Thursday, August 18, 2005

Democratic Congressional Candidate Calls for Competitors in Primary

GoodWorks-PAC.org has joined its first Congressional candidate, Joe Otterbein, in announcing his novel campaign (see story http://ydr.com/story/politics/81455/). Joe is following the GoodWorks-PAC game plan by calling for more Democrats to compete against him in the Democratic primary.

It’s counter-intuitive, but having more Democratic opponents in the primary campaign can actually help Joe win in November, 2006.

Why is that? Well, first of all, you need to know that Joe is running in one of the most Republican areas in the country. No Democrat has run for Congress in the PA-19th since 2000. The Republican Congressman, Todd Platts, is also reputed to be one of the nastiest campaigners in the Republican Party! Can you imagine?

So, the situation is difficult. But look on the bright side: having Democratic opponents cannot make Joe’s chances any worse. Even better, having more opponents will help shield Joe and his opponents from Republican attacks during the course of their primary campaign.

During their primary, Joe and his opponents will work together on a series of public service events. They will show up together in the media, calling on Democrats to do Good Works throughout the 19th district. We will see them working side by side on projects that highlight the profound problems facing the communities in their impoverished district. They will demonstrate the Democratic Party’s commitment to community, responsibility, and fair play. There will be plenty of chances for them to attack Todd Platts’ record, but never once will they attack each other. There will only be the continuous imagery of their ceaselessly working together to make life better for their constituents.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, GoodWorks-PAC will be maintaining the databases that Joe and his competitors need in order to bring lots of Democrats out to their events. The turn-out effort on Election Day is called the Get Out The Vote (GOTV) drive. A GOTV drive requires lists of people who need rides, and drivers who can give rides, and people who will provide food, and locations where food will be dispensed, and people who will set up booths, and people who will staff the booths, and people who will hand out literature, and people who will hold signs, and people who will make reminder phone calls, and so forth and so on, and every one of Joe’s public service events will be a GOTV fire drill.

Whoever wins the Democratic primary is going to have to face a Republican monster. But at least he or she will have all of that data and organizational effort. GoodWorks-PAC will hand over all of the candidates’ GOTV databases to the Democratic primary winner. At least Joe has that going for him.

But how do we know that Joe will win for sure? Joe will certainly win either the primary or else the lasting glory of selflessly recruiting the candidate who goes on to win the primary. Joe will also enter the general election with an extraordinarily good field organization. He will bring out an unusually high number of Democratic voters and thereby contribute to the defeat of Senator Rick Santorum. That’s a big win. Joe will also contribute to the understanding of how we can make use of his cooperative public service campaign style in future elections. And as for the Congressional seat, who knows? Maybe the voters will know the difference between wordy lies and working truth when they see them side-by-side.

All in all, GoodWorks-PAC will be working in Joe’s district and two others that together cover a total 17 counties in eastern PA.

Please help us make Joe’s public service campaign a big success. Come to http://www.GoodWorks-PAC.org/donate and join us right now.

If you want to see how well this style of campaigning works in practice, take a look at the city council campaign of Gur Tsabar in New York City (http://www.gurforcitycouncil.com/). In the past few months, Gur has built a 500-book library for an elementary school in the East Village, handed out tax assistance coupons for low-income families, orchestrated a rock concert to benefit tenants at risk of losing their affordable housing, distributed emergency cell phones to seniors, conducted a clothing drive for victims of domestic violence in New York City shelters, organized a massive district-wide voter registration drive, produced a small business resource guide to help local entrepreneurs, and held a food drive for hungry families in the New York City. He is an underdog candidate in a crowded field of 11 opponents, but as a result of his efforts he is leading them all in press recognition.

Please join us and help spread the word!
Looking forward to working with you soon,

Eric Loeb
Executive Director

Friday, August 12, 2005

GoodWorks-PAC Approves of the Foolishness of the Democratic Party Leadership

Here is an interesting audio of Chuck Schumer giving an impromptu speech to high dollar DSCC donors in GA. He gives an interesting run-down of the Senatorial electoral landscape for 2006 and then he makes it perfectly clear that the leadership’s plan for 2006 is to pick the most likely winner for the key races and clear the field of all opposition.

Here is one such quote:
"We are no longer letting Democrats get in a circle and shoot each other. We are going to intervene if any one Democrat attacks another. We are doing that in states where there are primaries. ......this always happens in the primaries, people throw up the cards and see where they land. No more. We're finding the best candidates in every one of the seats where republicans are vulnerable."

Many Netroots activists disagree with this approach. There’s a good article on this conflict here

Most activists want a real 50 state strategy where no seat goes unchallenged, while our party leadership and their staff naturally prefer to stick to their training in the imprecise art of estimating election outcomes.

Their selection of Casey to be the nominee in PA is the most extreme example of the conflict between the Netroots strategy and the leadership strategy. The Netroots cannot easily support Casey because he is (by Schumer’s admission) out of step with most Democrats on choice, gay rights, and gun safety issues. The Netroots wants to support candidates like Pennacchio (www.chuck2006.com) or Paul Hackett who can and will clearly articulate positions that will inspire most Democrats.

The Party Leadership is Right. Sort of.

As hard as it is to accept, we have elected our leaders and we are paying them to do exactly what they are doing: the responsible thing; the careful thing; the thing most likely to succeed according to their best available information. Competitive primary campaigns are expensive and destructive. They’ve been through a few, and they know that in their bones. Competitive primaries usually leave the winning candidate wounded in the press, her Democratic opponent(s) and their supporters bitter, and the donor base poorer. The leadership knows of no choice but to fix this problem by minimizing the number of candidates participating in any given primary. And who are they going to pick besides the person they think most likely to win?

Now, maybe, just maybe, the short-term advantage of decreasing competition is outweighed by the short-term disadvantages and longer term negative impacts. In the short-term a carefully chosen candidate with a clear field will cruise through the primary untested, only to face a well prepared and campaign-experienced opponent in the general election. In the long-term, the number of Democrats running for office is shrinking, the number of volunteers is shrinking, the number of local primary donors is shrinking and the party as a whole is contracting.

The Democratic Party is losing registered voters, losing elections, and doesn’t have a wide base of newly elected officials on which to draw for higher office. But these problems only make our leadership more desperate to do their best with the limited resources they have. How could we expect them to do otherwise?

Chasing the Perfect Primary

We can only fix this problem by proving that it is possible for competitive primaries to be beneficial to the party. The party leadership cannot responsibly sanction competitive primaries in key races until they can be confident that those primaries will cause more good than harm. It is up to the Netroots to do this. We are the energy, the heart, and the innovative wing of the party. It is up to us to fix the deficiencies of the Democratic primary system.

What is wrong with our primaries? They cost too much money and they do not benefit from competition. Our primaries should have a low and fixed cost that does not depend on the number of candidates. Our internal competitions should not result in donor fatigue. Having more opponents should make the eventual winner stronger, not weaker. A spirited primary should leave the Democratic electorate energized, not dispirited.

How can we achieve these things?
GoodWorks-PAC.org is dedicated to finding out. In the 2006 cycle we are experimenting with public service primaries consisting of many community service events for Democratic Party candidates and supporters. At each event, a Good Work is done and candidates speak on related issues. An event might be

  • A Book Drive
  • A Community Garden Work Day
  • An Errand Day for Housebound Seniors

GoodWorks-PAC organizes events, recruits candidates and volunteers, and cultivates media interest.

Maybe, just maybe, the internet is going to make possible the kind of vigorous internal debate that we need in order to guide the Democratic Party democratically. I hope so. And I hope you will help us find the way. Please join GoodWorks-PAC.org and donate your money or time to the effort to reform our primaries so our leadership can stop clearing the field!