Sunday, August 9, 2015

Northside DFA: organizational responsibilities vs. winning elections

Yesterday at the annual Voting Member Retreat, there seemed to be some people who wanted to increase Northside DFA's winning percentage. The most grandiose version of this was suggesting if NDFA had done more then maybe Pat Quinn would have defeated Bruce Rauner or Chuy Garcia might have beaten Rahm Emanuel.

Northside DFA is responsible for recruiting new members* and getting members to volunteer on campaigns.

Candidates & campaign staff are responsible for winning. Deb Shore got her first endorsement from NDFA, but there were a whole bunch of things that contributed to her being elected that had nothing to do with NDFA. That sentence works just as well if you replace Deb Shore with John Arena or Will Guzzardi.

To use a metaphor from a movie (28 Days), Viggo Mortensen plays an alcoholic baseball pitcher in rehab with Sandra Bullock. He explains that pitching is about the mechanics of throwing a ball. Once the ball has left the pitcher's hand it's going where it's going. The pitcher can adjust things he controls. But there's a discipline to not being overly or inappropriately emotionally invested in results of things that have already happened or that can't be controlled.

NDFA has influence on how many people attend meetings and how many members volunteer. NDFA doesn't have enough control over whether individual campaigns win to make that a sensible metric for NDFA to evaluate the organization's performance.

When I was on a national PAC, Campaign for UN Reform PAC, I observed, it's easy to pick winners. How to pick winners?
  • endorse incumbents that are safe
  • endorse candidates with large warchests
  • wait until late in the cycle to make endorsements, eg Ameya Pawar
  • empower pragmatic people to veto endorsements of more ideological people
But, if your group or PAC seeks to move the discourse on issues, all these things are counterproductive.

I'll finish this blog entry with an idea from Rep. Jaime Andrade. Andrade said he got the following advice from a seasoned politician.
If you can't take their money and drink with them one day and then vote against them the next day, you shouldn't be in this business.
Here's the Carl Nyberg version:
If you can't deal emotionally with your endorsed candidate losing, stay away from electoral politics.

1 comment:

  1. We also can't control which campaigns people choose to volunteer for -- candidates either inspire the group or they don't. Often, volunteers pick one campaign they're focused on for the cycle ... and that campaign gets their love, money, and time, and it doesn't matter who else is out there. There's only so much we can do to push people to specific campaigns.