I keep thinking about a couple West Wing episodes featuring C.J. Craig as press secretary.
One, how she said that next to the President she was the most recognizable face of the administration.
And the other about the flak jacket that press secretary's passed on one to another.
I am no longer associated with the campaign I worked for in '06 yet many people still see me as a public face of it. Even now that I am not working for the candidate I am aware that I have an on-going responsibility to in some degree represent that candidate and not do anything to harm them.
I think the republican side is more poised for a dark horse candidate to emerge then the democratic side is.
I fully expect a Brownback or Huckabee to be the beneficiary of the top tier Republicans and the splits in the republican party base(s) ripping each other apart.
I don't expect McCain or Giuliani being the nominee. Gingrich maybe, Romney doubtful, but more likely one of third tier guys catching fire and the support of one of the bases within the republican party.
The 'campaign blogger' or 'internet director' or 'netroots coordinator' is part of the communications team for a campaign. Depending on the nature of the campaign they are senior staff and integral to every action taken or they are the next step down.
Every candidate for federal office, statewide office, and most other state level offices should have someone filling that role. In some areas this may remain a second tier position in the campaign but that will change and grow over the next couple cycles.
Even local candidates can benefit from an aggressive and well thought out internet outreach campaign.
If you are official staff for a candidate then you are official staff for the candidate. Everything you say can and will be used against your candidate in the court of public opinion. Act accordingly.
In this last cycle I was an unofficial netroots coordinator for a candidate. This allowed me a little more leeway. I was not paid staff. I was not official staff. But I volunteered to fill that role unofficially and since the campaign did not hire anyone to officially fill it that meant it was up to me.
This left me with a little more room to speak for myself or cover issues personal to me but not much. Every step of the way I had to consider how my words would reflect on my candidate. That was a self policing job that I understood implicitly. As a result I refrained from commenting on many things. I refrained from writing on some topics. I wrote on others in a way that reflected my candidates views rather than necessarily my own.
Similarly, I was ready at hand with responses to any attacks on my candidate by way of attacking me, my words, my outside associations, or previous actions. In the local newspaper blog I was attacked on a daily basis in a manner intended to smear my candidate. My candidate was attacked for similar associations. Half of my daily job was to have ready response to these attacks to defuse and disarm them. It is no mistake that Matt listed "smear patrol" as the first order of business.
At the same time I also had to listen to what was being said and give my candidates official staff a heads up on what might be coming their way. Ambushes and the like. I also asked for position statements when I saw concerns raised in other areas that might eventually be directed at my candidate so that I'd have that ready response when they came.
Like you Matt, I am very surprised at how poorly prepared the Edwards staff was for this. Their eventual response was good, not great, but good enough. The attack from the right was not surprising. It was in fact very predictable. The lack of preparedness from the campaign is the big surprise in all of this. Other campaigns should take note and be prepared.
Bottom line is that bloggers can provide a very valuable resource to campaigns but if you are a blogger and intend to move into campaigning then you need to realize that it is a professional level job and needs to be treated accordingly. The campaign looking to hire needs to vet the potential employee and the employee needs to vet themselves in preparation for the attacks and let the campaign know where they may come from.
Lastly, I received a lot of compliments from people for the patience and moderation I showed in handling the many personal attacks that came my way. It is an absolute MUST for a campaign blogger to be able to moderate their own emotions and ensure their comments and responses are professional. If you have a thin skin or prefer to shoot first and think later then you are not cut out for the job.
1a:"As a potential agent of change, to what extent are the netroots and the progressive movement helped or hindered by its professionalization?
I think it is neutral. There are pros to the sorts of skills, knowledge, and experience that comes with professionalization but the strength of the netroots remains in the roots part. It remains with the chaos of the masses.
1b:Perhaps the questions is better rephrased as follows: with "outside" elements joining the "inside," who will change more, the outside or the inside?
Hopefully both. Certainly those sucked into the system will change. That part is a given. But I think the strength and qualities of many of those people along with their roots in the roots will also change the system into which they are assimilated.
1c:Also, are the netroots better served by creating their own institutions and campaigns, or by continuing to join existing ones?
Definitely better served by creating our own infrastructure and power center. But this is not mutually exclusive to having folks join and re-shapre existing institutions. Both have their benefits but I would like to see the net/grassroots build their/out own infrastructure.
2a:To what extent is a "professional" and "amateur" divide emerging within the netroots and progressive movement?
Not much yet I don't think but I think you are right on target in recognizing that it is in the early stages of happening. Check back in early 2009 and let's see where we stand.
2b: Specifically, I am wondering if there might be a danger that a new "netroots elite" will end up holding the same dismissive attitude the "serious pundits" currently hold toward the activist base, or if the activist base community will turn away from the "professionals," in disgust at the sell-outs.
Individual cases of both will occur. Screw'm both.
2c:Will the netroots community be able to continue to function as a semi-coherent entity with so many of its members working on behalf of competing candidates and campaigns?
As semi-coherent as we ever are. Division and discord will occur but I seem to recall a little of that in 2004 as well.
3a:How long will it last?
For as long as the internet remains a primary vehicle through which activists can directly effect the political discussion in this country.
3b:Will there come a point where the netroots is so familiar to Democratic infrastructure, that rather than being a separate department of large political operations internet and netroots instead becomes blended into every other department?
Yes. And this is as it should be. Natural evolution.
3c:Will there be new technological developments that make current "netroots" staff obsolete?
Yes. Again, evolution. But don't ask me to predict what it/they will be... or when.
3d:Will the new political professionals just decide to move on to new careers in different fields before long?
Yes. Different fields within the existing political landscape and outside of it too. YMMV applies. Netroots "professionals" will learn new skills and the individual skills they bring to the table will be recognized and put to work in other areas. This is as it should be.
4a:Finally, what happens when these junior staffers and new political professionals continue to age and move up in the ranks of the progressive and Democratic ecosystems?
Plenty of new talent waiting in the wings. People move up, opportunities are created for new folks coming in behind them.
4b:What cultural differences are there among this new professional class that will result in an overall cultural shift in progressive politics once the participants involved move from being junior staff to senior staff?
First off... The good ones will make themselves "senior staff" the day they walk in the door.
Probably the most important thing this new group of professionals can do is remember that it is all about people-powered-politics. That is how they got there. That is what they bring to the table beyond themselves and that is what they are pioneering in their new ranks. This is the change that needs to occur. Opening the insular beltway world to the screaming heathens crashing the gates.
They are the first wave. They need to not only make sure the door stays open but to open it wider once they go through it.
With all due respect, I think you ought to go back and re-read my post. Perhaps you were reacting to anothers post that was considerably less friendly then mine. I've just re-read my response to Andy Stern's reply and your subsequent reply to me and you missed what I was saying on just about every point. In re-reading I don't think I was unclear or disrespectful at all.
I'm not sure where you gathered that I wasn't according Andy Stern good faith. Quite the opposite.
However, I do disagree with SEIU's decision making process in supporting New York Republican State Senators. While I gave only the one example of the current special election (because it is the current example) the fact is that they support the Senate Republican Leadership (Joe Bruno) which means they support Senate Republicans pretty much across the board.
Please understand... these are my friends and colleagues I am disagreeing with here. My original question and my response to Mr. Stern's reply recongized the reasons why they support Senate Republicans in New York... but we remain in disagreement about the long term strategy involved.
Also, I urged them not to support health care (which is a given since that is their bread and butter) but rather that they support governmental reform which is the single most important issue in New York today. Without serious reform of New York State government we will remain locked in the current broken system and the sort of health care improvements that SEIU is looking for, and that I too am looking for, will not happen. Instead we'll get a drib here, a drab there, and a broken system that for the most part will continue to get worse.
I disagree with SEIU's strategy... strategy not tactics... and it does not diminish my respect nor does it reflect any lack of recognition of good faith. I have no idea where you got that from Matt. I'll go back and re-read my response in case I somehow mangled my intent so badly that you would somehow draw such a conclusion.
Thanks Matt, I appreciate your posing the question and thanks Andy I appreciate your answer. I have great working relationship with local SEIU people and a healthy respect for their, and your, efforts.
Unfortunately I am still left wondering about long term vision. New York is a mess. Our health care system is failing in part because of that mess. Lack of funding for hospitals and other providers, problems with medicaid, lack of mental health parity, far too many uninsured, and general paralysis are all a result of a failing state government.
If SEIU is going to support Republicans then I would urge SEIU to insist that those Republicans work for reform so that we can get to root causes rather than scratching out a benefit here or creating band-aid policy there.
Also, I find it interesting that you mention the Working Families Party. The WFP is currently working hard for Democrat Craig Johnson in the State Senate special election while SEIU 1199 has endorsed the Republican Maureen O'Connell and is working on her behalf.
It is my belief that it is time for SEIU to make the strategic shift to supporting democrats and insisting that as part of that support they reform New York State so that a stronger health care system that benefits all New Yorkers, and SEIU members in the process, can be achieved.
Otherwise, insist that the Republicans you support... Joe Bruno in particular... take up real reform of state government as a condition of continued support.
Why does SEIU 1199 back Republicans in New York instead of fighting for real change by trying to solve the problems of the existing structure in New York?
I understand the need to work within the system, broken or not, to try and help out your constituency but at some point leadership needs to be visionary and look beyond the short term towards creating real change for the long term betterment of the people.
In New York that means getting rid of the old leadership that is blocking reform of state government. That starts with Senate Republicans. It may prove true later that certain Assembly Democrats need to go too but the obvious immediate first step is removing Senate Republicans from majority control.
Still the case. Ballot access laws are best described as byzantine. Signatures can be thrown off petitions for any number of reasons. There has been some slightly loser application under review by the courts but not enough by far.
One of the most common is the name of the town. For example... in my county there is the Town of Sand Lake. When signing a petition residents of the Town of Sand Lake MUST put the name "Sand Lake" in the Town column. However, most folks in Sand Lake live in West Sand Lake, Averill Park, or Sand Lake. A persons natural inclination is to write their mailing address rather than Town name. This can get their signatures thrown off a petition and, if there are enough their, candidate thrown off the ballot. If the witness to the petition makes a mistake then the entire petition page is thrown out even if all the signatures are valid.
We instruct petition carriers to have people sign their names only and fill out the rest themselves according to the lists we give them. We also tell them to only gather signatures from people on their lists so that they can know the information is good and make sure it is filled out right (the lists are generated from the board of elections master database).
One of the things that really points out just how completely dysfunctional Albany is is that in 2004 when the Brennan Center came out with their original report (executive summary and full pdf) it was endorsed by numerous business and citizen groups around the state from across the political spectrum. This is not a partisan dysfunction. It is not a partisan problem. The lack of representative democracy in New York State government affects all of us.
Brennan Center organized this broad coalition to come to Albany and lobby the legislature one day. Unfortunately, only one day.
Just a few months ago, Brennan Center came out with a new report Unfinished Business, that presented some of the changes that came out of the 2004 efforts and presented a scaled down suggestion of new changes for this year.
These new changes were NOT implemented.
There is much work to do. It can be done. It requires a concerted and sustained effort. Everyone knows Albany is dysfunctional. Everyone knows our state government doesn't work. Very few understand why or how to correct it.
I strongly suggest reading the Brennan Center reports and engaging with your Senator and Assembly member to insist on change in rules and law in order to make New York State government work for the people again.