Tag Archives: Election

Changing the Culture through Winning Campaigns

Can you answer “yes” to any of the following questions:

1.  Are you frustrated with the absence of principled leadership in politics?

2. Are you fed up with elected officials who talk the talk, but refuse to walk their talk?

3. Have you grown weary of being handed candidates by political parties who are “electable” instead of principled?

4. Would you like to have elected officials who adhere to our country’s founding philosophy (ie: who adhere to the Constitution)?

5. Are you willing to stand up and run for office yourself or become someone who can effectively “hold up the arms” of someone who will?

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then the training school that is being put on by Citizens for Community Values in Cincinnati on January 14 and 15 is something you just can’t afford to miss.

This candidate training school will be held at the Courtyard Marriott hotel at the Greater Cincinnati airport on Thursday, January 14 and Friday, January 15.  Nationally recognized trainers will be putting on this intense campaign training, and it is being provided for free!

This training is not just for candidates and their campaign staff members, but as well as for potential candidates, leaders in politics and the culture, and for grassroots activists and volunteers who want to begin the process of bringing real hope and change to our country.

Check here for more information and for how to register, but be quick, registrations received before January 8th will receive a special “Campaign Jumpstart Toolkit” with materials that will help potential candidates to create a winning edge.  Some of the board of the Institute for Principled Policy will be attending, and we hope to see many of you there as well.

American Majority–Grassroots Organizing and Mobilization

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series American Majority Training

constitutionMost grassroots movements have the same fundamental parts to them, with the tea party movement being a notable exception.  Understanding those parts will help activists and candidates to generate and sustain momentum and support for your issue.

Chris Faulkner from Faulkner Strategies discussed the keys to a grassroots movement.  You have to have ‘The “IT”‘, ie. the key root basis of your movement:  the idea, issue or value(s) that define your movement, identified clearly and succintly.  Think abortion for the pro-life movement, war opposition for both the Dean campaigns and the Paul campaigns, etc.

You also have to have “The ‘Host'”, the person or group that becomes the avatar and carries the “IT”.  Most “hosts” have been too weak to carry the “It” effectively (think Howard Dean) but sometimes a “host” is strong enough to carry the “It” (think Barack Obama carrying the “Move ON” idea).

The “Host” can’t do it alone; in come the “Evangelists”: those who are opinionated, well-informed, and more interested in the “It” than in the “Host”.  These folks are the ones who really drive and make the movement happen and catch fire.  Sometimes they may be “sneezers” who push information out (think bloggers, talk radio, etc.).  Next you need the “medium” of how the message is going to be delivered.  In our Founding era, it was Committees of Correspondence and the Federalist Papers; today it is the Internet and social media.

All of this is focused on getting the message, and the momentum, to the “Crowd”, ie. everyone else.  The Tea Parties seem to have found a way to effectively do this and also bypass the need for a “Host”, thus decreasing the likelihood of a personality eclipsing the message or turning off those who otherwise could and should be part of the movement.

Maybe the conservative movement can learn some lessons.  The time is now, and the resources are available.

American Majority–New Media and Online Engagement

This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series American Majority Training

constitutionChris Faulkner spoke to the entire group after lunch on the ability to harness and utilize the “new media”of social networking and other online portals to create a more effective campaign (either political or activist).  He gave a disclaimer that this is the most difficult session for him to teach, as he has 20% who won’t get it, 20% who is already using it effectively, and 60% who may get useful information out of the presentation.

Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, etc.  are all tools that allow for greater online engagement (dynamic interactive communication), versus the early days of the Internet where someone might have an online presence (static website).  A major focus of Faulkner’s presentation was on the potential power of Twitter as a means of creating community and building your persona.  I was impressed by the fact that there are approximately 15 million Twitter users (as opposed to 300 million Facebook users) and President Obama has 12% of that community following his ‘tweets’ (1.8 million follwers).  There is potential power in this application, as Faulkner put it, 140 charcters to take over the world.

Faulkner discussed how you need to “control your brand” by using social media effectively, and getting your message and your information up to the top of the list on search engines such as Google.  It’s all about getting your name out long enough, loud enough, and in as many venues as possible to give it “juice” to help you control your “brand”.  Another good way, especially for candidates, is the creation of “fan pages” for your campaign or business on Facebook.

An amazing, but not really surprising statistic is that of various contact media being utilized today, Facebook is used as the primary contact point by more people than who use email (24% vs. 11.1%).  Twitter is a close and growing third at 10.8%.  It is pretty apparent that instead of a time wasting distraction, social media is becoming somewhat of an indispensible communication tool.  Sorry, US Postal Service!

The conversation turned to blogging, and how to go about setting up an effective blog site, how to drive traffic and attention, and how to make your blogging become an activist activity.  Faulkner presses the point home that new media will be increasingly more critical to message successs, and in generating action for your agenda.

Social media is now creating a new way of accountability.  As Thomas Paine put it, “An army of principles can penetrate where an army of soliders cannot.”

American Majority–On the Candidate trail, part 3

This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series American Majority Training

constitutionThis session is on political communication, more specifically on paid and earned media options for a campaign.  Faulkner discussed the elements of a communication strategy from establishing or increasing name id, developing image and issue, creating contrast, to defending yourself against attacks.

Most people think of political communication of being mainly centered around television advertising, but Faulkner brought a great perspective on the fact that our new technological milieu, while still maintaining the importance of running TV, has exposed some of the things that TV can’t do for a campaign, including targeting voters effectively, reaching as many voters as it did 10 years ago (too many channel choices now), and giving detailed information/messaging for your campaign.

Much of the discussion on paid media explored the ability to use direct mail effectively and to use radio as a “rapid response” vehicle for staying abreast of issues and getting out early on attack response/damage control.  However, because of the constraints of the day’s schedule, Faulkner had to skip over a number of points of discussion, which participants in the training can access via a membership gateway at American Majority’s website.

A discussion of earned media and its effectiveness (both in terms of costs and in terms of name/issue identification for voters) was the second half of the session, but much of it was passed over due to time constraints.  It might be a better plan for future trainings for the earned media portion of the training to be a separate session.

And yes, even though many don’t want to hear it, Faulkner reiterated that negative ads (attack ads) do work and work effectively.  He did warn that candidates should try to create contrast, but to stay away from the clearly personal attacks on the opponent:  attack issues and track records, not personalities and families.  Faulkner did utilize some time for a fairly lively and informative question and answer session at the end of the session.

American Majority–On the Candidate track, part 2

This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series American Majority Training

constitutionThis session in the Candidate track is one that most candidates hate talking about, but is absolutely necessary to achieve the goals of the campaign:  fundraising.  The “mother’s milk of politics” is also the bane of most candidates, who struggle to spend the requisite time and personal investment to have a successful fundraising program.  Relying on direct mail and generic requests won’t equate to enough resources to cross the finish line strong.

Faulkner spent the bulk of the time in this session discussing the various means of fundraising, from direct mail solicitations to online fundraising.  Faulkner walked participants through the personal solicitation, direct mail and fundraising event portions of the finance plan in general terms, as a general overview of the basics of these traditional fundraising activities.

The discussion on online fundraising was engaging, showing the power of smaller voices coming together to create a political roar (ala Ron Paul more than Howard Dean), and bringing people into the campaign by directly engaging them with your campaign message in a format with which they are comfortable .

Online fundraising has other advantages as well, such as creating “fans” (strong supporters), being able to grow your email lists (remember the Obama campaign’s millions of emails?), asking for smaller amounts but in greater numbers of people, and creating community around your campaign.

However, as Faulkner brought home, a candidate still has to spend 35-50% (or more) of their time on doing personal, face to face solicitation of potential big donors in order to create the financial foundation to build the rest of the campaign on.  Sorry, candidates, there is no magic wand in the Internet to keep you from having to do the hard, humbling work of asking other people to give you and your ideas the money to make them work.

American Majority–On the Candidate track, part 1

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series American Majority Training

constitutionChris Faulkner of Faulkner Strategies out of Indianapolis led the Candidate track for the American Majority training.  I am impressed to see that there are about 30 people who are taking this track our of the 50+ who are in attendance.  Some of these people are support or campaign staff/volunteers, but the numbers are encouraging, nevertheless.

The opening session of this track is on the development of the campaign plan to ensure success.   Faulkner opened with what I found to be refreshing:  Create your entire campaign plan in PowerPoint utilizing a maximum of 10 slides!  He is now breaking down the overall plan with five major areas that must be focused upon, with questions the candidate must be asking themselves and their campaign in order to make sure they are on the right track.

He is discussing the necessity of fleshing out the administration and committee aspects of the campaign, the message you are delivering and how to deliver it, how to position both yourself and your opponent for maximum benefit for your campaign, how to structure the campaign budget to meet your goals and prepare for unexpected expenses, create your finance committee and asks for contributions, how to set vote goals and know how to sift the information to create accurate benchmarks and targets, how to effectively get out the vote in an era of early voting (in Ohio, voters can cast ballots 35 days prior to the election) and setting GOTV timelines for the greatest impact.

A former Marine machine gunner trainer, Faulkner’s presentation is engaging, lively and filled with significant pieces of information that are very helpful for those seeking to be effective candidates.

American Majority–Building Coalitions

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series American Majority Training

constitutionThe AM staff began the session by describing what a coalition is (individuals or organizations coming together to address a common issue, who have common interests and values) and why they form (for solving a problem, naturally!)

Discussion centered around purposeful coalition building–creating a roadmap for success, with clear planning for identifying the issue, growing the group intelligently, creating the vision for the solution, establishing clear targets for success, planning the specific strategies, and implementing.  One thing that wasn’t discussed was having a post-issue analysis to certify that the goals were actually met.

Credibility and authority of the group and leaders was noted as being critical to the foundation for success of any coalition.  In order to be effective, the coalition leadership have to be visible and accessible, and be able to accurately assess the depth of the network,  broaden and deepen the network (including direct methods and social networking options),  and mobilize and motivate your volunteers and core membership.

Examples of effective tools for reaching the community you are wanting to impact was discussed, from the traditional word of mouth to getting earned media, from petitioning to fundraising events to educate and connect more people to your cause, from networking to building and deepening relationships.  All of these tools and options are going to be explained in more detail during the activist training break out sessions (of which I will bring you information after the event).

A thought struck me during this presentation, especially during the part on networking:  No time was allowed for participants at this event to introduce themselves and to let others know who is in attendance.  Maybe this will happen before the lunchtime “networking”.  We’ll see.

American Majority–Training for Solutions

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series American Majority Training

constitutionI am going to be blogging live today from the American Majority Candidate and Activist training class, being held on the campus of Otterbein College.  The morning has started well, as the staff of AM provided coffee and pastries for such an early starting event!  They also are providing professional-quality training materials, and I was impressed to see that the training booklets are specific to the state of Ohio’s elections laws, not just a generic template booklet.

About 25 people are already here, with an anticipated attendance of 40+.  I already recognize a number of people, including former legislators and community activists, along with folks who may never have before been engaged in the civic arena except for dutifully marching to the polls in general (and maybe primary) elections.  The current political and policy climate, along with the energizing effects of tea parties, 912 movements and the like, have indeed “brought people out of the woodwork.”

Their brochure outlines the “Problem”:  “In recent months, how often have you asked yourself, ‘What happened to the conservative movement?  Why isn’t America reflecting the basic principles on which she was founded?’  Government is too big, too bureaucratic, spends too much money, and doesn’t spend it wisely.  Few of our elected officials, regardless of party, are doing anything to change it.  In fact, through earmarks and increased regulation, they are only making the problem worse.  We need citizens engaged and candidates worth voting for…”

The training being offered today is to bring one solution to the above-stated problem.  I will be sitting in on the “candidate” track, as the activist track is well documented in the training manual for that track, and I will be discussing that track later.  The opening session, for both tracks, is “Building Effective Coalitions.”   As the opening session starts, there are about 50 people now present.  Looks like a great turnout and a hopeful glimpse of the future.

NO on State Issue 1

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series 2008 Election Issues

“This past May, the Ohio General Assembly passed House Joint Resolution 3, which placed Issue 1 on the ballot.  Previously, taxpayers have paid more than $300,000 to advertise information about initiatives that ultimately did not qualify for the ballot.  But, in an effort to build voter confidence in elections, ease elections administration and save valuable taxpayer dollars, Issue 1 seeks to establish clear timelines for filing and reviewing initiative petitions, thereby avoiding the aforementioned problem.”

Or so says Ohio State Senator Larry Mumper. Mumper claims that the purpose of Issue One is to “save taxpayer money” and to “establish clear timelines for reviewing petitions.” The reality is far less flattering to state legislators.

Several citizen initiative petitions and constitutional amendments which have proven to be embarrassing to state legislators have been not just successful, but have passed by wide margins, often despite legislators efforts to sabotage them.

Issue one reduces the amount of time available to petitioners to get approval by 35 days. An examination of the history of these initiatives and referendums reveals that some of the true grass roots efforts would have failed had they not had those 35 days. You can know with a confidence approaching metaphysical certitude that legislators know it. And they are also aware that a number of them were embarrassed by their lack of support for and efforts to defeat the issues which passed by those wide margins. They also want a monopoly on what laws and amendments are passed.

The passage of Issue One would make it much more difficult for local activist groups with limited resources to get issues that the legislature refuses to move on or passes in error on the ballot for an initiative or referendum. It also makes certain that heavily resourced groups, often from out of state (e.g. ACORN) have an advantage in the initiative and referendum arena.

In short, Issue One will seriously weaken an important weapon in the arsenal of truly local citizens groups, while giving heavily resourced outsiders an advantage. It will allow state legislators to ignore the will of the electorate in controversial issues and pass half-way measures without fear of citizens embarrassing them at the ballot box with an initiative or referendum.

Vote “NO” on Issue One

Federalism, Democracy and Presidential Elections

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Federalism, Democracy And Presidential Elections

Voting MachineOver at a blog this author reads regularly (and recommends, great theology, really cool comic graphics), Frank Turk’s …And His Ministers A Flame Of Fire, Frank has made the following observation

In spite of what some people have already said, the primary system in this country has evolved toward a democratic process and away from the idea that party elites should pick a candidate apart from an electoral process.

It’s interesting in what ways the Clintons want to take our nation back to 1820.

This post prompted me to do a quick review of the class I’m preparing for Camp American on the electoral college. This being an election year and all, I thought this would be a great advanced class for some of our young budding Christian constitutional scholars who already have a working knowledge of the documents. I took notice of two things from Frank’s post.

The first is Frank’s observation that the presidential election process has evolved toward a more democratic process for choosing a president and away from the constitutional republican representational process the founders designed. The second is that the current fight in the Democratic party with the Clinton team’s attempted manipulation of the so-called super-delegates is a throwback to the party structure of 1820. Frank’s a really smart guy and has a pretty good handle on the workings of the current political system but may not know the ins and outs of the original design and evolution of the current system for election of the chief executive. Such is the state of modern constitutional education that most people don’t know the details unless they make a special effort to learn the details.

Well that’s why we do Camp American, and why the Institute For Principled Policy is involved. In order to understand how we got where we are, we have to know where we started. The original design of the framers was for a representative federal republic. We emphasize the word federal because the current understanding of federalism is vastly different than it was in the late 18th century. To keep this from becoming a multi-post series in 500 parts, we’ll stick to the highlights of this issue.

The framers vision of the federal government’s design was built on the idea that the states, which were autonomous republics, delegated certain limited powers to the federal government for three specific purposes; defense, diplomacy, and trade. There are many implications of this structure, but one of the most important to understand that, as Dr. Thomas Woods has eloquently stated, under the system of federalism as it existed until about 1865 the only contact that the majority of citizens had with the federal government was with the post office. Under this system, the federal government was a creation of the states and therefore it was decided at the Constitutional Convention, after lengthy and hard-fought debate with numerous contradictory resolutions and several see-saw attempts at a solution to the problem of election of a president which ranged from popular election to election by state legislatures to election by the federal legislature, that an electoral college would be the method by which a president would be elected. The number of electors for each state is based on the number of senators (2) each state is allotted plus the number of federal representatives allotted to it by the census count. The method each state was to use to choose these electors was left to the states themselves with limited restrictions such as candidates for the office and federal office holders not being electors. The hope of the framers was that each congressional district in each individual state would be represented by an elector from that district who would represent the interests of the district. The two senatorial representatives, it was hoped, would be representatives of the state governments’ interests. It should be noted that this system was designed well before any political parties had been even conceived of.

In its original form, the electoral college in each state was to vote for two candidates from a slate of nominees. The list of nominees was chosen by the consensus of caucuses, usually regional, within the US House of Representatives. The top vote-getter who received a majority (not a plurality) of the electoral votes became the president. The second highest became vice-president. If no candidate got a majority of electoral votes then the top 5 vote-getters were presented to the House of Representatives who were to immediately cast a presidential ballot. If no candidate received a majority of votes then the legislature was to go into caucus by states with each state getting one vote. Voting continued until a president was elected. Growing factionalism and failed conspiratorial intrigue in the elections of 1796 and 1800 complete with an electoral crisis in the 1800 presidential election caused the introduction of the 12th amendment which dropped the number of candidates on the presidential slate if the election went to the House from 5 to 3 candidates and provided for a separate slate of vice-presidential candidates, leading to the current method of choosing a running-mate. Not only was this system not democratic, it was specifically designed to prevent organized majorities from overwhelming the interests of minority populations. One need only read The Federalist to understand that democracy was a form of government the framers feared and avoided.

In the beginning of the republic, most of the states chose presidential electors in their state legislatures. But by the election of 1836 the only state which still held to this method was South Carolina, which did not switch to a popular election of electors until the fateful 1860 election. Political parties did not really exist until after Washington’s first term. They were formed on the basis of several major issues; first, whether or not to get involved in the French Revolution and which faction to support. Second, constitutional interpretation of issues regarding a National Bank and “internal improvements” and presidential authority. Third, the roles of the federal government and the state governments and centralized authority. The Federalists under Hamilton wanted to abandon France, grow presidential authority and diminish the power of the states. The Democratic-Republicans under Jefferson wanted the opposite. What we now call parties were then only what Madison called “factions” because there were only guiding philosophies and no official organizations or platforms until Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren hammered together the Democratic Party from their faction of the old Democratic-Republican’s in the 1828 election. The other faction became the Whigs, the Federalists having committed political suicide in 1816 leaving a single party. From the election of 1796 until the election of 1832 candidates for president were chosen by party caucus alone. After a revolt of newer western party members in the election of 1824 where they rejected the party’s nominee in favor of Andrew Jackson, the party convention system was developed. Convention delegates were chosen by party caucuses in the individual states.

This system of presidential nominations, delegates to national conventions chosen in local and state party caucuses, continued relatively unchanged through the 19th century into the so-called Progressive era. In 1910(!) Oregon held the first presidential primary that bound delegates to a specific candidate at the 1912 national party conventions. Interestingly, this humble beginning led to a split in the Republican party in the 1912 election. Former Republican President Theodore Roosevelt was an overwhelming favorite in the tiny number of states with a primary election, but sitting Republican president William Howard Taft held the nomination from the vast majority of delegates chosen in party caucus and because most primaries were non-binding. Really just beauty contests, if you will. Hence, the Bull Moose or more correctly the Progressive Party split from the Republicans with TR at the helm which eventually finished second to Democrat Woodrow Wilson. Taft was a distant third. Interestingly, only a few states adopted the primary system, even after this.

By 1968 only 14 states used the binding primary election or some variation of it. Interestingly 1968 was the last election where a candidate controlled a convention with no primary victories. Hubert Humphrey was the candidate. He won no primaries because he didn’t run in any. Anyone over 50 should clearly remember the events of the summer of 1968 with the Chicago Democratic Convention. Thus, the founders’ fear of direct democracy was born out and we were treated to both a revolutionary vanguard and a police riot over a brokered political convention. Perfect direct democracy leading to anarchy, just as Madison feared. The spirit of a constitutionally limited representationally elected republican (note small “R”) chief executive, elected to serve in a federal government which was constrained from interference in the lives of the individual, gradually became weaker and sicker throughout the 19th century, became comatose in the Progressive era and died in the summer of 1968.

After 1968 the number of primaries exploded, most states using some form of the binding primary. In the spirit of “democracy,” slowly but surely, discontent has grown with the idea that small rural states like Iowa and New Hampshire can set the electoral tone of the whole primary race for the whole country. Several states have worked to develop schemes to have their own states be in the first tier, some scheming to knock New Hampshire out as the earliest primary, a position most are surprised to learn it has held only since 1952. Now, after the Michigan and Florida debacles of this election cycle, the parties are clamoring for some kind of federal fix of the primary system, a power they do not constitutionally possess. Remember that the original republican design was for the states to choose how the chief executive was to be elected.

Now we are beginning to see, with the current cycle especially, the compression of the time available to make a choice for who should be the President. As this trend grows, candidates spend more and more money on media, consultants and staff, talk in shorter and shorter sound bytes, designed by advisers to have the highest positive emotional impact on subjects that the media has been working for months or years to create a particular kind of popular “buzz.” Candidate sound bytes need not necessarily contain any real intellectual content, nor does it necessarily need to cohere with the candidates stated policy positions. No need to contact the brain if the heart can be touched properly. Candidates who are the best media manipulators in appealing to their target audiences, end up in the lead. Those who have the resources dig for dirt on their opponents, knowing that the popular wind can shift in an instant if the right kind of scandal can be found and the media gatekeepers allow its use.

So, I think I can safely conclude that Frank’s timetable is off somewhat. The Clintons are not trying to revisit the politics of 1820, where the republican spirit was still quite alive, though it had caught a chill and the first signs of fever had set in, but back to the halcyon days of 1968, when a candidate didn’t have to win primaries to get a party’s nomination, but could manipulate the masses with blatant emotional appeals to the progressive dream of forcible redistribution of wealth in a completely egalitarian utopia in attempting to grab their party’s nomination. In other words, they’re trying to be the best possible democrats (note small “D”).

Warning! Blatant plug follows

If you want your kids to understand the original intent of the Constitution, the Christian origins of the nation’s foundational documents, economics, the truth about global warming and biblical stewardship of resources, have fun and meet new friends, check out Camp American.