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FDL Book Salon Welcomes Christine Pelosi

9780979482205.jpg(Please welcome in the comments Christine Pelosi, author of Campaign Boot Camp: Basic Training for Future Leaders — jh)

Christine Pelosi is the (justifiably) proud daughter of the first woman Speaker of the House, and as the veteran of many a campaign trench she has written Campaign Boot Camp, which almost serves as a checklist of “dos” and “don’t” for a successfully run campaign.

At first much of the advice may seem obvious (“Define your message”…”Establish a policy strategy”), but as someone who regularly interacts with candidates through our Blue America PAC, it’s remarkable how the “obvious” seems to evade so many. I donate to almost every candidate we have when they come here to chat on Saturdays; some begin skillful and regular communication based on that donation, and others I never hear from again. As Pelosi notes in her book, a list of identified donors who have given in the past is worth its weight in gold. Within a short period of time it becomes obvious who has their shit together and who doesn’t.

She talks with many grass roots campaign veterans, and in one of the best parts of the book she discusses how online organizing has changed the face of modern campaigning. She makes a wise decision to look to Lamont/Dodd online guru Tim Tagaris for advice:

[Tim’s] web post of December 2004 on the netroots became an instant classic. Tagaris wrote: “If you want to withdraw cash using my ATM card (and millions like me), if you want to built that ‘political movement’ on-line,you better know the pin number.” The 4-digit pin number Tagaris identifies…first, direct communication with online communities; second, involving netroots in your effort; third, outreach to opinion leaders; and fourth, your position on the issues/your opponent.

The essence of online networking is summarized by Tagaris’s observation that “the ideas of 50,000 [people] will almost always be better than the ideas of 5 people who live their entire lives inside of a campaign headquarters.” You have to let go some control an listen to the wisdom of crowds if you are going to represent people or attract large numbers of them to your cause.

I’m sure that thought is frightening to many old-school campaigners, but it also offers up new possibilities to those willing to embrace the challenges.

Pelosi goes to great lengths to talk about coalition building in the book, saying that “if you are engaged in electoral politics, your success relies on a bipartisan vision for America on at least one issue.” And I’m sure in the world of electoral politics, that’s true, and it probably explains much of the schism between the perspectives of politicians and online activists:

In the words of former Congresswoman Lindy Boggs of Louisiana, “never fight each fight as if it were your last,” because today’s adversaries may well become tomorrow’s allies.

Now I have no need to wake up the next morning and say “you know, I really need to make it up with Malkin.” It’s not what we do, but it is what politicians have to do. They’re in the alliance business — they have to be in order to get things done.

Which was why it was curious that Rahm Emanuel took the opportunity during a real-world version of the Boot Camp, which many Blue America candidates attended, to tell the best and the brightest of the House challengers to “move to the right” on immigration and throw Hispanics under the bus. The Hispanic caucus is quite rightfully livid about Emanuel’s enforcement-only immigration bill, which won Tom Tancredo’s seal of approval. Pelosi sagely counsels Democratic hopefuls to come together after a tough election battle and enfranchise voters who may have stood against them in the campaign:

One of my rules for baseball is, “Don’t boo the home team.” That’s what the other side is for.

In politics, this sentiment is memorialized in President Reagan’s eleventh commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.”

It isn’t really a nitty-gritty, down-and-dirty book; it’s actually a refreshingly optimistic work that encourages average citizens to run for office, and makes them feel like they have the tools with which to do so. But obviously somewhere along the line, people like Emanuel are going to feel it’s in their interest to define the “home team” in a politically expedient way that throws up a rather smallish tent. Pelosi doesn’t examine that kind of cynical, political calculation.

Likewise, for all her wise counsel to candidates to stay “on message,” it’s Emanuel who shows up hitting a horribly wrong note:

[T]he campaign that can take a punch, absorb the hit, and throw a punch in response can turn the tables on the opposition.

This lesson was applied in the closing days of the 2006 campaign. The punches about Iraq kept on coming as did the rapid response: “To pull out, to withdraw from this war is losing. The Democrats appear to be content with losing,” said Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, who led the Senate GOP’s campaign effort. Infuriated, Rahm Emanuel, Demoratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman, responded: “We want to win and we want a new direction for Iraq.”

At one point Pelosi quotes George Lakoff, who says “Be ready for questions presupposing your opponent’s frames.” Yet here is Rahm, accepting the George Bush-incubated frame that the war in Iraq was “winnable.” It’s understandable; Rahm was notoriously slow coming to terms with the notion that the electorate in 2006 wanted candidates who vigorously opposed the war. Many seats were no doubt left on the table because of his decision to recruit candidates whose position on the war was, at best, muddled (Tammy Duckworth, Diane Farrell) to the detriment of strong anti-war candidates who failed to win their seats by close margins and got virtually no DCCC support (Wulsin, Kissell, Burner, Maffei et. al.) So it’s rather curious that Rahm would once again be looked to in order to provide messaging for hopeful candidates.

Pelosi attempts to be “bipartisan” in her approach, and sincerely hopes the book will be helpful to people of all political persuasions. Though her true sentiments can’t really help but shine through — as when she tells campaign staff to “choose a good union printer.”

I can’t imagine many Republicans in this day and age who want to take advantage of that advice, but just in case there are any out there who might, it’s an excellent point.

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FDL Book Salon Welcomes Christine Pelosi

9780979482205.jpg(Please welcome in the comments Christine Pelosi, author of Campaign Boot Camp: Basic Training for Future Leaders — jh)

Christine Pelosi is the (justifiably) proud daughter of the first woman Speaker of the House, and as the veteran of many a campaign trench she has written Campaign Boot Camp, which almost serves as a checklist of “dos” and “don’t” for a successfully run campaign.

At first much of the advice may seem obvious (“Define your message”…”Establish a policy strategy”), but as someone who regularly interacts with candidates through our Blue America PAC, it’s remarkable how the “obvious” seems to evade so many. I donate to almost every candidate we have when they come here to chat on Saturdays; some begin skillful and regular communication based on that donation, and others I never hear from again. As Pelosi notes in her book, a list of identified donors who have given in the past is worth its weight in gold. Within a short period of time it becomes obvious who has their shit together and who doesn’t.

She talks with many grass roots campaign veterans, and in one of the best parts of the book she discusses how online organizing has (more…)

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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