1 July 2017 — 0959 mdt
Al Franken is guilty of unethical fundraising
Democrats so seldom win because they so seldom learn to treat voters and their supporters with respect. Yesterday, I received a plea for money from one of the alleged good guys, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), writing on behalf of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. He began:
Didn’t know it’s possible to feel guilt while participating in Fourth of July festivities? Well, with healthcare for 22 million people at risk, this year it is.
But there’s another option. Just follow my plan for guilt-free firework viewing:
Step 1: Quickly (Quickly!) donate to help Teams Baldwin, Brown, and Franken reach our 2017 fundraising goals for the second quarter — before tonight’s fundraising deadline.
Donate $4 to help Senators Tammy Baldwin (WI) and Sherrod Brown (OH) win re-election in 2018, help my next re-election, and support the PCCC’s work to elect bold progressives.
Step 2 was relegated to the P.S.:
P.S. I realize I only included one step in my plan for guilt-free firework viewing. Here are some other steps. Don’t forget to call your senators, attend town halls, and talk to your friends and family about what this does. There is a rule about no politics at the dinner table, but no one ever said no politics at the picnic table, or grill, or pool.
If you train your eyes on the skies above northwestern Kalispell, where I live, and use the appropriate amount of imagination, you’ll see a column of steam, smoke, and sparks, soaring to the heavens. An emission of shame from a face red with guilt for not donating? No. It’s proof of how hot under the collar I get when a progressive with the morals of an outlaw bill collector tries to shame me into writing a check to a campaign.
This not the first time Democrats have tried shaking down campaign contributions by employing shame and guilt. They tried it before the 2014 debacle. And now, reports the New Republic’s Sarah Jones, they’re trying it again, using a firm named Mothership Strategies that was founded by former employees of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Mothership raked in millions from Jon Ossoff’s campaign in Georgia, and plenty more from Rob Quist’s campaign in Montana.
These lowdown tactics derive from the social science research described by Sasha Issenberg in The Victory Lab, an engaging book that every political activist should read. It’s clear from the tactics that Democrats are using that Mothership’s crew read The Victory Lab, remembered everything, and learned nothing.
Democrats and progressives should read and adopt the Golden Rule as their governing principle for asking people for money. Otherwise, 2018 will be a debacle matching 2010 and 2014.
The contrast between the Sanders and Ossoff approaches is not about left vs. center. (Mothership also worked on the campaign of Montana Democrat Rob Quist, who ran to Ossoff’s left.) But these strategic differences are ideological in a much broader sense: If the Democratic Party is going to cast itself as the opposition party, how should it conduct itself with voters? If the Democrats are to be the party of the people, in contrast to the GOP as the party of the one percent, it should consider treating voters less like sentient pocketbooks and more like partners in a political movement. The latter approach would still require the party to raise money, but in a way that doesn’t manipulate and deceive voters.
And that means the party’s relationship with its consultant class will have to change. Amidst the wreckage of Ossoff’s campaign there emerges only one winner: Mothership Strategies, which reportedly earned $3.9 million for its work. Everyone else—voters, the party, the candidate Mothership promoted—lost.
“I apologize all over the country for the volume of email people get, but it works,” then-DCCC chair Steve Israel told reporters in 2014. “Five million dollars in August. Five million dollars!” But fundraising didn’t prevent the party from being swept out of power. Money, while helpful, can’t buy you a movement.