Sunday represented another quarterly fundraising deadline for political organizations and with it came some progress and some steps backward for organizing that I want to highlight that were probably inspired by Big Data….but as Mark Twain once said: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

 

#1 The Good: Organizing For Action’s “Meet The President Backstage” Contest


I assume the data is showing OFA that if you encourage people to go to your web site or sign up for something with no strings attached then that is worth more than even asking for $3 to participate in a contest to meet the President.

 

Obama free contest tweet
Thats because if you can get the throngs to your donation page AFTER they participate in the Free Offer they will probably be in a good mood and wind up giving more than if they only showed up because they planned to give $3 in advance to join the contest.
obama donation page


Regardless, it is an excellent way to get people involved who might feel detached with OFA since the election ended eight months ago. In this case, OFA used data to encourage more engagement and that is never a bad thing.


#2 The Bad: Organizing For Action’s “Um” & “Is This A Mistake?” subject lines


I have been getting tired of being tired of OFA fundraising emails but I did see some blow back by several people from a facebook conversation started by a prominent former Democratic organizer about the latest subject line strategy and it does remind me of some issues they still have with engagement.

 

Is this a mistake


By saying “Um” why aren’t you taking action or “Is This A Mistake?” that you didn’t donate, I wonder if it is appropriate for an organization that is representing the interests of the President’s agenda to be talking to me like it’s MY FAULT I wasn’t inspired to get involved further and therefore am in need of being asked “earnestly and directly” for some reason.

How many people who volunteer regularly but didn’t donate, especially someone like me who just added a new email address or hasn’t donated to the new organization since 2012, get the same email questioning what they are doing to “build” OFA?


Social Pressure works when you sent postcards that talk about your neighbors supporting a candidate or voting regularly etc. but to literally send a message of contempt is kind of bizarre.


As I will definitely explain in my next example, regardless of how much money comes in and how many unsubscribes there are, is it helpful if a large swath of your list holds you in contempt and only is willing to endure more because they care so much about the cause? That is one thing the data won’t tell you.

 

#3 The Ugly: Ready For Hillary’s Social Media Fundraising Blitz

(as I discussed here earlier: http://inthecapital.streetwise.co/2013/07/01/ready-for-hillary-pac-alienates-young-voters-with-aggressive-fundraising-campaign/)


First off, let me note that I helped start the Virginia for Obama campaign in 2007 as the Grassroots Volunteer Database Coordinator until Super Tuesday, where i ran the biggest phone bank operation in the state before the 2008 Primary.


So, I have paid very close attention to Hillary Clinton’s campaign tactics and why I thought ours were better for awhile now and am definitely sensitive to the dangers of a 2016 campaign repeating the same mistakes….but I think the Ready For Hillary PAC is giving us some real reason for pause by over-compensating for the flat-footedness of 2008.


I have seen their sponsored facebook posts before, which is kind of annoying but reasonable, but on Sunday they used them to ask for money, not just promote the group, which is as close to spam as you can get to people you have connection with on a social platform.

Hillary fb post
(this is not the sponsored version…but why do they need 321 donors anyway?)


Imagine “Ready for Hillary” sending you a fundraising ask before you joined their email list….that is basically what they did with this advertising binge.

Remember that this isn’t just a community for Hillary supporters, it’s a community for Hillary for PRESIDENT supporters!

And this means they’re asking THEIR supporters for MONEY so they can spend it to ask NON-supporters for MONEY on social media…regarding a campaign that is two years away from even happening (if at all).

This isn’t the first example of the group creeping people out either:
http://inthecapital.streetwise.co/2013/06/26/ready-for-hillary-pacs-creepy-swag-inspires-new-memes-pictures/

Now, we can chalk this up as the work of some over-zealous fans, but the fact is Ready For Hillary involves serious folks who have worked with and donated to Hillary before, and is getting endorsements from the likes of James Carville and now Senator Claire McCaskill, so it is very likely they operate with her blessing to some extent. And regardless, I doubt they would dis-obey the wishes of Mrs. Clinton if she thought they were tarnishing her brand.

People like ambition but they don’t like naked ambition….especially when it takes precedent over the rest of a candidate’s brand.

So, regardless of what the “data” says about how successful this fundraising approach is, communications is an Art not just a Science….and for every dollar they raise from these foolish promotions they probably alienate many fence-sitters the campaign will eventually need to win the nomination versus the inevitable “Not Hillary” candidate that will emerge in both 2016’s Democratic Primary and General Election.

Would the same Democrats cheering for Hillary therefore applaud the strategy of the House’s Tea Party Caucus Chair Michelle Bachmann who raises lots of money among her community with an approach that inspires the few but alienates the majority of the nation? The sad part is that Hillary’s team is creating self-inflicted wounds that don’t even relate to the expected divisions usually created by policy differences.

Besides raising the ire of the Right-Wing much sooner than necessary, I think for many Obama Primary supporters like myself who let their anti-Hillary fervor subside in recent years will view these tactics as unproductive toward winning us over. I might be willing to participate in a “pro-Hillary” group but I don’t think it make sense for Democrats to be “Ready For Hillary” as President when we have already have one and a Congress to win back over the next few years!

Frankly, these folks should probably take a page out of the campaign of her former Campaign Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who seems to be more mindful of Obama voters and outreach tactics in his second run for governor.


Either way, the main lesson here is that fundraising is just one of Many Means to meet the Singular End of majority support….only use the Former to boost the Latter!

 

 

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It has been disconcerting to see several young candidates lose in recent Virginia elections but despite my support for an “upstart” like President Obama in 2008 I am realizing that this makes sense…..and i think it might help for me to share why.

Especially because ANYONE can benefit from understanding the similar ways you can succeed both in Politics AND in Life.

I think the lesson here has a lot to do with the concept of Network For Progress, the grassroots group I created partly as a result of our great Generation Obama-DC career-building programs that Shawn Logue and a big team of enthusiastic job seekers launched in 2009 that was a great help to hundreds of young professionals seeking opportunity after the 2008 election.

Young professionals who attended and followed GO-DC Career Networking program’s numerous workshops on networking and resume reviews as well as online group sharing of jobs and events, had an opportunity to learn from each other and connect with each otherso they could utilize new tools, methods, contacts and even friendships that could help them with their job search and future career.

As with anything in life, it’s not “what you know“ it’s “who you know”.…especially because who you know has a huge influence on what you know and what you can do!

The same is true with politics…you can’t campaign in a silo.

If you run for office before you know your community and can build a reputation while learning the issues from your neighbors, you’re going to have a hard time.

On the surface, it looks like you are trying to skip a grade in school or demand to become CEO after six months at your company. Not entirely because of your age, but because you still need to show you’re the Right Messenger with the Right Message.

Therefore, I have seen great young candidates try to “door knock” their way to victory and most recently reach voters very effectively both online AND online…to disappointing results.

So, even if a candidate might seem to be the more effective talent for the position they’re pursuing and their campaign does things technically right in terms of each “medium” they use to communicate to voters they can miss the forest above the trees of campaign operations. In the best case scenario, they’re at least prepared for some big obstacles to overcome.

Rachel Maddow covered the recent primary for Lt. Governor and Attorney General on Wednesday and opened my eyes in terms where these blind spots can develop by sharing their TV ads: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/26315908/ns/msnbc_tv-rachel_maddow_show/vp/52187023#52187023


It is hard to pinpoint all the factors in the election but it shouldn’t be a surprise that the two candidates who already held the credential of having run for public office (so they proved they could engage their OWN community even if most voters didn’t know them) and who connected best in their advertising with what the majority of the electorate (women) most care about (Virginia Republican efforts to interfere in women’s health) were victorious on Primary Day.

Hence, these candidates proved to have be the Right Messenger for the Right Message for the Democratic Primary voter…who is a bit different than the General Election voter who compromises less ideological and lower information audiences.

So, be careful about punching above your weight class until you have though your strategy through!

If you want to run for office, try Young Democrat and Party positions or participating in community organizations first to build a network and learn what it takes to succeed as a leader.

Then, if you want to run for statewide, federal or executive office, get RE-ELECTED or at least SERVE A FULL-TERM in a lower-level position first (Mark Herring, Ralph Northam) so you have an unofficial community endorsement and can avoid a Sarah Palin-esque image of leaving too soon. Otherwise, have a proven track record from a truly prominent role in your professional career (i.e. Al Franken).

And finally, when I say “learn what it takes to succeed as a leader” I mean it!

To paraphrase Mr. Wolf in Pulp Fiction, just because you ARE in a “leadership” role, it doesn’t mean you HAVE “leadership” qualities.

Build a base of support by hosting events, working on projects, building teams and get things done that you can talk about…..even before you run!

Companies are checking the social media presence of prospective applicants more and more these days not because they want to catch you with a beer in your hand….they want to see proof of who you are and what you can do. The same is true in politics.

Therefore, as any social media seminar will suggest, Blogging, Tweeting, Training or otherwise sharing your experiences and knowledge with others will establish you as an “expert” in your field who has the skills for leadership. Personally, I have been amazed at the opportunities that I have been able to secure or have fallen in my lap because I am actively engaging people in the community as possibly the first contact they think of when it becomes to Democratic politics.

And remember that in the REAL world, people don’t care who what you can for YOURSELF as much as what you can do for THEM….that’s where the “reputation” part of network-building comes in.

If I just forwarded posts on my news feed from the Barack Obama fan page people might not take me as seriously as an activist. Yet by leading or sharing a variety of activist information people probably think I am more than a one-trick pony and can be helpful to talk to when they have a related cause they’re interested in.

And it works best if you ENJOY helping others….otherwise you probably won’t be very good at it.

The best example of this is actually President Obama. He didn’t get elected because he simply decided he wanted to run for President at age 46….just TWO years after being elected as a Senator.

Barack Obama was basically drafted by the people who were so inspired by the way he authentically SHARED his vision for America in his DNC Convention Keynote Speech in 2004 and then after he was overwhelmingly elected as a U.S. Senator came out in droves to see him on the campaign trail with Senator Webb and other candidates in 2006.

Americans believed that he really cared AND was capable of lead them to make their OWN lives better…..so he was ready.

So, definitely think about these things before you run…and make sure to prove to yourself AND to others that you’re the RIGHT MESSENGER for the leadership you want.

Then maybe even YOU will become the next Barack Obama….for your community, for your state, or for your country!.

 

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Barack Obama snowden

Do we trust Barack Obama….or Edward Snowden?

Since the NSA leaker is dominating the news and splitting Democrats I figured I would try to digest it and share my thoughts….as despite all the concern I keep noticing holes in the criticism.

I find it funny that people like MSNBC’s Chris Hayes are already getting worked up about the spying implications of Google Glass even though its just a PHONE ATTACHED TO YOUR HEAD.

The CIA can’t magically see everything you see because you’re wearing it….unless you purposefully stream to YouTube with it for several billion people to enjoy.

So, let’s take a step back. There is probably a need for more transparency in terms of what is going on with NSA surveillance programs, but that doesn’t mean it’s a sign of the apocalypse, as President Obama makes a pretty good case (VIDEO: http://huff.to/1bdlVGK) that “they help prevent terrorist attacks” with a balance of security and privacy and aren’t anything that should be surprising to anyone…whether they knew the fine details or not.

Let’s put things in perspective….would you rather the government see your nameless phone number connected to other nameless phone numbers in a database OR…..


#1 YOUR name and picture published in a public online database (facebook and other social media)

#2 YOUR number being published in a book that is distributed at every citizen’s door in step your region. (phone books)

#3 YOUR name and address and official correspondence being available to be read on the public street. (mailbox, garbage can)

#4 YOUR complete call log being owned by a giant corporation (phone bill)

#5 YOUR salary and expense information being submitted to a big federal agency to determine how much of it you should give to the government. (IRS)

#6 And finally….YOUR social security number being kept in a massive database of every American owned by the federal government. (duh…Social Security)

So, when we see polls that millennials are overwhelmingly in favor of Snowden’s leak it means they’re for government transparency but not necessarily against their OWN personal transparency due to these factors.

Overall, the public doesn’t seem too concerned though, with 77% of Americans saying they think surveillance programs have stopped terrorism: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/06/nsa-prism-privacy-92435.html

According to reports I have seen, the government might be able to search a sea of our phone numbers to find patterns or connections that lead to terrorist activity but if they want content from an American via phone OR email they need a warrant from a judge. If you’re not an American or are communicating with suspected terrorists it would be a FISA judge.

MORE ABOUT THE PROGRAM HERE ->

Washington Post: “Here’s everything we know about PRISM to date” http://wapo.st/1a521jx

Patriot Act overwhelming support: The NSA has been cagey about the topic but despite some occasional complaints in the media the Patriot Act debate has come and gone several times over the years….should anyone be surprised by this capability?

If voters or activists or experts or our elected members were concerned about it, especially after the abuses of the Bush Administration, there could have been a bigger firestorm but there’s wasn’t….and since people I respect like Diane Feinstein passionately defend it I tend to back their judgement because they understand the threats and reason for these programs better than I.

Every Case Needs A Case Study: The law as written SEEMS too broad but the funny thing is, if it was so vulnerable to abuse wouldn’t we know about it? I don’t see a parade of victims on CNN telling their story. Even in the liberal press I am not sure I have ever seen any media reports of anyone who ever complained about being a victim of it.

Of course, it is hard to PROVE someone is spying on you but wouldn’t some court cases have come up where some of the evidence used to track a person looked sketchy? Wouldn’t someone be trying to bring this to the Siupreme Court.

If only one of over a million people with Top Secret clearance could share what the programs are actually doing maybe we could get to the bottom of this. Unfortunately, “leakers” like Edward Snowden seem to be making their case with a generic info dump or some examples of the governmetn’s capability under the law but lack hard proof of abuse, or at least a story, of WHO is being affected….and at the very least WHAT violations actually occurred.

Great Power AND Great Responsibility: The fact is our government has the license to kill and spy….and they should. Otherwise, we need to have a huge discussion about our national security strategy.  

We couldn’t plan our decision on the Bin Laden raid via a poll on msnbc.com or with a hashtag conversation on twitter. If the government makes a mistake with that Power it will almost always come out and it will be held accountable. But unlike with the drone or Gitmo issue, I don’t see any poster children for opponents to wave at us yet.

Snowden says he could do anything he wants, including snooping on the President, but some experts doubt it and so what if he COULD….every Secret Service agent carries a gun but would we be impressed if one of them divulged it in an interview that he COULD have killed the President with it?

Whistle Blower or Traitor: Unfortunately, the “whistle blowers” don’t have much credibility either when they flee to Hong Kong to divulge that the U.S. is not just spying on its own citizens, but how its spying on China too, OR dump 700,000 documents onto a web site for the whole world to read like Bradley Manning did. What exactly did we learn from Manning that we didn’t already know? And how is what he did much different than giving the Al Qaeda or any of our enemies the information directly….that would be an obvious case of treason.

A real Whistle Blower needs to consider some protocol before letting the cat and the whole litter out of the bag. Ideally, they should go to an Inspector General or a member of Congress with their concerns before the media…and probably only reveal damaging documents upon request on a need-to-know basis. Apparently even an an aggressive journalist like The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald held back some material because Snowden revealed so much.

Then if several media sources have published stories on the same damaging material shared by a “whistle blower” the burden of proof can switch to the government to prove the accusation is false.

The government doesn’t seem to enjoy the same burden of proof in the media as the court of law….but maybe they should!

Imagine if we outed the source of ABC’s fake Benghazi emails…wouldn’t they be liable for distributing fraudulent government documents? Nothing happened….so much for Obama’s harsh treatment of the press.

So, it’s fair to ask for more transparency and maybe some new restraints but the bottom line is the program is legal as it passed on an OVERWHELMINGLY bi-partisan basis through the very public piece of legislation called the Patriot Act.

If people don’t like it, tell the President and tell our Congress Members but let’s not equate a slightly voyeuristic American intelligence system trying to protect its citizens to Big Brother trying to control them. The “Surveillance State” worked when it found a needle in the hay stack in Boston via street-side closed circuit cameras…was anyone upset?

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