Building Long-Term Progressive Capacity

Charlie Burr

There’s been a lot of discussion on this site about how the progressive movement in Oregon could be strengthened, but I wanted to let folks know about a program being organized this summer, PolitiCorp, which is exactly the type of thing progressives should be embracing.

Organized by the Oregon Bus Project, this program will engage future leaders in a meaningful, hands-on internships including learning organizing skills along with a good balance of policy study and analysis. It’s an eleven-week intense training program, and promises to be pretty hot.

Most importantly, it’s a great example of engaging the grassroots in cost effective political work while building long-term progressive capacity.

Training the hotshots of tomorrow will be former Governors Barbara Roberts and John Kitzhaber, kick-ass pollster Lisa Grove, budget guru Steve Novick, and BlueOregon’s own Kari Chisholm along with many, many others.

But to be successful, they’ll need help. Specifically, the organizers are looking for two main things:

* Help spreading the word to potential candidates. To get full application details, visit the Oregon Bus Project’s Politicorp site.

* Housing for folks. If you’d like to host a student, please give a call to Julie Duryea at 503.233.3018.

Also, to run a program like this free of charge for the students takes money, so if you’re so inclined, you can donate online by clicking on the banner ad to the right of your screen.

Again, this program has the potential to make a long-term impact in our state, and is the type of positive, proactive program that moves progressives forward. 30 second TV spots have their place, but this training will focus on the type of back-to-basics organizing skills which make all the difference. And a good time will be had by all!

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    the righties are always going to have more money so we'd be wise to focus on our ground game. Good luck with the program!

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    Hey folks, there's no info on this great program at the Politicorps link above??

    Found this on The Bus Project's website (towards the bottom of the homepage)

    From the Directors of Trick or Vote and other b*tchin' youth and young adult programs, comes PolitiCorps. The critics have already weighed in: "Sweeeet!" - Napoleon D. "So good that it deserves its own colored plastic bracelet!" - manufacturer of LiveStrong wristbands "The best political immersion program outside of DC!" - biased Bus person

    Calling all students. Looking for your next bold move? We invite all college students to apply for PolitiCorps. Oh future leader of Oregon and/or the nation, leap into action. It's a one-of-a-kind opportunity. Participants of the program will:

    network with existing Oregon leadership be exposed to the electoral process – and (potentially) ballot initiative campaign management learn aspects of grassroots organizing such as message development and delivery, fundraising, talking to the press, etc. help lead cutting edge political projects and events attend classes each week led by civic leaders, public officials, motivated activists and leaders of the creative class and then some...

    And you won't be alone. With our mentor/buddy system, you will be supported throughout the program. Apply here for the summer or apply for the year, depending on who you are: College students, download the summer program application. College students graduating in May/June 2005, check out the year long program application.

    All college students welcome to apply for summer, including graduating seniors. Graduating seniors, however, are encouraged to check out the year long program

    These links include job descriptions too! I know, I know: Wow.

    The Deadline for all applications is rolling (much like the wheels on the bus), but the sooner you get your application in the more likely there will be available positions, so apply now

    Please send completed applications to our new address: 333 SE 2nd Ave., Portland, OR 97214

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    Albert.... Obviously, that link was no good. I've now fixed it. Thanks for heads up!

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    Hunter writes -

    "the righties are always going to have more money so we'd be wise to focus on our ground game. Good luck with the program!"

    Wrong. Don't you remember recent history? We were raising all kinds of money this last election cycle.

    Switching gears - I don't think this "Election College" that the Bus Project folks are organizing is a bad thing by any means, but I wonder if is what will really work.

    I have come to believe that electioneering as we have known it doesn't work as well as we think it does, and probably back-fires in rural areas. See my essay on this at the Crook Co. Democratic web site - Go to thoughts, and click on the electioneering essay.

    There is that old saying, "making the same mistakes, and expecting different results is the definition of insanity." Hopefully the "Election College" would have a new orientation, and not more of the same old.

    Switching direction again, it appears to me that you have to either be a poor as a churched mouse to run for office (nothing to lose), or as rich as Midas (can afford the time off) to run for office. I know that while I might have an interest in running against the idiot Republican currently seated as the State Representative of my district (low voltage George Gilman), I simply cannot afford to run, and if elected could not afford to serve. Taking six or more months off out of every two year cycle really kills your business when you are self employed. When your trading partners can't depend on you, they find someone else. I couldn't take the time off to do the legislature without giving up my income - and the wages paid to Legislators don't even begin to come close to my current income.

    I think that this is a core underlying problem for finding people to run. We are limited to retired people, wealthy people, or others that have independent means (married to a well employed person for example). So, it isn't that we don't know how to run for office, we literally can't find people able to run.

  • LT (unverified)

    Steve, I agree that sometimes we can't find people to run.

    But at the risk of alienating people who are tired of hearing this, there were some very qualified people running in Marion County in 2004. For reasons well spelled out in Steve's excellent essay on "electioneering", unless someone has a powerbase and can afford to ignore whatever caucus operation there is in 2006, there may be a problem recruiting for another reason. Word of mouth spreads without any knowledge of people who do not live in the area. And I would not be surprised if an effort to recruit a candidate in a place like Marion County didn't result in the response "After the way that ____ was treated, you expect me to run??"

    But in a totally different vein, those of you who live in or near Portland should go to the LWV forum. I would go if it were closer. A friend sent this to me so I could send it to friends. And this looks like a good place to share it with BlueOregon.

    "What's happened to our political parties and what can we do about it?"

    On Tuesday, April 12, at 7 p.m., the League of Women Voters of Portland will present a panel to discuss the role of political parties in our democracy; whether they are part of the problem or part of the solution, whether we need more of them, stronger versions of them, or both; and current proposals for reform.

    The panel will be moderated by League Member Barbara Dudley, adjunct professor at PSU's Mark Hatfield School of Government. Panelists will be Tim Nesbitt, President of the Oregon AFL-CIO; Dan Cantor, Executive Director of New York state's Working Families Party; State Senator Charlie Ringo (D-Beaverton); State Senator Ben Westlund (R-Deschutes Co.) and Kappy Eaton, Past State President, League of Women Voters of Oregon, and current Governance Coordinator of its State Action Committee.

    First Unitarian Church, 1011 SW 12th Avenue (12th and Main), Portland. Public is invited! Suggested donation $2.

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    LT, you threw out an aside that I think is worth exploring... unless someone has a powerbase...

    Are you suggesting that we should run candidates who have NOT yet done the hard work of meeting voters in their community, getting well-known as a thoughtful leader, and already had the opportunity, means, and ability to make meaningful change?

    Is a legislative run supposed to be the place for training wheels?

    Methinks not. Caucus operation or no, anyone who seriously thinks they ought to be in the legislature making state policy ought to a) know a few people, b) have made positive change already, and c) be recognized as thoughtful on the issues by their community. Right?

    The most outrageous thing that I hear from time to time is when someone is out organizing their friends, neighbors, and like-minded souls to actively make positive change - and the criticism comes firing back, "Yeah, he's just doing that to build a base to run for office." My only response: "Oh yeah? If you want to run, why aren't you out organizing people in your free time?"

    Isn't that exactly what we want people to do?

  • LT (unverified)

    Are you suggesting that we should run candidates who have NOT yet done the hard work of meeting voters in their community, getting well-known as a thoughtful leader, and already had the opportunity, means, and ability to make meaningful change?

    What I am suggesting is the question of whether there are any next generation Jim Hill or Peter Courtney candidates out there.

    Peter Courtney was a well known city council member when he ran for the legislature. Jim Hill was well known in the community when he ran for state rep. One neighborhood coffee for him had about 45 people. As a state rep. running for state senator he was known by many in the local middle school as "Jennifer's Dad"--definitely known in the community!

    I still remember my boss the summer before the 1980 election. "You shouldn't get your hopes up. No Democrat has ever won in that district, and you are campaigning for a black Democrat besides".

    When the list of W. Coast candidates who lost in 1980 because Carter conceded to Reagan before our polls closed was compiled, Jim Hill was on that list--the recount result was something like 60 votes.

    But I still remember that election and the one in 1982 where he won handily. The steering committee was local folks. No one from a central office somewhere was telling him what precincts he should canvass when, or that he needed to spend more time raising money and less time on such grass roots activities like neighborhood coffees and going door to door. People didn't talk about "the electeds" and "approved vendors"--phrases I have heard too often in the last several months.

    Why is there a need for something like FuturePac, where the money goes into a central location and some say there is not enough transparency? What I meant was that there should be a local focus, where money and volunteers go into the local campaign, not into a caucus operation and then those working for that central operation say things like "we back those candidates who do what needs to be done" without specifying what those things are. The power to make decisions should be in the district, not in some central office.

    That, to me, is what makes grass roots politics different from the centralized, consultant-driven efforts which I believe Howard Dean opposes. Which is why Dean's "we want our party back" attitude is so revolutionary.

  • Solon (unverified)

    This all sounds like nice touchy feely stuff, but is it going to work? I have to say I have my doubts. Understanding how this whole "progressive" thing works in Oregon, it seems the only successful project to connect “Progressives” is to invite them to drink liquor at a bar. As for emails about stuff that actually matters to furthering the "progressive" cause, I am still waiting to get one of those.

    I was surprised by the creation of Politicorp. I thought maybe the left-wing elites learned their lesson about throwing money down the drain on lost causes. This new pitch, in my opinion, is just more of the same old “putting the money to waste, but hey, at least we got Kitzhaber to speak” Even if he doesn’t have anything good to say. Or maybe it is just another resume builder for Jefferson Smith. Well regardless, I guess it is high time that those $200 a plate dinners for Kitzhaber and Roberts pays off. Finally, they can put a little sweat equity into the movement by sharing their “genius”.

    What would be nice is for an actual revamping of the Democratic Party. Why not waste some money over there, so that we can actually beat the OR GOP. Seems Mannix is a flounder waiting to be filleted, but we can’t get the knife sharpened fast enough.

    What boggles me is that there are many activists waiting on the DPO list to be massaged, but instead nobody calls or writes them. The amusing thing is that every time I call the DPO to find out what is going on, Pender is in some meeting or out of the office. Probably golfing, I bet. But, instead of focusing on the problems, the elites want to waste more money on training students that don’t even vote. I am curious, what is the training squad going to pocket for this little exercise?

    Anyways, maybe a better focus, as has been suggested already, is to find some real candidates to run, so that we can actually take this state. The money could surely be used for excellent candidates that don’t have the cash to make a go of it. Must we always run rich lawyers and business owners? (To give credit, I think LT has made some really great points on the candidate aspect.)

    I guess to sum this all up; it appears that Politicorp is just another garbage project to give money to those that don’t need it. We have people trained and ready to go, so why are we going to train more? Especially, when they probably won’t even vote themselves. If you need to spend it on something, save it, so good, skilled staff can be hired. Doing it on the cheap is not something that is going to keep these “leaders of the future” around in politics, if they can’t even afford a loaf of bread.

    To close, hopefully someday the elites pulling the strings will get a clue that their same tired approach isn’t going anywhere. I am sure Oregon will go Republican before they that happens.

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    Solon, you throw a lot of rocks, and I won't get into a point-by-point, but I am seeing a pattern here that I'd like to discuss.

    On the one hand, we're hearing a lot on BlueOregon from folks who say things like "I want to help. No one calls me. When I volunteer, they have nothing for me to do."

    On the other hand, we all know that there were (and will be) dozens of campaigns putting hundreds of volunteers to work - some of them just building the base of the pyramid by calling in more volunteers. Anybody who's spent any time on a campaign, paid or volunteer, has done time calling down a list of hundreds of people asking them to show up.

    And here's the rub. It's really, really hard to get people to show up. And yet, here we are now, with people telling us that nobody ever calls 'em.

    Either one of two things is going on. Somehow, miraculously, you (and the others) have managed to avoid getting on the various volunteer databases. Or, you (and the others) are not interested in doing the things that campaigns have for you to do. Making calls, stuffing envelopes, planting lawn signs, going door to door, standing on freeway overpasses, handing out lit, etc.

    To paraphrase Charlie Burr from another thread, "You know, we'd rather just take a couple of shifts on a phone bank - never mind your brilliant strategic thinking."

    Is that what's going on here? Or am I all wet?

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    Actually, you're both right, Solon and Kari.

    Most groups and campaigns out there need a lot of help. But many (dare I say most?) are really really bad at using volunteers. Names get lost, databases don't get updated, and turn-out calls don't get made. Because that takes time, and often volunteers end up being flaky, or more trouble than they're worth. I can't tell you the number of times I've signed up to help, or to be put on e-mail lists, etc. and gotten nothing in exchange.

    Or how many times I've gotten 30 volunteers to sign up for something and had 15 show up. Or how many times I've put 12 hours into training a volunteer only to have them decide they'd rather do something else.

    I don't know where the DPO is on the spectrum.

    But it's entirely possible that they're somewhere in the middle -- not calling everyone, but calling people they know they can count on. Because sometimes organizations simply don't have the resources in volunteer management that they should, and the tried and true are the most efficient group of folks to go after and get.

    I don't think it's a Republican v. Democrat thing, I think it's unique to each organization. So if you want to help out, sign up for some of the groups that are good at using volunteers, Solon. Or hell -- start your own, if you've got a lot of energy to use.

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    ....or just start showing up and being useful. Standing around exclaiming, "why doesn't anyone have something for me to do?" isn't useful.

    I've been on a lot of campaigns where someone just showed up, started working on something that wasn't getting done, and then never went away. Those folks are the campaign rockstars - the people you don't have to ask. They just show up and do.

    One prime example: a guy named Sean Sinclair, who showed up one day on the Hooley '96 campaign. He worked hard and wouldn't go away. By 2002, he was Kulongoski's campaign manager. Today, he's a leading political adviser to Senator Harry Reid.

    Just show up. Hard, good work will get noticed and rewarded.

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    Hey Guys:

    I was worried this posts might not be controversial enough to really warrant that many threads- guess I was a little off base.

    To respond to some of the comments:

    Steve Buckman: The trainers are folks who have experience WINNING tough races (not just running them) and are interested in passing on skills to younger activists. Lisa Grove, who will be talking about messaging and market research, has won 41 out of 41 ballot measures for example.

    I am not aware of many other pollsters with that record.

    Now, it's true that Kerry and Bush had roughly the same $$, but overall, there's generally more conservative money out there than for progressives. There will always be exceptions, but last cycle, my campaign was outspent by nearly $4 million.

    Steve, you've mentioned the rural vs. urban divide on several posts, and might be interested to know that this will be a focus of one of the classes. Also, in addition to field work, students will be required to do service projects throughout the state. I'd love to hear your thoughts (offline) on what some useful projects could look like in your neck of the woods.

    Solon: I've been fundraising for this (pro bono) so it will not be something that just caters to the "elites." The whole point of raising the money is so we don't make it cost prohibitive for the kids to participate and we get a diverse group.

    Also, the program's about more than just winning some elections- we're seeking to engage people with skills that they can use to improve their communitites, either through the political process or otherwise.

    I agree with you (and Evan) that some campaigns don't use volunteers as effectively as they could. All the more reasons to train people how to do this, no?

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    LT, I skipped you, my apologies. You wrote:

    What I am suggesting is the question of whether there are any next generation Jim Hill or Peter Courtney candidates out there.

    I hear what you are saying. The dream scenario for this program, and obviously we can't guarantee this, is that by engaging the best and brightest now, we end up training the next Tom McCall, Defazio, Hill, or Courtney.

    I can tell you I looked over some of the applications last night, and I was extremely impressed. But obviously those are some big shoes to fill.

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    Re: "Salon"

    Hmm.... went to last progressive happy hour.... not happy with Jeff Smith......thinks that he has a better idea of how to run campaigns that people with actual experience.... is under the impression that Ds are losing statewide when we're not....unnecessarily sarcastic and self-important...

    Salon, I have to warn you that a self-appointed "strategist" by the name of Jenson Hagen may have taken over your email account.

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    I had the opportunity to attend the Governor's candidate training for the last election cycle. It featured many of the speakers that are on the roster for the Bus Project gig, and (along with the League of Women Voters training) it was the most useful distillation of best practices and practical advice that I saw during the election cycle.

    It seems to me that there are a couple of levels here and both are important. First, as many have commented, you have to hear what works from people that have made it work in any and all environments. Second, the individual candidates and their staffers have to customize within the framework laid out by the pros. I can look back on '04 and see where many candidates flat refused to do the drudge work of knocking on thousands of doors over the course of scores of days. Not mentioning specific races, it's still inevitable that these unsuccessful guys who refused to take input would in turn blame the larger organizations like FuturePAC that tried to make it happen.

    The second part goes to concerns voiced by Steve B and LT among others. How to customize and disseminate the message. Yesterday I read this article which was forwarded to me from the Rural Organizing Project. The author cites Mormon missionaries as an example of committed volunteerism.

    He also offers the concrete examples of crushing credit card debt and lack of health services as two pocketbook issues that can show Republicans as the fiscal enemies of the "man in the street".

    This seven page article is more useful in a practical way than "Elephant" and "Kansas" combined.

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    Or maybe it is just another resume builder for Jefferson Smith

    I don't know JS that well, but I do see him, and have seen him at lots of events. And what's wrong with building a big resume - isn't that the way we get to run for the bigger offices?

    I think the sooner we figure out how to support each others' leadership instead of bashing each other, the sooner we'll take out Gordon Smith, and take back the Oregon House of Representatives.

    There's not a great model out there for us to draw on, so we'll just have to make it up as we go along. We could start with "treat others as you'd like to see yourself be treated", gossip about others less, and we could just be outlandishly supportive whether the other person is perfect or not.

    Here's a start: I see Jefferson Smith doing some good, hard work organizing this thing called the Bus Project. Which does interesting campaign stuff that I don't see happening in a similar way elsewhere. I raise my glass to Jefferson Smith and the Bus Project - ride on!

    To Kari Chisolm who provides this space for us to figure things out - kudos - it's fun, easy to use and perhaps may help us get out shit together.

    btw, just reading the current issue of YES! Magazine. It's all about media and has some cool stuff in it.

  • pdxkona (unverified)

    Here's the rub- I have yet to see anything concrete come out of the Bus Project. To me, they seem all talk and no effective action. Which in no way disregards the heart for the issues that many of them have; however they seem green in actual effective operations. This is why I am not on any of their volunteer lists; I don't volunteer for people who are incapable of effectively managing and utilizing my time and energy.

    I'm with you Salon on this one.

  • David Wright (unverified)

    Steve, I think you've hit on a very important point regarding legislative compensation.

    Granted, there are per diems and such involved when in session, but still the average middle-class citizen just can't afford to take that kind of time off without pay every couple of years from their "real" job to serve in the Legislature.

    I dunno how to get around the problem for those who are self-employed or have very small businesses that they just can't get away from. But how about the following modest proposals:

    • Boost legislative salaries to somewhere around $50K, give or take. With 90 legislators, that'd work out to less than $5M per year, seems like a reasonable expense in a multi-billion dollar budget.
    • Provide some sort of guaranteed leave policy, similar to protection for National Guard service, to require employers to allow employees extended leave to serve in the legislature.

    I'm just spitballing here. Any thoughts?

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    Here's the rub- I have yet to see anything concrete come out of the Bus Project. To me, they seem all talk and no effective action. Which in no way disregards the heart for the issues that many of them have; however they seem green in actual effective operations. This is why I am not on any of their volunteer lists; I don't volunteer for people who are incapable of effectively managing and utilizing my time and energy.

    I'm with you Salon on this one.

    I think there's room for many chefs in this kitchen. There's room for the Bus Project to send a bus filled with canvassers to a district in Salem or Ashland to support a progressive Dem or R, and there's room to spend money and time trying to improve the Dem Party. I also liked Solon's post believe it or not. And see the side that says: have a problem with the way things are being done? Get in there and start cooking!" which resonates with me, as well.

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    Hey Pdxkona Screw off.

    How many Hundred person canvass days have you put together? How many debates have you had with over 1000 people? How many of the candidates you worked for won? You're an idiot. You have no clue about the Bus. I probably would be nicer but you don't courage to post your real name.

    The Bus has only every tried to be value-added and we eat a ton of shit because of it and it’s pissing me off. Pdxkona, you ass, you should be on your knees thanking god that Jefferson quit his six figure job in New York to come back here and help start this thing. Ask Doc. Bates if the Bus is effective. If you have a clue as to who that is, you moron. I have never had minute of my time wasted but the Bus and I have spent more time working for them that just about anyone else. I’m glad you’re not on any of our lists because you’re a douche bag.

    Just to clarity about Solon's point of "wasting" money. The Bus does more with less than any other political organization in this state. So he can suck my ass too. I don't believe for one second that's Jensen. Jensen has the balls to use his real name and always has that's why even thought we don't agree all the time I like him.

    Kari sorry for the harsh language I think you're super. Edit away I’ll still love you.

    Joe Baessler

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    pdxkona: To me, they seem all talk and no effective action.

    I actually think contacting voters at the door is pretty effective (not that that's all they do), but what would you suggest they be working on? Are you saying that skills trainings are not effective?

    Also, for what organizations/campaigns do you volunteer usually?

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    As a manager of the Ringo vs. Witt race in 02, our campaign was the first beneficiary of a bus canvass. At the time, a lot of people thought that there wouldn't be 50 people showing up, let alone 100+, and that the numbers would trail off after that.

    They were wrong. Fair enough. But what's such horseshit is, skeptics should be HAPPY they got it wrong. The fact that there's real grassroots support for this type of activism is a good thing for progressives. To make the argument that the bus hasn't helped leg candidates or develop young leaders is pretty off the mark.

    The larger point here is that it will always be easier to sit on the sidelines and really not doing anything than to stick your neck out and think big. I have a lot more respect for someone who goes for greatness and comes up short than someone who sits on the sidelines second guessing everything, but never doing sh*t.

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    Now, now, boys... enough with the language.

    I happen to agree with Chubby and Charlie... The Bus Project is about organizing people to help make progresive change in this world.

    Sure, like every organization - and every political campaign - there's a lot of wasted effort. That comes with the turf. But do they accomplish great things? Yes. That's easy to see.

    I tend to think of political campaigns like those great old Viking sailing ships. As long as 70% of the oars are moving in rhythm and the right direction, that's success. Even if 20% are rowing backwards, and 10% are having waterfights.

    The media and the armchair strategists like to spend their time second-guessing TV ads - but the real work of politics is getting on the street and knocking on doors. Personally, I can't stand that stuff - but it's one of the only things that works every time.

    And here's to the Bus for making canvassing sexy again.

  • Jon Petkun (unverified)

    I'd like to throw in another opinion on Politicorps and the Bus. I happen to be a former intern of the Bus Project. The Bus prides itself on training future leaders. While I can't prophecy my own future, I can say that the Bus gave me a lot of the skills I'll need to create positive change in Oregon. Politicorps, which is a new addition to the Bus' repetoire, will only make the internships more intentional and more valuable. (By the way, if any would-be interns would like to contact me, I'd me more than happy to talk to ya'll about the experience)

    There isn't a whole lot that I need to say to defend the Bus itself... the Bus organizes more people for less money than anyone else out there, and it wins the elections it targets. That much is simple.

    I'd also like say that ya'll should be grateful to the Bus for making politics fun and accessible. It's the people like Chubby Gazelle who have fun in life. They're also the ones to get shit done. Solon, you clearly can't beat us, so join us. There's always a seat for you on the Bus (just not next to Joe, because he seems pretty effing pissed at you).

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    Albert Kaufman wrote -

    "Or maybe it is just another resume builder for Jefferson Smith

    I don't know JS that well, but I do see him, and have seen him at lots of events. And what's wrong with building a big resume - isn't that the way we get to run for the bigger offices?"

    Jefferson and I have corresponded some, and generally I disagree with him on several things, but also agree on some others. I told him, and I will tell any Democrat that generally we agree on 90 to 95% in our world views, and it is terribly unfortunate when we let that 5 to 10% disagreement give power to those we completely disagree with.

    I would vote for Jefferson Smith for Governor! Why the heck not, we agree on at least 89.999% in our world views!

    It's time to give up rock throwing and mud slinging at our friends, and concentrate on our real targets, those @#$%! Republicans.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    David Wright wrote -

    "I dunno how to get around the problem for those who are self-employed or have very small businesses that they just can't get away from. But how about the following modest proposals:

    Boost legislative salaries to somewhere around $50K, give or take. With 90 legislators, that'd work out to less than $5M per year, seems like a reasonable expense in a multi-billion dollar budget.

    Provide some sort of guaranteed leave policy, similar to protection for National Guard service, to require employers to allow employees extended leave to serve in the legislature.

    I'm just spitballing here. Any thoughts?"

    The first idea of a better annual salary makes sense. It would peg it slightly higher than $50K due to travel expense to Salem (its 150 miles from here in the center of the State), and then give it an inflation rider.

    The second idea I don't like so much. It would be a burden on employers, and it doesn't do a self-employed person like me any good at all (what would I do - guarantee myself that I'd rehire me?)

    Neither idea covers the expense and time that goes into the campaign before the election, but its not a perfect world.

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    Wow, Lots of comments on this thread. I hope it becomes an indication of the interest in the program.

    Some thoughts in response:

    "Bus effective?" I think so. It's always hard to tell the particular impact of any given input, but here's some data. Over the past 3 years, Bus volunteers have knocked on roughly 170,000 doors. They've supported 10 State Senate candidates. 9 of them have won. (With lots of help -- "Victory has a thousand fathers; Losing is an orphan.") All for the budget of less than a single targeted State Senate district. A story: the last time I remember make this "ineffective" critique was a (Republican) State House candidate in 2002 (I haven't met him, but I hear he's a pretty good guy), who reportedly said when told about the Bus: "sounds like a big waste of time." Subsequently, that election Bus volunteers knocked on over 3000 doors for his opponent, who won by 40 votes.

    Young People: Don't give up on them. In 2004, youth turned out at higher levels than any election since 1992 (Clinton's first election). And young people were the only age demographic that Kerry won. I also think that they are our best hope for a progressive future.

    Leadership Development has its advantages. Already, one of our kids has gone onto Stanford to start the Roosevelt Institute -- the first student-run think tank, and his model's being copied at other schools (he was just featured in the S.F. Chronicle). Charles McGee looks to be a real leader in the black community (currently running in a tough school board race). Sarah Masterson's about one of the most talented people with whom I've had the pleasure to work. There's more too. Building for the future often has almost immediate demonstrable results.

    Tim: Sorry if I was a jerk. I honestly don't remember being a jerk, but I suppose that's when we can each risk being one. Know also that while I think we're having a hard time winning on some pretty important issues statewide (school funding, environmental protection, Lottery fees, etc.), I actually have tremendous respect for the folks who have been working so hard in Oregon politics. I don't think we need a slaying of the elders and experts, I think we need more experts and more elders (along with more canvassers and activists, etc.). (Also, to be clear and contrary to occasional opinion, I know I can be a schmoe. But I'm all I've got.)

    Resume builder for Jefferson: Never thought of "grassroots organizer" as something that would boost my resume. Certainly not good for the pocketbook (or the ego, frankly, posts like that sorta sting -- oh well, we're all big boys). Hopefully a bit good for the State, though.

    Anonymous posts seem to post a bit of a problem in the blogspace. I'm very new to this weblog thing -- although I've been hanging out with Markos (of the Daily Kos) this week (namedropnamedropnamedrop) -- but it seems that the same bloke could post things agreeing with himself, thereby creating a false buzz. I don't know who the critics are (or "critic" is), but I do hope that we create a norm of naming ourselves in posts, so that we know if it's people with other motives at heart. (For instance, if I were a right-wing operative, I would spend time causing infighting among progressive folks, so they spent their time on those silly fights rather than trying to make the world better. Oh well. This last paragraph by me might have been sorta stupid use of pixels. Oh well.)

    $200 DINNERS: The Bus has never had one. Our events are 20-$25. Except when they're free. Pretty much grassroots to the core.

    "what is the training squad going to pocket for this little exercise?" Nothing, actually. The trainers are doing it as volunteers. Me too. It's pretty darn close to a "goodness of the heart" thing. I think this program is actually a pretty darn effective use of resources. (Not only will it build for the future, but each intern will also spend time in the field doing good work (be it political/electoral or nonpartisan/civic).)

    Back to PolitiCorps: I really hope we can get the focus back on the program (and certiainly not me or my jerkiness. The credit for PolitiCorps, by the way, should not go to me, but to Julie Duryea, the Director of the Program). I think this is among the most exciting things the we've ever helped with. This week, at a conference (where I am right now) I have shared the idea with Arianna Huffington, Eli Pariser of MoveOn, Jeff Blodgett (Wellstone's original campaign manager), Cecile Richards of America Votes, Iara Peng of "Young People For", Billy Wimsatt of the League of Young Voters, Mike Huttner of ProgressNow, Hans Reimer of Rock the Vote, and a bunch of other interesting folks. So far, the feedback for the model is amazing. I think it could be a model for the nation -- and I personally really want Oregon to do more of that pioneering stuff.

    In any event, I hope all the vigor of this blog is translated into canvassing days in the next election.

    Jeff out.

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    but it seems that the same bloke could post things agreeing with himself, thereby creating a false buzz.

    I don't know how prevalent this is on national-level blogs, but I've encountered it rarely locally. The one time it definitely happened, I and my readers outed the problem as being caused either by the son, or friends of the son, of one of the local mayoral candidates.

    Mainly, people just need to pay attention and try to catch it if it happens.


  • Saul (unverified)

    While I may be redundant to Joe Baessler's comments in response to pdxkona, I have to say it again – screw off.

    It's obvious that you're not on any of the Bus's volunteer lists – 'cause if you had shown up for anything they have done - you'd have seen what concrete is. Image 250 volunteer canvasser giving up a sunny Saturday afternoon to sit in the hot sun and get trained to go out to talk face to face (widely held as the most effective way to persuade) with voters about progressive candidates so we can take back the f*cking House. And certainly that's the tip of the iceberg or concrete block for this organization.

    Further, they do it with few resources other than the huge commitment of time volunteers give. and almost all the financial resources they get go to making sure that the volunteers are well taken care of and to help mitigate the cost to campaigns of having 100-250 people show up and canvass for them. In a cost-per-contact perspective – the Bus project is probably the most cost effective canvass organization in the country.

    And a note about Jefferson. I'm really, really tired of people doing off about his commitment to winning a progressive majority and building leadership as only motivated by self-interest. First off, it's not the case – he has a sincere commitment to the work he's doing (not to mention Joe's comments of the opportunity costs he has taken to do this work). Second, who cares, and third, if you can build an organization that turns out hundreds of volunteers, raises political dialog, builds leadership - you do it, we could use the help.

  • Lyndon Ruhnke (unverified)

    All the cynical comments regarding the efforts of the Bus Project and Jefferson's possible political ambitions will not change a simple fact: Grassroots organizing works and the Bus does it cheaply and effectively. Getting anyone out to knock on doors for candidates is tough, getting hundreds is a miracle not to mention all of the volunteer hours to make it all happen. You may not "like" certain people, but must admire hard work and success and the Bus project volunteers and leaders have done a lot of former to produce some of the latter. I challenge those who think that the Bus Project is a waste of time to spend a few hours volunteering with these committed folks who are working to make Oregon a better place and see if that doesn't change your mind.

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    A further thought on the Kumbaya thread. There seems to be some hindbrain stuff confusing the issue here and it can all be resolved by keeping our eyes on the prize.

    As several others have noted, we don't have to get married here, or exchange big wet kisses. We just have to cooperate and offer the minimum respect due to any progressive activist who is actually walking the talk instead of sitting on the sidelines.

    A lot of people that know me don't like me all that well either, and that's just fine with me.

    When it comes to activism I will judge you by whether you actually do something useful. Whether you are motivated by ideology, ambition, or if you're just a political junkie makes no difference at all.

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    Full disclosure-from the desk of Jefferson's girlfriend: Joe & Saul (and others) have done a sufficient job defending the Bus Project with expletives and numbers. I've know Jefferson for almost four years & have heard such comments from time to time. Every time somebody says "Jefferson has best set of political tools in a generation," as has been said by some pretty knowledgable people, there are a few people who worry that he'll interfere with their own ambitions. Every time jefferson has given a big speech there are lots of people who say, "that's the best thing I've ever heard." There are also a few people who say, "I wish that were me up there" or "who does this guy think he is?"

    I can tell you exactly who he is: He's someone who's set aside his life to work for the public interest. Serious people have approached him about running for 9 different positions over the past several years and each time he's said no- because he wanted to work on efforts that would support more than one candidate and develop more than one leader. Clearly the "too ambitious" critique is largely crap.

    Moreover, don't we want to encourage people with Jefferson's level of talent to show leadership? We shouldn't poo-poo it, we should embrace it.


  • (Show?)

    You're the real deal.

    I just wanted to post something here since my name came up in several comments and this is the first time I read this thread. Funny.

    Can I just say that I like you too Joe "Chubby Gazelle" Baessler. You're the real deal.

    I even like Solon, Ralph McKenna, Tim and everyone else that comments here. You're all the real deal.

    I enjoy the debate. It makes me stronger and I know more as a result and in the end that's what this is all about for me. Learning. Growing. Having Fun.

    Keep the peace folks! You're all the real deals!

  • Solon (unverified)

    Well I have to say there is a lot of fire in the bellies here. I wanted to post this a day ago but was enjoying the new posts on my sort of a late April Fools Day post.

    What I find interesting is that it takes one “tongue in cheek” post to get everyone to start talking about the real issues. I may have posted something a bit too strongly worded for many of you, but still the same, people think this stuff. I even think it from time to time, especially the issue regarding the usage of volunteers. I certainly didn’t mean to bring out Jefferson Smith’s girlfriend to the defense, but sometimes things happen. Regardless, there were surely a few people that agreed with my post, even if it was harsh and tongue in cheek. If you can’t take the lesson then I don’t know what more to say.

    To clear the record, my post wasn’t necessarily a total smear on the Bus Project, as it was a welcome to the thoughts of many who aren’t in the inner circle. They may be those that see this project as a waste of time or a waste of ambition and possibly other projects of this nature. I think it is important for those running them to answer to these criticisms, not run from them. There is no doubt that the constant back slapping and such on this blog can be a little disheartening sometimes and I think others that have real criticisms are marginalized by the insiders.

    As for Joe “Tubby” Bessler or whatever he calls himself and Mr. Burr getting all in a tizzy, you just need to learn how to roll with the punches and debate a bit. Referring to people in sexist ways, “Douche bags” and name-calling is a bit idiotic and a little “Lars Larson”. You want to make a point at how hard you work and how important the project is, then tell us. You aren’t going to draw people in to your way of thinking, if you throw out insults and ad-hominems. As leaders of this movement, you need to always be better and stronger than those that do.

    In short, there is much work to be done and I have been there all the way. I am no stranger to volunteering as I am sure many others aren’t. As Progressive and Liberals, we need to continue our efforts and re-access constantly about what is working and what is not. There also needs to be constant outreach to those that are hanging all over the edge from some reason or another. Again, marginalizing them and condemning them for their mostly constructive criticisms is not helping to bring people together at all, it is dividing all of us.

    As Mr. Burr said, I didn’t mean to cause a stir with my post. What I did want to do was post something that was of the mind of those doubting Thomases and Thomasinas out there. What we all should understand is that not everything is perfect; likewise it doesn’t mean we need to throw out the baby with the bathwater. We just need to think and be aware and be open to new ideas.

    Finally, please understand, these posts in no way are representative of a career move to become a “armchair strategist” or a “self-appointed one”, they are just the thoughts of one that sees, hears and cares.

    There is definitely a lot of love here, but still we mustn’t forget about those that have suggestions and criticisms. Keep up the great work, all of you!

  • LT (unverified)

    "people think this stuff" and "there are those..." are either the statements of people who ought to be able to speak for themselves, or are a rhetorical device to mask someone's own concerns.

    There was a time when consultant driven politics was all the rage, as in "money is all that matters and only professionals know how the game is played". The 2002 success of Bus candidates changed that conversation, whatever one thinks of the structure or the individuals involved.

    I am not a member of the "inner circle" of the Bus Project. I am someone old enough to remember when Joe Smith (aka Token Old Guy) was famous in his own right and those of Jefferson Smith's age were just kids.

    Starting a conversation is one thing. Coming across as merely wanting to be provacative rather than actually talking about concrete accomplishments or proposals has the danger of sounding jealous that others have gotten praise for their accomplishments.

    And pay attention to choice of words. Reassess means to make another valuation of the worth of something. Access generally means to approach, so that may not be the choice one had in mind. An online dictionary says re-access is not a word, but this is the definition of access:

    permission, liberty, or ability to enter, approach, communicate with, or pass to and from b : freedom or ability to obtain or make use of c : a way or means of access d : the act or an instance of accessing

    I challenge anyone who questions the Bus Project to state what their own concrete accomplishments are. Burr worked on the Ringo victory over Witt. That is a concrete accomplishment.

    Some of us got Democrats elected to office back in the 1980s and 1990s and don't need to be lectured by someone who uses a ficticious name instead of even initials. Solon would indicate "lawmaker", making one wonder if it is an assumed name for an elected official.

    And as far as this quote,

    "In short, there is much work to be done and I have been there all the way. I am no stranger to volunteering as I am sure many others aren’t. As Progressive and Liberals, we need to continue our efforts and re-access constantly about what is working and what is not.",

    what does Solon think about reassessing the whole caucus campaign system? Why is the current system better than the old days before FuturePac existed when candidates did everything in their own district rather than being connected to the party caucus? What has the current House campaign system accomplished? THAT does need to be rethought--after all these years, why haven't they gotten a majority elected? Is it ineptitude, not really wanting responsibility of majority, having a template for "the perfect campaign" which they would rather have candidates follow even if it means they lose?

    The BUS has significant accomplishments. Groups that can't get challengers / open seat candidates elected ought to explain why they shouldn't shake up their current campaign operation.

  • Jefferson Smith (unverified)

    I have an idea...Let's talk about something different.

    I just finished a Progressive Leadership Conference in Northern California. Interesting stuff. Markos from the Daily Kos, Arianna Huffington, Wes and Joan and Eli from MoveOn, Cecile Richards from America Votes, were among 90 folks invited from around the country to chat about the future. (I feel pretty far removed from home -- And I only get a chance to check email before bed -- when I see all this silliness going on. Thanks to all the kind worders in my absence; a pox on all the meanies...nah, love you too.)

    Conference (aka "subject change"): It was a great experience -- several of the national folks agreed to make trips out to Oregon -- and it made me look forward to the Re-Booting Democracy conference in October (plug plug). But it also gave me another thought: it gave me respect for what great folks are doing out in Oregon. We are privileged to have some of the brightest political folks gracing our little State. It offers hope, and more than a little bit of pride.

    Now, I cast my vote for ending this little thread and talking about something more relevant.

    Peace Out, Vanilla Jeff

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)

    There you go, Jeff, seducing us with your WORDS.


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