“A Stronger ADP”

A group of Democratic party activists has put up a website called “Building a Stronger ADP.” They are assembling a list of supporters of this plan, presumably to present it to the incoming chair. This is from the introduction of their plan:

We are undertaking this project for a simple reason: we love our state, and we want the Democratic Party to succeed here. Throughout the years we have seen the ups and downs, the wins and the losses, and we have always believed that there is greater potential in Arizona than most people realize. Still, having followed the state party over last year’s election cycle, we came to an unpleasant but undeniable realization: we failed.

Many of the items in there are problems that we all know about (lack of turnout in hispanic districts, for example), but they do tackle a couple of specifics with the party structure (calling on a committee to hire the executive director).

Many of these ideas and issues have been discussed before. The fact that they are out there, and have been out there for some time now, is a big part of my frustration with the argument that “we didn’t know how bad the problem was.” These concerns have been discussed for a while, it’s just that the people who had these concerns were ignored.

There are no authors listed on the site, and the people that contacted me about this wanted to remain anonymous. I’d rather that they didn’t. They believe that it is better for the discussion to keep the names and personalities out of this and keep it a discussion of the issues. I don’t agree with that premise, but I respect the decision and will not reveal their names. But their addresses are…just kidding.

26 thoughts on ““A Stronger ADP”

  1. The “plan” makes some valid points; I disagree with others. What’s completely missing is the need to convert the fundraising target from the rich to the voters, and the need to transform party operations so that policy and strategy are formulated by the elected board, and so that the board holds staff accountable for execution ONLY.
    Staff, including the ED, should NOT be making policy or strategy decisions – that is the board’s job (where officers act on behalf of the board in between board meetings, and officers’ actions are subject to board review and approval).

  2. I strongly disagree with many of the assertions and strategies outlined in this plan, but I will not even spend the time outlining those until its authors make themselves public. If they are so smart, so experienced and so concerned about the ADP why won’t they tell us who they are?

  3. This plan is irrelevant if no one is going to admit writing it. Though I agree with some of the things being said, At this point, I urge people not to sign to support it until they know who wrote it. I hate to sound hard core, but how can you write a document about transparency in hiring when the document itself has no transparency in regard to its author?

  4. Wow, I for one am glad people are taking the time to seriously consider the problems which have caused our party to lose seats in a year where everywhere else gained. Are we honestly going to stand by while the legislature and Governor Brewer dismantle our state and not start talking about how we can do something about it?

    I’m really confused here, I’ve read the document and there are some definite merits to it. While I can’t say I would have chosen to remain anonymous, I can see why they would want to. Their ideas probably stand a greater chance of seeing the light of day than with people playing politics over whose side who is on. I’ve seen enough vote trading at State Committee to know politics can play a big part.

  5. Who cares if the authors choose to remain anonymous? Does it really matter?

    Reading through the plan the authors have presented, I am very impressed with it overall. You can tell that whoever wrote it took the time to really lay out what is wrong with the current state party apparatus and offered pragmatic solutions in regards to how to fix it.

    Saying the plan is irrelevant if nobody admits to writing it? Are you kidding me? All you people do is whine and complain about the direction of the state party, and here is a group of people giving you their solutions to the mess the party is currently in, and you demand to know who is responsible before even reading it.

    Seriously, wake up. Instead of judging the proposal based on the names behind it, judge it on its merits. Here is a group of people taking the time to make the ADP better, and all you do is criticize them.

  6. Let me be clear. I am not opposed to this plan simply because the authors are too cowardly to put their names on it. I am opposed to it because it is chock FULL of ideas and misconceptions about the Party that are ridiculous and misguided.

    I think we can all admit that mistakes have been made. I would even wager that if the person or persons who wrote the “plan” were in charge in 2008 they might have made some mistakes too.

    I object to The Plan based on these principles:

    1. It puts Fairness above Productivity. I understand that there needs to be changes made to how and why we hire staff and consultants, but going so far to the other extreme that we are tying ourselves up in MONTHS of “process” is just silly and immature. Do we really want a committee determining who is hired as a canvasser? A receptionist? A computer technician?

    2. It is clear that the authors of The Plan are more concerned with their own agenda rather than the greater agenda of the Democratic Party. That is proven by their willingness to name the polisy priorities they want to concentrate on in the 2010 cycle (Education, Energy and Infrastructure). Did anyone notice that the ECONOMY is missing from this enlightened list? I am sorry, but if you are running for office and not acknowledging, first and foremost, the economic crisis most Arizona families are facing, you will lose. Period.

    3. The Plan assumes that ALL FIVE of our Congressional seats are safe until 2012, when new district lines will take effect. Quite frankly, that is naive and short-sighted and I think anyone who has volunteered for Reps. Mitchell, Giffords, or Kirkpatrick will agree.

    Look – mistakes were made in 2008. I think we can all agree on that. But does that mean we have to go to the extreme other end of the spectrum (target all races, decide everything by committee, overanalyze everything)?

    If the majority of the State Committee decides This is the direction they want to go, then I need to find a new Party.

  7. I didn’t mean to come off that harsh, but Thomas Jefferson did leave his name off when he authored that what was it called? WE THE PEOPLE….Signed anonymous…..c’mon guys. This working template echoes many of the sentiments folks have statewide. You may disagree, but surely you can understand why I think remaining anonymous comprises its validation…I am sticking with Ted, a great read, with promising ideas, yet I cannot endorse the sentiment that its author(s) go into hiding. Paul, if it is strategy or new policy that wants to be used, I think who writes it has an obligation to the supporters of this plan to let them know who they are. It may not be a popular stand, but in this case, I feel it is the right one.

  8. @Who are they: I think you’re making wildly factually incorrect statements and assumptions. The childish name-calling aside, I don’t know how you can speak to anyone’s motivations whom you’re not even familiar with. I also question how carefully you bothered to read the plan.

    1. There is no preference for “fairness” over “productivity.” I think the plan speaks to the problem of how unproductive the state party’s staff has been in the past and the definite benchmarks which were consistently missed. By improving the process by which you select who fills an important position, you arrive at better results when that person is held to their job description and is qualified.

    Additionally, I didn’t see anywhere the need to “hold things up for months.” But I guess you would prefer we just have someone top politician call in who the ED should be instead of vetting the most qualified person. Maybe we should question your motivations and not the plan’s authors?

    If you read the plan carefully, you would have seen that some committee doesn’t decide anything, that decisions still ultimately rest with the chair. But the suggestion here is on improving the process which thereby leads to better results. If the Chair has to worry about not making bad decisions because a select group of people watch and advise him, we arrive at more functional decision-making.

    2 Clearly I could go on for awhile, but here I don’t think it said that that was an exhaustive list. Plus, the economy is mentioned anyway.

    3. Talk about naive and short-sighted, go to azsos.gov and look at how Mitchell and Giffords comfortably won with 10 & 12% and outperformed many democrats in the same area and you’ll know why they’re fine. Besides the fact that the DCCC is much better financed and equipped (and has filled this role in the past 2 elections for them) and it makes it all the more clear that the party’s goal must be building a legislative majority and winning statewide.

    I mean I don’t even have time to cover everything you’ve gotten wrong here. I didn’t see anywhere in the plan mentioning we need to “target all races” etc etc. Sheesh read the thing before you just spout off.

  9. Pau,

    Not to get all technical on you, but the laboratory of ideas which created the US Constitution was something called the Federalist, a newspaper in which James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton anonymously published all of their ideas which literally became the foundation of our country. Read a history book.

  10. Matt—–so is the “stronger ADP” website a laboratory of ideas? Or is it an action plan….I don’t think I am qualified to answer. I suppose I am naive to the idea that the Consitutional Convention, was the venue that spawned our Constitution. If memory serves, the Federalist papers were published after the Constitution was written as advocacy for the Constitution itself. I am not sure your criticism is well-founded here. I do however, think we agree on several things. I have not been critical of the document at all, and I am not trying to criticize the plan. I applaud the effort of authorship, and agree with several principles outlined(actually almost all of it). It seems where we disagree is the decision to be anonymous. Maybe your right, and it is better to submit these ideas anonymously, however, I don’t think that is an appropriate way to go. I hope the new leadership of the party reads the plan and develops and implements parts of it, too bad we don’t know who to ask about some of the details, and how some of the objectives outlined can be reached….

  11. Value judgments aside – can we all agree it is in the least chuckle inducing that people writing a plan that calls for greater transparency did so anonymously.

    I mean seriously, transparent is the fourth word in the plan and some version of it appears close to ten times. It made me smile. Like I said, I haven’t taken time to really digest the document … so no value judgment here.

    As an aside ..

    Pau – Thomas Jefferson didn’t write the Constitution. In fact, he wasn’t even a delegate to the Constitutional Convention since he was in Paris at the time. Madison is the one most usually given credit for the language within and Jefferson first saw a copy only after it was completed and sent to him in Paris by Jefferson.

    The drafters of the Constitution did, in effect, sign it when the voted publicly to ratify it.

    TJ (as we call him) did write the Declaration, and as anyone bad-joke-meister who asks someone to attach his “John Hancock” to a document knows – that piece was indeed signed. In fact, affixing the name to the Declaration is why it was so powerful – it condemned each of those men to certain death for treason if they lost the revolution.

  12. I decided to not be anonymous (I thought the irony would be funny) but hit send by accident before I was done.

    Also – the actual signatures on the constitution can be scene by clicking on my name.

    Just a little Tedski-esque historical correction here. Again, no value judgment on my part about the merits of the plan … not yet.

  13. Who are They,

    Most will agree that this plan is not perfect, but I don’t think it was meant to be. Everybody recognizes that many mistakes were made in 2008 and this is the first real plan of action we have seen that addresses any of them at all. The allows you to contact the author/s with ideas and comments. I assume this to mean that they are willing to take suggestions. This plan is a great starting point and anonymity does not invalidate it.

    I am sure you can understand the reasons for their remaining anonymous, especially as we approach the seventh.

    Out of curiosity, is “Who are They” your real name, or are you chosing to remain anonymous?

  14. So I am confused – are the authors of this plan going to put up a candidate against Don Bivens? Or do they want Don Bivens to agree to their plan?

    If anyone can shed light on this it would be helpful.

  15. “Democrats fail to win most statewide races because of the high number of unregistered voters in Democratic districts, lower party turnout compared to Republicans, and a poor understanding of voting tendencies among Independent voters. Our overarching strategy moving forward should be to win bigger in the blue districts, lose better in the red districts, and fight smarter in the purple districts.”

    Above are my favorite lines from the plan as they come from the section dealing with voter turnout and how to increase it. This plan is realistic and speaks to the comprehensive vision, oversight and grassroots support it takes to win elections.

    The plan’s recommendations on budgeting and the refinement of polling operations also make inherent sense. After all, it’s the daily decisions about how to spend money and how to refine messages (based on an ongoing assessment of public responses) that help to win elections.

    One weakness of the plan is the fact that it does not give enough attention to economic matters in the section dealing with message and issues advocacy. While I agree that education, energy and infrastructure are major topics of concern, Democrats need to focus attention on pocketbook issues that affect the daily quality of life of Arizonans. Republican policies help to ensure that we remain a low-wage state that caters to the needs of out of state corporations. We need to pound that drum big time.

    Nevertheless, I signed on as a supporter of the plan and encourage everyone to do the same. There is much here to inform and guide the next group of party leaders. Frankly, I don’t know why the authors of such an insightful plan would want to remain anonymous.

  16. The Plan is well written and lays out the importance of process over product. Community organizing teaches that process is at times more important than the product. However, drafting a “manifesto” in a vacuum for the incoming chair is a bit presumptuous. The biggest criticism of the past two years (damn—I’m going to say it, the past eight years) has been the failure to engage a broad team of party activists, electeds (not only CDs and statewides but Mayors, County Supervisors and school boards) on the creation, approach, and implementation of the Coordinated Campaign Plan. Most field plans do not include highly classified state secrets but the Party elites have treated the “Plan” as a covert operation to restrict input and lay the foundation for authoritarian rule during the campaign cycle. These actions allowed for missed opportunities to educate and to ORGANIZE our Party into an effective institution in Arizona politics.

    However, we all wanted to remain in power and we “genuflected” to the Governor’s people to layout campaign strategy for the State as we all took a back seat on a wonderful adventure.

    We did not criticize our state legislative strategy in 2004 when we spent money in races (maybe not the same amount but we spent resources). But what the heck, the person in charge of legislative races rose to become the Executive Director and held the State Chairmanship at the same time. No one statewide applied this level of ANGER towards the people in charge. Why—well we did not want to express this frustration publicly towards the people who made some campaign decisions in the vacuum of power and convenience. Hypocrites, maybe but we were satisfied with having a party around one person.

    Enough about the past and look to the future.

    I toyed with the idea of drafting a guiding document on my own on lessons learned on the 2008 elections but waited for the Party to present data and to understand the implemented strategy. After reading several plans during State Committee and long strings of emails, I would like to be a part of a much more comprehensive draft. I do not want to create a Jerry Maguire “Mission Statement” where ideas and philosophy are laid out in the open without buy-in and ownership.

    The plan posted and the move towards a 15 County Plan is needed but not to win in 2010 but to build a true State Democratic Party. Spending money in every LD is a goal but when was the last time we spent money in LD 29 for voter registration. When was the last time we dropped a field organizer into LD 13 and 16 to learn about the political nuances of under performing precincts. The plan posted highlights CD 4 and 7 with low registration numbers but does the author know the percentage of immigrant populations within those districts. The high rate of mobility in neighborhoods exposed to extreme poverty. Well, again drafting a document in a vacuum is a bold directive but the reality is complicated.

    If we decided to play in all 30 LDs, how do we keep accountability in the forefront?
    How do we know we are investing in talent (good Candidates, good LD organizations, strong volunteer base)?

    Will candidates commit to walking/calling a minimum of 500 hours (30 hours for 17 weeks) from July to November?

    Will candidates agree to a self-analysis before they launch into a Legislative race, maybe a position on the local school board or four years in the City’s Human Relations Commission is a better fit at this time?

    Will Counties and LDs commit to reaching achievable benchmarks with volunteers and volunteer hours?

    Can we all agree on a tiered system to problem solve during the election cycle without escalating the purchase of a box of paper to the Party’s executive director?

    Elections are complicated and winning requires the summation of multiple variables.

    However, we in State Committee like to layout our Plans because we are all knowing and we are all grounded to our Democratic Base.

    REALITY CHECK-The people in room at State Committee do not represent our Base and that’s why we ultimately fail. We can win elections but we fail to organize our neighborhoods and voters to move beyond the $2-$3 direct mailer pieces.

    We need Party Leaders and Staff to look beyond the people in the room to build a stronger organization. Most elected Democratic Mayors and County Supervisors view our operation as too time consuming and ineffective. They believe we are IRRELEVANT. Are we?

  17. Thank you all for your comments and questions. We certainly appreciate the big response. When we set out to write this plan, we decided to remain anonymous. We did so because we wanted this plan to be about the ideas and not the people. We are not associated with one group or with any candidate for chair, and we simply want what we wrote to be judged based on its content and not on the personalities of the authors. Our purpose is simple: to offer up a framework for positive reform in the party. This plan is just that, a basic outline of ideas for a new direction. It is not meant to be all-encompassing, nor is it meant to be the perfect solution. It is designed to be a catalyst for meaningful reforms. Whether or not this is the final draft is not important; what is important is that we start to have this discussion and that those that control the party know beyond a doubt what exactly our concerns and ideas are.

    This plan is also meant to encourage input from all concerned Arizonans who care about the future direction of the Arizona Democratic Party. No plan is perfect, and we are by no means claiming to be the only voice for positive change. We encourage everyone who is interested to read the plan on our website, and to send us your comments. Open and positive change is only possible with the combined work of activists from all over the state. We appreciate your input, and we value your concerns.

  18. This kind of behind the scenes murmuring and whispering reminds me of the way Republicans do things.

    If you have something to say then say it and stand for it. Nobody wants to debate an anonymous document, and when did an anonymous document ever change anyone’s mind?

    Some of you remind me of a class of petulant fourth graders, who don’t like the rules but you lack the confidence to say it directly to a school administrator.

    What are you folks afraid of? With no names, I and probably a lot of others can’t take any of this seriously.

    Grow a backbone.

  19. I don’t know, Eli.

    As ideas and only ideas, they seem perfectly valid to me. We have already agreed that these problems it discusses are shared by most democrats. Why does it matter who wrote them down? It won’t matter who wrote it down first if their list of names gets long enough.

    If I were in a better position to, I would bring this document to the election on the seventh and say “While I didn’t write this or have any involvement in it, this document represents my concerns very nicely. Discuss.”

    A movement based on ideas and not personalities?Substance instead of popularity? I say it has been far too long.

  20. Well. A bit of truth telling here…

    I say this as someone who was involved in the Coordinated Campaign in 2002, 2004, 2006 & 2008.

    There have been many problems over the years and mostly around the personalities that worked at the State Party not the plans ( with a few exceptions ), so the desire for more input from the P.Cs et al is a good idea but the previous poster is right you can go “too far” in deciding things by a committee. Still, a little responsibility for the decisions made would be nice and review.

    In 2002, we had the last true “coordinated” campaign in which there was no central power except Jim Pederson ( who paid for everything. literally, I am not kidding, everything! ) and you had a lot of competing interests fighting with the ADP staff caught in the middle trying to straddle and win an election.

    In 2004, the Coordinated got taken over by a young man from the Kerry campaign and effectively ran a meritocracy of the ADP. But, not without reason. We spent the better part of 03 recruiting warm bodies for the P.C spots and we saw the disasater that was 04 in which about 75% of the P.C’s refused to even walk their districts. A great vacuum for someone to fill and fill they did with 64 campaign staffers and 47 offices in rural and urban Arizona. The nice thing about 04 is all those P.C’s I referred to never bothered to get their signatures again and most of what we see today are the results from that vacuum of power. Howard Dean should be credited for about 80% of that.

    Then there was 2006… This began your professionalizing of the ADP. Professional staff. professional training, materials, message etc. Helps when you have an actual leader of the party and Jim Pederson running for Senate to pay for everything and a stream lined chain of command. Also leaves no room for input from the people …

    Then there is 2008. Same idea, less money, no clear leader with the Guv out of town. Free for all, disorganization. All of the bad, none of the good.

    The one thing that has persisted throughout all of these years though that has never been discussed is the Legislative strategy. Which to say is spend about 300k-500k on mailers. You design 10-15 and send the same 10-15 to every district, just change the name, district etc. It didn’t work in 2002 and yet we tried it again in 2004, 2006 and 2008. We lucked in 2006 with the blue wave and you had an active leader from Phil Gordon’s office steering the other more important parts like candidate recruitment, training, field support, etc etc. It may be time to retire the strategy and spend the 500k or more , better.

    Now we face 2010 with a gubernatorial primary, 3 protect seats, and a fervor to win back the house, senate or both. Competing interests, but no Jim Pederson. So, thats the choice you face. How to fund, how to handle the competing interests. 2004, 2006 and 2008 will not be replayed again simply because of the power vacuum, so I would not “plan” to fix 2008, but to learn from 2002 instead.

  21. i should also note it was all those volunteers from the Kerry, Kucinich, Edwards and Dean campaigns that led in 2005 and crafted what is our current P.C training, recruitment and retention program which has created a new level of P.C volunteers. But trust me, for those of you like me , who were P.Cs in 2003, there were some real bad ones.

  22. I am ADDING Tom Prezelski to my candidates for ADP EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR LIST………

  23. My compliments to all that have posted in this worthwhile discussion. Your perspectives and insights will prove to be very useful as we move forward together as a team. I for one have been following these discussions intently and these comments are all appreciated.

    I do not doubt that we will come out of these recent events stronger and better than ever. Thanks.

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