Project Wonderful

Friday, October 17, 2014

Well That's Subtle

Somebody obviously did some message testing. Talk about grasping at straws.

Friday, October 10, 2014

What I Wish I Had Known at 30 With Rachel Goodman

Rachel Goodman,34, Chief of Staff for New York City Councilmember Brad Lander

Rachel gave me my first job as a campaign manager (for the aforementioned Brad Lander.) For those of you interested in going from campaigns to running the show, Rachel is your girl. I am definitely in awe of her ability to balance her jobs plus baby!

1) Tell us a little about your career path.
I actually went to acting school for college, so I like to joke that I barely even have a college degree. But by the time I graduated I realized professional acting was not in my future, and I had always done a little bit of political activism growing up, so when my then-boyfriend, now-husband wanted to move Washington, DC I figured I would go along. I got a job with a political consulting firm, which exposed me to the whole world of campaigns. After a few years there, I “hit the road” and did a whole bunch of different campaigns. Then I ended up back in New York, with the Working Families Party, where I oversaw our efforts on a bunch of different NYC races. One of those races was Brad Lander’s race for a New York City Council seat in Brooklyn, and when he won, I came on as his chief of staff. And I’ve been with him for the last 5 years.

2) What are you most proud of?
Professionally, I am most proud of the effort that Brad and I coordinated in 2013 to elect a bunch of new progressive Councilmembers to the City Council, and elect a progressive Council Speaker. We helped double the Council’s progressive caucus from 10 to 20 members, and elect one of the Caucus co-chairs, Melissa Mark-Viverito, to be the first Latino Speaker. Personally, it is that I am raising a charming almost-two year old, while working full time, and managing (most days) to feel fairly on top of things. Plus, you now, the existence of the charming two year old.

3) What is the best advice you've received?
Enjoy your periods of unemployment. During my time campaigning, I had a lot of in-between-jobs time, and sometimes I was able to use those down periods to travel, read and hang out with friends. And sometimes I spent the whole time refreshing my inbox and freaking out about my next job. I know it is so hard to live with the uncertainty, but once you are back on the campaign trail you will really wish you had made better use of your

4) What is the worst advice you've received?
Even if you are miserable in a job stay at least a year so you don’t burn bridges. Life is way too short to hate what you do, and if you aren’t happy, you should get out, no matter how short a time you have been there. I had one job in my career that I truly hated, and I knew within 6 weeks that I was going to be miserable. But I stayed for 18 months because I didn’t want to burn the professional connection. In retrospect I really regret all the hateful time that I spent there.

5) What lesson are you still trying to learn?
How to stay in one place! I got off the campaign trail because I needed more stability in my life, but I really miss the variety of having a new job every 6 months. It’s been a real adjustment to settle in to one place, and find ways to create new challenges and opportunities for myself.

6) What was the best thing about being in your 20's?
Being responsible only for myself. Even if I wanted to run off and join a presidential campaign, or move to California, or back pack through Asia, I couldn’t because I have people who are counting on me to be home for dinner. When I was younger, I didn’t have that, and so had a lot more professional and personal freedom.

7) What one thing should I absolutely do before I turn 30?
Take a long trip by yourself. It’s not really an age thing, but 30 is as good an occasion as any. When I was younger I took a three week trip to Australia by myself, and it was the best thing I have ever done.

8) What's the best thing about being in your 30's?
I still remember when I was in college one of my teachers talking about turning 30 and saying “it’s such a relief not to be ‘a woman in her 20s anymore.’” That really stuck with me. It is hard to be taken seriously professional as a woman and it helps to not be such a “young woman” anymore. 22 year old men can be “wunderkinds,” but women in their 20s are just seen as flighty.

9) What are you looking forward to?
Oh man. Sleeping past 6am again at some point?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Ask An Election Nerd: Lazy Incumbents

Hi Nancy,

First off, I have to say I am in love with your Tumblr. I die laughing at how applicable the things you post are to my own situations.

I just wanted to see if you had any advice for a first time campaign manager pretty much doing everything on their own? To give you some background, I am working for a long time incumbent. He is a beloved member of our statehouse and has years of experience. But he won't do anything! He tells me he goes out on walks, but from our database I can tell it's not true. And no one will volunteer because he's a "sure thing." HA! The problem is we only won 52% in the Primary, voter turn out was appalling, and we are in a killer swing district. But I am the only one doing work for our campaign; calls, doorbelling, signs, "recruitment." It's brutal. I am a highly driven and motivated person, but this has left me "campaignsick," and I'm not sure I'd ever do this work again even though it's all the things I love (interacting with people, politics, being organized, leading).

I'm sure he will win, but our party is always pressuring us for better numbers, more calls, more doors. Am I just failing or is this a common problem? I'm not sure I can make it until November... 36 days 6 hours 36 minutes 43 seconds...

Thanks again for all you do, and any advice you have to make it through!


Before I answer I want to point out, this is how you ask a question. I hate when people send me anonymous messages like, "any advice if I don't get along with my campaign manager?" I want to help, but how am I supposed to answer that? So kudos to you sir, for providing context and for writing in complete sentences.

On to your query! Look, you can only control what you can control. Beyond the occasional pep talk that every candidate needs, if your candidate is not motivated by external factors like building the party, being good at his job and keeping his seat, there's nothing you're going to be able to do as the campaign manager to light that fire. It sounds like you were hired by either the party or the candidate to look like they were doing something, without actually having to do something themselves.

Your candidate should not be lying to you; that's just disrespectful. If I were you, I would confront him about the discrepancies in your numbers and say something like "if you don't want to do the work, it's your candidacy, but I can't do my job at all if you're not truthful with me." Then I would come up with a new plan for exactly what he expects from you and you from him for the next 27 days (sorry it took me a while to get to this question.) When you have this discussion you need to accept that maybe he's just not going to knock or do other things you'd want him to in a Cadillac (or even like Corolla) campaign plan. In order for you to know what you're working with, you need your candidate to feel like he can be honest with you about what he's actually willing to do or you're back at square one. Then, you plan the best damn GOTV you can from there. Does he have even 5 friends and family members who can commit to helping out between now and the election? It's shitty and he's being shitty but you can only do the best with what you've got. For what it's worth, I think you'd be within your rights to quit, but that doesn't sound like something you want to do at this point, which is equally understandable.

Please don't let this turn you off from campaign work! It sounds like you have good instincts and the temperament to do this job. Every campaign is a disaster in it's own way. Learning how to deal with the particular foibles of each situation is part of what helps you learn and makes it interesting, but what you are describing is in no way par for the course. Now you know what to watch out for in a job so that you can have a more productive experience next time.

Thanks for writing! I hope I helped!

Campaign Love and Mine,


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Monday, October 6, 2014

Ask An Election Nerd: An Open Letter To The People Complaining About Political Phone Calls

Editor's Note: This question was not submitted, but rather a compilation of complaints I've received over the years. If you are a campaign worker, I hope you find it cathartic and if you are a voter, I hope you find it informative. CL&M, Nancy

It is the day before the Democratic primary in my state and my phone is ringing off the hook! I'm political donor and a super voter so why are these campaigns bother me? This can't possibly be effective. It's annoying and an invasion on my time! Make it stop!

Let me take a deep breath. Knowing the people who make these calls, knowing how effective they can be and knowing the verbal abuse and self-righteousness callers suffer at the hands of people who don't fully understand or appreciate the callers or their purpose, it's hard to not get defensive and even angry. But stepping back a little, I can see why the phone calls must be annoying. Trust me, they're pretty annoying to make. I'd like to believe that as someone who cares about the success of Democratic candidates and the right to engage in the political process you would be more empathetic if they could see the bigger picture, so let's break this down a little.

Different types of calls are well...different.

The first thing to understand is that not all phone calls are created equal. Calls can be live or recorded, paid or volunteer. This matters because these factors influence how effective calls are (and also how indignant I am.) There is some research to indicate that recorded robocalls are not effective at all. I do think robocalls can be helpful to let people know about an event, an endorsement, or to combat last minute misinformation being distributed aimed at voter suppression, (for example if your opponent's campaign was telling your supporters they need a to bring an ID to the polls when they do not) but in general we're in agreement here.

Live calls also fall into two categories: persuasion and GOTV. Persuasion calls are likely to go to what you call "super-voters." As a field director, if I am very confident that you are going to vote, but not sure who you are supporting, you and voters like you will be my top priority to persuade. These are the calls you were probably getting the day before the Democratic primary. The good news is that now that the primary is over, you are less likely to get these types of calls because campaigns will recognize that you are a partisan voter and not try to spend their time persuading you. In the future, if you want to reduce the number of persuasion calls you receive, you should let the caller know who you plan to vote for the first time they call, which should take you out of that campaign's persuasion universe.

Get out the vote calls, on the other hand, usually focus on voters who have an inconsistent voting history. If you don't always vote, but when you do you vote Democrat, I am going to want to make sure that you make it to the polls. Especially on election day itself, GOTV calls may also go to frequent voters, because campaigns want to take nothing for granted. The best way to cut down on the number of these calls is to simply let the caller know that you have already voted (assuming, of course, that you have.)

Except for on Election Day and barring a mistake, when voters say they have received three calls from a campaign on the same day they are either confused or exaggerating. It is more likely that they have received calls from outside organizations who are supporting a candidate with whom candidate campaigns are not legally allowed to coordinate. When it comes to get out the vote efforts in the general election, most state parties run coordinated campaigns, which should in theory reduce the number of individual phone calls you receive. (Why it may not is explained here in a post about campaign coordination.)

Yes, the calls are effective and scientific.

Inevitably, when I explain to people that live calls are (or at least can be) effective, I get back some variation of "well that's not my experience." I implore you to consider for a moment that this is not a matter of your individual experience. Maybe you do respond to these calls without even realizing it, or maybe you don't, but statistically blind experiments show the power of Get Out the Vote calls to a far greater extent than individual voters like to admit. People who claim that the science behind direct voter contact is flawed because they don't respond to phone calls, remind me of the people who deny studies proving the existence of climate change because their house is cold. This is about the big picture and while you are entitled to be annoyed by the methods that are proven to increase voter turnout, the facts and research, not to mention the far more extensive experience of political professionals, are not up for debate.

You mentioned (with pride) that callers refer to you as "super voter." This is no accident. Studies show that voters are more likely to turn out for an election when call scripts reference voting as a positive aspect of a voter's identity. For this reason I encourage my candidates to add "thank you for being a good citizen who votes" to the end of their GOTV scripts. Similar studies also found that encouraging voters to create a "voting plan," letting them know that the caller is local, and telling them that this election will see high turnout also increase participation.

When it comes to low engagement voters, political scientists Lisa Garcia Bedolla and Melissa Michelson conducted "268 get-out-the-vote field experiments...across six electoral cycles" and concluded that "what really mobilizes these voters is repeated personal contacting." In fact, studies repeatedly find that targeted phone calls with personal messages are one of the best ways to mobilize voters, second only to door-to-door canvassing. Evidence is particularly strong when calls are delivered by volunteers.

It is more difficult to find research on persuasion phone calls because direct voter contact (calls and canvassing) is almost always layered with other methods like direct mail and media. However we know that voter persuasion is effective and we know that phone calls are an effective way of changing voter behavior, so we can extrapolate that persuasion calls are probably an effective mechanism, at very least for reinforcing persuasion messages delivered in other mediums.

Traditionally field (the direct voter contact portion of campaigns) can make a difference of about 2-5%, which in many elections is the ballgame.

But they're calling me in my home!

I know none of this addresses the fact that the phone calls are annoying, so imagine something with me if you would. Imagine that you are not in a position to donate money to the candidates of your choosing. Imagine that you are chronically ill and without healthcare. Imagine you have a son or daughter who is gay and being bullied at school. Imagine you've been the victim of domestic violence and your incumbent member of congress supports repealing the Violence Against Women Act. Now imagine that you know how effective these calls are and that this is your only means of influencing how other people vote, (which, by the way, has direct consequences for you own quality of life.) How many calls would you make to save your job, your health insurance, or your child? So yes, my volunteers are bothering you at home but I bet they wish that getting a couple of annoying phone calls was their biggest problem.

These people could be resigned to do nothing, but instead they are taking what little political agency is afforded to them. The thing that I love most about field is that no matter how much mud gets slung, how much money gets spent, how many outside interests are involved, it can still come down to neighbors talking to neighbors. Given what's at stake in these elections, it kinda seems like a small price to pay.

In conclusion...

Yes, it's annoying. Making them is annoying. Like really, really annoying especially when people we're calling are hostile and sometimes even vitriolic toward the callers. Believe me, there are much more lucrative and comfortable careers than mine. But I do it, and my volunteers and coworkers do it, because we care about this country and we need your vote to help make a difference. So thank you for taking the time to listen. Thank you for being understanding when we call in the future. Thank you for supporting our candidates. And thank you, for being a good citizen who votes.

Campaign Love and Mine,


Friday, October 3, 2014

5 (Well-Intentioned?) Faux Feminist Mistakes That Need To Stop Now

Is it me or is feminism being discussed more than usual these days? Everyone wants to know which celebrities do and don't identify as feminists and there's no consensus as to what feminism really even means. It should come as no surprise then that even among self-proclaimed feminists the standards for and definition of feminism remain unclear. While this post is neither explicitly about campaigns nor elections it is on a topic we discuss with great frequency and that is integral to our work. Far be it for me to tell you you're feministing wrong, but I'm going to. Here are five behaviors masquerading as feminism (fauxmenisms) that we need to stop in order for us to truly move forward.

1) Father of Daughters. The Toast really nails this one. Father of daughters feminism is the cliche that as a father you become protective of your daughters and it causes you to see women differently. It's that old adage that you should "treat every woman as if she were your wife or your mother." It's sweet, and well-meaning and couched in old school family values. It's also super problematic. (Oh yes, I'm breaking out the P word.)

First, you shouldn't need to have a female child to know not to treat women like objects. I don't need to push out a black baby to know not to be racist. Second, it reinforces the idea that women only deserve respect because of their relationships to men. As tumblr has pointed out, "Male privilege is “I have a boyfriend” being the only thing that can actually stop someone from hitting on you because they respect another male-bodied person more than they respect your rejection/lack of interest." You should respect me because all people deserve basic respect, not because I am another man's girlfriend/sister/wife/daughter/mother.

2) I'm Not Like Other Girls (aka internalized misogyny). This is a mistake of which I have been cringe-inducingly guilty. Many was the time in my early 20's that because of my sense of humor, my ambition or my majority male group of friends I proclaimed that I was "not like most girls." Again, the Hairpin nails it. The problem with "not like most girls" is that it almost always implies that other girls are trivial, superficial, insecure or just plain stupid, that being 'like a girl' is negative. It reinforces the myth that being "like a girl" means being any one thing in particular and that that thing is less than. In reality, you are both like and not like "most girls" because each woman is an individual, which is one thing we definitely have in common.

3) Being All About That Bass (aka fake size acceptance). Megan Trainor's All About That Bass, while being a fun catchy pop anthem highlights (at least) two fauxmenist problems. Warning: only read this article if you want that song ruined for you forever. First, the song fires shots in the imaginary war between "skinny" and "curvy" women. Let's look at the line, "I'm bringing booty back, go ahead and tell those skinny bitches that." As a woman who definitely falls closer to the curvy side of this spectrum, I think body acceptance, especially in popular culture is a great thing, but body acceptance means acceptance of ALL bodies. It is an absolute farce to imply that for me to be attractive or acceptable someone who looks different has to not be. The internal struggle between skinny and curvy women is entirely constructed by society to oppress women and sell things. Body autonomy is a tenets of any modern feminism and means, among other things, that my body is no one's business but my own.

This brings me to point number two. "My mama she told me don't worry about your size. She said 'boys like a little more booty to hold at night.'" My body is okay because I say so, not because "despite" its shape and size it is sexually attractive to men.

4) Intersectional Feminist "Experiments" (aka fat suit feminism). Recently a skinny woman posted pictures of herself on Tinder and then went on the real life dates wearing a fat suit. Unsurprisingly, people were outraged and not just the French showers of men whom she met up with. First of all, no one needs a social "experiment" to prove that society is cruel to fat women. We have that experiment. It's called society. This was basically an experiment in cruelty porn. Second, pulling the ol' pictoral bait and switch subtly pokes at the notion that women who don't conform to a particular standard are somehow inauthentic or not real women.

Finally, and here is the rub, SHE GETS TO TAKE IT OFF. I had the same problem reading Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed where the author goes "undercover" as a minimum wage worker in America. Integral to the experience of being fat, or black, or poor, or trans* is that the end of the day, you're still that way.You probably always have been/will always be that way. For this reason no experiment can ever even come close to replicating these kinds of lived experiences because privilege is not a fat suit you can take on and off. Laura Beck puts it perfectly in her article for Cosmopolitan.
"No matter how many times Tyra Banks puts on a fat suit and walks through public to prove ... I'm not sure what she's trying to prove ... she'll never understand the issues of being a Real Life Fat Woman. When you present yourself as a caricature of a fat woman, you don't bring yourself — or any non-fat people — any closer to understanding another woman's life, and you perpetuate plenty of gross myths and half truths about what it's like to be fat. The main one being, that fat people lie about their bodies to get dates."
5)Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminism (aka being an asshole). I've unintentionally listed these in order of the level of rage they produce in me, so please give me a moment to compose myself. Of all the fauxmenisms mentioned here, TERFism is the most difficult to write about because it is so particularly hate soaked and dangerous. Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists basically deny the existence of (and often persecute) trans* people because TERFs believe that gender is socially constructed and sex is the only real difference between women and men. The idea is that you can't be a woman if you were born with a penis, because not being born with a penis is what makes you a woman.

First, this brand of fauxmenism is particularly deplorable because it leads to harassment of trans* people. We can argue all day about the extent to which gender is nature or nurture or performance or something in between but that's really beside the point. This goes back to body autonomy. I alone own myself body and soul and I choose how I am defined, not you. Making yourself the arbiter of who is and isn't a "real" woman is a slippery and counterproductive slope. Finally, feminism should not produce discrimination on the basis of traditional expectations of sex and gender. In fact, that's the opposite of what feminism is supposed to do.

If these fauxmenisms have one thing in common, it's that they qualify the conditions under which women deserve respect. Newsflash: All women deserve respect and opportunity, because all people deserve respect and opportunity, and women and girls are half of people. For me, that's what feminism comes down to and if you've got that down then chances are you're doing it mostly right.

Until next time.

Feminist Campaign Love and Mine,

Thursday, October 2, 2014

THIS is How You Do a "Girly" Themed Political Ad to Appeal to Young Women

So yesterday I freaked out about patronizing Republican ads for talking to me like I was literally a dumber less independent version of Polly Pocket. But hey, I like funny things! I like parodys! This one really nails it. The difference between Megan MacKay's parody and this and this is that MacKay talks about real issues and uses her make up tutorial to satirize the myth that young single female voters are superficial.

Also I learned from watching this that #CosmoVotes is a thing, so look forward to more on that soon.