Fri 10 Aug 2007
Sat 28 Jul 2007
One of my favorite movies of all time is the 1956 MGM’s Sci-Fi masterpiece Forbidden Planet. In the movie a space crew visits an expedition run by Dr. Edward Morbius of an alien planet once home to an advanced race of beings known as the Krell. Their mission is to investigate why everyone besides the Doctor and his daughter were killed by some mysterious force. Soon the crew itself is attacked by a giant invisible energy monster that tries to rip them to shreds. As it turns out (!!! SPOILER ALERT !!!) the force trying to kill everyone is really the twisted recesses of Dr. Morbius’ subconscious given superhuman form by the Krell’s ancient alien technology.
The online world gives a similar window into the deep underpinnings of the human brain. Free from the constraints of normal interaction it is easy for people to let loose with their darkest, innermost thoughts, and find peers that share them. People you’d normally just disagree with become asshats and traitors. Heated arguments almost as a rule transform into flame wars. The human mind is a beautifully dark landscape, and any prepared traveler along its many tubes has to be comfortable navigating inside this alien world.
On political blogs things get rockier as the unnaturally controlled world of the public campaign clashes against the unbridled id of online dialog. It doesn’t help that campaigns are such Machiavellian places. I have never met a political campaign insider from either party that didn’t have a love for the underhanded. Campaigns are battles to be won at any cost. Relationships destroyed… careers ruined… reputations sullied… these are the deadliest and often most effective weapons in any political campaign’s arsenal. Why spend thousands on TV ad buys when a few choice whispers can have the same effect?
Interestingly enough primaries bring out the worst in campaigns. In general elections the battle lines are solid, with each side ‘s intelligence on the enemy limited. In Primaries the location of every buried body is well known, and figuring out which closets have the juiciest skeletons is a nightly parlor game to be played during the closing hours at campaign headquarters. The gossip quickly oozes through each Party’s back channels leaving a swath of personal destruction in it’s wake. A case in point is last years Senate primary where we have yet to truly recover from the damage inflicted by either side.
Each person who runs an online forum has to set for themselves the standards that they hold for their site. In the case of my site it’s simple: stick to the topic at hand, don’t publish anything that you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying to someones face, and don’t mess with the Editor (aka me).
The topic at hand is the politics of the Ohio 2nd Congressional district. As such candidates are the primary target. Their positions, personality, performance, and careers are all fair game. This also hold true for their campaigns. If, in my opinion, a campaign manager didn’t do a good job in the past, I will have no problem talking about it. That’s fair game because it directly relates to the topic at hand. Generally, I don’t like to talk about it in such specific terms. I talk about the Hackett campaign or the Schmidt campaign, not David Woodruff or Barry Bennett. The names of specific players are usually overlooked except in the case of the people who have the public voice for the campaign, and usually then to quote them making statements as they directly relate back to the topic at hand.
The case of the current primary is unusual because you have a campaign manager shifting from one candidate to another. This to me is as much news as a football coach switching teams in the off season. Why did they leave? What aspects of their job performance created the rift? Will the other team be a better fit. These are all fair game as topics.
What’s not fair game are things that are generally considered private or off limits in public conversation. Gossip about such things as people’s relatives, divorce proceedings, drug use, or sex lives are all topics that simply don’t exist in this forum. While they may help a candidate that I support, dealing with them only sullies my reputation as an honest broker of relevant information.
As the Editor I rule as a benevolent yet absolute tyrant. This is not a Democracy. You have only the rights that I give you, and if you don’t like it, get your own blog. As a method of operation this only works if you show common courtesy for the people who visit your site. While I welcome dissent I hold zero tolerance for anyone who doesn’t show the same respect towards me. Comments I find distasteful get removed without notice and the worst offenders are silently disappeared in the best (best??!) traditions of our current intelligence operations. Anyone who tries to get one over on me or my readers is quickly dealt with.
Which brings us to the current threads regarding candidate Steve Black. I’ve met Steve Black on several occasions and have nothing but good things to say about our interactions. He is obviously a very accomplished person both in his professional life and for the causes that he cares about. In our last meeting he did express some dismay over how heated the dialog was here on my site. I can certainly understand that given his inexperience with the 21st century mode of political campaigning that this site was a small factor in shaping.
Having said that, lets get down to it.
Several weeks ago I was contacted by another site that was worried that one of the campaigns in the 2nd was astroturfing. I had noticed a pattern that indicated such an activity as well.
Astroturfing is simply not tolerated on my site. Campaigns are more than welcome to comment on my site, but not in the guise of grass roots support. If they have something that they want to share with the public that they can’t say as a representative of the campaign, let me know and I will certainly try to help them out, as long as it sticks to the topic at hand. There is a reason that I don’t allow anonymous posting on my site. The Southern Ohio blogosphere has already been poisoned enough by people who have been allowed to post anything anywhere. This will not happen on my site.
With that in mind I started to investigate. I quickly found evidence to that effect and contacted one of the parties. From that a lot of online back and forth happened that at times got rather heated. They did confirm my suspicions. Since we were not able to reach a private consensus, I have decided to remove the two accounts. This is the first time that I have taken such an action.
I more than welcome dialog from all parties concerning the campaign, but efforts to try and pass themselves off as something that they are not will not be tolerated.
Having said that supporters of any and all candidates are more than welcome to argue their case. I would much rather argue about ideas than deal with people trying to get one over on me.
Thank you for your time.
Sat 1 Jul 2006
First off, the front door. You shouldn’t have to scroll down to enter the main area of the site. As a rule I hate splash pages, but if you are going to use them, make sure that it is as easy as possible for people to figure out how to get in. The last thing that you want is for people to get to your store, and then leave because they can’t figure out how to open the door. The simple solution to that is to make the graphic on the frontdoor a hyperlink to the main page, or to a page with more information about the event on the graphic.
On the blog section, you can’t direct link to specific entries which makes it much harder for other blogs to promote them. This is a very common problem with campaign websites.
On the main page:
Never use graphics that represent multimedia controls for anything but multimedia controls. If you have graphics that look like they trigger an audio or video file, make sure that they do, or don’t use them.
Coming soon. There’s almost never a reason to say this on a site. Simply say nothing, then people won’t know that you didn’t do something that you plan on doing. Why should I click on a link to a page that goes nowhere? Links are very valuable on campaign websites.
Always make sure that you check your links on the site. Links are VERY valuable. See point 2.
The page for the event doesn’t link to an internet mapping program so that it’s easy for people to get to the event that you want them to go to. It’s very easy to hyperlink an address with google maps. Try to make it as easy as possible for people to help you.
Fri 30 Jun 2006
Tue 13 Jun 2006
Wed 7 Jun 2006
Democrats have been stepping up their game to try and punch a breech in the Republican House lines going into the 2006 elections. Republicans have stepped up their game more. Busby’s loss in the CA-50 is a big victory for the NRCC who have consistently demonstrated that they can out spend, out organize, and out hustled the Democrats to protect their control of the House even in the face of horrible approval numbers.
A key last minute move was the use of recorded audio of Busby telling a Latino crowd that “You don’t need papers for voting“. Republican blogs were quick to use the recording against Busby, to the point where they were able to get some serious traction with the local media. The fact that Busby and her online supporters made a good online effort to defend against the attack didn’t matter in the end. When you’re that close to the buzzer in politics all you need to do is foul. There is no such thing as a free throw.
(One key tip from all this that campaigns should take to heart is to RECORD EVERYTHING you can that your opponent says. You never know when you’ll be able to use it against them.)
Many will see this as another big loss for the progressive blogosphere. Well, OK, sure… but it isn’t our jobs to win elections. We’re a bunch of crazy kooks with too much time on our hands, and an intense frustration with the people running our country and our Party. It is the DCCC’s job. As I’ve been hammering on this site for almost a year now, if Dems are serious about taking over the House, they needed to fight full out on these head to head matches. A victory in the CA 50th would have resulted in a 10 to 1 return on their investment. So too would have a victory in the Ohio 2nd. A victory in the solidly Democratic Kentucky 2nd was what lead to the takeover of the House back in the 90s. How much is that worth to the Democrats? Obviously not as much as the Republicans.
Democrats who care need to pull their heads out of the 2008 elections and focus on winning NOW. You won’t get control of Washington by obsessing about Hillary Clinton. The battle is being waged right here, right now. If you want to win, get those points on the scoreboard. Every Congressional race is critical. Every statewide race. Every state House race. Every state Senate race. And if you don’t like the candidate, tough. People are fighting in Iraq right now because of Republican lies. People are still wondering where Usama bin Laden is because of Republican stupidity. People are losing their jobs right now because of Republican greed. People are without health care right now because of Republican selfishness. Do you think the family that just lost their home gives a damn what some staffer wrote on a blog? Likes got nothing to do with it. I’ll gladly sip a beer with Mike DeWine as he ponders his next career move, and I’ll love telling Senator Brown that he can go to Hell. I ain’t got time for like. This is America. Winning is everything, and I love America.
(via Psychobilly Democrat)
UPDATE: Good analysis by Matt Stoller @ MyDD. Democrats don’t win from hiding who you are. Passion… energy… agression… vision. That’s what wins elections, NOT being safe and appealing to as many people as possible. Politics is not like selling toilet paper, even if the results of the product are the same.
UPDATE 2: Rush is right: “Moral Victories” Do Not Exist, Democrats
UPDATE 3: More excellent analysis at The Fix.
UPDATE 4: DKos > Hesiod > Busby Loss=Wakeup Call to Beltway Moron Democrats
Thu 1 Jun 2006
Well, I know I am going to get in trouble for violating the Bloggers Code, but I have posted the secrets to how campaigns should interact with the blogs.
Thu 13 Apr 2006
Sat 1 Apr 2006
Porkopolis has posted links to a campaign video by Republican underdog Senate candidate Bill Pierce. It’s a clear vision of why he’s running for Senate. I like the new media tactics he’s employing to overcome the lack of money. He also did MTB last month.
I think that Congressional candidates should check it out. In the smaller venue of a House district something like that can have a much greater impact. BE THE MEDIA. Never before have candidates had so many options to get their message out.
Mon 27 Mar 2006
Democratic Ohio 1st candidate John Cranley’s website is live. Simple. It wouldn’t be that hard to spice it up enough to bring it into the 21st century. (hint: make the middle column a blog feed with a static post at the top to highlight your main message. Add pictures in the posts to give it some energy. Bring the ground to the site. Be your own media… yadayadayada)
This seat is considered one of the more competitive House seats in Ohio. Hopefully the Hamilton County Democratic Party will get their acts in gear this time around. We’ve got to clean our own house before we clean House in Washington. No slackers in 06.
(via TheCablinasianRam @ BSB)