The Hill | 11/13/14
It’s Time for Progressives to Change The Playbook
By Scott Goodstein
As I watched the predictable post Election Day finger pointing the past few days, it seemed clear we need a new playbook all together. We need a playbook that reflects that the world has changed – with new data, technology, demographics and laws.
For too many cycles, the same players have been running the same tired plays over and over and over again. But just because it worked in the 90’s doesn’t mean it’s the right playbook today. If they can’t scrap the old plays, then it may be time for a few of these coaches to be retired.
Here is how we can change the game up —
Old Playbook: Chapter 1 – “Political Deja Vu – History Repeats itself”
New playbook: Anything Can Happen
The longer you play in politics the more likely you are to draw comparisons to challenges you saw in the past. The problem is – the best way to tackle these challenges has changed. If a candidate is down by 10 points, just putting up a negative TV ad is not going to “move the needle.” The game has changed.
Today’s politics is not a simple boxing match watching two candidates fight for public opinion. It is no longer one on one, hand-to hand combat in the isolation of a political boxing ring. With new weapons and new players entering the mix every day, the post Citizens United campaign is more like something out of a WWE cage match pay-per-view special… where no ring is needed and dozens of other characters and weapons can be easily introduced at any point. The number of outside groups looking to influence the outcome of the election has quadrupled and the cost for entry has greatly decreased. Which brings us to the next chapter that we need to toss out.
Old Playbook: Chapter Two – “Only a small group of experts can truly play national politics”
New Playbook: Anyone Can Be a Player
The truth is anyone can become a political pundit or run an independent expenditure. I ran one called PunkVoter with Fat Mike from the punk band NOFX back in 2004, Steven Colbert had one, and even PDiddy had his Voter or Die Campaign.
It used to be that the only folks that could play in national politics, run ads and send direct mail were party insiders. These uber consultants were given exclusive access to key tools and deep discounts in communicating with voters. But all that has changed.
Now if a candidate is down in the final weeks of a campaign, 15 different independent groups can run TV, direct mail, build their own voter file, conduct their own calls, run their own database, etc. If you can raise money, you can talk to voters!
Old Playbook: Chapter 3 — “Voters Pay Attention to Every Ad”
or as I like to call it … “People are subscribing to direct mail, you know, uhm for the stories”
New Playbook: You’re Being Ignored. Go Digital and Get Creative!
The reality is that we are all overwhelmed by more media and messages than we could ever possibly absorb. It’s safe to assume we missed your last six emails. Many consultants truly believe that voters are following the story arcs of their direct mail just waiting for a new character to be introduced. Undecided voters are not waiting to see if Jessica is going to get back with her boyfriend next week or what happens to the citizens of Bon Temp Parish. The game has switched and the hits are faster and more diverse.
Send the right messages. Instead of testing the same stale messages in poll after poll, our side needs to start taking some risks and exploring different messages that appeal to voters.
Get your messages seen by the right voters. Forget direct mail for voters under 45. Go digital – you CAN afford to cookie match your voterfile! This micro targeting tool is an inexpensive, proven way to reach voters. (Note – it’s better targeting than using a simple poll and guessing which TV market to hit or running a radio ad without getting any conversion metrics back)
And finally, make sure your website is mobile optimized. For the websites my company hosts, we were seeing 45% of all traffic coming from mobile phones and tablets in the final weeks before Election Day… imagine what it will look like by next election! If your site gives mobile users a bad experience, you are losing the opportunity to communicate, key supporters and even contributions.
Old Playbook: Chapter 4- “Young Voters Don’t Vote”
New Playbook: Communicate with Young Voters Early, Often
Millennials not only registered to vote with Barack Obama, they are the most civic minded generation in decades and give progressives the biggest margins of victories. So our side should definitely stop ignoring them.
Talk to young voters’ issues! If we listen to what young voters care about and communicate on those issues early and often, this hyper-connected generation will feel respected and help us spread the word through their networks. The same goes for all base voters. It’s time to stop neglecting them until the final weeks when they are often our best campaign communicators.
Buy online early! Most campaigns didn’t start running digital ads for younger voters until early voting was already well underway. Our team’s phones rang off their hooks this past election cycle for the last two weeks. Sadly, by this point of the campaign you have missed a large opportunity to define candidates early, not to mention the giant price savings you get by reserving the same ads a few months earlier.
Old Playbook: Chapter 5 – “Candidate Campaigns are the only way to get changes you want”
New Playbook: Candidates Need Not Apply
Of course having strong candidates is important, but it’s not the only path to victory. Ballot initiatives have become an effective organizing tool of the disenfranchised on both sides of the aisle. Additionally, we have now watched several states host recall elections. If you don’t like how an office holder voted.. just organize your own recall!
As Democrats take this moment to look inward and find their soul, we must come to terms with the changes we need to make for 2016. It’s time to throw out the old plays that are no longer working and welcome new players to change the game.