Friday, September 14, 2007

"How People-Powered Politics Hit a Home Run in the Burner Race"

Lynn Allen's diary on Kos:
In the course of five days in late August, we on the progressive side of the Internet helped Darcy Burner’s WA-08 campaign immeasurably and took the political world by storm. We were able to blunt a huge amount of the impact of President Bush’s visit to raise money from big donors for Congressman Dave Reichert. Yoohoo! You made this possible and helped define what people-powered politics can accomplish.

People-powered politics helped the campaign raise over $125,000 from the many Act Blue pages, her lists, and the website. The number of new small donors, 3300 and counting, convinced her primary opponent, Rodney Tom, to drop out of the race last week, thus allowing her to now use that money to beat Reichert, a staunch Bush ally on the war.

McJoan has already written a post entitled "How We Can Take The Burn Bush Campaign National", suggesting that we can use the Burn Bush model more widely to neutralize Bush’s ability to raise money for Republicans.

We want to flesh that out and share what we did together as a template (not the template) for what other progressive candidate can also do. Some of what her campaign did is transferable to other progressive candidates, some is not as easy to transplant.

Deciding What to Do

Darcy and the campaign saw Bush’s upcoming visit to raise money for Reichert as a potential opportunity. WA-08 is a mostly suburban swing district; Bush is just as unpopular here as he is in the rest of the country. Reichert’s willingness to bring Bush in, given his low poll numbers gave us something to work with.

The local bloggers had been talking about Congressman Reichert’s unwillingness to talk with his constituents either publicly or privately for awhile. Reichert held a town hall –in favor of social security privatization – not long after he was elected in 2004. The reaction from his constituents was so negative he has not done one since.

Once we heard that Reichert would be hosting Bush on August 27th, we considered our options. Always aware that we want to remind her constituents that Darcy is a tech-savvy leader, the idea of a virtual town hall focused on the Iraq war, open to concerned Americans from around the country, began to take shape.

Darcy’s Unique Standing in the Blogging Community

Darcy had just been to YearlyKos a few weeks earlier and had been seen as one of the netroots stars. There were about a dozen or so Congressional and Senatorial candidates there and they were all wonderful but it was Darcy who seemed most comfortable and at home there.

She reinforced existing relationships with Matt Stoller and Chris Bowers and Markos and Duncan and others. Towards the end of the YearlyKos event, Darcy made a brief video expressing her outrage at the Democrats who voted with the Republicans to pass the FISA bill a couple days earlier. That video, and another, more polished one that followed it a few days later, made it clear that Darcy was willing to take risks for what she believed was right and established her as a leader of the Democrats challenging the status quo.

Darcy had a previously established friendship with McJoan, an ally from last year’s election when Joan took a day with Darcy as the first stop on her western states road trip. McJoan wrote about that as part of the 5-day lead-up to Darcy’s town hall. McJoan reiterated that she had loved her entire day with Darcy, doorbelling, meeting volunteers and staff, attending a fundraiser headlined by Ambassador Joe Wilson and Rep. Jim McDermott, and most of all, she loved blogging on DailyKos with Darcy and found her to be a natural blogger.

Back home, Darcy had built relationships with the local bloggers from the outset of her first campaign and they have remained steadfast in their support. She maintains great relationships with Goldy at Horsesass, Dan K. at On the Road to 2008 and Andrew Villeneuve at the Northwest Progressive Institute, among others. This means that the campaign communicates regularly with the bloggers and embraces the online community.

Darcy’s first hire, aside from a scheduler, was me as Outreach Director, in charge of grassroots activities, both offline and on. My job for the last several months is to support people-powered politics in all its forms and work to integrate what we call the netroots with the grassroots and labor and to promote building a stronger grassroots infrastructure.


As the campaign staff and our media consultant scrambled to deal with the logistics of a virtual town hall due up in less than two weeks, Darcy reached out to Goldy for assistance in getting the backing of the national bloggers. We set a goal of raising $100,000 and the national bloggers agreed.

Goldy and the campaign worked with the national bloggers. We told them we would be providing lots of great videos to post on a daily basis ahead of the actual, virtual town hall, and that the clips would include as many big names as we could round up on short notice.

Again, Darcy’s relationships made all the difference. In a matter of days, we were able to get Ambassador Joe Wilson to tape a video statement from Colorado. Retired Major General Paul Eaton – who served in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 and who came back a forthright critic of the Bush administration – is local and he too was willing to make a video discussing Iraq and voicing his support for Darcy.

Our media consultant Dan Kully came up with the idea of asking both national and local bloggers to take videos of themselves reading the same script and then splice that together. Darcy made a great one herself.

The national bloggers also created a special "Burning Bush for Burner" ActBlue page where different sites could direct their readers to contribute.

The Town Hall Panel

In addition to Darcy and McJoan, who served as moderator, the panel included Jon Soltz, a veteran of the Iraq War and the co-founder and chairman of; retired Navy Captain Larry Seaquist, currently a Washington State legislator from the 26th LD; Lorin Walker, vice-president of VetPac, a political action committee dedicated to electing candidates who preserve the values for which veterans have served, fought and died; and Professor Clark Lombardi, who teaches comparative law at the University of Washington and is an expert on Islamic legal systems.

Here’s a short YouTube of the town hall that provides a glimpse of what it was like.

The virtual town hall was live-streamed on the campaign web site, which embedded a stream from, a new streaming service on the YouTube model. The panelists answered questions that had been sent in ahead to Darcy’s website, including one question posed on a YouTube video-clip. The hour-long event was shot at in Bellevue hotel ballroom several blocks from the hotel hosting the Bush-Reichert event, and was delivered before a small live audience of supporters.

About 1,500 viewers watched the town hall live – far more than could have been reached by a more traditional event. Many more will see either the full-length video when it becomes available shortly or the five-minute highlight clip above.

General Eaton Agrees to Chair a Task Force to Develop a Plan to Withdraw Troops from Iraq Responsibly

At the close of the panel discussion, Darcy announced that General Eaton had agreed to chair a new effort to develop and promote a comprehensive strategic exit plan for Iraq. Over the next few weeks, Darcy and General Eaton will pull together military, diplomatic and humanitarian leaders to work out a plan for allowing our troops to leave Iraq responsibly. This less well publicized aspect of the town hall and fundraising effort may well wind up being the most important aspect of what Darcy’s campaign and all of you have set in play.

For everything you did, thanks. Darcy and her campaign stand ready to assist other netroots candidates to do their version of what we did here together. The more homers we hit in this upcoming election, the better we will all be.

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