Throwing Money on a Bonfire Makes Better Sense: Comments on the G.O.P.’s Bizarre Funding Preferences
by Eileen | 8:40 am, January 3, 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.
So, here’s part one in my tactical recommendations for a flailing right-wing, following up from yesterday’s introductory rant. I think a lot of this stuff has to come first because, bad policy aside – and there’s a lot of it, Republicans aren’t functioning well enough to push any message at all. Before we start worrying about what shoes to wear, we need to learn to walk. My first point is that the Republican party-proper, and its halo of sympathetic organizations, need to start spending their money wisely.
The GOP spends obscene amounts on consultants, lobbyists, and strategists – people with long titles, vague job descriptions, and no discernible metric by which their work might be measured.
Correspondingly, there is little left to fund people who are actually doing the work.
Republican campaigns and center-right groups have a nasty habit of trying to get work done for free or for next to nothing with some variant of the ‘If you loved liberty, you’d do it for free’ line. This is condescending and patronizing. It’s the height of insincerity to plead poverty when activists ask for compensation; they’re all watching absurd sums go to a privileged few whose best trait seems to be connections. Republicans are so fond of averring that “Washington doesn’t have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem.” Gee, ya’ think? Know who else has that plight?
Worse, it means that talented people go get private sector jobs and find better ways to spend their free time. The movement’s irrational refusal to pay for talent and skill has led to our current quagmire.
Why would I spend all my time stuffing envelopes for the baboon brigade, being offered three day old doughnuts (if that) when I could go volunteer at the pound? I could be playing with puppies and if one animal gets adopted, that’s honestly a better return on my time than an entire season spent watching yet another opportunity for liberty get wasted.
I’m pro-liberty and I’m pro-puppy. Right-wing outfits talk a liberty oriented game and do nothing effective. Whereas the animal rights groups actually are pro-puppy. I want to work with groups who are serious about reaching their goals.
Yes, NGO, non-profit, and political work is not known for being high paying. But the Dems ask people to work for 75% of their market value. We ask them to work for 25%, when we pay them at all. How has it come to be that the party (supposedly) of business and free markets has deluded itself that Marxism works when applied to campaign season?
I’ll tell you one thing. Dems run through the dictionary of leftist buzzwords as it serves them but they run their campaigns as fanatic adherents to market principles. And they win. There you are, fellows denizens of lassiz faire. Our ideas work. If only we could get that through to the potentates.
It’s an additional force driving good skill away from campaigns that the ‘consultant class’ has work regardless of their performance record. Let’s start thinking about how it looks for Dick, who’s been active in Colorado politics for a decade and who knows the state’s issues, is asked to give 35 hours a week, for the next six months, for free while Jane from DC is getting a six-figure retainer plus expenses even though she’s never been to Colorado and hasn’t won a tight race since 1998.
OK, that’s the gist of the complaint. What do I think should change?
I’ve got ideas after the jump, but there’s also a nice real-life story of how the GOP manages to raise a fortune and fritter it away here.
1. Stop blowing your wad on a top heavy staff with a few overpaid dolts who talk but don’t deliver. In fact, put a moratorium on cutting checks to idea people. Yes, in theory you do need strategists. However, I am telling you that you don’t know how to pick a good strategy man. Maybe there is someone out there who could deliver ideas worth what he’d charge. But you kids haven’t found him and clearly don’t know what to look for, anyway. Any fool can label himself as a ‘Consultant’ or ‘Campaign Strategist’ and many do.
If so-and-so cannot tell you, in concrete terms, what she does and why it’s valuable in 25 words or less, then (a) she sucks at her job, (b) she doesn’t understand her own job, or (c) her job is BS. STOP HIRING THESE PEOPLE. YOU DON’T NEED THEM. THEY WASTE YOUR MONEY AND MAKE YOU LOOK UNSERIOUS.
2. Build your campaigns from the ground up. In Bull Durham, one of the finest entries in the American cinematic cannon, a cynical and wizened baseball pro is tasked with getting a young hotshot ready for ‘The Show”. Nuke LaLoosh, talented but moronic, is more inclined to spend his new riches and party than to work, and snottily announces “I ain’t pissing nothing away. I got a Porsche already; a 911 with a quadrophonic Blaupunkt”. Which prompts Crash Davis to tell him flatly, “Christ, you don’t need a quadrophonic Blaupunkt! What you need is a curveball!”
Hiring more and more ‘consultants’ when you’ve got no ground game is the equivalent of buying a Porsche when you’ve only got one pitch – the pitch that everyone in The Show can hit. Seriously, the Dems can hit the heat night and day. You don’t need another consultant. You need a curveball. Pay for that first. And after that, you need a sinker, then a breaking ball, and then a change-up. You get the Porsche when you win. And you still have to take batting practice every damn day. (Even if you’re a pitcher. Because, in my baseball=politics metaphor, there is no DH.)
3. No matter how awesome so-and-so’s win was back in the day, if that win is the exception to a career of losing, you don’t need that person. I call this the Dick Wadhams Rule and it’s indicative of a Republican tendency to adore people who once did something astonishing with a campaign, even when those people have since underperformed and even when they show every sign of a failure to adapt.
4. Spend your money on supporting the rank and file. If the only justification for an outlay is soothing some ego, don’t spend it. I saw a campaign equip the offices of the top-tier people who were never around with $900 ergonomic chairs imported from Germany and brand new laptops while the actual field staff got folding chairs and laptops that were obsolete and had been economy models when they were new. That campaign lost a race they could have and should won. Stop doing that.
Good tools aren’t prizes for making it to the top. They aren’t rewards; they’re tools. Give good tools to everyone. If you can’t afford that, the entry level types putting in 65 hours weeks need them far more than Muffy, who goes to lunch a lot and is only here because Daddy used to be in the Senate.
5. Stop thinking of professionals with certain skill sets as people you can just prevail upon to give and give and give. Make a list of the skills you need. Scratch ‘strategist’ and ‘consultant’ out. Take all the money you just saved and use it to compensate actual skilled experts. You don’t need Biff from Washington who uses his serious voice to announce, “We need analytics.” You need a statistician who will deliver your damn analytics.
You need skilled people on the ground and you need to understand that professionals don’t work for parking money and pizza. The GOP has tried the ‘People who share our message will volunteer’ and it’s clear it doesn’t work. ALL THAT MONEY YOU’LL SAVE BY NOT HIRING MORON CONSULTANTS SHOULD BE GOING TO PAYING REALISTIC WAGES TO BONE FIDE EXPERTS IN THE AREAS YOU NEED. People cannot live on ‘liberty’ and no one wants to work for a company that clearly doesn’t value them.
6. Just because your field staff and volunteers already have phones, laptops, and cars does not mean it’s alright for you to ask them to use their own resources for you without remuneration. Ideally, you should be setting them up with their own electronics. At the very least, if they work from home on their own devices, you need to be helping out with the wi-fi and cell service bill. I will translate; I am referring to something quite a bit more substantial than an annual $500 allowance for someone who spent six or seven times that on running a home office for your sole benefit. Also, gas money and parking should be given. When you do cover legitimate work expenses, stop behaving as if you’re some sort of saint going above and beyond.
7. The coffee and doughnuts for volunteers is not negotiable. And it better be good stuff in steady supply. Last night’s grotty left overs don’t cut it for the refreshments table. If you think appetizers that sat at room temperature for five hours, got handled by everyone, and were passed over are that good, you take them home. It’s not really a large expense but it pays huge dividends and is a solid way of letting people know that everything they do for you is appreciated. Your volunteers also need a seriously nice party, regardless of whether you win or lose. Grudgingly allowing them to attend the return watching party if they set up and clear away does not count.
8. Also, your budget for buying direct mail lists and phone numbers can get cut, if not zeroed out. I’ll say more about this when I post about the need to embrace technology and let go of no-longer useful tactics. Suffice to say, it’s where the GOP wastes embarrassing sums with almost no return.
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