As the previous post makes clear, selection of party leadership is around the corner. But, no offense to Mel, who should be chair isn’t the most important question. If we really want to head in a different direction, let’s turn Mel’s question on its head. Instead of asking who should lead, let’s talk about where we want to be led, and more importantly, what you, personally, are wiling to do to get there?

Volunteer? Recruit candidates? Help re-brand? Raise money? Serve at the local or state party level? Other? Many of the people who post here are first class doers who aren’t afraid to get our hands dirty. So, whatcha bringing? The party will only be as good as we are.

No party leader can turn the ship alone. For the next four years, what will you do, and WHY will you do it?


46 Responses to I’ve got a suggestion…

  1. Madelyn Clare says:

    I agree, the NYTimes article on Nudging the Vote is amazing. I’ve read it several times, and am just blown away. I’m not commenting on Will’s announcement, via this blog, that he’s very interested the Chairpersonship, or anything else, just yet. I look forward to hashing some of these priorities out w/folks as we head into this race. The good news is that people are passionate, ready to step up, and we all seem to have been on the same page for some time, in terms of changes we need to make. I also agree w/should look to NC for a template for rising from the ashes. This has been a highly informative and entertaining thread, and I have gotten a lot of food for thought from everyone who participated. Plus a few giggles, always good to lighten up a heavy conversation. BfD is da best, EVER.

  2. Catherine says:

    The Nudge the Vote piece from the New York Times is fascinating. These are the types of things the PARTY should be doing, especially in the “off years”. We have to have a very long view, way beyond 2012! These behavioral science strategies fit perfectly for building a strong party.

  3. Jason says:

    You know what other state’s Democratic Party is doing pretty well, and similar demographics to Georgia…AND had to go through rebuilding themselves a few years ago? North Carolina. If we have other states in similiar climates politically that has faced down apocalypse and survived, we shouldnt’ be too proud to see how they did it, and what lessons we might learn from it.

  4. Drew says:

    I like Mel’s list, especially #7:

    As Dave Carney, once George H. W. Bush’s White House political director, prepared to guide the 2006 re-election campaign of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, he invited Gerber and Green to conduct their experiments from within the campaign’s war room. Perry had spent more than $25 million to win a full term in 2002, much of it on broadcast advertising, and Carney thought a rigorous experimental regime could help “assure donors that we’re using their money as best as possible — spend it different, spend less of it.” Gerber and Green asked two political scientists who had informally advised George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election, James Gimpel and Daron Shaw, to collaborate on the project. Carney invited the quartet he called “our four eggheads” to impose experimental controls on nearly every aspect of campaign operations.

    Perry won easy re-election in 2006, and their findings profoundly altered his 2010 tactics. Perry’s primary campaign this year sent out no direct voter-contact mail, made no paid phone calls, printed no lawn signs, visited no editorial boards and purchased no newspaper ads. His broadcast advertising strategy was informed by a 2006 experiment that isolated 18 TV media markets and 80 radio stations and randomly assigned each a different start date and volume for ad buys from a $2 million budget earmarked for the experiment. Public-opinion changes from the ads were then monitored with tracking polls. Carney estimates that the research saved Perry $3 million in this year’s primary campaign, and he still beat Kay Bailey Hutchison by 20 points. On Tuesday, the value of Perry’s unusually empirical approach to electioneering will be tested again, this time in a tough race against the Democratic nominee, Bill White, the former mayor of Houston.

    Of course, Perry won, and won big. It’s embarrassing that the party of creationism and denialism might be more dedicated to the application of science to campaigns than ours.

  5. Jen B. says:

    So, who’s going to run against Mike Jacobs? Let’s get on this now.

  6. Sara says:

    The common thread I’m seeing in everyone’s wonderful suggestions is that we need a comprehensive plan for 2012 and 2014. From what I’ve seen in the 5 years I’ve been here, the DPG has been in constant triage mode, just putting out the most pressing fires. Scramble to find money for staffers, scramble to find candidates for races (sometimes even on the last friggin day), etc. That needs to stop. There needs to be a plan for how we’re going to recruit candidates, how we’re going to reach out to voters, how we’re going to increase voter registration, etc.

    Someone experienced and skilled in developing and executing a comprehensive plan needs to be the next chair of the party, and they need to bring order to the current chaos. Until we do that, we won’t get anywhere on all of these excellent goals.

  7. JMPrince says:

    We desperately need wider & more constant voter registration efforts, to add perhaps 500K more voters to the rolls. Because w/o changing the dynamics of the underlying numbers here? It’ll still come up short. So sure, all good thoughts & useful ideas. But if we’re getting consistently under 30% of the much dreaded WM vote? We’ll be toast for a very long time indeed. JMP

  8. Amy Morton says:

    Here’s what I’m willing to do:

    – Work on candidate training and recruitment. This needs to be an ongoing, 365 days a year effort.
    – Work on an aggressive incumbent protection strategy that goes well-beyond raising money. Such a strategy could have saved Pat Dooley and Lee Thompson.
    – Figure out ways to create incentives for best practices. I feel like we almost need an organization that raises money and does nothing other than give it to dem groups, including the party and caucus, who submit proposals and implement proven strategies. Maybe that’s a crazy idea, I don’t know, but we need to restore donor trust, and I can’t think of another way.
    -Work to engage women in particular. If we are data-driven, and I think we must be, then we will see that we need to expand our “reliable democratic base.” Women, LD and independent women are the lowest hanging fruit in that regard.

    I agree with much more that’s been said here, especially the bits about constituency outreach.

  9. JerryT says:

    I’m a worker bee, so not so much “vision” from me, but… my work is always busy during the fall which keeps me from participating much when the Party does get around to doing things. I would be interested in pulling an oar at other times of the year.

  10. Will Spice says:

    You’re right, Mel. We should also address issue of voter empowerment and outreach. After all, if our primary focus is getting Democrats elected, I would behoove us to look beyond the veil and really do some serious work in along those lines.

    People also want to know that Democrats fundamentally care about our communities-people before politics. People want to know who cares about keeping our neighborhoods safe and healthy. Democrats Work was a stroke of brilliance that has, at least from my perspective, fallen by the wayside. We need to revive that kind of programming and make it sustainable within the party machinery.

    In speaking with young men and veterans, it is painfully clear that a lot of them feel left out and forgotten. I cant tell you how many young men thought (or had been told) they could not vote for Obama because they had a criminal record (a prison to polls program?) Several of the veterans feel like the government has failed them. There are many more examples. Hope = votes.

    I realize the party is not a social agency, but the bottom line is a lot of everyday folks do not trust the party. We need to find a way to correct that.

  11. Leslie says:

    As someone who is a relative outsider to the inner workings of DPG but a participant at the county level, I would heartily echo a need to see a much more cohesive messaging and branding strategy. Why should any voter who does not automatically vote a straight party ticket chose a Democrat vs. vote for or against a Republican? How can the overwhelming “pro-big government” label be supplanted with something that speaks to what independent voters could also embrace?

    In addition, what kind of outreach can be done to those who do not eat, sleep and breathe politics 24/7? Why should they pay attention and what can be done to help them see how decisions made by state legislators and constitutional officers affect them on a practical, day-to-day level? This HAS to be done before election season because they tune out once the barrage of commercials start. Communicate the benefits of being involved at the state level, and the effect their time and money will make on electing people that represent their views. Follow through on the benefits you tout. This outreach could be the seed for fresh voices and long term candidate recruitment.

    After candidates are recruited or local volunteers are elected or drafted to a position of responsibility, offer more in-depth training on topics like public speaking, fundraising, developing and choosing an effective staff, and policy (and how to discuss policy with non-wonky types). Be a key resource instead of a group busy doing it’s own thing. And ensure those training sessions offer value for their time and are scheduled during non-working hours. Or if you don’t want to offer the training, help them find the resources.

    • Mel says:

      Juliana did something very much along these lines this year. She conducted training sessions in Cobb County, not for candidates but for volunteers. I don’t remember the specifics, but maybe she can fill us in.

      The classes ran over a period of several months and covered a wide array of topics. Only those who finished the classes were allowed to “graduate”. It was an excellent program that she compiled and conducted completely on her own. If by some miracle we can get Fulton County back on track, I’m hoping she’ll share the course materials.

      Being able to offer candidates trained volunteers who are ready to hit the ground running would be a huge service.

      • Ed Griffith says:

        I took Julianna’s classes, once a month for a year, and they were truly outstanding. As long as Juliana confirms you are a democrat, I don’t mind copying and sharing the notes.
        I think you are all in the weeds and missing the big picture. Our democratic candidate for governor said he was ashamed to be a democrat, that Obama’s presidency was the most failed in his memory because he did not negotiate with those wonderful republicans, and that Obama brought economic devastation to Georgia. Porter also ran away from Obama, saying she was an independent and not a party person.
        The first question is why in the hell should I support a party like that? My father, a republican, used to say when democrats agree that the real issue is who is most republican, the republicans always win.
        The second question is how did cowardly abandoning our ideals turn out? Obama got a respectable 48% of the vote in 2008 – pretty good for the deep south! Agreeing with the republicans on how bad Obama is did not gain one single solitary republican vote. It did, however, cause us to lose every state office for the first time since reconstruction by between ten and twenty percent – far, far worse than Obama. The youth vote went from 19% in 2008 to just 9% this year. We are now behind where we worked so hard to get in 2008.
        Finally I echo Julianna’s sentiment to not throw your base under the bus for years and then say you need money a few weeks before election. Insulting the base by saying we need to be “educated” and giving us insulting shallow talking points is also not effective.

  12. Jason says:

    We need to start taking a long view of Democratic resurgence. This idea that we can win in the next cycle is naive. We need to be thinking about seriously being in a position to win the Governor’s mansion in 2018, and try to improve ourselves in 2014. We already did better in 2010 than we did in 2006 as far as a percentage of the vote. We won’t dig ourselves out of this ditch overnight, and we shouldn’t kid ourselves about that.

    I like Mel’s template because it does start us in a direction of having a state party that is CAPABLE of electing Democrats, rather than being a party that exists to help out whatever office holders we have. If the party’s organic structure is sound, the support for incumbents will be there.

    I would add only the following to various points:

    2) Conduct aggressive candidate recruitment that is informed by, but not limited by, district DPI. At this point, social networks are probably the most cost-effective way to initiate contact, but mining local office holders is another.

    We need to have implement a two prong structure to right the ship. We’re way past needing to recruit for 2012, but we gotta start somewhere. We need to be recruiting for 2014 NOW. Maybe a way out of it is to look for candidates with an eye for 2014, who’d be willing to run in 2012 as “training”. We could actually win some of them in 2012, but identify people we want to to run for various offices now. How we do that is probably better left up to smarter people than me.

    10) Sever the finances of the various caucuses. For lots of reasons, not the least of which is large donor confidence.

    I’m guessing this is referencing the House and Senate caucus accounts where funds are horribly comingled. The new constituency caucuses do not have finances to speak of. They are meant to simply funnel money to the party with a little * that it’s LGBT money, woman money, black money, etc. I do agree that House and Senate Caucuses should set up their own organizations separate from the party simliar to how the DCCC and DSCC does it. Am I being naive in thinking it shouldn’t be that hard?

    Also agree with #13 from Jules about not throwing constituencies under the bus until just before election day. We pretty much know what our “Ham Sandwich” vote is in Georgia with Thumond’s US Senate campaign. The basic Dem vote is 38.9%. We could nominate Donald Duck and get that much of the vote. Actually campaigining can drive up that percentage, but we’re starting at 38.9%. Obama’s campaign in 2008 probably showed us our ceiling at 47% when everything is going in our favor. The electorate will grow and change… we need to make sure that we attract, win, and KEEP young voters, Hispanics, new residents, etc. That’s where we will be able to build a coalition for the future cause right now, about 53% of Georgians are simply willing to vote for whomever has an R by his/her name.

  13. griftdrift says:

    That I did not know. That is impressive. Is the county commission partisan?

    • David says:


      Single commissioner and they elected a new Democrat about two years ago who is in his 30’s.


      Chatooga County is small, but there are countless counties like it that have a ton of elected Republicans. Knocking him for that would be like saying a good AAAA football coach is better than a great A football coach.

      A few years ago Tim moved houses, I selfishly hoped he would move to Floyd so he could work on a stage 4 times bigger, but no luck. The good news is does live in Georgia!

      • Will Fowlkes says:

        Again, not knocking Tim, just asking. Like I said earlier, I know Tim works very hard!

        • David says:

          The House seat is mostly in Chattooga and the Senate seat is shared with Walker and Dade.

          The word that made it seem like a knock on Tim because of the size of the county is “But”.

          I grew up in Clayton County when it was one of the 3-4 biggest counties in the state, attended First Baptist of Jonesboro when it was one of the biggest churches in the state and went to school at Jonesboro High when with only 3 grades it was one of the 10 biggest schools in the state.
          I say this to admit that I grew up believing bigger meant better. I don’t think that is always the case anymore.

  14. David says:

    Why don’t we find a county where the chair has a proven track record of electing Democrats with a democgraphically Republican population.

    I posted this in the comment on the poll post, but it fits here too: “Seriously, I think Tim Shiflett has done a better job as Chatooga County Chair than any other county chair in Georgia. There is not a single Republican elected official in Chattoga County and has not been since Tim has been chair starting in 1996. Making this more amazing the voting electorate in Chatooga County is more than 90% white!”

  15. Amy Morton says:

    Many great points here. I”ll write more from a real computer as
    opposed to this IPhone.

    For now all I can say is – Mel for Chair!

  16. Will Fowlkes says:

    “To be or not to be”…. Where do I want to be led? Most fabulous spin, Amy.

    I want “to be” and not “not to be”.

    I want “to be” a part of grassroots development. To develop the party you must develop the people within the party. You must not only empower the people, but you must provide them the tools by which to be successful. Training. Confidence. Trust. Mentorship. Collaboration. The basic fundamentals that drive any successful project. You have to develop the body in order to develop the politic. Some people are lost. Some have been found. Some are trying to find their way. But the point is, there are people out there that make up a fabulous structure called the “county party” and the “state committee”, and they both are two of the most under-utilized components we have in our arsenal. But they must be trained. They must have the confidence. They must have our trust. They must be mentored. We must collaborate. And we must prepare now – next May is too late.

    I want “to be” a part of a recruitment machine that can energize people and can find truly qualified candidates that can stand up to the “wave” and beat it back. But recruitment must be a short-term and a long-term engagement. We must have find people that can be around for the long haul and can last several cycles. We are now a 40% minority in the state house. We are a 37% minority in the state senate. We have “0” constitutional officers now. We have 5 Democratic US Congressman and “0” in the US senate. We must prepare now – next May is too late.

    I want “to be” a part of an overall master strategy encompassing all candidates across the state. Now, there are some seats more winnable than others – there are some you just can’t win. So, you have to be a little more strategic with respect to resources in some places. But the entire state needs guidance – not just your urban enters.

    What am I going to do to help us get there?

    I have 25 years experience of working in politics from the field, the office and through leadership positions. This experience – as well as my other organizational experience – has given me a set of tools by which I can participate heavily at the table. But their is room at the table for more than one person – because it will take ALL OF US to bring about the change we are looking for. People that know me know that I am always one of the first ones to roll up my sleeves in ANY situation.

    I am willing to make the commitment to work hard at this “opportunity for improvement” from the state party level. I will leave the Chair to folks like Ed, Grift and Mel. But with my experience in working with county parties – large and small – I think I know from what position I can be of most use to the state party and to the Democrats of Georgia.

    Will Fowlkes, Chair
    Cobb County Democratic Party

    • theTrueInsider says:

      If you lost an incumbent seat in your county as a county chair, you don’t deserve to be the Party chair or a member of the executive committee.

      • Steve Golden says:

        With respect, you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

        • theTrueInsider says:

          Then tell me how it makes sense to elect someone the Party Chair when they can’t save one lonely house district while they are a county chair.

          • Ed says:

            Well, he’s been chair for a while and you paid attention you’d notice a steady upward trend, but hey, pick an isolated incident whatever floats your boat.

            PS: Will don’t forget this when making your vote for DPG Chair, thanks.

          • Will Fowlkes says:

            To add background, Cobb County has been traditionally a red county.

            There are five (5) senate seats in Cobb, of which two are Democrat and three are Republican. That stayed the same in 2010 as in 2008.

            There are 14 hours seats that represent Cobb (only one of those steches into another county). We were represented by 5 Democrats and 9 Republicans in 2006. In 2008, we gained a hard fought and very close win with HD 38 through Pat Dooley. in 2010, we lost that seat back to the Republicans.

            That is what “theTrueInsider” is referencing.

            And thanks Ed – you da man!

  17. Mel says:

    All of the above, provided we elect leadership that deserves and values support. I learned the hard way that trying to work with people who don’t work never ends well. Those volunteer hours would have been better spent with affiliate organizations, individual campaigns, or non-profit orgs.

    That said, the last two years have been somewhat better at the DPG than the previous five. There are some good things happening, but I still have issues. Not the least of which is a Communications Committee that hasn’t met in two years since the chair moved to DC.

    You will never convince me that an organization that doesn’t fully utilize 280+ active voting members will ever reach its full potential. Yes, I know some of these are non-functional and/or disruptive, but those are a small minority. Most of the SC folk are wonderful people, although many of us are exasperated by this point.

    However, since your questions were about going forward, here are a few thoughts, some of which I’m willing/able to help facilitate, and most of which I’ve written here or elsewhere at least once:

    1) Develop a short and long term communications plan including: branding, messaging, print, online, social and paid media. If there is a coherent communications strategy or message, I can’t discern it. And I continue to be appalled by some of the print materials such as the 2010 slate.

    2) Conduct aggressive candidate recruitment that is informed by, but not limited by, district DPI. At this point, social networks are probably the most cost-effective way to initiate contact, but mining local office holders is another.

    3) Offer rigorous weekend candidate training and volunteer seminars throughout the state during odd number years. Topics would range from basic to advanced. Hire qualified local trainers like Jeff Romig.

    4) Establish and enforce uniform procedures and conduct for County Parties. Standardize the process and lower the barriers to entry. There’s no reason someone moving from Fulton to Dekalb should have to start at square one, or for that matter, why someone in Fulton should have to wait two years to run for a voting seat only to be defeated. To become a voting member of the Fulton County Republican Party all I have to do is show up with a check for $30. Why must we make it so hard for people to participate?

    5) Make State Committee meetings working seminars instead of social gatherings or rubber stamp events. Giant rooms of people are unwieldy. Instead, break it up into smaller instructional or caucus sessions when quorum isn’t required. Teach the old folk the new stuff and the young folk the old stuff.

    6) Implement micro-fund raising through social apps such as Piryx:

    7) Work smarter and make better use of current research. Why do I have to learn about these things from the New York Times?

    8] Implement all of the strategies Georgia’s WIN List rolled out this year and in previous years such as: trained staff placement, incumbency protection program and, as mentioned, candidate training.

    9) Offer services to campaigns to eliminate duplication of effort. For example, why do all the campaigns conduct their own poll counts?

    10) Sever the finances of the various caucuses. For lots of reasons, not the least of which is large donor confidence.

    11) Produce an annual report to all donors who’ve given more than $100 in a calendar year, and all State Committee Members with proof-of-performance stats and progress updates.

    12) Implement a standing House Party program. If nothing else, this year we demonstrated how fun and effective these small gatherings can be.

    And on and on. The constant frustration with the state party is that it’s a chicken/egg situation. There never seems to be enough money to do much, which makes it all the more difficult to raise funds. Breaking that negative loop is the hardest problem of all.

    • Steve Golden says:

      Mel, as always, has hit pretty much all of the nails directly on the head!

      I think the DPG needs some very serious restructuring. I don’t know all of the staff personally, so I cannot speak specifically to their efficacy in their positions, but it is extraordinarily evident that some things need to change. The DPG needs to work in concert with other organizations like YDG and GFDW to cultivate more Democratic activists and volunteers, and to keep us all well-informed as to what is going on. Even a simple weekly email (or urgent ACTION ALERT) would let all of us know what is going on in our own state.

      More than anything, we need to have strong leadership in a time when the Georgia Democrat has been consigned to a powerless political minority that can begin to make inroads back to the future. It needs to cultivate and promote future candidates, and it needs to start two days ago. Like Will Avery said time and time again on the campaign trail:

      The past few years, anything could have been made law without a single Democratic vote or even an iota of Democratic support.

      The people of Georgia need to know that. They need to know who’s in power, and they need to know what’s going on. We need to have people in every last county– even if those “people” number less than the number of people in my cubicle right now. It only takes one person to disperse a message– and that message needs to get out.

      End of rant, for now.

    • Juliana says:

      Thanks Mel, excellent points and certainly all things we’ve been saying ad nauseum for years. I hope someone listens to you.

      I’ll add this..

      13) Do not throw key constituencies under the bus for 3 1/2 years and then wake up 2 wks before the election and realize you need them and their money.

      Huffington Post is reporting that gay voters supported the GOP in record numbers this cycle. In 2008 they were 18% of the vote, this year 31% going to GOP. That’s pretty wretched. If the GOP passes ENDA without us, we’re doomed to ever regain that support.

      I won’t even get into the issues this party seemed to have reaching out to women voters-not party insiders. I don’t have the time or the energy for that.

      • Matt says:

        “Do not throw key constituencies under the bus for 3 1/2 years and then wake up 2 wks before the election and realize you need them and their money.”

        Dead on, Juliana. Whether it’s gays, organized labor, the poor, liberals in general, women, religious minorities and secularists, blacks, whatever, ignoring/outright attacking your own base is stupid. Enough of the “Where else are they going to go?” mindset. They don’t have to go anywhere, including to the polling place.

  18. Amy Morton says:

    It’s all yours, Ed.

  19. Ed says:

    Don’t you dare even think running against me. Should I make such a decision.