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Technology and culture change for the Michigan Democratic Party

by: Eric B.

Mon Dec 16, 2013 at 10:45:08 AM EST

About a year ago, some folks hereabout were calling for change in the Michigan Democratic Party. Aside from seeing a president re-elected (and the subsequent humor found in delusional supporters of his opponent), the party didn't see any real success in the state of Michigan. Frankly that was part of a pattern going back to at least 2006 (2008, the last big Democratic year, was the product of a highly technical and organized presidential campaign in the state with nothing to do since the old guy and Princess Dumbass of the North Woods had already stopped campaigning here) and based on the fact that the party no longer meshed well with realities.

Much of the call for change centered on Mark Brewer, the longtime chairman. But, most people really knew that just as much as anything, Brewer was a symbol of a party culture that was resistant to change. Traditional centers of power were waning in real life power and influence, and this was accelerated by Right to Work, a sham as public policy but very clearly a way to drain money away from the Democratic Party. The party needed to embrace change, needed to reorient itself from a party modeled on the economy of the 1970s and needed to figure out how to make modern technology move the party into the future.

So, it elected Lon Johnson as its new party chairman. And, the question became whether a new party chairman could effect the necessary culture change within the state party apparatus to modernize a party that had grown stagnant.

Last week, Johnson sent out an e-mail to party activists introducing something called the Michigan Win Machine. I also had a chat with Johnson last Thursday night by phone about it. Here's an important paragraph from the email.

To win in 2014, we have three major campaign tasks to achieve:  1.)  Turnout 995,000 ID'd Democrats that don't traditionally vote in non-presidential years; 2.)  Expand our donor base by soliciting the 538,000 ID'd Democrats in Michigan that earn over $100,000; and 3.)  Increase our activist base from the 650,000 ID'd Democrats that vote in every election.  If we do these three items, we can win. But we must give you, and thousands of others who support our cause, the tools to win.

You might have read something about those million Democratic voters in a Tim Skubick blog post a month or so ago. Where'd that number come from? Well, someone created a voter behavior database that scored every registered voter in the state of Michigan. Turns out, according to the results, that Michigan is a Democratic state. If the results are accurate, if you get enough Democrats out to vote and you could run a guy barely qualified to be dog catcher and win. Why would anyone be so gullible to take those results at face value? Simple, because it's what made the Obama campaign so successful last year.

A year ago, when Right to Work was rammed through the Legislature, there were a few people who observed that it was a disgrace but also offered an opportunity for the MDP to reorient itself from relying too heavily on money from labor -- which as percentage of workforce has been in decline for many years -- and broadening its donor base. If you remember the Johnson-Brewer campaign, part of Johnson's platform was broadening the party's donor base. Every campaign year, he said that millions of dollars get spent by wealthy progressives in pursuit of progressive causes but that the MDP taps into very little of it. That's where point 2. comes in. Right to Work was about reducing the amount of money that the traditional power centers pour into the MDP. This is about going around that.

Point three is about compounding the involvement of a Democrat. Turn a voter into an activist, an activist into a donor, and donor into someone even more involved. If you go to the Win Machine and hit submit (the database isn't live yet, so the results are generic), you get an idea what that means. It allows Democrats to connect with other Democrats, not by getting dressed after dinner and going somewhere but from the comfort of their own couch.

Okay, so what's the assessment? It's an intriguing program because it represents doing exactly what some of us said needed to happen last year. It capitalizes on new technology and ways to identify who you need to connect with and offers people largely no hassle ways to get involved. The technology is not complicated.  In fact, it's pretty simple. It's also not predicated on playing defense. It's the party leadership recognizing its organic strengths (i.e. more voters) and concentrating on doing that without worrying about what the other side is up to.

The downside is obviously implementation. Tech isn't a silver bullet. It's a tool that still has to be handled with competence. In fact, this might be the best technology available, or it could be horribly outdated (others probably have better opinions on this than me). Of course, it's still a vast improvement on what they were doing, but everything still rests in execution. That rests on the hope that there's been some kind of culture change within the state party apparatus so that everyone gets on board and behind it. If significant constituencies in the party say, "Fund raising? We don't need fund raising. We've got plenty of money coming in from union dues." then the odds are better that it won't work (and, that the party will continue to lose elections).

The other potential downside is how individual voters respond to it. There's a lot of personal data involved here. People might be downright resentful about some of it. The flip side of that, however, is that the real trick to getting people to go along with you is that you have to ask lots of people because you'll get so many rejections.

Whatever ... even if the thing fails badly, at least it represents evolution in the way certain elements of the party are thinking about the present and future and that's at least a step in the right direction.

Eric B. :: Technology and culture change for the Michigan Democratic Party
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Technology, culture and the MDP (0.00 / 0)
Lon Johnson was billed as someone who could apply Obama style strategies to win elections in Michigan.  Some folks have been wondering when he was going to get moving on those.  Glad to hear he's preparing to roll the Michigan Win Machine out. Now all we have to do is win (an election for a change.)

All I have to say (0.00 / 0)
And I Think you start to hint at in your post. Given Random People access to random people's phone numbers and address, especially when it could be access by anyone, couldn't possibly end badly? Right? nothing bad could happen? I mean Republican won't figure out they can look up all the potential democrats and then harass them, they won't do that right? That being said I fucking love this as a organizer, free data that I can use to build a walking plane or low level donor base for a local race, without having to deal with the fucked up party structure, LOVE IT.

Oh and on the technology front http://www.michigandems.com/ the main page has been down for what 2 or 3 weeks now, seriously? why not build the page, then take the website down for an hour or so, wtf is this 1992?

You don't have to (0.00 / 0)
Just a heads-up, but you don't always have to correct a typo.

[ Parent ]
yes I do (0.00 / 0)
otherwise those that unable to articulate a argument will latch onto it, and use it as a way to dismiss what I'm saying.

[ Parent ]
There you go, again. lol n/t (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]

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