Don’t miss the excellent article in today’s Globe about Mass. Dems chair and grassroots superhero John Walsh.
There are many impressive things about how John turned disaster in January into triumph in November. For me, perhaps the most impressive is the fact that he was able to take a devastating loss, look dispassionately at what happened (which surely included looking hard at what he himself had gotten wrong), and devise a plan to fix it that was both simple in concept and visionary in scope.
Add to that this part of it, which is easy to say but which I suspect in practice was far, far more complicated:
In the final weeks of the campaign, he pooled the party’s substantial forces, persuading all 10 members of Congress, all statewide candidates, and most legislative candidates to pool their voter lists. Rather than individually identifying potential votes and enlisting separate organizers, the candidates could tap a massive base of voters and volunteers. “We as Democrats had to absolutely cooperate with one another, which doesn’t always happen historically,” Walsh said.
Heh – that last quote is probably the understatement of the century. The basic idea sounds so straightforward – candidates on the same side should pool their voter lists and essentially share their volunteers. But to anyone who has worked anywhere near politics, the turf battles and bruised egos, as well as the logistical hurdles, that must have been involved will immediately become apparent. They would have been too much for most people to handle. The fact that John was able to pull this off at all, to say nothing of how brilliantly it actually worked, is a powerful testament to a guy who both believes in doing real grassroots politics and understands what it takes to make it happen.
I really, really hope that John’s prediction here is right:
Walsh is thrilled to think that his brand of campaigning, unusually personal and interactive for the information age, was so effective that it probably will be replicated. “To me, that’s changing politics,” he said. “Everybody wants that. Scott Brown did it. Deval Patrick did it. It is possible and everybody wants it so let’s go try it.”
We’ve said this before, but it’s worth saying again: once the DC Dems finish licking their wounds, they need to come up to Massachusetts and have a sit-down with John Walsh and the rest of the folks who made the Massachusetts Miracle of 2010 happen. We did it right, and they didn’t. They could learn a lot by looking hard at what happened here on Tuesday, if only they are willing to do what John did back in January: accept that you screwed up, and try to fix it. Time will tell.
If you missed it on election night, here is a brief interview I did with John about the grassroots strategy before the results were in.
Nice article in the Globe and I appreciate David’s thoughts. I’m interested in what you think works for your personally. Just curious.
You put humanity into the center of politics which is refreshing and inspiring.
The article mentions that John confirmed to WRKO that Rachel Maddow WAS the intended recipient of an accidently-public tweet gauging her interest in challenging Scott Brown. As I noted in a previous diary, she denied receiving it. I believe the continues to deny any interest.
important Democrat in this state and he needs to turn his attention to Central Massachusetts, which is–and will be–a huge problem moving forward. Serious people need to sit down and analyze what has gone so terribly wrong here. Failing to confront the realities of the greater Worcester area is to jeopardize the Democratic party’s bedrock strength in Massachusetts. Forewarned is forearmed; we have a serious, serious problem.
That’s another region that seems to go red a lot. Patrick-Murray, Grossman, and Bump only won Lowell, Lawrence, and Newburyport. Every other community went GOP in those races. Plus three of our State House seats were lost in this area.
I absolutely give John Walsh credit for that (and also Clare Kelly, the Field Director for Governor Patrick’s campaign, for being so nimble with the state’s field plan). However, to look at MA as an example of how the rest of the country should campaign would be presumptuous. There were many statewide organizations that coordinated their campaigns very closely and still lost – Florida saw OFA and DNC staffers from DC integrated directly into the coordinated campaign and their showing was poor.
p>That said, Democrats need to take a look at what we’re doing nationwide and ask ourselves some tough questions about our priorities moving forwards.
to have a good candidate at the top of the ticket. We had that here; FL did not, and that hurt them badly.
My guess is that like me, most of you have John Walsh’s cell phone and email and he always answers – and as a result, he has the real picture from the ground up, and also, those who feel heard remain energized and loyal.
As I said in another thread, there are examples all over. How did Montana elect so many Democrats over the past four years? Why did metro Omaha go for Obama in 2008? That’s as impressive to me as anything else.
p>Look for patterns across all successful campaigns, don’t just copy-paste what happened in Massachusetts.
To actually change politics, John Walsh and the Democratic party have to actually prove that they can keep these communities alive, which is something that Howard Dean, Deval Patrick, and Barack Obama have all struggled to do. Of the three, only Dean made a real effort to convert his community into an ongoing community, but Democracy for America has never had the same fervor and focus as Dean for America did.
p>Even so, the fact that no other candidate has done a better job in the last 6 years in transforming a electoral volunteer base into a political force means that we really haven’t made progress; we’ve just changed some of the election tactics. Elections aren’t politics. So, if John Walsh is really so great, here’s his big challenge; figure out what to actually do with these estimated 800,000 volunteers rather than lose them again over the next two years. Getting a slate of guys elected is just step one for the ideals we believe in. The hard work lies ahead.
Volunteers like to do meaningful work, and get a lot of satisfaction from it. Each local Democratic Committee should sponsor several local public service events each year and enlist those volunteers. It can be as simple as cleaning up a public park: wear Democratic t-shirts while doing it and have a cookout after, or collect food for the local food pantry. These things will keep people engaged, in touch with one another and be visible to the larger community. Then, when we need to activate the team to support an issue and for the next election they will be right there.
Let me start by saying that I am doing and will continue to do. everything that I can to keep people who volutneered engaged and motiviated.
p>But people are busy, very busy! People will carve time out of there busy days for the final days of an election, in a way that they won’t do for helping a food drive, or going to a meeting with a speaker or a social gathering.
p>And that is OK. We just need to be sure that we are staying in touch with them so that when the time comes they are there for us.
p>And we also need to educate people that knocking on doors in July and August is MORE IMPORTANT than in November.
I would also congratulate old school machine politics – the kind that is usually bashed here on BMG. Big cities like Boston, Worcester and Springfield came out big for Deval and it was due to the old fashioned politicking.
p>Like: Hey remember that job we got your kid – well I need your vote.
Would be a lot better at getting the base fired up than Kaine or Gibbs, and I think he could appeal to indys too.
…especially if he can finish out his term as DSC chair by reclaiming some of those state house seats we lost AND making sure that every single Republican legislator is challenged in 2012.
The big thing is he is not that well known outside of MA, but he is a great party builder, especially at the grassroots level and he fits in with the Deval/Obama style of campaigning. Maybe Plouffe can recommend him. Also I think Ed Rendell should either be Chief of Staff or take over DNC Chair again. He has done a great job talking about how to get the Democrats to appeal to working people again and is a solid lunch-pail progressive.
I always thought the DNC Chair was supposed to bring in the dough…does Walsh know the people for that, or have the small-donor base nationwide to make it happen?
p>Putting him in charge of field seems an obvious call to me, though.
Terry McAuliffe certainly fits that description, but Howard Dean I think was brought in for his campaigning and outreach skills.
GOvernor Dean was not “brought in.” He actively campaigned for the position and won the support of a majority of the DNC members.
…but I still think it’s for the reasons I cited that he won. I for one started thinking he’d make a great chair while he was still running for President, though I didn’t support him for that office.
I think a fair number of people were very strident that their financial support of the DNC would depend on Dean’s election. Remember, he got a lot of first-time donors who I think the DNC coveted. Tim Kaine has pretty much lost them all back.
John Walsh saved all 10 US House seats and the governor in the face of an AVALANCHE of big business, corporate money. He used tactics that worked.
p>There is no perfect message, messenger, or tactic. There never was, and there never will be.
p>Robert “Bozo the Spokes Clown” Gibbs is such a lame tool. He really is. He has insulted the Democratic BASE that elected Obama. When the BASE is not served, it stays home, and the other side gets elected. Gibbs would be a disaster.
p>Tim Kane is not horrible, but I don’t see him doing anything great either.
p>Why not go with John Walsh, the man with effective tactics who does not insult the BASE?
Is that it is the base that wins midterms, Karl Rove understands this better than anyone else which is why he was the architect of one of the few first term midterms where a President gained seats. Also he was able to win the 04 election largely by making astronomical turnout amongst the base there. Obviously Obama needs to win back a lot of independents and moderate Republicans that he had, but I think he needs to rebuild the party apparatus first to make sure we can be competitive going into the next cycle. It will be the base that will fuel and volunteer for the 12′ race.