by Eileen | 8:45 am, January 4, 2013 | Comments Off
If the Republican Party were a private company, it would be in need of a bailout and Republican politicians would be calling for the state to allow it to fail.
Well, here I am, sounding away on five tactical improvements the right-wing can make, that is, if they want to win ever again.
Yesterday, it was all about smart spending.
Part the Second…treat people better. This one is troubling, ironic even. Essentially, if you need to be told to treat people well, there’s little hope that you will. Be that as it may, a girl can hope, and I hope that, if nothing else, I might assure some other mal-treated activist that it’s not just her – the center right has a big problem with according basic respect and decency to people.
This extends to the field staff, lowest of the low that they are, to the volunteers, and to the voters. And, it’s a bigger problem with the national groups based out of Washington. True story: not too long ago, at a post-election political meeting, a fairly well-placed and very self-satisfied representative of a big name group stood up and proceeded to whine, at length, that Romney’s loss was proof the unpaid activists hadn’t been working hard enough and, in case anyone approached him afterward, he was sick of being approached by people who wanted money for their political work. Yes, of course, the right’s problem is that long time activists have the nerve to want funding for their projects and that people are reluctant to make politics a full time job without, you know, a salary. Gee, where ever do all the little people get off. Needless to say, this twit earns a comfy living and gets paid to fly around and tell other people they need to do more for free.
People (like me) don’t just hear an arrogant demand for unpaid labor. We hear a profound and insulting lack of gratitude and basic respect. ‘Gimme, gimme, gimme’ goes the cry. When my niece does that, she goes in timeout, one minute for every year of age. She also writes letters to the people she hurt. Had I been able, I’d have stuck bozo in the corner for 45 minutes and made him script a hand-written apology to every other person in the room. On the good stationery. As it as, I can hope the TSA gave him a through groping on his return flight.
Yesterday, I was rather uppity over a movement that’s got more cents than sense and spends that cash on the political equivalent of a fur bearing trout farm. In a big way, this connects to treating people well. Why? Well, because, in terms of letting your staff know you appreciate them, nothing is as powerful as the size of the paycheck.
I am too well aware that there’s an idiotic movement in managerial sciences to pretend employers have more to offer than a paycheck. Yeah, yeah, yeah…ideally people have jobs they enjoy and they derive satisfaction and psychic health from work. But no one can live on such intangibles. Most people, frankly, don’t like their job well enough that they’d do it for free. Mostly, that blather is something chintzy companies say in an attempt to underpay people. And, pardon the pun, they pay for it. You can either pay for talent upfront or pay for refusing to get talent latter on. Human capital is a good and market realities apply. One would think the people who put out their shingle as the resident champions of the free market would have some appreciation of this.
But agreeing to play by market realities involves…well…accepting reality, and why start now?
Anyway, my point here is that your employees don’t want a shabby cake in the conference room and they don’t want you vomiting the kind of schlock that gets rejected from Hallmark about how everyone is one big family and they’re your biggest asset. They want money. Believe it or not, they don’t view you as the cornerstone of their lives, let alone as family. You’re a bunch of semi-strangers, some of whom they may like, and they are here for themselves.
All this applies to campaigns and advocacy work. The center-right trades on a blithe insistence that people who share their values will do it for the love of liberty. Paradoxically, this very mindset betrays how insincere much of the center-right is about those very principles. Talk is talk, but behavior tells the truth, and the truth is that the Right in America expects to get something for noting and really doesn’t think that highly of individuals. Hmm, entitlement thinking and a collectivist mindset. Where have we heard that before?
Here’s one thing I really believe a lot of people in our movement need to hear. We’re talking about people who have already chosen to enter a field where they will earn a fraction of their market value, get paltry benefits, and have little job security. To ask them to give up more, a lot more, of top of that is high folly. You don’t get to ask someone who’s already willing to take campaign and non-profit wages to accept ingratitude and penurious treatment on top of that.
People make their decisions about whether or not you appreciate them based on how you behave towards them. What you say really has very little to do with it. If what you say clearly fails to align with what you do, then you have the added problem of being dishonest. No one wants to stay where they aren’t appreciated and no one wants to be lied to. Shoddy treatment of people who lack connections to vault them ahead has left the right with a talent dearth and a big ol’ crater where the body of operational skills ought to be.
Not only are the bulk of the staff treated poorly, the volunteers get it, too. And it’s worse in a way. You’ve got people who are already willing to donate their time and services. And that’s often seen as an invitation to pump them for more. My experience has been that a political volunteer will be asked for one thing after another until she says ‘no’, and then they’ll ask once more, and that’s why so many talented people lose their commitment and go find better uses of their time.
Volunteers get strung along with tall tales of imminent funding and key introductions, of help launching careers and of prime consideration for paid positions. Asking them to do ‘a few things’ while working at home is a prize way to get other people to effectively pay your office overhead for you. Yadda, yadda yadda…let’s not have this post turn into a detailed recounting of the rude behavior I’ve seen.
The other half is the lack of concrete signs of appreciation for volunteers, on the campaign day-to-day and in the long term. Buy some comfortable chairs and put a decent snack bar for crying out loud. Stop asking them to make those endless and pointless cold calls. Would you keep going back to people who think the best use of your time is to get sworn at and hung up on several dozen times an hour?
Stay in touch with volunteers between cycles. Few things are as deadly to peoples’ enthusiasm as to be taken for granted while you’re trying to send some schmuck to DC, get ignored for 18 months, and then called out of the blue to come work for free again. Stop telling people about wonderful rewards that you’re aren’t prepared to deliver and keep your promises once you’ve made them.
If you know someone volunteering with you wants to work in the movement, make some introductions. At the very least, don’t think the end of the campaign means you can ignore peoples’ calls without repercussion. Yeah, you don’t think of it as a repercussion because the crop of volunteers and low-level staff you drive away are replaced with the next generation of stupidly idealistic fresh faces. What have you lost? Well, you now have people who won’t speak well of you. You’d better hope they don’t become wild successes, because then it’s their turn to ignore your calls. And you never build up a roster of experienced people.
And, in case I haven’t clear enough, aren’t we supposed to be the people who understand discounts, opportunity costs, and the ‘seen and the unseen’? Just saying.
Lastly, there’s the poor treatment of voters – you know, all those poor dumb bastards who keep existing between election cycles when politicos think they don’t need them. To anyone who’s ever tried to get in touch with a center-right activist group anytime that isn’t within 100 days of a national election or reached out to a politicians when he doesn’t need your vote at that moment, you know what I’m getting at.
However, just in case you wondered if they got your message at all, you’ve been added to a mailing list and will be tormented via phone, e-mail, and letter as soon as suits them. Attempts to unsubscribe often get ignored. Robocalls are deliberately timed for when you’re most likely to be home, which is the same thing as saying they’re deliberately timed to ruin family meals and interrupt peaceful weekends. When campaigns and various groups reach out, they want a lot of things – money, volunteerism, donated services, personal information, contact information for more people. But it’s treated like an afterthought to tell potential voters what they’ll get out of supporting a certain candidate or cause.
This is a sort of survey of the mistakes I think are common to the GOP and its attendant c3′s and c4′s. I’m not even touching the more deeply disgusting behavior I’ve seen – because there are people and groups that are beyond any counseling. But I think it might be the single most important tactical reform the center-right could make to fundamentally remake the way that those who are comfortably ensconced within the movement’s inner circle treat less fortunate mortals.
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UPDATE: Something apparently got messed up with the PayPal buttons during this past weekend’s database glitch – fixed now. Yes, it’s that time again — PPC will be conducting training classes for center-right activists on Saturday, April 20 and Saturday, April 27, at Independence Institute in Denver. The tentative class schedule is as follows: Saturday, [...]
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