Okay, okay… so, maybe the particle physicist on my team at the big Netroots Nations trivia match tonight would disagree with me, saying there’s scientifically no such thing, but after going to David’s Mass Elections panel tonight, it’s hard not to feel good about what we’re doing electorally in Massachusetts. In that way, Massachusetts could be seen as a microcosm of the greater grassroots and netroots movements across the country — and should certainly be seen as a model.
First, some notes on the session: David, Doug Rubin, Joan Vennochi and Richard Chacon all weighed in, with inside, outside and insidery-outside perspectives about the Massachusetts phenomenon. There were a huge swath of questions asked of them, but my laptop battery died halfway through (and my phone was already dead — egads, how could I have forgot my charger?), so I couldn’t and didn’t get to all of them. That said, I’ll leave some of my notes of the conversations in the comments for people interested in those nuts and bolts. Particularly, there were a lot of poignant moments discussed that I had trouble fitting within the context of this diary… so I recommend the notes.
Alright, back to business.
It all started in 2005, when Deval Patrick was running for Governor. He did something that no democratic gubernatorial candidate in this state did for 16 years before him… win.
I’d even go so far as to say Deval Patrick was the first major candidate to run that style of a campaign across the country and be victorious.
And we Bay State lefties were the first group of guys and gals to wield the netroots to such great effect.
The recipe for success was a brilliant mixing of the long forgotten but ever effective grassroots politics, combined with new netroots tools and energy. We were able to organize in ways we could never organize before, and we were able to create a messaging platform (the blogosphere) that could – for the first time – compete with what Republicans were doing with Talk Radio, Drudge and god knows what else.
Things have developed quickly since 2006. What we did here in Massachusetts was taken nationally, in the form of Davids Plouff and Axelrod. Both messaging lessons and a web-centric grassroots campaign were polished and turned into national standards.
Though I’m sure at least one of the panelists would disagree with me (hi, Doug :p), it’s entirely possible Barack Obama wouldn’t have been able to run circles around Hillary in the early going of the POTUS primary campaign that enabled him to win the election without that experience and expertise from Patrick’s efforts in ’06. There’s a lot of other things that campaign was great at which you could say the same thing about, but we’d be remiss not to recognize the importance the Massachusetts blueprints had in Obama’s ’08.
We’ve been moving forward in Massachusetts, too, though not always to where we want to go. If Patrick and Obama’s victories represented all the best of what Massachusetts tried-and-true grassroots and netroots organizing can be, Martha Coakley’s campaign wasn’t.
Everyone recognizes the Senate Special Election campaign as part disappointment, part debacle, but the state party, grassroots activists and the netroots have learned a lot from that race. We learned that we couldn’t sit back and hope we’d reach out and get the votes… we had to do it, and we had to elect candidates who wanted to do it.
2010’s Coordinated Campaign could almost be described as taking all those netroots and grassroots lessons we learned… and professionalizing them. We’re old hats at this now, having gone through multiple election cycles. It shows, and it’s why we were able to buck 2010’s national trends.
When Elizabeth Warren was first being talked about as a potential candidate, I was eager for her to jump in right away — afraid she wouldn’t have much time to linger over a decision, given how long it can take to build a grassroots movement.
In truth, things have been an almost instant success — she brought something to be excited about, and we brought the grassroots know how. Now it’s up to us, but we’re off to a great start.
I still have my worries, particularly over the long-term. The technology is changing — and as it’s changed, the progressive dominance of the web has faded. Republicans are just as good as Democrats at tweeting and social networking, so we can’t be resting on our laurels.
In the 1980s, we had this Governor named Michael Dukakis. He was pretty well known for his grassroots prowess, too. That focus on the grassroots and energy among the activist base faded away, and left us with 16 years of Republican Governors. So, I don’t think my worries are without merit.
My question is, how do we avoid that going forward? How do we make sure the netroots are a local staple that never goes away? How do we attract new people quicker than we lose old stalwarts?
The excitement and wonder of figuring what we all are that existed in 2006 and the proceeding couple years is gone. Our movement is no longer nascent. While these aren’t bad things — we know get the message out and knock on the doors — my worry is maintaining the level of excitement for future races. After all, we’re not always going to have a Deval Patrick or an Elizabeth Warren to drive up the enthusiasm, but we will always have a need for electing candidates with strong core values and know-how that benefit the 99%.
What say you all?