Sunday, January 31, 2016

Bernie Sander's Big Breakthroughs. Both of them.

No matter how Iowa comes out tomorrow, Bernie Sanders has just done two important things.

Today his campaign announced that he has raised $20 million on-line in just one month! This is unprecedented. It could be the beginning of the end of fat cat funding across the entire political spectrum. The fat cats will die hard, as will their lazy recipients. But the day may be coming when the people will finance all the campaigns, local and state and Congressional, out of their own pockets and thus get the governing they want. It started with Howard Dean, continued with Barack Obama but never at this scale.

The second big achievement was announced today in the New York Times. Bernie Sanders is now drawing voters from the biggest block of all, the under $50,000-a-year income group. This is huge news about a huge voting block. Until now skeptics have said Sanders' base was too narrow, consisting of the young, educated, and affluent. The middle class and poorer voters have now begun to hear him and respond. This is good for Sanders' campaign but it's also good for these folks who have been getting squished by the rich. They need a champion and now they have one.  You can see the article at…/bernie-sanders-is-making-surprisin…

Meantime, a snowstorm threatens Iowa for tomorrow evening. If it arrives, will it suppress turnout?

And so we wait to see how this wildy interesting year progresses through Act One of the choosing of the president of the United States of America. Can a simple thing like a snowfall make the difference?

Footnote: The NY Times article alleges Sanders is losing some affluent people but offers no substantiation. If so, it's still better to gain from the bigger pool of under $50K per year.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Hillary Clinton Believes Sanders Is Winning

Is Bernie Sanders going to win in Iowa on Monday?

I don't know. No one knows. But it's getting obvious that Hillary Clinton thinks he is.

She has just done three things which telegraph what looks like enormous fear.

First, she has had her own daughter tell a huge and blatant lie about Sanders, one that could be refuted in an instant, claiming that he is going to take away Medicare, the children's health care program and Obamacare. Her daughter did not note, as truth would oblige her to, that Sanders wants to replace them with single payer health care coverage, effectively making them an extension of Medicare to cover everyone. Hillary herself has told the same lie. Only real panic could have driven her to say something so outrageous that the media sucked in its collective breath and hardly knew what to say about her whopper and the obvious panic that spawned it.

Then, having "stumbled badly", as the media called it upon recovering its breath, she made her next big mistake. She repeated Bill Clinton's 2008 type of attack on Obama. Bill Clinton had called Obama's campaign ideas "a fairy tale." The American public in 2008 didn't like being told that a vision for a better future was just nonsense. By implication that makes the voters a bunch of fools for believing things could get better. They actually did get lots better under Obama in spite of the GOP Congress, but the real point is that people like to hope. After all, when Bill Clinton ran for president, he was touted as "the man from Hope". Hillary's sneered at Bernie Sander's ideas for bettering people's lives as being "impossible", thus reminding people of the naysayers in Congress blocking the changes Obama hoped to bring. It's like Sarah Palin saying "Where's all that hopey changey stuff now?" It was desperation politics on Hilary's part. And the desperation showed.

Then came this week's giveaway, the sure sign that Hillary is indeed desperate. Suddenly she has proposed there be a debate among the Democratic would-be nominees, such to be sponsored by MSNBC. This is mighty strange coming from the establishment candidate who had received the huge favor from the Democratic National Committee of having very few debates and almost all of them on weekend nights when no one watches TV.  She had obviously hoped by this DNC schedule to deny Bernie Sanders much public exposure, oblivious to the new day that on-line media has brought to campaigning.

Now, amazingly,  Hillary Clinton, the presumed easy winner in the Democratic nomination process, seemingly needs another appearance before the public to save her skin. She's a good debater in the sense of a high school debate that is based on scoring the most points. She might have done herself some good. But there could be no reason to ask for this debate unless she felt she really needed it. No one who is leading ever wants the other guy to have another chance at changing the public's mind. What's also interesting is that she wanted it between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. We have known from polls for weeks—and so has Hillary— that Sanders has a huge lead in the New Hampshire polls. So why this last minute wild attempt to pull New Hampshire away from him?

Is it because of South Carolina?

I think Hillary Clinton's much-vaunted "fire-wall" of South Carolina has begun to smolder. The theory of the establishment-oriented commentators has been that Clinton can afford to lose both Iowa and New Hampshire because the large black vote in South Carolina and other Southern states assures she will win that block. Black people supposedly love her because they supposedly love Bill Clinton.

I don't believe black people are automatons. None I know are. They can change with the times. They can reflect now that so many black men are in prison because "their" president Bill Clinton pushed some hideously hard "law and order" measures so he could be "a centrist" and more popular. Ferguson and similar outrages have pulled back the curtain on America's shameful abuse of law enforcement, and this has further fueled the recognition that we imprison minorities at an unconscionable rate, aided by Clinton era measures. I'm not black, but I figured out that one. Blacks can too.

As for blacks loving Hillary because they loved Bill, well, I loved Harry Truman but his wife Bess made my skin crawl. People, be they black or whatever, choose whom they like.

Besides, there's a lot of young black people who do not remember the Clinton years in a compelling way. If you are twenty now, the Clinton years happened when you were a toddler. So it's not surprising that a rumor is coming from the black South that a generational divide has developed in the black community.  Young black people are drawn to Bernie Sanders, just as young white people are. People aren't their color; people are people. Youth calls to youth.

So maybe Hillary feels she must fight like hell for New Hampshire, that she can no longer count on a firewall of the black South.

Well, I'll say this. Given these three startling moves on her part these past two weeks, either she believes that she's in deep trouble or she sure is giving a good imitation of a candidate who believes just that.

What a year!


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Super Pacs Are Failing!

Well, well, well.

The truth is out. The super pacs aren't worth much in an election, nor is big money the real weapon of campaigning. And Citizens United has not ruined the country.

Sometimes this old gal is right.

I have previously said that the super pacs and their ad money are not the whole game in election campaigns, that the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United did not throw good old-fashioned on-the-ground campaigning into the trash bin. I have even gone so far as to say you can run succesful campaigns on the cheap. Money is actually the least of it in winning an election.

That is, of course, heresy. In a society that worships money, it is inconceivable that money doesn't buy everything. That people can beat dollars in getting the most valuable of all commodities — votes.

But now comes the dawn. The  New York Times is reporting that a number of super pacs have learned the truth of what I've maintained for 50 years. Note a recent NY Times story: ‘Super PACs’ Move Beyond Ads, Taking On Campaign Jobs. It tells how super pacs find that ad buying isn't working and are trying to get into campaigning door-to-door. (I'll explain in a moment why that won't work for them.) Also take a look at another story just published in the Times today about how Jeb Bush's $100 million super pac is failing:  As Bush Struggles, Some Allies Blame His ‘Super PAC’.

In the first story the super pacs claim they are backing off from heavy advertising because it's more expensive than they thought. Nonsense! Are we supposed to believe that these successful business men invested their milions and the millions of others in an enterprise without knowing the cost of the biggest commodity they'd  be dealing in? If you swallow that line, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.
They just blindly blundered into this pac business of theirs without knowing that ads don't get votes. Wedded as they are to the great American myth that money can buy anything, it never occurred to them that it can't buy campaign votes, that it can't compete with volunteers going door-to-door. Nor can money hire effective substitutes for those volunteers.

Why can't hired workers sub effectively for volunteers? Because their hearts aren't in it. You can't buy votes and you can't buy heartfelt devotion to a task like going door-to-door. For one thing, voters can tell the real commitment from the purchased. We voters weren't born yesterday. We don't have to be political junkies to tell when someone is genuine. Plus paid canvassers quite often ditch the hand-out materials they were given and just say they did the job.  No supervisor is going to go door-to-door in their wake, checking up on them before paying them.

People are what win elections. Volunteers sipping morning coffee in a little storefront HQ, getting their precinct maps, their lists of registered voters, their packets of handouts. And being sure they have a pen to mark the precinct list with each voter's leanings so the campaign can be sure to get the supporters to the polls on election day. Ideally the precinct volunteers  will go out in teams of two, one for each side of the street. (Two people at someone's door can be a bit unnerving for a resident.) They've been given precincts to work that have a high percentage of Democratic voters. In an "open primary", where registered independents can vote in the party primary, the volunteers may knock on their doors. At the end of the hours in the precincts, the workers gather back at the HQ for pizza and a couple of pitchers of beer. It's fun. It's good. It's democracy.

So why don't campaigns besides those of Obama and Bernie Sander mount these massive efforts by volunteers? It's partly because most professional campaign managers and consultants hate working with volunteers. They don't know how to deal with people they can't hire and fire. But most of all, the political campaign pros know they can make a lot more money if they convince the candidate that money for advertising is the really big gun in winning.  Beyond their paid salaries they frequently get a 10% fee for all ad placement. That's a lot of gravy in campaigns where $10 million to $100 million may be spent on ads.

It isn't the cost of advertising that has led the super pacs to attempt to shift their role, as they claim in the NY Times story. It's that the ads don't do the job. People hate it. The fast forward button is the nemesis of the TV ad. Phoning is also hated. So is political junk mail.

But when someone comes to the voter's  door, it's entirely different. Here's what I wrote elsewhere. Never foget it.
                                               YOU ARE MORE POWERFUL
than the most powerful rich man or the biggest corporation. When you go to a voter's door, that's the most powerful thing that happens in politics. People fast forward through the TV ads, but a volunteer at their front door is galvanizing. Someone cared enough about this candidate to walk up and down the streets pounding on doors! No TV ad can touch that for impact on a voter. Think about it. When was the last time a volunteer came to your door in a political campaign?

Now, folks, let's hit the streets! Citizens United didn't ruin this country. America is still ours for the taking! 
Or, more accurately, it's still ours for the walking! 

Let's go! 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Hillary Forced to Retrench

A major news story about the Democratic primary campaign may have slipped by a lot of folks.

It's more or less in the article below from the New York Times. The Times story is a bit disorganized, but nevertheless the emergent picture is of a Hillary Clinton campaign forced to retrench nationally, even to writing off New Hampshire, in order to salvage a win in Iowa. It also appears she needs an infusion of $50 million to restore her campaign presence in the other states, having dismantled the entire prior national effort in favor of defending Iowa.

This is a dramatic turn of events.

How did things get so bad for Hillary?

She's simply not a candidate for these times. Just as she still has a Cold War mentality about Russia and wants American boots on the ground in Syria in spite of our Iraq debacle, she thinks she can win a nomination by the old rules: fat cat donors, party establishment endorsements, playing to the old-time Democratic sectors. And she apparently has no comprehension that the internet has changed everything. She doesn't understand that everything she has said and done is at our fingers tips. Also she has learned nothing from losing in 2008. She still thinks she can treat her opponent dismissively as being "a fairy tale", as Bill labeled the young Obama in 2008.

So she sneers at Bernie Sanders for not setting forth details of his universal health care proposal. Hey, Hillary, he isn't handing us draft legislation. He's announcing a vision of what we should go for. That's the proper role of a leader: vision. Bernie Sanders is a man of vision, just as Obama was, and that is what people want. Now as in the past:

1968: quoting George Bernard Shaw, Bobby Kennedy said, "There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

1961: John Kennedy: "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard."

1963: Martin Luther King: "I have a dream."

Even Ronald Reagan, who was not in the same league as the above three, understood a people's need for a vision and talked of a shining city on a hill and a new morning in America.

Some people think these kinds of appeals are pandering. No, they are not. People have a right to turn their faces to the warmth of the sun. Lincoln knew it. Teddy Roosevelt knew it. FDR knew it.

For many people life is hard. They need and deserve a dream, a vision. And sometimes they need a pledge of change. That's what Bernie Sanders is offering, particularly to young people who hardly see a future, who are drowning in college debt, who understand what global warming means.

If the young cannot dream, we are a lost people.

Now, here's the big story from the New York Times. After you've read it, consider that the truly misguided dreamer in all this was Hillary Clinton, who thought she could easily snare a presidential entitlement by inheriting it from her husband. Sorry, Hillary, that's not the stuff from which true dreams are made.…/hillary-clinton-readies-for-a-long…

Sunday, January 17, 2016

How to Win an Election Cheap (in less than 100 words).

This is the shortest blog I will ever write and the most important:
You are more powerful than the most powerful rich man or the biggest corporation. Because when you go to a voter's door, that's the most powerful thing that happens in politics. People fast forward through the TV ads, but a volunteer at their front door is galvanizing. Someone cared enough about this candidate to walk up and down the streets pounding on doors! No TV ad can touch that for impact on a voter. Think about it. When was the last time a volunteer came to your door in a political campaign?

To see more about the myth of money in politics, see my posting at View blog

Saturday, January 16, 2016

It's Not a Race to the White House. It's a Walk.

"You are more powerful than the most powerful rich man or the biggest corporation. Because when you go to a voter's door, that's the most powerful thing that happens in politics. People fast forward through the TV ads, but a volunteer at their front door is galvanizing. Someone cared enough about this candidate to walk up and down the streets pounding on doors! No TV ad can touch that for impact on a voter. Think about it. When was the last time a volunteer came to your door in a political campaign?"...... Quoting from another of my postings and backed up below by the NY Times.
"Neighborhood canvassing is the least glamorous of political jobs, especially in an Iowa winter. But it is also the only personal link most voters have with a candidate, and research shows it to be the most effective way to motivate them.".......NY Times  January 21, 2016

I learned this in 1968 when I was the first woman to ever run a political campaign in California, perhaps in the nation. I knew nothing, but it was a heavily GOP district so the Democratic party people didn't care who did anything about this Congressional primary race. Strangely enough a well-financed think tank guy jumped into the Democratic primary against us, complete with a paid campaign manager and a public relations/publicity firm.

I only had the help of some United Auto Workers who showed up to walk precincts in the heavily Democratic percents.

Against all odds, we won the primary. I got copies of the election results in the individual precincts, and there was the answer to this seeming miracle. Where we had walked the precincts, we won. Where we didn't, we lost. The precinct were side by side and identical demographically. The only factor accounting for wins and losses was precinct walking. I coud take no credit for the result but my reputation was made. No one thought to credit the precinct work. Because the old-time Democrats had got lazy and ignored doing any precinct work. Or maybe they didn't want to say that's what had done it because then they would have to start using precinct work too. The simple truth is that if you have a good precinct effort, you don't need all that money and paid advertising.

PhotThe race for the presidency is not a race at all. Like all political campaigns it is really a walk. A walk by volunteers through the neighborhhoods. We now wait to see if Bernie Sanders has as big a volunteer effort in Iowa as his crowds and polling numbers would seemingly promise. If his volunteer effort in the precincts of Iowa is a flop, that's probably it for Bernie. He will have been beaten, though not by Hillary's war chest.The great American myth is that political campaigns are won by money. They are not. They are won by volunteers walking door to door, voters lists in hand, identifying a candidate's supporters, and then getting them out to vote on election dayThis effort can beat any amount of money

I learned this when I ran my first campaign in 1968, on behalf of the first Japanese American ever to run for federal office on the mainland. He was a Democrat running in a Republican district. I learned, of course, that it's virtually impossible to beat a Republican in a GOP district. Thus the party old-timers had been secretly happy to let a minority person run in that district and a woman manage the campaign, unwittingly making me the first woman to ever manage a campaign in California.  But that orphaned campaign taught me how to win elections and do it without money.The chief learning occurred in the primary. We won though grossly outspent by our rival Democrat, including heavy advertising. So after the primary I looked at the results precinct by precinct. Where we had walked, we won. Where we had not walked, we lost. Happily we walked enough precincts to win. But we didn't walk them all. The precincts in that district were demographically identical and lay side by side in the same subdivision.  Walk a precinct = win it. Not walk a precinct = lose it.We were grossly outspentWrite that big on your walls! You won't find it written anywhere else.
So why doesn't everybody in politics shout this to the skies?  Because no one in politics, except Bernie Sanders, wants to admit that the super-pacs and obscene amounts of campaign money aren't necessary. What is needed is people. Volunteers. (Paid workers do a poor job walking the precincts.) You need a little bit of money, hopefully raised locally with raffles, passing the hat at picnics, silent auctions. When the volunteers raise the money themselves, it's their campaign and they will work their tails off. You just need enough to rent a modest little HQ to call a home, put in a landline or two. Get the list of voters for each precinct that has a substantial percentage of Democrats. A few activities to keep people revved up. Some "work" to do at the HQ like painting signs, or phoning from their cells or homes. Or contacting everyone they can think of on the internet. Or waving signs at roadsides. You'll need some pin money for campaign pins which you then sell at the HQ for more than you paid so as to finance other stuff. Same with bumper stickers. There should be coffee and donuts in the HQ in the mornings; pizza after the Saturday precinct walks. P.S. All your printed material including the pins should carry a union shop insignia.

The whole thing should be cozy and fun. It should be like a community. Americans have very little community life, and in a political campaign they can have the joy of a community activity. They'll love it so much that some actually cry tears when we close an HQ after an election.

So does this kind of campaign work beyond local races like the Congressional one I ran in 1968?  It sure does. In 1980 I was a county co-chair for Ted Kennedy in the Democratic presidential primary against Jimmy Carter. We beat Carter handily in the precincts we walked and lost in the ones we didn't. Fortunately we had enough volunteers to cover our huge territory except for one small corner. We thus helped get a large number of Kennedy delegates on the California delegation to the national convention.

In Iowa we will find out who has the "ground game", i.e. the volunteer precinct workers. In fact, Iowa is a grueling test of that. Getting people to vote is one thing; getting them to go to a caucus on a cold winter's eve in Iowa is much harder.

Does Bernie have the ground game to match his soaring popularity? Or is he another Howard Dean, whose manager in 2004 apparently didn't know precinct work or didn't want to bother. That manager spent over $40 million, a huge sum in those day.  It was all gone right after Iowa, gone just as the primary season was starting. Unconscionable. Nonetheless, the campaign manager had just done what lots of modern campaign managers or "consultants" do. He blew the wad on advertising and other non-ground game stuff.

Why do these "professionals" require tons of money in campaigns? And virtually ignore the cheap-o ground game? First of all, they want their salaries paid. Second, they usually don't like working with volunteers. They don't know how to get people to pull together without the power to hire and fire them. (At the same time they won't admit that paid workers typically don't do the actual walking but just take the money and run. Or are lackluster at it because money doesn't buy their hearts.)

These managers/consultants also want to have the big bucks to buy lots of advertising as a way of lining their own pockets even beyond salary. Ads cost a lot, especially on TV, and the paid staffers placing them (or the agencies doing it) get a percentage of the ad-buy on top of their salary. That's typically a ten or fifteen percent fee. If it's ten percent of $20 milion that's $2 million, a lot of whipped cream on top of the salary.

And what good does all that advertising do? Not much. It can take an unknown — usually in a very local campaign — and make her name known. That will get votes. But it doesn't take a lot of advertising to get a name known on a local level because the territory is small. On a state or national level, the name should get known through publicity about the candidate, what she's done, what's she's doing, and what she says she will do. A good publicity person can do far more than paid ads can because the news still has more credibility than paid ads do. Thus Donald Trump has bought virtually no ads but is so good at getting news coverage that he's had a virtual free ride to the GOP top spot.

Does anybody even watch the political ads? People hate them. Hasn't the current political world heard about fast-forward?

Why do the candidates put up with this money game? Either they don't know any better, or they're scared to break out of this box, or they want their own cut. How do they get a cut? Easy. The candidate sells out to the fat cats for the big bucks and belongs to them ever after, but the fat cats also belong to the candidate.They are going to be very sure that he is taken care of the rest of his life. Big speaking fees, paid trips, seats on board of directors, low cost loans. You get the idea. It's like the spy game. Take care of your agents or you won't get any more.You want to be sure your politican stays bought and stays happy forever.

So how does this big money thing get fixed?

You fix it

That's what Bernie Sanders is telling you. It gets fixed by lots of us putting up the bucks ourselves. Just $10 or $20 apiece can pay the rent for those little HQs and buy that pizza. And we also have to do the precinct work and get-out-the vote.  Give about 8 or ten hours in an election year, thereby wiping out the big money campaigns and making it a better country for you and your children.

You are more powerful than the most powerful rich man or the biggest corporation. Because when you go to a voter's door, that's the most powerful thing that happens in politics. People fast forward through the TV ads, but a volunteer at their front doors is galvanizing. Someone cared enough about this candidate to walk up and down the streets pounding on doors! No TV ad can touch that for impact on a voter. Think about it. When was the last time a volunteer came to your door in a political campaign?

Now the question is: How many of Bernie's supporters will go to doors in Iowa for him and drag those voters to those caucuses?

We shall see. In less than two weeks.

Footnote: That 1968 orphan campaign produced some happy results even though we lost in the general to the larger GOP registration. Among the results was a major change in federal law to prohibit mass detention without due process. Because the candidate I was helping was a Japanese American, the campaign also inspired the Japanese American community to rise, thereby getting an apology from their own American government and reparations for their internment in WWII. The '68 campaign also produced one hundred housing units for migrant farm workers. A lot of winning for having lost!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

It's Time!

To everything there is a season. Turn, turn to the season of politics 2016. Finally we have relevant polls and a real beginning of this season. It looks like a fascinating one, maybe one unlike all that have gone before in modern memory.

So I'm shaking off the holiday frivolity and getting down to business.  I'm working on several posts about the campaign and will have some posted here soon.

Let me say though that this year, while it is wonderful for a political junkie, is also very sad. We are saying goodby to one of the best presidents ever and a super good human being. I will miss him and, frankly, see no one comparable in the field this year or extending into the future.  We were lucky to have Barack Obama as president.

We were also fortunate to know him as a human being. Joe Biden recently shared this story about our president. When Joe's son Beau died this past year, President Obama asked Joe if Beau's young family would be all right without Beau's income. Joe told Obama that he and his wife would sell their own home to get money for Beau's family. "Don't sell your house, Joe," Obama said. "I'll give you the money."

He is indeed a good man.