Friday, January 14, 2011

Lessons from California: Talk to More Voters, Win

Crossposted at MyDD

Just stumbled across this months old post by Raven Brooks, Top 5 Lessons at Netroots California, and the successes and failures of 2010.

Two key takeaways from his takeaways:

The first session of the day featured a great presentation by Seiji Carpenter at David Binder Research and Bryan Blum at the California Labor Federation filled in a lot of detail on some innovative things labor did this cycle. You can find Seiji’s presentation here and I’d encourage you to page through it. There’s a lot of meat to this presentation, but I wanted to highlight a few things.


* The campaign and IEs were able to focus on key demographics. They prevented Whitman from building a base among women. Undecideds moved toward Brown. Latinos came home to Brown and turned out in record numbers (a special shout out to SEIU’s Cambiando campaign here). Working class voters favored Brown. And in a historic shift Asian Americans overwhelmingly broke for Brown.

* Labor ran a program called Million More Voters that was intended to target voters with similar qualities to union members, and they identified 2.8 million people. Asian Americans were more than twice as likely to be targets so they invested a lot of time in researching those communities, something that hasn’t been done on a large scale in California before.
A wide spectrum of organizations put in a lot of voter contact work here, made some impressive new moves this cycle, and increased funding for these activities.
But this has been a debate that’s raged on for a while in California. Most of the money spent in campaigns is for TV time. Our consulting class makes big money pushing this tactic so it’s hard to advocate change and more effective uses of that money. I think this election began to show the effectiveness of field operations in California in ways other cycles haven’t. Some of the biggest wins here were won without large budgets for TV.
With Brown (and Reid in NV), mid-summer criticisms seemed warranted.  Both campaigns were getting rolled by opponents who repeatedly self-destructed and were allowed to regain footing.  But, as Brooks writes, we were wrong.  Reid's margin was ludicrously slim, considering the opposition, Browns much better.  But both went old school, and won.

California will be 2010's story of progressive organizing success.  A relative success?  Sure.  Flawed?  Brooks describes a lack of coalition between orgs, and the familiar clash of independent field organizing and the consulting culture permeating campaigns.  But there also other big wins in defeating Prop 23 and protecting redistricting reform.

There's no revelation here, but it's somewhat comforting to be reminded there's always a simple truth at play, regardless of the odds: Talk to more voters, and win.

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