« Dobson's Tips On Curing Gayness | Main | Hackett Everywhere: Holding Out for a Hero »

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

ATM PIN Number II: Post-Hackett Revalations

Posted by Tim Tagaris

I'll be honest, since the end of the Hackett campaign I too (and Bob as well) have received a number of emails from candidates asking me to help them raise money and detailing why their race is the most important out there.  I can't remember which post Markos said it in, but I think the worst thing about OH-2 is that it immediately makes campaigns re-focus their efforts on fundraising when it comes to online outreach.

That is such a shame. As a community (or multiple communities), we accomplished so much more than just dropping some dollars in a bucket.  Sure, that was huge, but what we accomplished "under the radar" was probably of equal, if not more, importance.

Rapid Response/Research

You all remember the morning that Jean Schmidt had a press conference at 9:30 AM where she claimed she had no idea what Tom Noe (think coingate) looked like and had never met him?  Well within three hours Paul Hackett was on the courthouse steps holding a press conference of his own.  He waved documents in the air for all reporters to see, detailing an existing relationship between Jean Schmidt and Tom Noe.

Schmidt's assertion probably would have gone unchallenged in the waning days of the election were it not for that research.  She got called on it, and was embarassed even further.

And you know where that research came from?  The netroots.

Promoting Memes Into the Mainstream Media

By the end of the campaign, the swift-boating of Paul Hackett was operating at full throttle.  But do you remember where that all started?  It started online with an inocuous blog posting by some idiot who ran against Jean Schmidt in the primary and claimed to advise her on some message board on matters pertaining to Iraq.

OH-2 blog picked it up, and it was still probably destined to remain in the bowels of the blogosphere until it found its way into this community.  Atrios picked it up from there, MyDD, Swing State Project (where I cross-posted it) and the rest is history.

The next night Jean Schmidt was on the 5 PM news obligated to distance herself from the allegations.  

What might even be more impressive is that multiple Republican outlets (including Rush) took the bait we laid out for them and started to question Paul Hackett's service.  Now I was in OH-2, and there was nightly discussion about Hackett's service with valor.  I can also tell you from the call-in shows I heard, it really shined a poor light on the Republican party for attacking his service.  The media saw it again, and are beginning to learn that attacking service is par for the course in the Republican Party--and that bodes very well for us in the future.


When Bob and I started putting out the call for volunteers, the email boxes and phone lines at the Hackett campaign was basically too much for them to handle.  It got so crazy that I am certain the staff wasn't large enough for people to handle the requests and didn't have the experience they probably should have when in Ohio.  I don't think that says so much about the campaign, as it does our ability to mobilize in large numbers on the turn of a dime.  Online success translating into offline results.

Getting It

I want to share this story in conclusion.  The whole time I was in OH-2 working hard online to build a narrative and support for the campaign, I was very very very detached from the "senior level" effort.  I sat in the corner and blogged, wrote from the bar down the street, or stayed in my hotel room scribbling away for much of the day.

As time went by, the staff started to come around and recognize that something unbelievable was happening here.  I had to go home the weekend before the election for some family stuff, and Bob Brigham flew out to pick up the ball.  I implored the staff to give Bob a seat at the table.  Next thing you know he was blogging from Paul Hackett's home.

But the real moment of recognition came on election night.  While Bob, Matt (from actblue), and I set up shop in our own little Internet "war room" down the road from the senior staff war room, we wondered why none of us were asked to join--had we not shown enough?  We all believed there was a role for net, especially in a close election.

Then the results started coming in and the phone call came.  Bob and I were asked to join the senior staff along with DCCC and DNC representatives in the war room.  There was a stark recognition that if there was a recount, or the election was too close to call for any reason, they wanted to rapid response capabilities on their side.

In the blogs, you might have seen calls for research about Clermont County voting machines and irregularities go out online--they were responded to with great information in a matter of minutes.  That was all based on coordination between Bob and I with bloggers across the country putting out the word.  When the chips started getting down, the people in that room counted on the bloggers to pick them up if necessary/possible.

As it stands, the election was over and Paul lost, but had he not, the first media cycle would have been owned by the blogosphere.  I can promise you that.


A few months ago I wrote a piece called, "My ATM Pin Number or On-Line Fundraising."  After working Jeff Seemann's (OH-16) communications shop last cycle, I thought it was a fun piece to write about Internet fundraising.  Specifically, campaigns I had spoken with after the election that only wanted to know how to raise money but really didn't want to listen to the importance of becoming active participants in communities like Kos.  I cringe everytime I see a candidate come on here, and in their first posts, keep asking for money (sorry Nick Lampson).  I don't know about anyone else, but it is a complete turn-off for me.  

This community deserves nothing less than candidates and causes that are willing to engage us.  And if they don't, so be it.  But I know that I personally cannot wait for candidates to come here and watch their diaries fall into obscurity because they are using the space like it's a billboard, instead of an opportunity to open up a dialogue.

I hope and pray that we are all able to sort out the candidates who are really willing to engage us vs. use us for the $20 contributions in the future.  But that is one of the greatest things about this community, or ability to filter out the junk from the good stuff (I think).

If I were to make one final point, it would be that we shouldn't necessarily jump up and down for joy because some junior staffer posts something on Kos or MyDD in the name of their boss.  We deserve more than half-assed outreach, and with a few notable exceptions, we have already seen too much of it.

Posted at 08:59 PM in Netroots | Technorati


Excellent, excellent post, Tim.

Posted by: DavidNYC [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 10, 2005 09:48 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I just wanted to thank Tim for posting this because it is definetly important information not only in terms of what this community is capable of but also in how candidates should treat the people of the internet community.

Posted by: JDF [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 10, 2005 10:56 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Excuse me for being a hardened idiot but...I just don't get why progressive bloggers are harping and complaining when like-minded political spirits who now ask for their help in upcoming political campaigns; especially after their overwhelming success in mobilizing resources and the near-win in Ohio’s special election this past August. .

Yea, I know it's not ALL about $$$. But try telling that to some poor sap who is trying to run and can’t catch a news byline.

Besides….weren’t these the very same blogers who complained about the lack of DNCC contributions earlier on the Hackett campaign...?

As one who spend nearly a week in the 2nd district trying to drum up votes in Ohio as a direct result of the cyberspace publicity given the Hackett campaign, I, for one, would welcome and love to see the same kind of attention given to our lieutenant governor's campaign against former-Attorney General Jerry Kilgore for governor in the crimson red state of Virginia.

Leave no state behind means support for candidates with blood, sweat, tears and yes, that crazy aunt's in the attic (by way of blogs) all-out support.

Posted by: Mimi Schaeffer [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2005 02:18 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I'm torn between Mimi's view and Tim's view.

My first internet campaign was '92 Clinton/Gore. I built a subject line parser and autoresponder that was basically like a web page. People could do the now usual things like sign up to volunteer and retrieve position papers. But I worried about that. How could they really have a meaningful dialogue with the campaign?

I never wanted internet campaigning to become the brochure-ware and spam-ware that it has slowly and inevitably become. I've fought every year in big and little ways to stop it. Most recently Thomas Burke and I made sure the DNC moved over to open source. Of course we would then share out our free software, right? Of course we would then make every county chair a node on the Democratic Party network, right? Of course with costless replication we'd empower the edges as well as the hub, right?

Well, no... management wasn't comfortable with that. They didn't understand it.

Fortunately, the blogs have stepped in. The technology is enabling a tide that is washing away the dinosaurs. No problem there. The edges are empowered and the Democratic Party network exists beyond the control of its hub.

So... I guess I agree with Tim completely there. Politicians who are still mentally in the broadcast era need not apply. Or let them. It doesn't matter, because the blogosphere won't really work for them.

But there's still something bothering me there. It lies in the same old problem: How can we have a meaningful dialogue with a campaign?

How can thousands of people speak to one person? Or at the Presidential scale, how can millions of people speak to one person? Broadcast is easy, but its reverse is unsolved.

Tim, your post has a bit of "you better kiss my ass if you want any love from me" to it. I have a problem with that, because the ass kissing you so richly deserve requires one of two things:
1) We solve the infinitely complex and probably unsolvable reverse broadcast problem
2) You become a big star and everybody kisses your ass because they have to in order to gain access to your audience

I really really want #1 to happen, but the world being what it is... we're likely to go down the road of #2. The blogosphere will most likely become another standard media with its own elites. That's a known road. It's a lot easier than the unknown road of intelligently collating millions of ideas into something humanly comprehensible.

So, I'm torn. Do we scorn the politicians who don't get it, or do we help them and teach them and learn from their needs so as to school ourselves to become the thing we need to be?

Posted by: Eric Loeb [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 13, 2005 12:19 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment