income tax, ranked choice voting, and some decent state legislators in our own backyard rather than tell Granite Staters who to vote for. I am concerned the DSC seems to care more about another state than enforcing/passing it’s own platform in this one.

          • OK, confession time

            The DSC coughed up several hundred dollars to bus voters to NH to vote for Hillary:)

            Seriously, we’re talking about federal races, and while there are DSC members, myself included who volunteered in NH for Hillary since MA was in the bag, it was not a DSC-driven activity. Plus, the NH Dems are more than happy to have our help and it’s not like we take over their operations. Nobody tells them how to vote. We ask for their vote.

      • Coakley canvassers from where?

        There were a lot of frustrations with the Coakley campaign, but that really was a statewide race, so any MA DSC member could claim to have skin in that game.

        • Most of the folks I spoke to cited College Dems.

          …and aggregate complaints covered a pretty wide spread of suburbia.

          In Boston, Coakley simply wasn’t taken seriously, which is why Baker’s support here went up to the degree that it did (relative to 2010). To the degree that canvassing per se had any negative affect in Boston, that occurred during the primary cycle, to the detriment of Berwick and Grossman, in that order.

          • We shouldn't annoint our nominees

            I think all our primaries should have as wide a field as possible. I also think it is better for our bench if younger folks stop waiting their turn and pull a Seth Moulton. People forget Cruz and Rubio both were underdogs who beat RSCC backed frontrunners in their 2010 Senate races. Mike Lee and Chaffetz knocked off incumbents. Cantor got knocked off. This is how they got national prominence and catapulted to presidential timber. Time for our backbenchers to seriously consider this. Looking at Jamie and Lesser in particular.

            • That's a tall order, especially for federal.

              Anyone in our federal delegation you want out? Maybe Lynch, but primaries against him haven’t worked so well, and again district politics need to be considered. Plus Lynch speaks to the economic issues you keep talking about.

              • That's not the point

                Sometimes you need to have a controlled fire to clear out the underbrush. Neal doesn’t bother me-but Lesser is gubernatorial and presidential material and shouldn’t waste his prime hoping for a vacancy. Eldridge wants to go statewide or federal but he won’t get there if he stays put. Sonia is a similar talent who shouldn’t have to wait. I’d probably vote for Lynch but I’m glad Wu is in it and bringing new ideas like basic income into the mainstream. We have to stop being so afraid of competitive primaries. I would’ve voted for Jehlen but I’m glad Cheung ran. I can tell you Seth and Connolly threw a lot of rising politicos off their timetable by jumping in line. We gotta see more of that.
                I’m glad Tito is challenging Walsh. This is what democracy looks like and it’ll make our party better.

            • Plus for open seats...

              …we tend to have choices in primaries, the only exception recently is Elizabeth Warren, but I assume you aren’t complaining about that result.

              • Every seat is open every cycle

                Ultimately that was JimCs point about running someone against Bernie and I can buy it in principle-even if the optics in that specific case were horrible. Jamie thought he was a better choice for Congress than Nikki ten years ago-why not for 2018? More importantly, why should they have to be negative? He could just run as the most progressive choice in the field as he did when it was open and say nothing negative about the incumbent and just run on single payer and other issues to draw attention to them.

                Maybe Peter K can fulfill Ernies fantasies of a Clark challenge. Or maybe more outsiders like Seth and Brianna can just give it a shot. We need a local jolt in the arm to the staid state political culture-and this is one way to do it. If you’re gonna argue against term limits as a way to regularly elevate the backbench to the front you gotta back primaries instead.

                • Ok, back in the real world...

                  ….incumbent advantage is huge and the fools errands aren’t worth it, especially if you are happy with the incumbent. I’m all for primaries if there are real differences and the incumbent has been a disappointment to the party, but not just for the sake of more names on the ballot. I’m guessing Jamie doesn’t primary Niki because he’s satisfied enough with her not to risk sacrificing his current office, a consideration not in play for a special election in 2007.

                  • Yes that's my entire point

                    Our entire system is predicated on risk aversion and we wonder why it’s not bolder and more assertive? We should be the Kansas of the left and be a real Petri dish for progressive ideas. CA, WA and OR are handily lapping us. Even MN was until this year when the legislature flipped. And they were lapping us when we had a trifecta too.

                    I’m not drafting Jamie to run against Nikki-I am saying he will likely never advance beyond the Senate-which he openly wants to do-by avoiding risks. None of our rising stars will get the exposure they need to be statewide or federal contenders. The Tea Party used primaries not just to push an ideological agenda, but also to build a broader bench. We can learn from that here-especially when the risk of electing a Republican is nearly non existent.

                    Otherwise it’s term limits time.

                    • I guess I have to admit...

                      …I don’t entirely share your goals then. Again, if there’s good reason to primary an incumbent, go for it, but otherwise let’s not drain our energy where we don’t need to. Plus there is something to be said for stability as well, and I will not endorse term limits. If there is enough sense that an incumbent needs to go someone will step up and voters will respond.

            • What is it...

              We shouldn’t annoint our nominees

              … that you think you mean by “annointed”???

              I think all our primaries should have as wide a field as possible.

              You are sooo full of it. Four people entered the Senate race in 2009: Martha Coakley, Mike Capuano, Alan Kazei and Steve Pagliuca. Only one emerged. What is your criteria for ‘annointed’? Do they have to run a gauntlet of greater than 4 people? Martha Coakley did SO WELL in 2009/2010 that she scared people away from the 2014 Gov Race. Is that what you consider ‘annointed”? Is Martha Coakley responsible for the cowardice of others?

              • That's a horrible field though

                No disrespect to the candidates, but that was an open Senate primary. It attracted four candidates, two of who had never held office. Google the 1986 race for Tip O’Neill’s seat — something like 14 candidates, nearly all of them officeholders.

                Primaries are healthy. Incumbents should be challenged as often as possible.

                • Go further back and you'll see more frequent primaries against incumbents

                  That’s how John Kerry got his start. He lost his first race-but he learned from it. Harrington and his father both primaried incumbent members of Congress in their own party. It’s how Ed King became Governor. Statewide offices used to be contested a lot Kroc frequently in those days as well.

  4. Democrats: get thineself on Town Meeting!

    Elected Town Meeting Members are natural grassroots organizers. That’s how you win at the hyper-local level — you become a bit of a maven or go-to for your neighbors. You talk to folks one-on-one. No teevee ads. No autodialers. No media consultants. Maybe a flier or inexpensive hand-stuffed mailer.

    Not all towns in MA are representative, of course. I don’t know how many towns are Representative Town Meeting, nor do I know what fraction of the Commonwealth’s population they comprise. It seems like they are more likely to be in the burbs (not cities, but not rural Open Town Meeting communities either), which is exactly where the Dems could really stand to improve vote share if we’re going to win and hold the corner office.

    Seems to me it would be clever for the Mass Dems to identify and encourage capital-D Democrats who could become precinct captains to run for Town Meeting.


      My 9th Essex state representative House district includes half my hometown of Wakefield which has an Open Town Meeting where any registered voter from Wakefield can attend, speak and vote on articles in the Town Warrant; and the town of Saugus which has a Representative Town Meeting of 50 members elected by voters. It also includes 1 ward in the city of Lynn which has a Mayor though I am not sure of their meeting status.

      Fred Rich LaRiccia

    • Sec of State?

      He would have the numbers, but I am not sure how common it is. Isn’t Arlington a Rep. TM even though you think of it as a city?

      The 15 towns in my area break up this way- 1 town council, 1 Rep. town meeting, and 13 open town meetings. There are a little over 200 town meetings in MA, the most common form of government here, but I bet only 10-15 percent are Rep. town meetings.

      • By number or by population?

        I’d bet the most common is Open Town Meeting, but in terms of percent of the state population, I’m sure it’s quite low.

        By population, I’ve got to believe that cities have the largest share, perhaps significantly so.

        How big is the “middle” — the Representative Town Meeting — by state population? No eye deer.

        • Stomv, this was YOUR idea

          You suggested that Dems get involved at the local level by running to be Town Meeting Members. You thought it clever.

          A town, regardless of population, sets it’s structure and number of members. That would be the potential number of offices you could recruit for.

          What, too few people by population for a Democrat to bother with? They would be living there anyway

        • Without looking it up...

          …I believe communities with populations over 6000 have the option of using a representative town meeting and those over 12000 have the option of becoming a city, some of which still “wish to be known as the Town of…” I think Framingham is the largest town. The four largest towns to still use open town meeting are all in my neck of the woods – Andover, Dracut, North Andover, and Tewksbury.


    My experience of actively campaigning for Democrats in my home town of Wakefield for the last 57 years leads me to one inescapable general conclusion : if we want to WIN election of Democrats we need less talk and more action at the local level.

    Case in point — our upcoming town election on April 25 for Board of Selectmen and School Committee. Our Republican friends are fielding a strong slate of candidates and are poised to win majority control of both Boards which they view as farm team springboards to higher office.

    Although neither party endorses at the local level, Republicans have been historically more successful at rallying behind their own and have the results to show for it even though Democrats hold a 21/2 to 1 advantage over them in voter registration.

    My efforts over the years to change the WDTC bylaws to address this problem failed and is the reason I had to step down from the Committee.
    My idea was that we should actively do outreach to vet, recruit, train and endorse candidates for local office then unite to ELECT them.

    So, now I do my own thing as a Lone Ranger Democrat organizer by managing the campaign of a fellow progressive running for Selectman — Dan Benjamin. You can check out his qualifications and progressive platform on Facebook.

    It continues to mystify me why Democrats refuse to unite in Common Cause to elect progressive Democrats at the local level.

    Fred Rich LaRiccia


    by CAMPAIGNING to ELECT Democrats to local office.
    It’s at the LOCAL level that we have the most credibility with our neighbors to influence the outcome of an election.

    I can’t tell you many of my fellow Wakefieldians have told me that they wait to see whose lawn sign I put up before they begin to consider who to vote for :) or against :( .

    Fred Rich LaRiccia

  7. Non sequitur...

    As a class, progressives are competent mobilizers, but crappy organizers; in fact I’ll take that one step further: As organizers, progressives often default to Orange Hatting, and thus operate as right-wing outreach mechanisms.

    … There is a leap here that does follow: orange hats do not create right wing outreach.

    If you want to say that right wing outreach involves generating animosity at a distinct target, I’m with you. But a distinct target does not a right wing outreach create. This is, essentially, blaming the ‘victim’ and asking the ‘victim’ to change their habits, or their hats, in order that the bear sleeps easier excuses the unruly behavior of the awakened bear.

    At some point, people have to be prepared to hear what you have to say. If they are not, no amount of changing what you say, how you say it, what you wear or how you approach them won’t have any affect whatsoever.

    Or, put another way, Democrats are not responsible for the childish behavior of Republicans.

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Mon 24 Apr 11:18 AM