Thursday, August 02, 2007

The gulf between national and grass-roots campaigns

Got this off the site

To ALL grassroots meetups and etc.

PLEASE read the excellant explanation that we are ALL up against!

Ya, it's just about what I figured from my history of campaigns and a little more.

This explanation will prep us for Friday and ANSWER a whole lot to the many! The RP advance team and Nat'l HQ has got to be tired answering the same questions & uncomfortable positions everywhere they go. So NOW we know!


National vs. Grassroots… The good, the bad, and…
August 1st, 2007 by theronpauladventure

On Sunday night, some of the members of the Des Moines and Ames meetups met with the national campaign HQ members to talk about the Straw poll. I must tell you that I went in there with a bit of an attitude, because I am one of those who has been questioning the chasm that I feel developing between the grassroots campaign and the national campaign. More than once, I’ve asked myself, “What are they doing?” and “Who are these people?”. To be fair, I also ask myself, “What am I doing?” and “Who the heck am I?” Equal time, you know.

The difference between national and grassroots is evident even to the most casual observer. As I looked around the room, I had to smile at the contrast. The meetup folk were slouching on the floor in casually reclined poses; most of us, if we cut our hair, look like we use a bowl for a template. We write with pencils and bics and snort when we laugh. The national team, on the other hand, wear clothes that are so nice they have their own birth certificates. They wear their sunglasses on top of their heads, have really nice haircuts, and as they sit leaning gracefully against the wall, they toy with cool electronic gizmos that the rest of us stare at in fascination. They use words like “touches” and “charm offensive”. We use words like “borg” and “duct tape”.

The meeting was started with a report on what the Campaign has accomplished in terms of reaching out to voters. National has started a campaign to connect with special segments of the Iowan population, and between this campaign, and the write and call Iowan programs, they expect to reach (or “touch”) over 200,000 potential voters by the end of this week.

One of the national team said, “We want to touch as many people as we can.” and another said, “Isn’t it better to touch someone several times?” I tried not to laugh, but I couldn’t help thinking, “Doesn’t it depend on where you touch them?”

The meeting continued at a good clip, and we covered the different areas of the Straw Poll that needed volunteer support. It was a pretty good meeting, but I still somehow was bothered by the chasm I felt between us.

So at an inopportune moment, which is the only time I seem capable of speaking out in a group, I told them that I was sensing a chasm between national and grass roots. I said that if we weren’t careful, we would end up with two campaigns. Two campaigns that didn’t like each other. Cats and Dogs, Hatfield and McCoys, Eileen and Sandy Burger (Eileen and Sandy were my next door neighbors when I was growing up and were always fighting over their “real live Lucy” doll who refused to eat spinach or raise taxes.) You get the picture.

I told them that the supporters for Ron Paul want to help. I said, “For example, if you’re doing a radio campaign in Iowa, why not make the ad available, and I know the supporters will run with it and play it all over Iowa! There’s so much we can do together. Can’t you just talk to us? We’re not from the government, we really are here to help!” Realizing that I was beginning to sound like a democrat , I trailed off with, “It’s just that we’re a little frustrated right now…”

It was about then that I noticed that one of the national guys was turning an odd shade of red. Suddenly, he jumped up and with clenched fists exclaimed, “You think you’re frustrated?! You have no idea!” It took me a while to understand what he was talking about, but when the light finally dawned, I realized there was another side to this whole thing that I hadn’t even been aware of.

Here’s the gist of it. The FEC (Federal Election Commission) has a code of rules and regulations that apparently makes the IRS codebook look like nursery rhymes. And, because other groups are not, shall we say, encouraging our campaign it is especially important that we follow the code to perfection. The code mostly deals with money - how it is received by the campaign, how it is used, etc. The tricky part for grassroots campaigns is that our activities must clearly be separate (in general) from the National campaign or someone is gonna end up in a little prison cell with a roommate named Bubba.

So, they can’t give us a radio ad, because then it isn’t an independent action, but a coordinated communication, which requires filing reams of reports, may exceed the allowed donation limit, etc. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

What they explained to us is this: They hate it, but they have to live by it. They want, they need for us to do what we’re doing and do more of it. They were as encouraging as they could be, but are very skittish about doing anything that can be misconstrued as incorrect. They don’t want to hear about the projects that we’re working on, and they can’t consult with us on the best way to do them. They went into some more detail, but you can see the general scheme of things, right?

When they were done talking about the restrictions on them, I blurted out, “Wow, I feel so free!”. And I do. Do you see what this means? It means we don’t have to wait on the national organization to make decisions. We don’t have to feel stymied because we don’t know what they want. The truth is this: they can’t tell us! It’s not that they don’t want to, it’s just that they aren’t allowed to. So, you and I can promote Dr. Paul with our best efforts. We can coordinate with each other and help each other as we have been doing. And we can do more of it. While we cannot and indeed must not depend on national, we can support them as best we can so that they can work fully within the limitations that exist, because the national campaign is also vital for success. But, we must move forward within the grassroots movement. The truth is that Dr. Paul’s message, our message, is simple and clear enough that once people hear it, it speaks to them. That’s the only direction we really need. All we have to do is let people know about him.

In the end, there are two campaigns - national and grassroots. But now, instead of thinking of us as two little kids fighting over our “Constitution Ron” doll, I see us more as Captain Navarre and Isabeau from Ladyhawke - two lovers under the spell of an evil wizard, unable to “touch” each other, but soon to be set free and return justice to the land. The only part I can’t decide is who’s the hawk and who’s the wolf.

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