Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The DNC Needs A Dean Redux

First Published in DelawareLiberal on November 25, 2014 by ProgressivePopulist


A couple of commentaries appeared in the media this week from two divergent factions in the party, both in agreement.  Governor Terry McAuliffe and Howard Dean both went public with rather extensive statements that the DNC needs rebuilding.  We must have messaging on our accomplishments and what we stand for.

McAuliffe spoke quite critically of the failure of our National Party to address the challenges of our struggling middle class and the need for major economic reforms.  This from a guy who I always viewed as a brilliant fund raiser but shallow thinker.   He did leave our party in great financial shape. Maybe I was wrong about the shallowness.

I think he really understands the failed leadership of our Party here in a time of our most desperate need for economic reform.  He also spoke of our President's brilliant record on so many fronts which were ignored by the DNC's non-existent messaging program.

Adding insult to injury, the clueless  but very well insured Democratic leader Chuck Schumer came this week with absurd commentary that it was a huge mistake for Congressional Democrats to undertake healthcare reform  in Obama's first term.  In a clearly uncoordinated messaging effort of his own without collaboration with the White House or DNC, he said we should have focused on the economy and not done the Affordable Care Act.  Is our Federal Government a one trick pony, incapable of multi-tasking?

I thought all along we were doing both.  And I also thought  and still think healthcare, or the cost of it is a major drag on the national and well as household economies.

Howard Dean was interviewed extensively this week on his successful 50 state strategy during his tenure as DNC Chair.  He was quite blunt as usual on the strategic failure of the DNC during this most recent election cycle.  And he too pointed out the complete silence of any messaging strategy on our accomplishments and solutions for the  future of our people.

Debbie W.S., are you hearing this?  DNC members, are you going to secure for us here in the trenches new leadership ?  And I hope an updated, technology supported redux of the Dean era?  Are you going to bring him in as a consultant to your replacement for  Debbie W.S. and fire the useless consultants who gave us so little in 2014?

Delaware DNC members Bob Gilligan and Karen Valentine, what exactly are you doing to get this party up and running again in preparation for 2016?  This includes the local party which is so desperately in need of energy.  What say you?  Would love to hear from you on this blog.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Bienvenida A Casa !

First Published in DelawareLiberal on November 21, 2014 by ProgressivePopulist

Welcome.  Come out of the shadows now, thanks to a courageous President Obama.  I'm sorry this has taken so long but there are a few nativists here who have made the process of legalizing your residency difficult.  Let's forgive and ignore them.

U.S. and Mexican people have long been closely connected.  Were it not for events of the fairly recent past, my 45 years in Texas might have actually been in Mexico.   Those years gave me a huge respect and love for Mexican and Mexican American people and culture.

I was quite surprised on moving to Delaware to see quite a few Mexican restaurants and a visit to the Hwy. 13  Farmers Market made me feel like I was back in Texas.  And really good Mexican restaurants down Hwy. 1.  These are happy surprises.  But I digress.

But there's much more to Mexican and Mexican American culture that I find most appealing and fascinating.  Having had the opportunity to travel all over Mexico  I  can see how pervasive in a good way these cultural influences are to my Tejano friends.  Many have generations  behind them in Tejas and the southwest, but you see visually the beauty in art, architecture, music and cultural traditions that connect them to the people in Mexico.

I had the opportunity in my early years in Texas to travel with M.A. friends to the border towns, visit with their families there and observe how freely they communed with family in Mexico, though with much greater difficulty today due to the so called border security.  This is sad.  I really wish we could have an open border.

Our histories are intertwined and it makes American life so much more interesting.  These histories engaged me so that I had the good fortune and good times visiting many Aztec and many more Mayan ruins throughout that region.  Amazing technology and engineering, science, lore and legend represented at those sites.   Looking closely, you see that these early people rivaled the European civilization many of my ancestors brought here.    Anglo's have little justification to feel cultural superiority.

I have such respect for M.A. people's struggle to maintain their dignity so often under attack by nativist north Americans.  I have wonderful memories of standing with my Chicano friends in their struggle in Texas for a political voice and representation.  And their struggle to have their culture not disrespected in the Texas educational system.   We still have a long way to go.

But I urge my fellow Anglo Americans to immerse in the art of this culture; you'll be awed by the Diego Rivera murals.  Page through books of both historic and futuristic Mexican architecture.  Ceramics?  There's none more interesting.  These reflect a vivid appreciation of color as a celebration of life, even a life of struggle.

Music?  Much of it so joyful, sung and played by a people with so many struggles.  It seems contradictory but seems to fuel hope.  Yes, there are even graduate studies in Tejano music and travel around Texas and you'll hear it on many radio stations.  Its flavors have moved me to hear and play Carlos Santana's incredible music whenever possible as family members will attest.

Food?  I don't need to go there.  An aging stomach can't tolerate chilies like it used to but when you think of chocolate, for example, it really started way down there.  Try a mole' sometime.  An experience in extacy.

Film?  You've not lived if you've not seen Cantiflas, a great Mexican film actor.  I know all of you have appreciated the work of Anthony Quinn.  Doesn't sound very Mexican but he was.
Family values espoused by so many here?  Theirs are unparalleled. Hard work, another American value.  These amazing people define the very word.

My biggest regret with the Obama executive order touching maybe 5 million of us is that many left a political society in Mexico which marginalized those with native features and blood and idealized those with Spanish and European physical characteristics; the latter gave them political leadership and favor in media and advertising.  Look closely, you'll see it.

Worst of all, the society many immigrants left in Mexico is highly polarized between long standing wealth and material control and those without.  And there are many, many more without wealth and power than  those in possession of both.  Sounds familiar doesn't it?  Many coming here didn't get that memo on the state of economic affairs in the U.S.A.  I hope they are not disappointed.

Actually, I hope many are disappointed and join the grassroots movement to re-balance the economic disparity in America.  Their earlier generations were not so successful in doing so in Mexico, but maybe, just maybe, we can reverse it here.   My M.A. friends are working very hard at it.

Welcome home.  You can make a home here now and please, keep sharing your culture and values with us all.  Gracias.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Making Better Lives For All. Not Just the Privileged Few.

 Making Better Lives For All.

 Not Just the Privileged Few.

This was the branding campaign, expressed as this theme, developed for the Harris County Democratic Party in early 2011, following the 2010 mid-term blowout we experienced in Houston and the state of Texas. 

It was created as an outgrowth of planning and idea exchange that took place with Democracy For Houston, a very active progressive group closely tied to the County Party.  From there, with the approval of Gerry Birnberg, a County Party messaging committee was created involving about 25 party activists to undertake the first known market research project ever undertaken by the Party.  Messaging Chair Stan Merriman collaborated with a former marketing colleague, Bill Penscak, himself a dedicated Democrat.

Stan initially led about 45 Democrats active with the party through a process of prioritizing issues this group felt best reflected the values and beliefs of local Democrats, expressed during a post mortem meeting following the blowout Republican sweep of 2010.  He then turned over the messaging committee’s report on values and belief to Penscak, a professional marketer and focus group expert.

With the help of local  Harris County Democratic clubs, Penscak conducted a series of very intense, in depth focus groups with club members, reflecting the demographic diversity of Harris County.  His work was very time intensive and pro-bono.

The overall conclusion of the focus groups was that economic populist issues best expressed the value system and beliefs of local Democrats and a number of branding/positioning statements expressing these were recommended.

Merriman followed up with interviews, on line and in person with approximately 100 additional local Democrats to refine the results, using branding/theme statements developed by colleague Steve Barnhill and his advertising agency.   In all about 300 local Democrats participated in these various interviews and focus groups.

Merriman took these findings and developed this branding statement which he asked Chair Birnberg to critique.   He not only critiqued, he word crafted further with Merriman to result in:

Making Better Lives For All.
Not Just the Privileged Few.

A comprehensive communications and messaging plan was presented to the elected precinct chairs of the party and the campaigns first phase, internal party introduction was launched via club presentations, web site, presentations to candidates and Dem office holders, introductory web videos and Facebook postings in 2011.  The campaign was presented and transitioned to the new, incoming County Party Chair and Merriman retired from his post with the Messaging Committee.

Since our move to Delaware I’d lost track of messaging and the like at the Harris County Democratic Party, but a couple of days ago I was struck by an article in my most recent issue of In These Times.
Lo and Behold, the senior editor reported on research and a study done of the respected Hart Research Associates.   They describe this research as having been done in 2014. They are major advisors to the DNC and Democratic candidates, conducting both polling and focus groups.  The In These Times editorial in November cited this research pointed out that “Democrats were beaten because their leaders failed to speak to the economic concerns of economically traumatized Americans”.
This editorial further cited Hart’s finding that Democrats who supported creating an economy “ that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few” by 22 points. 

Wow.  Sound familiar doesn’t it?  I did further looking into the Hart research and found this on the web.

Here are some excerpts I found.

Hart Research Associates

“Voters respond most favorably when Democrats deliver a populist economic message centered on the idea of building an economy that works for all of us, not just the wealthy and big corporations.
Today, Americans believe that the single most important goal for the nation’s economic future is to create an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few.”

Here is more:

“While voters also rate many other economic goals as priorities no other formulation resonates
nearly as strongly. And no other critique better captures Americans’ economic anxiety than the idea that our economic system now benefits only the wealthy and corporations, while the deck is stacked against
everyone else. Fully 59% of voters say making the economy work for everyone, not just the wealthy few, is an extremely important goal.”

And their findings revealed:

“The following candidate message proved very appealing to 63% of swing voters,
and is a strong formulation of a populist Democratic economic message:”

The promise of America should be for everyone, not just the wealthy few.

Hart further postulated:

“Most compelling goal:
An economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few”

The leading comparative statement of a series presented with 47% of respondents preferring:

“Which one of these phrases describe the most important goal for America.”

An economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few

Hart probed further exploring deleting the very aggressive reference to the wealthy.  This reminded me of a very tense exchange I had with Hon. Vince Ryan in a presentation to candidates, where I was defending our choice of words.

“Could Democrats enjoy even more success by employing a message that promised  “an economy that works for all,” but  omitting the sharper-edged populism of talking about the wealthy? The data shows that this would actually weaken Democrats’ appeal. In a choice between a Republican who will “grow the economy” and a Democrat who will “make the economy work for all of us, not just the wealthy,”
swing voters prefer the Democrat by a 22 point margin (61% to 39%). The other half of our respondents heard the same partisan choice except that the words “not just the wealthy” were deleted.
This Democrat actually lost to the Republican by 10 points, a net loss of 32 points
In a contest for voter allegiance, four little words—“not just the wealthy”—made all the difference. Instead of broadening the Democrat’s appeal, filing off the populist edge turned out to undermine support for this candidate. Significantly, it is with more conservative voters that a populist message provides the greatest advantage. By adding “not just the wealthy,” Democrats improve by 42 points with men (just 18 points with women), by 44 points among voters over 50 (just 19 points underage 50) by 39 points with swing voters planning to vote Republican.

 A  populist framework also proves to be the most advantageous way to contrast the difference between the two parties.”
Our work, again, was done in 2011 in Harris County.  Hart's with polls and focus groups done in 2014, three years later.  Were we ahead of our time in Houston?   We'll never know, but to firmly establish this branding positioning, I told the party it would take about 3 years of intensive campaigning and communications.  We designed it so the campaign could be used by officeholders/candidates  who might not directly impact economic issues...ie: judges, etc., as well as the Party.

Remuneration?  I'm reasonably  sure the DNC paid Hart tons of $ and the work was well worth it.
The HCDP Messaging Committee, Merriman, Penscak?  All pro-bono. 

On previous blogs I have been critical of the DNC for their lame or nearly non-existent messaging.  Not following Harris County from Delaware, I don’t have a clue but……I do wonder.

Most importantly, congratulations to all the members of the messaging committee who worked their tails off hoping their labors would be adopted and exploited to the maximum and the 300 loyalists of the Harris County Democratic Party who gave their time and ideas so generously.  I hope for the best for all of you.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Democrats: Look What Two Parties By And For The Rich Got Us.

First published in DelawareLiberal on 11/17/2014 by ProgressivePopulist


Hey DNC and State Party Chairs:  Look at our reality.  We've got the Presidency for two more years; the Repugnant party has both houses and the Supreme Court.  What's more, they've got 68 out of 98 partisan state legislatures and 31 governorships.  We, the party "of the people" came up just a bit short but your reaction seems just a bit muted given these dire circumstances.

And this is not a short term hiccup.  Look at the gerrymandering they've already accomplished at the state and federal office levels.  And their think tanks, cranking out really people-destructive policies for the care and feeding of Repugnant legislators.  And their well oiled money machines, fueled by Citizens United and the Supremes.  Theirs is a highly strategic plan to put all the power in the hands of the super wealthy, including corporate America.

Yea, I'm sounding a bit pessimistic but where is the call for dramatic change with how we run this party and setting a whole new course for a Democratic Party future?  There is but a whimper from our Dem leadership and apparently total boredom at the grassroots.  They seem to be talking about tweaks and minor adjustments, not radical reform and change.   Is this what you call irrelevance?  Sure looks like we are to the body politic.

Bipartisanship is merely a defensive tactic to forestall total annihilation, grab some crumbs and grovel for mercy.  What we need to be is an opposition party with big ideas and a big message machine.  Loud and proud.

The one vehicle the Repugnant party uses very effectively and we have yet to embrace and master is marketing.  No, marketing is not advertising.  Marketing is management of the exchange process.  The currency we have to exchange with the body politic, or at least the roughly half who are wired liberal are big, bold ideas to benefit us all and the mechanism to sell those ideas....to get them exchanged to the populace.   The ideas can be very specific and detailed, lists of components if you will.  But framed in a way that hits emotional hot buttons and triggers the exchange.

What we need is a staff and consultant house cleaning to shake up the foundation.  And a new DNC membership which sees change and big ideas as their mission and sees themselves as the Party sales force.  Right now the DNC is comprised of those seeking and granted awards for being loyal troopers.   The DNC should be comprised of firebrand doers and organizers.   Aggressive, loud and yes, sometimes intemperate.   The leadership should be of that mold as well.  Screw calm.   We're already too calm.

Candidates and office holders, such as we've got them now, of the same mold I've described.  Doers, not patronage seekers.  This party has run on patronage.   Yes, it must be representative of the base, but its got way to many leaders, even at the grassroots, who are furniture because they look good.  Looking good and looking representative isn't enough.  It's going to take activists and doers in every representative category.   Scrap the furniture and replace it with functioning change agents who are in the main out there in movement politics, not party politics.  A party that can and will lead a populist uprising.

We do not need two parties serving the interests of the rich.  One, the Repugnants, are doing quite well at that thank you.  We need a party that understands the systemic problems denying the American Dream.  An economy not built to reward hard work and innovation, a taxation system which spreads the wealth while not harming the successful, a political system owned by a participating, grassroots electorate, not private interest lobbies and a reinvigorated sense of community that makes helping those needing help an imperative and duty.

The ideas to accomplish this already exist.  They don't need invention.  They need mining, embracing and selling to the desperate people who have been deluded by the Repugnants into believing they serve those desperate people.   One place I'd look for those ideas is California.  Look at the turnaround out there.  Look at a Democratic Party there that helped  get it done and leadership it cultivated to implement the turnaround.

We need a populist uprising.  No, not one that bashes corporations.  One that recognizes that properly regulated, they can and will do good stuff.  But one that demands that they, the people run political system, not the commercial sector.

Democratic Party, rise up.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Opposing BFD China Climate Deal? Treason.

First Published in DelawareLiberal on November 12, 2014 by ProgressivePopulist

For years Republicans have held China's resistance to a carbon reduction treaty as a reason to oppose President Obama's efforts to address the climate crisis here.  So, he cuts an amazing deal with China and what are Republicans  doing?  Opposing it.  This is nothing short of treason.

Once again, Obama has pulled a rabbit out of the hat and created another very positive BFD that will benefit all Americans  whether they deny or accept the settled science of climate change and the link to carbon.

These cretins have no shame nor conscience.  Their opposition to the deal the President is bringing home harms Americans because they want to harm Obama.  They want him and we Democrats to be able to claim no successes that benefit our society and in this case, the entire world.  They only care about winning politically, even if it means we, our children and future generations are harmed.  Literally, physically harmed.

From the dictionary- a definition of treason:
the crime of betraying one's country, especially by attempting to kill the sovereign or overthrow the government.
"they were convicted of treason"

Harry Reid, gear up the Senate and get this done before our majority is no more.  Then, DNC, gear up to indict the Republican leadership for treason.   Is anybody home there at HQ to hear this and act?

synonyms:treachery, disloyalty, betrayal, faithlessness;