Thursday, January 10, 2008
This is a rambling reflection on my coming to support Bill Richardson over three years ago, how I quickly came close to his campaign, met the governor, shook the hand of a guy I read about in a book, then slowly gravitated away from the campaign.
And, now how I think twice about politics, blogging and civic life.
I was in Orting, standing outside the office of the Gazette talking to a financial planner from upstate New York. We were both members of a Yahoo! listserv for Governor Bill Richardson, and a few days before I had responded to an email from another guy on the list who wanted to set a pro-Richardson for president site.
I had said that instead of putting up a bill-board site, that he should try to be interactive as possible. Try using civicspace I said.
That led to a couple of inquiring emails from this fellow I was then on the phone with and within a few weeks we had set up americaforrichardson.org. On totally his dime, but my effort, we had a community site up and running for a governor of a southwestern state was that more than a year away from even declaring his run for President.
His campaign was pretty quick on the uptake in reaching out to bloggers. By that spring I was already trading emails with his campaign staff, especially his netroots outreach guy, Joaquin Guerra. I also met a guy in my home town (can you imagine that) who was not only a somewhat seasoned campaign pro, but also a pro-Richardson blogger.
The whole thing crescendoed later that next summer when Richardson came to Seattle, and Ken (the guy from my town) and I went up to a meeting of a couple dozen bloggers that Ken had put together.
My memories of that meeting:
1. Richardson got people in a way that I feel is rare with people in general, not just politicians. Honestly, despite my interest in politics, I have a somewhat undereducated take on the entire process. Forgive me.
I just liked him.
2. He got blogging, and not in a VC, PR sort of way. But in a "I like talking to you, blogging is just talking" sort of way.
So, I continued working on AFR and trying to find ways to bring folks together (we eventually started getting small groups together using zanby).
But, something eventually didn't happen. Richardson never became Dean. Not Howard Dean in the yelling, angry guy that people remember, but the Dean that got me involved in his campaign four years ago. Even though I was involved in the campaign, I guess I was too involved.
I saw other people's personalities, and it became too hard to just do what I wanted to do without having to step on toes. Too many conference calls with people from other states.
I'm sorry I'm not being more specific, but I spent too much time in the parking lot in my truck on conference calls in the fall and winter of 2006 to stay very excited.
Up to the point that when Richardson eventually declared his candidacy in early 2007 I was already walking out the door.
I decided that the reason I got involved in the first place was to see if the Richardson campaign could be like the Dean campaign: easy to involve yourself in and feel excited.
The eventual real killer for me was the ask Bill feature on his website. When they launched Ask Bill, they billed it as a way for anyone to ask Bill a question, sort of like the Youtube debates. But, it was hardly that. It was basically him just answering canned questions to a camera.
This is the guy that would stay in a room until all the questions were answered, but they were trying to pull off this lame imitation of that. The web is so powerful, they could have made a big and good deal with it. They could have allowed people to vote for what question they wanted answered, for example.
Anyway, here's the summary:
2004 was the election where civicspace was born. People took deep action into their own hands and used tools like meetup.com and hacked drupal to make it work for them.
2008 was the election when every campaign that mattered bought Blue State Digital's campaign suite and expected the excitement of 2004 to automatically replicate itself. Which, at least in my mind, it didn't. The tools you offer don't bring life, people using their own tools and the campaign letting that happen is what brings life to a campaign.
That said, its not all the campaign's fault, I ran into a lot of unimaginative people along the line. I received a lot of emails from people who had contacted the campaign, willing to help, but were frustrated that they hadn't received any direction.
I should have asked them, why do you need direction? You like Bill, you know where you live. Just do something, see if it sticks. No one is going to take out a contract on your life because you designed and printed up some signs and they aren't exactly what the campaign wanted.
Ok, so blogging is different for me now. After the 2004 election, I started blogging at different places, such as westerndemocrat.com and eventually washblog.com. I moved from my own place to places with larger communities and attention. As I moved away from the Richardson-o-sphere this fall, I also pulled back from those places as well.
My civic life is also getting different. One place I didn't pull back from was olyblog.net, my hyper local community. I also have been reflecting on my local involvements, too see where I can do a better job and where I might be able to better focus my attention. What I take from everything above is that if I have time beyond my local commitments, I'll try larger things again. But, local is first.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Its named after the day after election day, and its something we all (especially those up us who pimp one particular candidate) should take a long, close look at. The November Fifth Coalition is a growing group of civic organizations that are trying to change the debate leading up to the 2008 election. And, not change the debate in "lets talk about this particular issue that I found really interesting," but actually changing how we debate.
Last night we watched "Man of the Year," which wasn't the movie I assumed it would be. I should have watched the extra features, because all of the trailers that I saw were pretty horrible at portraying the actual plot arch of the movie. Anyway, there was a point in the movie when the Robin William's character was ranting during a Presidential debate, seemingly trying to point out that what the debate was trying to portray had no relevance to who the election was for, the voters.
One of the more salient points the November 5 Coalition is making is for candidates and campaigns to open up the debate. More actual talk, fewer fake town halls, for example.
So far, they have a manifesto up, but they're going to start posting white papers on actual positions. Especially exciting for me is that the guy I'm for (see right), Bill Richardson, is on the board of one of the coalition members.
Sunday, April 01, 2007
I'm also not one of those folks who bemoan the early start of the primaries. I started way way back (and my guy didn't do so bad, considering), and the more we think about politics the better. Even if it is one race, its an important one, and we're less likely to make a stupid decision if we give it more thought.
But, just on the amount of money raised, I have a Blue Tiger Democrat type of question.
Well more than $50 million was raised by Democratic candidates in the first quarter. How much of that will be spent on commercials and tearing down other candidates? A lot I'd bet.
How much will be spent (by local Democratic organizations) to serve individuals in our communities and to build our base? Not a lot, I bet.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Saturday, January 27, 2007
I've made the point that not only are Richardson's supporters the only group using an independent tool to organize themselves in the real world, but that Richardson has met with bloggers in Iowa, South Carolina and Washington.
The main difference between Edwards (especially his blog powered tour a few weeks ago) and Richardson is that one has focussed on the national blogosphere, while the other has focussed on smaller, regional blog networks. Edwards is the national guy, Richardson has focussed his attention on the regional blogosphere.
This may seem like a difference in time and money, that Richardson can only attract small fish, but the three instances above were when he was acting as chair of the Democratic Governors Association, when focusing locally was important. It also shows a different understanding of why blogs and the netroots are important.
Matt Stoller on the local blogosphere (and here):
You'll notice that on the netroots page almost every candidate has a local blog or set of blogs that are covering the race. That's because it's the local bloggers that are going to keep tabs on the races and the campaigns, and create the buzz and the excitement necessary to win. Local blogs and netroots communities don't just channel money, they channel volunteers, energy, intelligence, and news coverage. And sometimes, lightning strikes. A really effective local blog can shape a race the way the Ohio 2nd blog shaped the Hackett special election.At least in how Richardson has approached the netroots, he seems to understand that local matters. It doesn't matter really what national bloggers pay attention to you, it matters what the bloggers are getting locally.
Richardson's "for governor" site last year also kind of proves this point. "The Plaza," (which you can't see anymore, was a scoop based community site. Open diaries, the whole schmere. I'm pretty sure it was the first open community blog in New Mexico.
His upbringing as a politician, which has included thousands of local town hall meetings and regular "open door" sessions, extends this point. I've said that Richardson was a blogger before AOL was around. By that, I mean, he has had the kind of open, up front, conversations that bloggers want, without actually blogging himself.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Yes, its a great thing that Edwards is doing, but he's not the only one doing it. He's the only one that is going way out of his way to take credit for it.
One thing I just saw over at TechMeme is that USA Presidential campaigns now are conversations?
Really? So far only one Democratic candidate has met with bloggers who aren’t avowed supporters of his (and has had live chats on DailyKos), that I can see. Only one candidate has invited a blogger behind the press lines.
Bill Richardson has had two sit downs with bloggers, that I know about. Both happened well before Edwards' well publicized tripping with bloggers and both were with groups that didn't necessarily support him.
The first, I'd admit, was put together by a couple of pro Richardson guys (me and Ken Camp), but it was attended by now seriously pro-Edwards Will.
This wasn't a high powered group of folks, but rather some regular folks that Richardson wanted to reach out to because he recognizes something in the netroots that I think he likes. Twice during the meeting his handlers tried to move him on to the next meeting, and twice he brushed them off so everyone could have a chance to get their answers.
You can find the audio of that meeting here. Also attending were Jimmy and Goldy, among several others.
He also met with some bloggers in South Carolina.
Also, if you check out the blog from Richardson's 2006 race, you'll notice its a community blog.