Nuts & Bolts—Inside a Democratic campaign: You cannot ignore the reality your voters face

Welcome to Nuts & Bolts, a guide to Democratic campaigns. I’ve helped write this series for years, using information from campaign managers, finance directors, field directors, trainers, and staff, responding to questions from Daily Kos Community and Staff members, and addressing issues that are sent to me via kosmail through Daily Kos. Our communities can face serious problems through the course of an election. It can be a major social event, like the death of an individual due to unwarranted violence. Mass shooting. A hurricane or tornado. There are a million possible events to consider, most of which go beyond typical political planning. You don’t plan a mailer about a specific hurricane’s devastation weeks ahead of hurricane season. There is no television ad in the can for a mass school shooting. The number one thing you can’t do is treat these moments as a distraction to your campaign. Instead, you need to make sure you rise to the occasion, and that your campaign rises to the occasion of representing itself in a way that shows how much you value your community and your district first, and that, if elected, your future constituents will know how you perform under pressure and on short notice. Democrats Care In 2014, Kansas Democrats launched a platform called “Democrats Care.” The platform was designed to put candidates in red districts into social outreach by working with the community and setting an example of what a Democratic candidate really represented. The candidates and their campaigns didn’t have a ton of resources and money, but what they could do was build a lot of local goodwill by engaging in community acts that showed them to be decent, reasonable people—a way to contradict the Republican messaging that you would never meet a Democratic candidate who wasn’t a baby killing, bloodthirsty vampire. Events for these candidates included food drives, coat and clothes drives, and county road cleanups. County parties would take non-cycle periods to do highway cleanup or to help with meals on wheels programs. Changing the narrative about what it meant to be a registered Democratic voter meant everything in helping voters understand that, hey, even if we don’t agree on everything, the Republican narrative goes way, way too far. This is part of what constitutes deep canvassing, and we’ve talked about this before; but for this entry, I specifically want to address the response to the unimaginable. Addressing disaster Republican and Democratic campaigns in Florida are both going to be looking at the ground for the next while and will be wondering how much hurricane Ian will impact voter turnout and voter engagement. Will voters be actually paying attention to anything going on? I want to point something out: If these are the issues that guide your campaign, you may be in deep, deep trouble. There is a significant difference between actually doing something and being seen doing something. Trust in the current social media environment that if you are doing the right thing, then that is what matters most; doing it because it is the right thing is reason enough to do the right thing. This is part of what sets your campaign, and especially Democratic local party efforts, apart from many Republican party efforts. As more Florida, Georgia, and East Coast Democratic organizations work to help provide for people first, they convey what the Democratic party stands for, and why the Democratic party is a party that truly values life. We want you to live through tragedy; we want a government that can help provide protection and assistance and gives a damn about your livelihood; we want to go out and support those who need it. This is a subtle way to convey everything about who we are as a party. Yes, keep track of the fact that if you need to help people vote and do what you can to make sure people are able to do so in the face of an emergency, but the first priority? You can earn a lot of respect for the party, for your campaign, by just being decent human beings. And if you are in the county party or state party organization, this is part of the ongoing effort that doesn’t end on election day but extends out decades as you plan to be there and must remain to help build up future candidates and future campaigns.

Nuts & Bolts—Inside a Democratic campaign: You cannot ignore the reality your voters face

Welcome to Nuts & Bolts, a guide to Democratic campaigns. I’ve helped write this series for years, using information from campaign managers, finance directors, field directors, trainers, and staff, responding to questions from Daily Kos Community and Staff members, and addressing issues that are sent to me via kosmail through Daily Kos.

Our communities can face serious problems through the course of an election. It can be a major social event, like the death of an individual due to unwarranted violence. Mass shooting. A hurricane or tornado. There are a million possible events to consider, most of which go beyond typical political planning. You don’t plan a mailer about a specific hurricane’s devastation weeks ahead of hurricane season. There is no television ad in the can for a mass school shooting. The number one thing you can’t do is treat these moments as a distraction to your campaign. Instead, you need to make sure you rise to the occasion, and that your campaign rises to the occasion of representing itself in a way that shows how much you value your community and your district first, and that, if elected, your future constituents will know how you perform under pressure and on short notice.

Democrats Care

In 2014, Kansas Democrats launched a platform called “Democrats Care.” The platform was designed to put candidates in red districts into social outreach by working with the community and setting an example of what a Democratic candidate really represented. The candidates and their campaigns didn’t have a ton of resources and money, but what they could do was build a lot of local goodwill by engaging in community acts that showed them to be decent, reasonable people—a way to contradict the Republican messaging that you would never meet a Democratic candidate who wasn’t a baby killing, bloodthirsty vampire.

Events for these candidates included food drives, coat and clothes drives, and county road cleanups. County parties would take non-cycle periods to do highway cleanup or to help with meals on wheels programs. Changing the narrative about what it meant to be a registered Democratic voter meant everything in helping voters understand that, hey, even if we don’t agree on everything, the Republican narrative goes way, way too far.

This is part of what constitutes deep canvassing, and we’ve talked about this before; but for this entry, I specifically want to address the response to the unimaginable.

Addressing disaster

Republican and Democratic campaigns in Florida are both going to be looking at the ground for the next while and will be wondering how much hurricane Ian will impact voter turnout and voter engagement. Will voters be actually paying attention to anything going on?

I want to point something out: If these are the issues that guide your campaign, you may be in deep, deep trouble. There is a significant difference between actually doing something and being seen doing something. Trust in the current social media environment that if you are doing the right thing, then that is what matters most; doing it because it is the right thing is reason enough to do the right thing.

This is part of what sets your campaign, and especially Democratic local party efforts, apart from many Republican party efforts.

As more Florida, Georgia, and East Coast Democratic organizations work to help provide for people first, they convey what the Democratic party stands for, and why the Democratic party is a party that truly values life. We want you to live through tragedy; we want a government that can help provide protection and assistance and gives a damn about your livelihood; we want to go out and support those who need it.

This is a subtle way to convey everything about who we are as a party.

Yes, keep track of the fact that if you need to help people vote and do what you can to make sure people are able to do so in the face of an emergency, but the first priority? You can earn a lot of respect for the party, for your campaign, by just being decent human beings.

And if you are in the county party or state party organization, this is part of the ongoing effort that doesn’t end on election day but extends out decades as you plan to be there and must remain to help build up future candidates and future campaigns.