Sunday, June 9, 2013

Open Letter To The Democratic Party of Wisconsin

We at CogDis, are always open to all views and want to generate discussion.   Today's version is a guest post from Democratic Activist Vivian Creekmore(follow her on twitter)


Congratulations all. The convention and elections for officers are over. Now, let's work together! Right? Yes! We are on the same side!

I began talking with people around the state a few weeks ago as soon as I heard that there might be challengers for Chair, DPW. I was originally just doing a little research for a radio interview about "The state convention is coming up isn't that wonderfully exciting..."

I did not know any of the candidates before the elections and felt somewhat like a movie critic.

But, as I talked to people, I discovered that many people had the same concerns. I talked to members, grassroots organizers, County Chairs, candidates, and people who earn a living advising candidates.
I and many people have had the experience of finding it virtually impossible to communicate with the state offices (over the course of years - not days), the CD leadership or the Administrative Committee.

Every time Joe Kallas made an accusation, I tested it. I could not find out how to run for state office – until I posted that on my Facebook wall as an accusation. I never received an official response. I could not find info about the Elections Committee until… likewise.

There is a lot of anger about campaigns being tanked by fellow Democrats or the DPW. I and many people have personally witnessed this.

I and many people in this very large state feel no connection to the state party -- that it is all about Madison and Milwaukee, maybe Waukesha? -- and, the rest of the state falls off the map.

Many people across the state don't think that the very young people in the state offices know more about politics, messaging, writing, PR, web development, FB and Twitter messaging, etc. than others who are actually experts in these fields and have a lot of experience.

So, here are my conclusions after a lot of listening:

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has a calling to be inspiring, empowering and uniting of its members in a strong fellowship where the leadership comes from the grassroots & not from the top down. We are a network - a family - of people committed to common values.

*New strategies are needed to reclaim Wisconsin. 

Democrats have lost the Assembly, Senate, the Governor’s seat and the Governor's Recall Election.The Democratic Party of Wisconsin cannot take credit for President Obama’s and Tammy Baldwin’s elections.

* As Democrats, we must support transparency and easy access in our Party and all DPW processes – or the leadership will never be trusted.

-- The information about the oversight committee (the Administrative Committee) should remain on the web-page all the time.

-- The Administrative Committee should strive for visibility and leadership to provide checks and balances -- and not just be a “rubber stamp” committee.

-- Access to the process of running for state party offices should be easily available by calling, in writing and posted on the web-page all the time.

-- Information about State Party Offices and Officers (salaries, responsibilities and job descriptions) should be easily available to the membership by request and/or on the web-page all the time.

-- The names of the Election Committee members should be posted on the web-site as well as when/how they are appointed and their term limits.

-- All active committees and caucuses and important information about the Party functioning should be available on the web-site.

*The process of running for DPW office should have few roadblocks – just as we oppose establishing arbitrary roadblocks to running for public office or the voting process.

The current, and fairly recent, requirement of 10 signatures from 6 of 8 Congressional Districts gives an advantage to incumbents (who travel the state as part of their jobs and have the bully pulpit) and is discouraging to challengers. The Constitution should be changed.

*The DPW and all County Parties must be a big umbrella party:  Grassroots groups, Democratic voters, liberals, progressives, moderates, Independents and independents, labor groups and various advocacy groups (environmental, GLBT, women’s rights groups, etc) should be encouraged to join the democratic process and to join the Party. 

-- There has to be a campaign facilitated by the state and county parties so that we are united by our shared values and not alienated by labels. Progressives, independents, union members, etc should not feel unwelcome in our party.

*The state party must be responsive to members and their concerns: Officers and employees must answer phones, returns calls and respond to emails.

*The state party cannot maintain the respect of its members unless it maintains it committees and caucuses, holds meetings, sends out notices of meetings, and follows up on committee recommendations.

*The power of a party lies in the grassroots (the counties) – not at the state level. Geography should not divide us. Madison & Milwaukee should not be the focus of the Party.

-- The DPW must operate as a “network” and not as a hierarchy or bureaucracy.

-- Madison and Milwaukee do not know the state. The county parties are the experts on their territory and should be treated as such.  There are party members across the state who say that they do not know/have never met anyone from the state party.

-- The state Party Officers must be assertive in developing relationships with county parties, organizations, grassroots and progressive organizations and labor unions.

-- Hold focus groups, solicit feedback via email, and do surveys about what members and counties need.

-- State officers and employees must actually visit counties, listen to their concerns and suggestions, and use the feedback they receive. Members and not just officers must be involved. It is the members who make the calls, make the donations and do the canvassing – not just the officers.

-- More authority must be given to the county in the running of campaigns and Coordinated Campaigns -- and not just to Field Organizers who do not know the area and have too little experience. 

-- The idea that nothing but dialing 5 times and knocking is all that wins elections has to be pulled out by the roots. That may be the icing on the cake – it is not the cake.

-- The difficulties with OFA, DPW and local counties working together must be resolved and true “coordinated campaigns” must be run.

-- The County and State Parties need to define their relationships with each other: How closely are they related? Is it hierarchical? Is it a network? Are they independent of each other?

*Many Democrats disapprove the $40,000 “buy in” for federal candidates for the “Coordinated Campaign” and believe that it is excessive and discouraging. 

*The state party has to do more to support labor and make union members feel supported.

*The DPW must define itself in no uncertain terms, define the issues that we are of paramount important to us and be single-minded in pursuit of our goals:

-- We must define ourselves in positive terms, keep our opponents off our literature and define what WE stand for.

-- The DPW must have a rural agenda or it will not be successful.

-- The DPW must have a poverty plan or it will not be successful.

-- Environmental issues are paramount in Wisconsin.

-- The fight for education is critical.

-- Labor issues are crucial.

-- Define the other "fight to the death" issues and address them in positive terms that speak to the hearts of "the people of Wisconsin."

-- Define the crucial national issues that are non-negotiable for us and fight for those within the DNC and national party. 

*It is vital that a state Democratic Party:

  1. Be much more technologically sophisticated than the current DPW and

  2. Have much better, more positive and more aggressive messaging:

-- People need to be drawn together, inspired and motivated;

-- The DPW has to define the conversation;

-- Lead the conversation;

-- Focus on issues and actions – not just candidates and money;

-- Be more aggressive;

-- Make members feel valuable and connected – because a handful of people in Madison just cannot get 
the job done.

-- Members will stop opening their mail and email once they know it is always a fund-raising letter – and, it
 is always fundraising.

-- The state party needs a more sophisticated web-page and every county party should at least have a very attractive Facebook page and active messaging via email.

-- The DPW Facebook page has to be more attractive, exciting, interesting and varied – with more emotional appeal.

-- Likewise, Twitter has to be interesting, relevant, age appropriate and have variety.

*Knowledge of local counties & leadership by local counties in the conduct of campaigns is vital to success of the state party.

-- It is crucial that the DPW make hiring WI residents and locals as Field Organizers and in other positions a top priority

FO’s often don’t know WI voting laws, the names or locations of municipalities in a given county, or cherished local customs (giving rides to the polls).

-- We must have well-trained Field Organizers. They report that they are judged solely on their “numbers” – phone calls made. In a very “blue” county, these calls would be made without any FO at all. And, an abrasive FO can cost a county very valuable volunteers and donors.

-- FO's have little public life experience and need training in “business etiquette” (customer service).

-- FO’s need an orientation to the county they are working in and that can/should be provided by that county.

-- A successful party empowers the county to use its own resources and train FO's.

*A successful state party supports the entire ticket - top to bottom - in every race in every district in every script for every call & canvass whether they personally like the candidate or not

-- Phone & canvass scripts must include the entire ticket. Literature drops must include all appropriate materials available.

-- Democratic candidates must support each other & work together so that “Coordinated Campaign” is more than just a meaningless phrase.

-- The DPW needs to work with Assembly and Senate members or caucuses who fail to support or who “tank” other Democratic campaigns.

*A state party that engages in activism and keeps its members informed of interesting activities, opportunities and actions will be more successful. Volunteers, members and the public care about issues and activities more than what celebrity is in the news or getting another fund-raising request!

*State/county parties must understand the importance of engaging the under-35 population and work actively to do so.

-- Memberships for high school & college students should be free.

-- An active committee to explore successful strategies for engaging younger populations should be formed – IF there will be an active committee and action will result.

-- Young Democrat groups can/should be developed.

*A successful county/state must be aggressive in working to involve gender, cultural, ethnic, racial, SES, age and issue groups.

* Every county party can and should develop themselves. But, it may not happen. A simple “best practices” guide for counties could/should be developed.


  1. Thanks for posting that Jeff, but I wonder if Vivian knows how many times she's contradicted herself. What was that about messaging?

  2. Change the constitution to make it easier to get nomination signatures for state offices? What good will that do for anyone?

    If someone wants to run for state office, they should already be visiting other parts of the state and getting to know the people and issues in those counties.

    A candidate who isn't willing to visit other county parties and CD conventions across the state doesn't have a chance at winning a statewide race.

  3. I have been screaming for these same things since I moved back to Wisconsin 6 years ago, and they have gotten even worse when I moved back here. Having to "buy into" coordinated campaigns is a strong one, and people that are labor supporters need to realize that the Dem party will never show strong support for labor anytime in the near future, until something is done about the "people" (see corporations) that fund them.

  4. The part about defining the message is especially important if they aren't going to announce a candidate against Walker until late. Just bashing Walker won't do it.

    Outline how the budget would be different under a Democratic Governor. State the policies, state how they would be paid for, and state how they would help people.

    It's obvious that taking away peoples rights and giving tax cuts to the wealthy doesn't create jobs. Say what will and why.

  5. So tough to decide where to put resources when resources are limited. I like the new 72 county strategy but that means we all need to volunteer & donate more if we want more resources.

    I met many DPW staff this past weekend & was very impressed with most. They knew what they were talking about when I pushed them for details on strategy. Great projects & strategies being put in place for 2014.

    Last point is to stop expecting the DPW to do everything. If you want a young Dems group in Wisconsin, start one. It costs almost nothing to start a Facebook page & Twitter account to start organizing around a specific age group or issue.

    We all feel anxious about 2014 & the need for a new Wisconsin Governor. We all have our own opinions for how it should be done. We had a chance to elect a new DPW Chair & most of us voted overwhelmingly to keep the current team in place. Time to move forward together with all of us contributing as much as possible in our own unique ways.

    We will do this. Scott Walker will be a Dallas based Koch Brothers lobbyist very soon.