City of Brass

City of Brass

one million repeat donors: people-powered politics

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Further to my earlier post about how Obama’s $150 million September serves to utterly vindicate the vision of Joe Trippi and Howard Dean, comes this interesting observation by Al Girodano about the donor base:

With an average contribution of $86 that means that more than 1.7
million people donated last month. Plouffe reports that September
brought 632,000 new donors. The interesting number to me is the
remainder: more than one million people out of almost 2.5 million that
had given earlier in the year gave again in September
.

Recall that Joe Trippi’s vision was a million donors giving $100 each – at an average contribution of $86, and repeat givng, it’s clear that the vision was actually conservative! But it isn’t just the money, either – small-dollar donors convert much more readily into ground activists as well:

That’s the day I learned the phrase, “the donor-activist model.” The
concept was this: that if you get a regular working person to give even
a small amount of money – say, five dollars – that person had now made
an investment and would work harder as a volunteer because he and she
would then want a return on that investment.

The small-dollar donor is essentially an investor buying “stock” in a company. They become invested in the company’s success, and so will act to help bring that success about long-term. The analogy also holds for big-dollar donors, who for a campaign are really buying access, not success. In many ways, big donors don’t really care if the candidate wins, they are just hedging their bets, and if the candidate loses they still retain influence. This is akin to large investors who buy millions of shares in a stock, not for any long-term investment strategy but rather to make a short-term or medium-term profit.

Finally, Giordano echoes Trippi’s Perfect Storm essay in observing how the activist-donor base empowers a genuinely different kind of politics:

Should Obama win the White House, he’ll be the first president in
ages who can afford to buck the instructions of the super rich and
their bidders (he’s already told their lobbyists and PACs that their
money is no good to him) and count with the sufficiently large small
donor base to back him up for reelection should that happen. 

[...]

the donor-activists are going to want a return on their
investment in his candidacy: they now outnumber the influence donors
not only in population, but, newly, in buying power. They – the people
that gave five or ten or a hundred bucks – and then worked the phones
and the neighborhoods to get a return on that investment – may soon
become the most special interest in America.

This isn’t mere populism, but rather something new – to borrow the phrase from the Dean days, a “people-powered” politics.

Related: Internet Politics 101: The List vs The Network

McCain campaign muzzles muslims?

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

I lauded the McCain campaign for the incident in Virginia where supporters of McCain and campaign representatives alike vigorously confronted an Islamophobic idiot and his sidekick and forced them to depart the rally. One of the McCain supporters, Daniel Zubairi, is also a muslim himself and was among the most articulate in rejecting the notion that the bigot spoke in any way for McCain’s camp. However, it seems that Zubairi has been forbidden by the campaign from speaking to the press:

Daniel Zubairi, a Muslim McCain grassroots organizer who told racist rally attendeesin Woodbridge, Virginia that the campaign didn’t “endorse thatbehavior,” was for some reason not allowed to talk to CNN about theincident.

Anchor Rick Sanchez said Zubairi was “ready and willing” to talk, but “the McCain camp won’t let him do so.”

Here’s more footage of Zubairi at the incident:

It’s perplexing why McCain’s campaign won’t let this articulate, muslim supporter and grassroots organizer speak out about it.

McCain supporters defend Islam

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

At a McCain rally in northern Virginia, a man was handing out bumper stickers equating Obama with Communism and radical Islam, and preaching about the dangers of Islam. McCain supporters, including a conservative Christian and several muslims, confront the bigot:

Note that a McCain campaign official also makes an appearance and reiterates that McCain’s supporters hail from all religions and that this man’s message is in no way representative of John McCain.

The man and his sidekick eventually give up and leave, to cheers and applause by the McCain supporters present. I have to say, that the people in this video standing up for McCain and against bigotry are real Americans in every sense of the word.

Of course this was northern Virginia, which according to Governor Palin’s own spokesperson, is “not the real Virginia” where true pro-America Americans reside. As much as the McCain campaign disgusts me at times, it’s important to remember and emphasize that McCain’s supporters are as genuine Americans as anyone else, apart from the few bad apples who spoil the image. There’s a lot less that divides us than the domestic radicals, or the campaign spin doctors, would have us believe.

(video via Ben Smith at The Politico.)

$150 million: a Palin September, the Perfect Storm

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

This is simply beyond adjective and superlative and entering into utterly transcendent territory: Obama raised $150 million in September:

Barack Obama
raised more than $150 million in September, a stunning and
unprecedented eruption of political giving that has given him a wide
spending advantage over rival John McCain.

The
Democrat’s campaign released the figure Sunday, one day before it must
file a detailed report of its monthly finances with the Federal Election Commission.

Obama’s
money is fueling a vast campaign operation in an expanding field of
competitive states. It also has underwritten a wave of both national
and targeted video advertising unseen before in a presidential contest.

Campaign manager David Plouffe,
in an e-mail to supporters Sunday morning, said the campaign had added
632,000 new donors in September, for a total of 3.1 million
contributors to the campaign
. He said the average donation was $86.

Obama’s monthly figure pushed his total fundraising to $605 million. No presidential candidate has ever run such an expensive campaign. His campaign raised $65 million in August, his previous best.

“The
overall numbers obviously are impressive,” Plouffe said in a campaign
video. “But it’s what’s beneath the numbers in terms of average
Americans who have had enough, who want a change and who are really
fueling this campaign
.”

I think Obama’s campaign needs to send Sarah Palin some roses. It’s clear that Palin’s selection by McCain sent a shock wave of alarm throughout the political world, given how woefully unqualified Palin is for any national office whatsoever (as her interviews with Katie Couric have painfully demonstrated). Even Colin Powell was uncharacteristically blunt in assessing Palin’s qualifications:

…he said McCain’s choices in the last few weeks — especially his
selection of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his vice presidential
running mate — had raised questions in his mind about McCain’s
judgment.

“I don’t believe [Palin] is ready to be president of the United
States,” Powell said flatly. By contrast, Obama’s running mate, Sen.
Joe Biden of Delaware, “is ready to be president on day one.”

Millions of ordinary Americans reacted much the same way, wondeirng just how “Country First” McCain could possibly have made such an ill-advised, blatantly political pick for his Veep, and realizing just what it implied about McCain’s judgement and priorities. In hindsight, the signs were clear that Palin was triggering an avalanche of donations to Obama, but no one could have predicted such a titanic windfall of small-donor support.

It must be said that this represents an absolute and total vindication of the Howard Dean campaign, and manager Joe Trippi’s vision of “The Perfect Storm”. On May 17th, 2003, Joe Trippi posted a blog entry at the unofficial Dean Nation weblog entitled simply, The Perfect Storm. In that post, since reprinted many times elsewhere, he wrote like the prophet he is:

never
– until now — would there ever have been any hope of 1 million
Americans contributing $100 each to take back their country and promote
a common vision for the future of the nation. Maybe it will be 2
million who contribute $50. But the Internet makes that possible. Or
maybe it will be 5 million Americans contributing $20. The tools,
energy, leadership and the right candidate, are all in place to create
the Perfect Storm of Presidential politics — where millions of
Americans act together and organize their communities, their
neighborhoods and their precincts. It is ironic I think that the
Perfect Storm may indeed be made possible by the internet — but in the
end the real storm it may create is the largest grassroots/election day
get-out-the-vote — shoe leather/door knocking organization in the
history of American politics.

I have said before that it sounds audacious.

Audacious indeed. But witness the audacity of hope. Trippi’s vision has been realized, far more than he could ever have imagined. Where the Dean campaign broke the trail, the Obama campaign has laid shinkansen tracks. Obama surpassed the 1-million-donor mark back during the primary in February, and now the total is three times that number.

Forget the rhetoric about campaign finance reform – the Obama campaign, like the Dean campaign before it, IS campaign finance reform. As GOP technocrat Patrick Ruffini notes ruefully, “public finance in the general election is dead, dead, dead.”

Any nominee from now on can safely opt out because the
Internet makes it for the public to massively participate. If we had
not had a nominee with such misguided instincts on campaign finance
reform, Republicans probably would have figured this out this time.
McCain raised $47 million in August, or 71% of Obama’s total, and he
raised $10 million in 2 days because of Sarah Palin. Had this trend
continued into September, McCain would have raised over $100 million
for the month. By the time the McCain campaign figured out it was
possible to excite the base, it was too late.

Ruffini is correct. No candidate, Republican or Democrat, will ever accept federal matching funds again. But what’s more important is how Obama will use the money: to redraw the electoral map, not just to win reliably blue states and tip the battleground states, but to actively encroach on once-solidly Red Republican territory. Consider that Obama is within 4 points of McCain in Montana and dead even in North Dakota. There’s a real possibility of a new “sagebrush rebellion” in the Mountain West – and even in the old Confederacy, where West Virginia and even Georgia are in play. This is all possible because of Howard Dean, who as chairman of the DNC has pursued a “50-state strategy”, putting Democratic Party offices in every state, no matter how deep red – and laying the groundwork for Obama’s campaign to set up shop.

This is truly a new kind of politics, and a transformative election. We really are at the cusp of something new, and grand, and exciting. Will it be a $200 million October? And a 400 EV victory in November? We will find out, in less than three weeks.

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