Sunday, February 25, 2007

No Time For Diversions in Florida

This is the last time I am ever going to write on this subject. I sincerely wish I wasn't writing this at all. Perhaps it was delusional of me to think it wouldn't happen. After all Will Rogers famously said

I don't belong to any organized political party. I'm a

So what in the world is going on down here? Follow me below the fold...

It seems a flame war is breaking out in Florida. Early this morning, I took the bait and responded to the following about me in this diary:

I want to go on record here as saying that any electoral plan that relies on 70% turnout in a midterm election for victory is delusional at best. This is old fashioned, out-moded thinking that needs to be rejected.

This arguement boils down to "If we had got more votes we would have won!" Well, yes, of course. The issue is always HOW do you get those votes. GatorDem simply resorts to calling for "more GOTV" without explaining how to go about doing that.

I wasn't entirely kind in my response relating how:
the diarist is very new to politics

and calling the diarists' analysis "myopic". Those pieces of the comment were unnecessary, and I regret them. I also regret that there was the need on the diarists' part to make derogatory comments about a fellow Florida Kossack in his diary. In my mind, that is
out-moded thinking that needs to be rejected

and I do reject it. I reject it here and now. I regret rising to the bait. It will not happen again.

The reason it will not happen again is that there is not time in Florida for this kind of a diversion of our energies. There is much too much to be done to indulge ourselves in this sort of thing. There will be a Presidential election here in Florida in 2008. And before that, there is very likely to be a meaningful primary election. Florida might have a chance to have some real input into selecting the next nominee for President in the Democratic Party. There is a lot of work that will need to get done between now and then.

There will also be 27 Congressional seats up for grabs here in 2008. Dems currently only hold 9 of those seats, two newly won. We should be gearing up to ward off fierce challenges in those 2 seats specifically and to defend our other seats. We should also be making plans to unseat vulnerable Republican incumbents in some of the other seats. There is a lot of work that will need to get done between now and then.

There will be state legislative races as well in 2008. Dems made nice strides in 2006, picking up 7 seats in the State House. We need to expand on those gains. We need to focus on the longer term goal of regaining control of the legislature before redistricting after the next census in 2010. There is a lot of work that will need to get done between now and then.

As I wrote recently in this diary on Florida Kossacks:
I have one goal. Electing Dems to public office.

There is a lot of work that will need to get done between now and then. Let's get on with it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I have one goal. Electing Dems to public office.

I am currently working on a project to get Dems elected to local office. The two main reasons for this are:
  • To build our bench
  • To aid our communities

If you are Ok with this effort and these goals, you are OK with me.

If you have any problems with that, or with me, please let me know privately. Folks are getting more than a little tired of the drama. I count myself among them

Would You Give Money to This Man?

There is an effort under way, quietly, to make an impact on local politics. The goal is to get reasonable people who share progressive values elected to local office. The difference here is to not leave this to chance. This efforts' mission is to identify, nurture and finance these candidates early on in the process.

The business plan, including an initial budget proposal, for this effort has been drafted. Political goals for 2007 have been drafted. Most folks who have been asked about the idea and specific plans have been supportive, in theory.

The issue for this effort, now, is how to turn this theoretical support into concrete support. Unfortunately in realpolitik today, that means money. While many people are supportive of the effort and have added their ideas and encouragement, no one has stepped up to fulfill a financial commitment.

While the effort is designed to be somewhat under the radar, there is a face in the forefront. It is a face that really doesn't seek the spotlight. This might be part of the problem. So what we are going to do here is to describe this face:

  • Note: Here's a plea. If you think you know the identity of this person, keep it to yourself. Comments and suggestions are welcome, but please make them generic or issue related, not specific to the individual as much to as to the mission.
  • This guy has met and had both private and public discussions with every major Dem presidential candidate for the last three cycles. His history in this area goes back before that, but the current streak goes back to 1996.
  • He has travelled extensively with a former Senator and Governor during the Senators' short lived presidential bid. He feels fortunate to be considered a friend of the family. And while he loves the Senator, he thinks the Senators' wife walks on water.
  • During these travels with the Senator, he met an independent film maker who happens to have a highly placed mother (currently second in line of presidential succession). Because of this relationship with the daughter, the well placed mother calls the dude by his first name (even when he is not wearing a name tag) and has, from time to time, made her staff available to assist the guy in his various political efforts.
  • That brings us to what our guy considers one of his serious drawbacks. Most of his most intimate political experiences have been with unsuccessful efforts. However, he likes to think about Abraham Lincoln and Toby Ziegler. That may seem like an unlikely pairing, but consider this: Neither one had been particularly successful until they hit the big one.
  • Our guy has never considered himself particularly creative. However he was informed by someone who has been spectacularly successfully creative that he has it all wrong. This dude perceived in our guy an ability to recognize and act on a good idea when he hears it. While our guy did not consider this particularly creative, his creative friend told him that that is one of the most sought after capabilities amongst advertising and other "creative types". Our guy is still not totally convinced, but he does enjoy hanging out with creative types.
  • One of the dude's most cherished values is "community". Because of this, he has a burning desire to add value to the community that he loves so much. This is why he is willing to be the face of the subject effort when his preference is to remain securely in the background.

So there is a thumbnail sketch of our guy. Here are two questions for you:

  • Are you supportive of the proposed effort?
  • Would you let this dude control your financial contribution to this effort?

I truly am interested in receiving your feedback. Don't hold back. Let me know what you really think.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Big Lie - Iraq - Again

I have been writing a series of How to Talk diaries. The goal of these diaries is to enable us to have successful conversations with people who should be agreeing with us, but do not yet.

One of the standard features of this series is a section called Mangle the Memes. This section gives us some tools to deal with the lock step counter arguments framed by the Right Wing Smear Machine, which is famous for generating and propagating The Big Lie.

This diary is going to deal with the current Big Lie - the consequences of a rapid pull out from Iraq. Want to know how to mangle this meme? Then follow me down the rabbit hole...

A Google search on "house republican consequences" yields 1,290,000 hits. I am not about to list them all, but I do want to focus on a couple of key points inside The Big Lie:

  • a swift U.S. pullout
  • Portrayal of Republican talking points as the only possible outcome

these are the two key points inside The Big Lie. In the initial How To Talk diary I defined Mangle the Memes:

The other side is not going to take all this lying down. They are going
to counter attack you with their favorite memes. You are going to counter attack them by never letting a meme go unchallenged. You have already defined your
terminology. You can mix up your counterattacks by using your predefined
terminology in response to their memes, or you can turn their own memes back on
them. Use either of these tactics, or both. You will confound your opposition
and carry the day
So lets take on the first of the key points above - a swift U.S. pullout.

Here is the first lie within The Big Lie. The other side is portraying calls for a withdrawal from Iraq as a swift U.S. pullout. The lie is no one is calling for a swift pullout. Rep. John Murtha got the pullout ball rolling in 2005 as reported by Fox Noise:
Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat and decorated Marine Corps veteran who served in the Vietnam War, last week urged the withdrawal of all U.S. troops within six months.
Is 6 months your idea of swift? Here is how the President talked about Murtha and his proposal:

Congressman Murtha is a fine man, a good man, who served our country with honor and distinction as a Marine in Vietnam and as a United States congressman.
He is a strong supporter of the United States military. And I know the decision
to call for an immediate withdrawal of our troops...

An immediate withdrawal of our troops from Iraq will only strengthen the terrorists' ... they can turn Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban, a safe haven for terror, a place where they can plot and plan attacks against America

Even Harvard's Nieman Watchdog has fallen into the immediate pullout trap. Consider this:

General William Odom, one of the earliest advocates of an immediate withdrawal
Here is General Odom's earliest statement on this subject as reported by the Nieman Watchdog:

debating an early pullout. Many US officers in Iraq, especially
at company and field grade levels, know that while they are winning every tactical battle, they are losing strategically.
How does debating an early pullout become one of the earliest advocates of an immediate withdrawal?

The very next Odom article published by the Nieman Watchdog, describes Odom's previous article
as get out of Iraq now
The real problem here is that Odom did not say that. Odom went form calling for debating an early pullout to one of the earliest advocates of an immediate withdrawal in a span of just over 15 months. Nowhere in this period does the Nieman Watchdog report Odom actually calling for an immediate withdrawal

So there is lie number one. General Odom calls for debating an early pullout. This is turned into one of the earliest advocates of an immediate withdrawal. John Murtha's call for withdrawal of all U.S. troops within six months is turned into an immediate withdrawal by no less than the President of the United States.

Once we understand what the lie is, refuting it becomes a fairly straightforward exercise. Whenever you hear someone describing an immediate withdrawal, stop them right there. Ask them who is proposing an immediate withdrawal. They will not be able to give you a name. If they try to give you a name, ask them to supply a link or some other documentation. Accept only direct quotes attributed to that name. These can not be supplied because they do not exist.

That should be enough to end the conversation right there. You will have defeated the premise of the argument for all these dire consequences to necessarily follow.

In the next installment of the Big Lie, we will see how to defeat the cause - effect argument for a non-existent immediate withdrawal from Iraq.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

What Every So Called Political Professional Needs to Know

Do you ever hear a phrase or a saying that just sticks with you? The kind of thing that keeps popping into your head at the weirdest times? Here is the story of one that should be first and foremost in the minds of every one who considers themselves a political professional.

I was standing in this room with a bunch of disgusted Democrats. It was early in 2003. They were still pissed off about the 2000 election fiasco in Florida. And they were absolutely steaming about the governors race that was so badly handled in 2002.

It was the 2000 elections that they were using as a rallying cry. The number 537 played a prominent part in this discussion. There was no crying over the spilt milk of 2002 here. This was all about 2004, and the lessons learned in 2000 and not applied in 2002.

It was a pretty interesting group. There was a County Commissioner whose mother was to run for the US Senate and who is now, herself, a newly minted Congresswoman. There was a former County Commissioner who ran a valiant but unsuccessful Congressional campaign in 2006. The campaign manager for the incumbent Congressman was there. There were some dudes there, but none of us were as impressive as the women in the room.

The matriarch of this group was the mother of the successful attorney who had graciously offered up her home for the evening. One of the interesting things we did that night was to go around the room and offer up our reasons for being a Democrat. That's a story for another time. As we were about to wrap up for the night, the matriarch said she wanted to leave us with something to think about.

Our matriarch was, at that time, a recently retired County Commissioner. She did not stay retired for long. She is now a very successful County Clerk. She wanted to leave us with something that had stuck with her for a very long time. It was something that was told to her by someone we all knew. This fellow was a former teacher and a union leader. He became a Mayor and then a Governor. He wasn't with us that night because he had changed teams in the midst of his rise to political fame and fortune.

There were a lot of people in that room that night who had won, and lost, a lot of elections. But they all nodded when our matriarch relayed this pearl of wisdom to us:

If you have a dozen committed volunteers, you can win any election.

Now those of you who have worked on large campaigns are probably shaking your head at the perceived naivete of that statement. But think about it for a second. This wasn't a statement from some dude who just got elected dog catcher. He had been elected and re-elected as a union leader. He was the mayor of a major city. He was the governor of a significant state. If you still don't get it, maybe you should take up another profession.

At the end of the day, in a close election, what is going to make the difference? In my mind it is the ability to get more of your voters to the polls than the other guy does. In the 2000 presidential election in Florida, 538 more Democratic voters would have changed the history of the world. That's less than 10 votes in each county in Florida. Or for your dozen volunteers, less than 45 successful calls per person.

But the real power of the dozen volunteers is not just the work they do directly. It is the dozen volunteers recruited by each of them, and the dozen volunteers recruited by each of those volunteers. It is the fact that these dozen volunteers believe in you that sustains you. So let's not let these dozen volunteers down again.

Let's not ever lose another election because we did not put enough resources into our ground game. Remember what a difference 538 votes would have made in 2000. For all the mistakes of the Kerry campaign in 2004, they got that lesson, sorta. They got more Democratic votes to the polls than any other candidate in history. Their problem there was that the other guy did better than they did. Who'd a thunk it?

The 2006 election cycle was one that saw many wonderful victories for our team. But I keep thinking about the one we let get away. We faced a daunting challenge. Our opponent would raise and have spent more money on his behalf than in any other campaign in the country that cycle. He had run several statewide races before. This was our guy's first try at statewide office. And we were not going to get close in the money raising department.

Still for all that, we were closing at the end. We could have won this one. So why didn't we? We did not get more of our voters to the polls than the other guy did. At the end of the day that is the only story that matters. Our team made a conscious decision to put as much of the money as they possibly could into television. It's a huge state after all. You can't win statewide in Florida playing retail politics they said.

Well, they were wrong. You can do it. One of our greatest campaigners walked throughout the entire state. Another went out and spent days working ordinary jobs with ordinary people. That's retail politics folks. And ground is cheap. Ridiculously cheap. But that is where you leverage those 12 committed volunteers. You pay your organizers to look after their care and feeding and to give them some direction. Then you get out of the way and let them do their thing.

You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he's really sick and they won't take him. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they're both faggots and they won't take either of them. And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. They may think it's an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day,I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. And friends they may thinks it's a movement. Arlo Guthrie, Alice's Restaurant.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

How to Talk About Universal Health Care Insurance: Part 2

In How to Talk About Unviersal Health Care Insurance: Part 1 I talked about how the main crisis is not health care delivery, rather it is health care insurance.

This conversation was sparked by the response to another diary of mine published in December, How to Talk to Small Business People . Almost all the responses from small business people mentioned health care. They told me they are looking for a good way to get affordable health care insurance for themselves, their families and their employees. Of course these responses came from small business people who are progressive enough to comment and / or post on Daily Kos.

This diary is for people who want to advance the cause of Universal Health Care Insurance by persuading others. So let's get started...

If you have seen any of the other How to Talk to diaries, then you know the drill. If you are new to this, here is how we go about the task of talking to people already on our side. The purpose is to give them the tools to persuade people who should agree with us, but don't, that our ideas are the better ones.

The first thing to do is to define the values that relate to the task at hand. Here is my list of values applicable to this subject:

  • Community
  • That the promise of America is equal opportunity for all and special privilege for none
  • Mutual Responsibility
  • Inclusion
  • Work and Family

We then have to incorporate those values into an argument that fits into these tasks:

Define the Overarching Strategy

Define the Terminology

Mangle the Memes

We start with the strategy.

Define the Overarching Strategy

When you talk to the other side, you should start with your goal in mind. So first, you need to define your goal. Only then can you determine the best overarching strategy to achieve your goal without compromising your values.

As in most of these tasks, our goal is to persuade people who should agree with us but do not yet. We need to do this in a way that does not lose our audience at hello. The target community must receive our message in a way that resonates with them on a personal level. This can best by done by research and real world examples. First, some research.

Some of the best and most persuasive resarch done in this field has been has been done by physicians%20themselves.%20 This research covers topics ranging from the huge administrative cost of our current system, taxes and who actually pays for these costs, and the sad fact that we already pay for national health care insurance, but don't get it.

If that isn't impressive enough, consider the research done by medical students . If the physicians already working in the health care delivery system and the medical students working to join them are in agreement, why would anyone else tell them that they are wrong?

Define the Terminology

Defining the terminology is akin to choosing the battlefield. If you let the other side define the terminology, you will be fighting your battle on the other guys’ battlefield. Any tactician will tell you that he who determines the battlefield has the much better chance of winning the battle.

We also must remember our audience. We are not preaching to the choir here. Out goal is to reach out and create a majority coalition in support of Universal Healthcare Insurance. Our target audience to get this coalition into the majority is twofold:

  • Small Business people who already know how hard it is to obtain affordable health care insurance in the current inefficient market.
  • Middle class taxpayers who mostly already have health insurance through their jobs.

The best way to reach this audience is to craft arguments where our values intersect with theirs. As we saw in Part 1, the census bureaus's research brought us these two telling tidbits:

  • 73% of the uninsured in the workforce worked sometime during the year.
  • 63% of the uninsured who worked during the year worked at companies with fewer than 100 employees.

This data give us the first things we can say about Universal Health Care Insurance - Most people who are uninsured are actively in the workforce. We are not talking about some giveaway program going mainly to those who are unwilling to work. We are talking about folks who work for a living just like you and I. Also, nearly 2/3rds of the uninsured in the workforce work for small businesses. This is just one more area where small businesses get the short end of the stick in this country.

So who are the uninsured? They are folks in our community who mostly work for small businesses. One would think that in a country that values entreprenuership, work and family, that we would take care of our workers and their families by making sure they all have equal opportunity to access quality, affordable health care no matter the size of the business they work for.

The other argument that should resonate particularly with small business people is the inefficiency of the current system. Health care insurance is ridiculously expensive, particularly so for folks who are not part of large byuying groups (big business, unions, professional associations, etc.). One of the reasons for the heavy cost is that the private insurance delivery system is incredibly inefficient in delivering the product. Small buisness people know better than most how crucial it is to control costs. The big business of health insurance delivery seems to believe thay can just pass these cost along to us.

What most of us don't know is that the government is already paying the lions' share of health insurance costs in this country.

the amount of public health spending in the U.S. is greater than the combined public and private spending of nations which provide universal comprehensive health insurance. A single-payer system could provide such coverage to all Americans with no need for additional health dollars.

So we could provide equal opportunity for an all inclusive health care insurance sytem without spending additional tax dollars. Is that not a win-win for middle class taxpayers and small business people?

So why do we not already have such a sytem?

Mangle the Memes

The first thing to understand is that there is a powerful lobby in this country that is determined to maintain the status quo. One of the main ways this lobby goes about maintaining the status quo is by demonizing the alternatives. So let's talk about what we are not suggesting.

We are not talking about socialized medicine. Remember, this discussion is about health care insurance. The main problem is not with our health care delivery system. So do not let anyone get away with telling you that it is.

We are not talking about some inefficient government bureacracy deciding who gets what health care procedure and when. In fact, an efficient health care insurance system will put even more of the choice for health care decisions back into the hands of the doctors and their patients. Doctors and patients will take back the decision making from some faceless private insurance bureaucrat.

How do we do that? With a single payer universal health insurance plan, we would wring the waste out of our health care insurance delivery system. Turns out this is a case where private industry is less efficient than government.

administration consumes 31.0 percent of U.S. health spending. Average overhead among private U.S.
insurers was 11.7
percent, compared with 1.3 percent for Canada’s single-payer
system and 3.6 percent for Medicare.

Who would have thought that the US government provides health insurance administration at one third the cost of private insurance?

We have a mutual responsibility to include working families in the health care insurance system. Healthy communities are productive communities. W can provide equal opportuity for access to affordable health care insurance at no additional costs to taxpayers. Ultimately we will have the luxury of seeing health care insurance costs falling for everyone.

So, get away from the keyboard and get out into your communities. Deliver thse messages to your elected officials and other opinion leaders in your community. A concerted netroots / grass roots campaign for single payer universakl health care insurance could get this issue past the tipping point.

What are you waiting for, someone else to do it? Start today.