Election 2004

Theories of the Bulge

Whatever happened to the bulge on President Bush’s back, visible in the Presidential debates? It was referred to by the usual family of -Gates: AudioGate, PrompterGate, and, my favorite, “The Battle of the Bulge.” I had followed the story develop first-hand on various blogs, and saw how it played out in the national media, fading out by election day. It’s returned to the news, briefly, courtesy of a Dan Kennedy column in the Phoenix. I thought I’d take another look at the story, and try to answer the question as to why the Internet blogs, for all their supposed powers, could not shake the truth out. This is part of a series on “Truth Exposure: Getting the Facts to Light.”

Town Democrats demand answers from top campaign advisors!

The election is over, and good Democrats coast-to-coast (and perhaps in between) are scratching their heads and asking: What went wrong? What can we fix?

Applying network models to political organizing

Throughout the 2004 campaign, I participated in the emerging conversation of civic activists engaged in using Internet technology to drive the campaigns. Most of the software components– mailing lists, websites, forums, blogs– were already designed and ready to go, so what was left was to debate how to properly use it. Part of that debate was driven by what values were inherent in the network models, a discussion that I felt was high on rhetoric and short on substance. So I thought I’d take time to sort out what network models mean and how they ought to be considered.

Is an uncoordinated Presidential campaign in our best interest?

Just how coordinated was the Kerry-Edwards campaign in Florida?

First, some background. A couple of weeks before Election Day, the Republican party obtained a hard copy of the Democrats’ 46-page “Victory 2004 Florida Coordinated Campaign” and posted it online (in PDF format). The GOP claimed that this document, which had a page for signatures from the Kerry-Edwards campaign, the state party, and union groups, proved that the Democrats were engaged in illegal coordination betwe. The Democrats responded that the coordinating committee was in fact an independent entity allowed by the law, the Florida the Republicans were engaged in the same. The Republicans said they’d file suit with the FEC.

Where the Election 2004 volunteers are regrouping

Post election, it’s time to degroup… and regroup. Here’s where:

I went to the last hurrah party for the “Young Professionals for Kerry” last week at M.J. O’Connor’s. A few people objected, not wanting to have to leave the “unified” group and have to choose between the three tribes listed below. We assured them that a little competition is good in the off years. So here’s what to do, if you’re young and want to keep the patriot fires burning in Boston:

Going Canvassing: How to Prepare

Four years ago, I thought that to be elected a President, it was sufficient for the candidate to have experience in the White House, command of the issues, a platform which would benefit the majority of Americans, an abiliy to withstand the press’s snipings about his wardrobe, authorship of a government report on airline security… ok, all but the last. What I didn’t realize is that what he really needed was a collection of votes in New Hampshire and Florida, and a little door-to-door canvassing might have helped turned the tide. So, four years too late, I some did canvassing in those battleground states. (We took the granite, but lost the sunshine.) I only canvassed on a handful of occasions, but whenever I did, my fellow canvassers marvelled at the stories I told afterwards. So I thought it best to write it down to be useful for future campaigns.

Canvassing in God’s Country: Assessing the Religious Divide

Palm Beach County, Florida would not ordinarily be confused with “God’s Country”, a phrase which typically connotes a wide open spance of nature unspoiled by civilization. On the other hand, to take the term at its literal meaning, it might indicate a place of extraordinary religiosity. Who knew that Palm Beach was ranked second among Florida counties in the proportion of residents who regularly attend houses of worship? (anyone who read this 2002 newspaper story “Keeping the Faith in Florida” did). With growing numbers hispanic Catholic and elderly Jewish populations, its 56% ranked above the Panhandle counties. Granted, while may be God’s County in Florida, it would rank 12th in Massachusetts and 66th in Kansas. To paraphrase Harry Golden, the most famous Southern Jew a half century ago, people in Florida talk to God, so Operation Bubbe went down to Florida to talk to them.

Report from the battleground that wasn’t – Election Day 2004

Well, we tried. Not that it mattered.

In the last weekend before Election Day, I feel that I personally persuaded maybe four people to vote through my canvassing efforts. And perhaps a few more on election eve, asking people to honk for Kerry, standing on the highway of SW 10th St. in between the Operation Bubbe headquarters at the Comfort Inn and the I-95 ramp in Deerfield Beach. Many of the big rigs honked for us; some SUV driver asked us whether Kerry was running for President of France; a reporter from the Forward stopped by to ask directions to the hotel (he would file this article). But it didn’t matter, as we were blown out of the water in Florida.

Getting out the Florida vote

I have good news from the battleground front here in South Florida. I canvassed yesterday, and some more today. And I skipped the party tonight to rest up to canvas tomorrow. I can fly home Monday or Wednesday. I’m confident that we’re going to win, and now it’s merely a question of whom I want to party with.

The Elegant Vote Predictor

In spite of the convention hoopla over blogs, there’s still some terrific non-blog sites out there for the campaign. Have you seen Electoral Vote Predictor 2004? 72,000 people did the other day. It’s the one political website I read everyday. Now, the NYTimes has a slick interactive electoral map that gives a slew of information about not just the Presidential race, but House, Senate and Gubernatorial (I love that word; they don’t use it) races. Not to mention a key map of the Nader factor — which stage Ralph is at in getting on the ballot in each stage. But, interactive as it is, it doesn’t tell me anything new.

Twenty hours awake at the DNC: July 28th

writing that blogs are most associated with. The stage was set: I was sitting in the bloggers section (320) at the FleetCenter. There was a laptop in front of me (Laura Rozen’s, who got claustrophobic and left to take a break downstairs) To my left was Aldon Hynes, who had invited me to blog for GreaterDemocracy.

Escaping the convention

I have very little to add to the convention coverage from the 15,000 journalists and 30 bloggers. I started writing something this morning comparing watching the convention to a baseball game, in which you sit around chatting for the first several innings before all the excitement happens at the end of the game, but, if that hasn’t been said already, I haven’t looked hard enough. So I thought I’d try my unique tack here: escaping the actual convention.

Party Politics — a Convention Preview

“Many Americans are said to choosing their President based on whether they would enjoy a beer with them. If that question was ever relevant in American politics, it is not now.” So said Hillary Clinton at one of the welcome parties this Sunday evening, “A Community Celebration” co-sponsored by a number of the Jewish organizations. Senator Clinton continued by articulating the fundamental questions a voter must confront this election: whether the President would address the issues of the education system, inadequate health care, giving proper focus to the war on terror, etc.

Conventional Themes: What will be the story for 2004?

Last Saturday I went up to Harvard for an event organized by Anna Weisfeiler of the Harvard Extension School Democrats. It featured Walter Podrazik, David Hunter, and Gary Flowers, who have worked at a number of Democratic National Conventions, coordinating the logistics for political invitees and for the media. It the type of day that made one want to get out of Boston, which I did, not to the Cape but to Cambridge, as I thought I’d like to begin to get ready for the convention next week.

Slogging the Convention — Welcome to Boston ’04

As tough as summer is for sitting down to write– I’ve been nicely distracted from my Civilities— it’s even tougher to put aside summer and dive into politics. This coming week I’ll have to do both, with Democratic National Convention 2004 steamrolling into town. We asked for it, and we got it.

Here’s the list of convention bloggers. I’m not on that list, since I take exception to calling this website a blog. Nonetheless, if I do come up with some idle thoughts that are blogworthy, Jon Lebkowsky and Aldon Hynes have asked me to contribue to Greater Democracy. With 15,000 journalists in town, it’s going to be a challenge with any unique slants. I expect to contribute one or two articles here. And about 200 pictures.

God and the Single-Issue Voter

The former Mayor of New York, Ed Koch, a lifelong Democrat, is backing the re-election of President Bush on the basis of essentially one issue: Israel. Or, as he explains it, Bush is “the only one willing to stand up to international terrorism.” (see the interview in the March 2004 Hadassah magazine) Asked whether he basing his endorsement on a single issue, Koch grew defensive. Or rather, offensive. “When someone says to me what’s Bush’s position on abortion, I want to hit him.”

Long Distance Canvassing: a modest idea for the safe states

My parents, who have volunteered on numerous political campaigns over the last thirty years, attended their first “Meetup” in Tarrytown, NY, at Horsefeathers on US-9. As the campaigns instructions for meetup are not very concrete (“discuss the issues, plan local actions, and build networks of people… or any other action your group wants to take.”), the Tarrytown group discussed the issues and came up with some action that they’d like. Here’s a plan that my Dad put together and sent to me:

Bush Administration Fails Science, History, Logic

If you go to sleep with the radio on, you may find yourself waking up at 6am to the delightful strains of This American Life Ira Glass’s remarkable show which “documents everyday life in this country.” The show has apparently been broadcast on in this early-morning timeslot on WGBH 89.7 for the last year. (Previously it had been on in a comfortable afternoon slot, where WBUR 90.9 has it).

Phone Banking: First Impressions

If you get a recorded message from John Kerry calling your home, and you enter the keys on the touchtone pad in order to donate money, you might just reach somebody like me. I spent an hour doing this tonight, and thought I’d record some initial observations.

Kerry booth blown away at Earthfest

Yesterday on the Esplanade in Boston, the John Kerry table was blown away at the eleventh annual Earthfest (officially, the WBOS Festival for the Earth presented by Whole Foods). First the wind whipped us, in our un-strategic position facing the Charles River (the wind was really great for the Clean Power Now booth, the PAC formed to alleviate environmental concerns the Nantucket Sound Wind Farm). Then the permit police got us for good. Apparently we had a table without the benefit of a permit from WBOS; instead we had the benefit of a favor. So we did what I called strategic dispersal after two hours.

Your Money’s Worth: My evening with some tall Kerry supporters

I was able to convince my friend Abby that there was no better way to mingle with the beautiful people than to hit Fire + Ice for the $75 “Young ProfessionalS” Kerry. For sure, it was tall people. (I am 5’8″, and Abby’s 5’7″. I felt dwarfed). This campaign is so tall, I am waiting for the Bushies to accuse Kerry of being Dutch, and not French.

Stump the President: Submit questions on the Question Scoreboard

“I wish you’d have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it.” — President Bush, at his 4/13 press conference.

This perhaps drew winces in every living room in America. But it did inspire me to consider how a structured forum for questions & answers can offset some of the better-known deficiencies of press conferences. I wrote it up in a proposal called the Question Scoreboard. This page is a sampling board for questions for the President and the 2004 campaign.

We Did It! Second Place in Kerry’s March Madness contest!

Out of what appears to be eight thousand online fundraisers in John Kerry’s March Madness campaign, I finished second. How improbable! No matter, I won a three-day pass to the convention! (the fourth day I’ll go sailing).

How to donate to John Kerry– and get something for it

You donate through me, of course. I signed up as a KerryCore fundraiser, which means you can list me as your link when you give. You in fact don’t have to even write my name anywhere, just use this link to donate: https://contribute.johnkerry.com/index.html?source_code=00016157 I’ve included a little rallying statement there to indicate why it’s important.

RNC reaches out to an unserved constituency– Massachusetts Democrats

The RNC must be pent-up for cash– they are now reaching out to Massachusetts liberals! (Did anyone else get a pitch in the mail?) I was thinking of sending them my annotations… but then realized that they wouldn’t think it very funny. So instead I’m going answer their request and tell them that I have indeed been let down: I really expect Republicans, when they control the legislative and the executive branch, to spend less money

Two-faced and gutless candidates

I ran into my streetcar lawyer again this past week, and he still buttonholes me on Kerry. “Why does he take two sides of every issue? Why can’t he stand for anything?”

A drink-up, a meetup, and now, my write-up

My campaign season has officially leapt from this virtual world onto the street. Here’s my write-up about my drink-up for Kerry, and my meetup for the Dems.

Why Kerry was the man from the start

Picking a candidate is hardly done rationally (as I had feebly done earlier in trying to deduce, according to the Civilities Themes, who would be the best candidate). More often it’s about rationalizing your choice once you’ve made it. Now obviously, Kerry is the best choice for me, for the Network/Access reason alone. After all, I know people in Massachusetts politics, and I’m more closely linked to Kerry than the rest of the candidates. Besieds, it looks like he’s going to be the nominee.

The future of DeanSpace

My thoughts on the Dean campaign:

The social software and use of the Internet attracted the media, the media attracted attention, and Howard Dean rode the polls up. He peaked too early, and he was stung too many attacks; he criticized the “Washington establishment” of Democrats while soliciting endorsements from them. (In 1992, it was seemed ok for Jerry Brown, or even Ross Perot, to criticize the Washington Democrats for rolling over in the Reagan/Bush years. Now, when liberals think of this group, we like to think of them as the last people defending our nation from indulging into a dangerous cocktail of laissez-faire attitude and crony capitalism, and the preventing the extension of the state of paranoia). Dean just wasn’t the best candidate. The only question left was, how did he spend $40M?

The DeanSpace team– the ones driving the technology for the campaign– have been asking whether anything went wrong. (I followed DeanSpace only in the last several weeks, so I have a marginal association at best). Mark Ratcliffe provides a summary of answers in his Meta-Analysis of the Dean Campaign. A few commentators, such as the pseudonymous Spengler of the Asia Times, have made an ill-informed comparison of DeanSpace developers to a “dotcom startup”, and compare the “crash” to the Internet bubble. (It was roundly criticized by letters to the editor). The only thing I can add is some insight that the “social software” used by the Dean campaign wasn’t always social, and sometimes it was anti-social.

But I’m thinking positively going forward:

  1. The software has to continue to be developed, especially along the lines of fostering truly effective deliberation. The emphasis on blogs will be subsumed into more comprehensive community systems. I call it constructive media. Whatever the technique is, it has to be more thorough-sounding than just “Internet-based”.
  2. We’d have to start using the software for local, smaller efforts, and prove that they are effective complements to committee-meeting politics.
  3. We need candidates who really believe in this stuff and practice it, and make their way from the beginning of their political career using it.

Does Howard Dean remain the patron saint of the movement? Not to me, really. It is ultimately ironic that the politician most associated with the Internet, Al Gore, did not inspire this movement after losing the most contested election in the modern age. So maybe it would be prudent to evolve the software to DemSpace for now, that would certainly please the Democratic nominee. It also might call to attention that there’s no comparable “GopSpace”.

Ain’t no shame in being electable

The casting call for the “electable Dean” went out: Wes Clark was drafted, but stumbled; John Kerry stepped up and has two primaries and momentum going into the primary season. And now the attempts have started to chip away at Kerry’s granite image, starting with the notion of whether he is legitimate merely by being electable.

David Brooks, on Wednesday’s All Things Considered with E.J. Dionne, remarked:

“Only 42 percent of people voted for him because they agreed with him on the issues. 46 percent said they voted for him because he’s ‘electable’. What they’re doing when they’re saying when he’s electable is that one group is saying that he has certain qualities that appear to appeal to other groups of people. That’s pretty suspect to go about voting, because people tend to be wrong.”
“Multi-State Primaries Await Democrats”

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