Some DFL lawmakers write letter attacking party strategy
By J. Patrick Coolican - March 1, 2017 — 7:41am
The 8-page memo obtained by the Star Tribune was signed by 11 sitting lawmakers, including greater Minnesota stalwarts Rep. Paul Marquart and Sen. Kent Eken, but also Metro legislators like Sen. John Marty and Rep. Paul Rosenthal.
The memo to the DFL State Central Committee criticizes the party’s strategy for reaching voters via face-to-face, door-to-door conversations. The DFL is emphasizing data collection and a too-small group of targeted voters at the expense of a broader approach that would try to reach more Minnesotans and in a friendlier fashion, the memo argues through anonymous anecdotes.
[...] The timing of the letter has irked some in the DFL, whose central committee is meeting Saturday to elect a chair. Without naming him, the letter appears to be an attack on DFL Chairman Ken Martin, who is running against liberal activist and former associate chair Donna Cassutt. Martin declined to comment on the memo.
[...] The DFL lost legislative seats in 2016, including control of the state Senate, and President Trump nearly broke a 42 year Republican losing streak in the presidential race here.
As usual, go to the original Strib item for the complete post, which is short, and follow the link to a Scribd posting by the Strib author of the 8-page item which the report describes. Without reading the original, only the report, a flavor of the mood of the authors; and their full collective identities; is lost. Again, get that link from Strib. While the link is not given here, wording from a sequence of paragraphs within the opening page of the memo sets the mood:
Particularly in greater Minnesota, where there are few rural DFL legislators who survived recent elections, most of the survivors are candidates who rejected the DFL coordinated campaign’s tactics, which they consider counterproductive. We believe that the DFL would have control of the legislature if the coordinated campaign* did not have a poor strategy and if it had not pressured DFL legislative candidates to follow that strategy. One rural DFL legislator who rejected the DFL tactics won with an 8% margin in a district that Trump won by 22% -- a thirty point spread!
Because many hardworking staff, candidates, and volunteers invested so many hours in the current strategy, we recognize that the ideas in this memo may upset people. Nobody wants to hear that their efforts were not as productive as they could be. However, when many DFL legislative candidates feel the DFL Party’s expensive efforts to help them were, in reality, harming their campaigns, it is essential to raise these concerns.
Despite the length of this letter, we ask you to read through it and take our concerns to heart. Without change, the DFL will continue to lose public support, and we will not win back control of the House and Senate. The future direction for the state is at stake.
So, with that said, the following detailed analysis carries the full message. If you care about the DFL, and/or Our Revolution and/or Justice Democrats, doubt of every status quo seems merited, regardless of where it may lead.
Of interest, a footnote on the first page of the memo states:
We use the term “coordinated campaign” to include the DFL Party, DFL legislative caucuses, and any other DFL campaigns or affiliated organizations using these campaign tactics and expecting legislative candidates to comply. Our goal is not to blame, but to get a change in tactics so that the party can win elections and regain control of the legislative majorities.
and the top paragraph, p.2, states:
We raised these concerns in the past but many DFL leaders are unaware of our frustration. We believe a change in strategy is urgent, and ask the State Central Committee to act.
[italics added, each quote].
As a rough understanding, tactics is a term related to details of procedure; while strategy is a term related to overarching principle. So, early on the critique flags both levels, and readers are urged to review the detail of the memo to decide for themselves whether the critique is more of tactics, or of strategy (or possibly both, in equal measure).
From the middle of the item, two consecutive paragraphs, of quality:
The DFL has invested incredible amounts of candidate, campaign, and party resources in building the voter file. The result? The DFL now has the best voter file in the state, but Republicans control both houses of the legislature.
The DFL would be much better off if it changed its priorities—if DFLers had a lousy voter file, but majorities in the House and the Senate. From a rural DFL House candidate: “There is an old saying: “You can't fatten hogs by weighing them.” Data is great. However, I don't have the luxury of having people gauge how we're doing instead of persuading people. The additional data does not help enough with targeting my message or mailings to be worth it.”
So, scripted data gathering for the well compensated consultants to do polling analysis, shows that somebody went to graduate school in political science - polling is all those dudes learn, and the point of an election is to win by better control of the issues and getting to convince voters by face-to-face listening and responding, not to poll or irritate them. We can call that thought "Simple Common Sense," a trait absent in Political Science curricula, apparently.
However, opinions can and obviously do differ. You decide whether the letter carries the day.
This part is downright scary, at p.5 of 8 pages -
Candidates are Pressured by the DFL to follow its Strategy
The selective doorknocking and voter identification strategy is not a matter of choice left to candidates and their local campaigns. The DFL tells candidates that if they refuse to follow the current system, they will cut off the party’s help with the campaign. Candidates, especially new candidates, feel they have no choice but to do what they are told.
From a suburban House incumbent: “I have refused to use the Coordinated Campaign's system and have been advised (warned) that support for my campaign MAY be dependent upon using their system. I have been doing this since 1980 as a campaign manager and a candidate. I know the importance of face-to-face contact. I simply will not use their "turf" sheets...they are essentially worthless.”
From a greater Minnesota Senate candidate: “They told us that if we did not use their “plan,” they would give us no support.”
Oh, really? Centralized stupidity is what it is primarily by being stupid, but in being centralized it moves several degrees worse.
Heads should roll. Starting with the crony consultants who cooked up the walking talking canvassing debacle. Is the notion to burden the local candidacies to benefit the statewide races, or is there no discernible purpose whatsoever?
Bernie packed all those venues because he had better data. Clearly. It had absolutely nothing to do with resonance of a message or ability to communicate sincerity and a strongly feeling heart. Just, poll results, unlike the Podesta-Clinton machine, which had itself Stronger Together, in an extravaganza which clearly and closely touched many, many voters in key states. Robby Mook can explain it better than I ever could. Insightful, the big screen. The balloons. Many, many balloons. A plethora. After such a strongly messaged sincere, heartfelt plea to the suffering masses, voters still not back from where the Wall Street collapse/bailout left them - then, to be a part of a tune and balloon drop. No wonder voters responded in droves. One wonders whether each single balloon was survey data driven, placed in the net to drop, just so, evenly over all the celebrants. Inner party folks will tell you a story. Ask Robby Mook.
Minnesota, presumably like other states, has the major patronage in its executive branch. Including appointments to the airport board, and other boards and commissions. The Secretary of State, if Republican has the inner track on stifling all voting but older rural white men; and if DFL everybody else can and is encouraged to vote. The urban areas balance against rural, and the strategy of getting a sufficient DFL rural vote, and strong GOTV in districts such as Ellison's and McCollum's did, last statewide contest, take all the executive posts; with AG having been DFL for a quite long time.
Hence, to the bureau staff folks statewide executive victories outweigh legislative ones. Less pork in legislative staffers. The recent effort to beggar the State Auditor as to budget and duty, shows the legislature in reaction with the legislative auditor being of greater importance with Republican control of both houses, but a DFL executive. Their guy vs the other side's guy.
That is a prelude to "data driven" strategy being more likely to bring in more cash from the patronage positions to the central State DFL if the executive branch is theirs; e.g., Dayton-Tina now, etc., as during Pawlenty years but possibly less so in scope. Trying to canvass the mood of the swing vote in the hustings, becomes a statewide strategy, with the several Minnesota Senators pointing out it's not their aim, but someone else's. That seems to be the tension.
Now if as Politco's item suggests, it is time to see CHANGE where message needs to be clear and repeated, e.g., Trump and Sanders, then canvassing is less important than getting a coherent decent position, tightly messaged, to voters (ideally one that is not mere campaign promising without any lasting intent, e.g., Trump, Obama, but rather one from the heart, with fire in the belly and dedication in the long aim - Bernie).
That is not to say Podesta-Clinton lacked propagandists, but with a cold candidate and a tinkey song, with balloon drop, the last presidential election was lost at the convention if not earlier when Sanders and his massive support base got screwed by inner party DNC'ers and by state-level inner parties. The characteristic of the way Podesta-Clinton worked the states to allow big donors to lay multiple money eggs in 50 nests, cash rebated in all but a dribble back to DNC, being representative of how it was. Here, the term for that has been "blight." Very, very blightful, and put in place prematurely for Podesta-Clinton before Bernie had any fair shot.
It stank. Inner party Deomocrats will not admit the stench. Witness DNC winner - by inner party vote - Tom Podesta admitting publicly the system was rigged against progressive possibilities, and then quickly walking back from that because his bosses demanded he walk it back. Which stank. Next thousand words:
Broom time, Ken Martin? March 4 is soon. Martin had to have fingerprints all over the Podesta-Clinton 50-state nest eggs being rebated to DC, to the DNC in DC, which stank. It all seems clear. My bet, not enough broom. The Inner Party is mean and full of itself; thinking each of its people, because they work very hard, are actually important, which is far from true. Mythologies, however, tend to be long-lived and inner party dogmas tend to be entrenched not as ideology open to debate, but as a religion.
Next thousand words:
ABC image, from here; do check the linked story.
Both parties have been doing the same thing for years: putting real people as props, instead of flags, (or both), behind them when giving speeches. Who besides an inner party prop would want to watch a Corey Booker speech from in back? Looking at his shaved head? Can you imagine that prop scheme and Bush-the-elder saying, "Read my lips, no new taxes?"
In back, they can't.
It's for the party, we stand, we clap, we hold a sign that the stage presence belies.
Actually, it's an especially fine image. The sign, "Fighting for us," has a prop-head obscuring "for" with the sincere image Bernie progressives felt, "Fighting us."
And then a surprise, "us" stayed home?
Last, given irrefutable data: Clinton lost; a data driven closing screencapture image from the same ABC item - an arguably appropriate closing of this post: