A Playbook for the next Democratic Party Chair

June 4, 2013 10:00 am

by Stefan · 28 comments

Mike Berlon’s impending resignation presents an opportunity. He has, through alienation and mismanagement, reduced the party staffing levels to nearly nothing.

Robert Frost said not to remove a wall until you know why it was put there. In an attempt to prove him right, the DPG has removed all of its walls and foundations: fundraising, ridiculous office space, ties to the President and OFA, research, communications, candidate recruitment, county party support. It does almost nothing of what it used to do.

But because nothing is there, and resources are so limited, here’s a guide on how to build again with an open floor plan by necessity.

A) Finance

This is an off year, and other than the odd special, the DPG should be stockpiling cash to spend next year. It has 30k (really 10k, it owes 20k) in the bank (post JJ!) and little push for contributions.

The DPG contributions goal should be 500k for the next year, 750k the year after that and 1 million the year after. Yes, I’m serious. And I’m not including DNC money.

Anyone who is in the running for the job and doesn’t have a concrete plan to hit numbers like that should reconsider. If you aren’t in a position to help both local and statewide candidates, you aren’t going to be turning the state blue anytime soon.

How hard is this? Well, somewhat hard but here are the components:

1) Call time. The Chairperson must do call time. State reps must be brought in for call time. You want to run for office? You’ll be brought in for call time. Are you a well-heeled supporter? You’ll be brought in for event-directed call time! Call time will be targeted, profitable, and fun. That’s right, you heard me: FUN. Raising money is awesome. Look it up.

2) Direct Mail. The DPG has no Direct Mail campaign. Are you serious, Stefan? Yes, I am. The money they get from direct mail is actually from the DCCC guilt box in which a percentage of money the DCCC gets from Georgia is given back to the state party. Every dollar of this should immediately go into a well-designed mail and email campaign. It should bring a strong Blue message to Georgia as well as getting money back. A 10% response rate with a $20 average would be a fine return.

3) Email. This is the easiest thing ever because you can very quickly see what is effective in other states and use it to your advantage. Too difficult? Just take everything Minnesota does  and change the graphic to Georgia. Also find and replace “lake” for “peanut”.

4) New Social media campaigns. Here’s one: every dumb idea, every hateful quote, every bad policy of the opposition from the top to the bottom is tweeted with a link, that says “Want Change for a Dollar?” and it directs to a DPG page for a campaign against that exact idea, for our own candidate, and for our own competing policy, and summarizes our stand with a contribution link to give $1 to support that idea or candidate. And now, not only have you raised
money, you’ve captured someone’s twitter name, real name, and what idea interests them. It’s all win.*
What you need: A good, experienced and high-energy finance director, budget 50k, supported by two interns, one of who you promote to Deputy once you hit 500k raised. Give them a percentage bonus over 600k.
B) Communications
Messaging, we all say it, but do we follow through? Full supported campaigns require energetic personnel, and connected people. This cannot be overlooked. Turning Georgia Blue requires both candidate support and real messaging. Everyone at every media outlet should know they can consistently get a response quote quickly and it will be on message. Platform pieces should be unapologetic. Gay marriage shouldn’t be an issue. There is space in the libertarian perspective that is consistent with Democratic positions. Take it.
Cost: 50k for a Communications Director, supported by two interns. You are going to need web support, clearly, and a mail house, but you can pay for that out of the DCCC money.  Or if the DPG hasn’t sold its printer and still has its printing contract, you could do it in house.
And that’s it. Why? It’ll all the party can afford at the moment. When you hit each budget goal you can add an element.
*This idea’s trademarked. Get your own.
Andre June 4, 2013 at 10:23 am

Stefan, should we expect your press release announcing that you’re a candidate soon?

Stefan June 4, 2013 at 10:26 am

You should not expect that.

Ed June 4, 2013 at 10:30 am

You did not say no, however.

Stefan June 4, 2013 at 11:21 am

You know as well as I who the usual suspects are. I imagine it will be one of them. The problem that we cannot run the party either a) the way it is run now, or b) the way we used to run it.

Mrs. Adam Kornstein June 4, 2013 at 4:35 pm

These ideas are terrific, and apart from the fantastic new slogan, ideas and suggestions all put forth to previous chairs-including call time. Repeatedly.

The issues wasn’t so much the last of really terrific ideas, it was of follow through and oversight.

There was none, let me repeat. NONE.

The new office had a dedicate call room, it was pretty nice, clean, all set for someone to use it, in fact a couple congressional folks did. But the chair… nadda zip ever.

So, when the prospective candidates to replace busted Berlon come sniffing around I’ll ask them, where are you pledges and will you listen to anyone, ever on anything.

Trey A. June 4, 2013 at 1:22 pm

“Want change for a dollar?” — I like that.

Mrs. Adam Kornstein June 4, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Here’s a quick way to raise cash, charge folks to beat Steve Perkins with his own shoe, $10 a whack. They’ll be rolling in the dough in 3 hours.

SallyForth June 6, 2013 at 12:48 pm

+100 :)

Rick Day June 16, 2013 at 12:33 am

Put Nathan “The Best Deal we Gonna Get” on the card and let’s just throw shoes at him.

I’ll clunk down 3 figures for that show.

John Konop June 4, 2013 at 6:43 pm


In business we call it the ” so what”……..the biggest problem I see with the Democrats is no real message……your plan has merit, but what is the message ie the ” so what”……..

The biggest issues are jobs, transportation, healthcare and education in my opinion……the Democrats need a viable plan……Newt’s ” Contract with America” was a great concept to get back into power…..you need something like that……with demographics changing you guys could get it together with a real plan…

How about an “Invest into Georgia” plan…..centered around investing into high tech industries, infrastructure, co-op education starting in high school for all tracks cordinated with business and special loans/scholarship for doctors/nurses that stay in Georgia. Just my……..

Rick Day June 16, 2013 at 12:45 am

The biggest issues are jobs, transportation, healthcare and education in my opinion……the Democrats need a viable plan

Because each of those issues takes money to fix or start. Specifically tax money And since spending tax money is such a baaaad thing (“Them Dems are tax and spend freaks!”) in DC these days, how do you propose we get the obstructions out of the way, so these critical issues can be addressed and funded?

I have an idea. Vote out every GOP incumbent. Put in a new GOP kid or a Dem or *horrors* and I.

I believe that will send a clear message that obstructing progress is tantamount to treason; weakening the country, thereby giving comfort and aid to our enemies.

Rick Day June 16, 2013 at 12:45 am


John Konop June 16, 2013 at 6:53 am


A classic example is the bipartisan build act introduced by Kerry and Hutchinson. It is a private public venture that creates an infastructure bank…….

seenbetrdayz June 16, 2013 at 12:03 pm

I’d like that breed of Kerry back. They turned him from an elected senator into a bureaucrat and look what he did.


daltondem June 5, 2013 at 11:11 am

RJ Hadley for DPG chair.

SallyForth June 6, 2013 at 12:53 pm

LOL – ROTF!! Surely you jest. He has lived in Georgia only about ten years, has no depth of experience or contacts in this state. Subtle as a sledge hammer, RJ could manage to create a bigger mess than Berlon has.

Rick Day June 16, 2013 at 12:36 am


That sounds like me…

Ken June 5, 2013 at 11:36 am


Well reasoned and well written.

Personally, I hope they ignore your good advice – and from a Republican, that is a sincere compliment.

Dominick P. June 15, 2013 at 9:08 pm

The first and most important change that needs to take place is the end of the one city, Atlanta-centric strategy that the DPG has adopted and lived by for years. Aside from county parties, there is no structure in place outside of Atlanta and little desire to create one. People in the rest of the state have been abandoned and ignored and they are justifiably upset about this. This must be fixed. We need to design a statewide network/strategy, put the necessary people in place and we need leadership that will put in the effort necessary to make it all work.

Jane June 15, 2013 at 10:33 pm

If the Dems stopped talking about abortion and gay rights they might win more races.

Rick Day June 16, 2013 at 12:36 am

They don’t. Y’all do.

They talk about vague concepts like equal and civil rights and personal choices in women’s reproductive health care.

But it’s easier to type the word ‘gay’ or ‘abortion’ isn’t it Jane?

Ken June 17, 2013 at 9:09 am


You must have missed the Democrats’ national convention coverage – or was Sandra Fluke speaking about job creation in code?

Jane June 16, 2013 at 1:02 am

Southern Dems did better when they at least pretended to be conservative.

George Chidi June 16, 2013 at 1:54 pm

The electorate is growing more liberal, Jane. It would be kind of dumb to pick now to embrace conservatism again.

The only reason we ever had southern conservative Democrats was because southern conservatives refused to vote for Republicans after the Civil War. You had liberal Democrats, and conservative Democrats and black Republicans with a handful of Yankee transplants voting Republican until the Civil Rights Act realigned everything. But you knew that.

Democrats in Georgia need to capture the new progressive voter. To a lesser extent they need to change minds where they can. Democrats won’t do ourselves any favors by being more conservative — whatever that means, given the arbitrariness of the left-right division in party politics today.

I would argue that with all the levers of power in the Republicans’ hands, the party should focus on preparing to position itself as a competent and honest alternative. Republicans are rapidly building a reputation for venal corruption, self-dealing, and putting ideology before competence — the pothole-filling, sewer-bill managing stuff that voters associate with actual governance. With all the levers of power, there are more opportunities to screw up. Eventually, voters get disillusioned, and any change might be welcome. It’s human nature.

There’s a narrative that should scare the hell out of Democratic party strategists looking at the medium term, though. If Democrats look like bigger screw ups than Republicans, simply in terms of being honest and managing the nuts and bolts of government, the progressive ideological and demographic shift in the Georgia electorate isn’t going to matter. If Democrats can’t govern well where they do govern, they’ll give the electorate a choice between crazy government and bad government. And crazy may keep winning.

Harry June 16, 2013 at 2:02 pm

The electorate is growing more liberal, Jane.
Link? Don’t assume the electorate is growing more liberal just because it’s getting darker. In many ways I see it getting more conservative, especially the latino element but also the blacks.

Harry June 16, 2013 at 2:03 pm

And oh yes, the youth have always been liberal, and grow conservative with experience

seenbetrdayz June 16, 2013 at 9:59 pm

I don’t think that Americans are growing more liberal but I do think the GOP is behind on things like the war on terror. At least Obama doesn’t openly advertise covert supplying of governments which may or may not be friendly to us. On the GOP side, you have fuddy-duddies like McCain who can’t speak a sentence without the word ‘war’ in it.

Dominick P. June 16, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Again, I think this is an instance where we must find balance. My experience is that Georgia Democrats outside of 285 are on the left regarding economic issues and right of center on many social issues in contrast to many Democrats in Atlanta that are on the left on almost every issue.

Though the state is diversifying and potentially becoming more Liberal, much of the new crowd we are so hoping for are coming from Southern and/or Conservative states. My experience has been that much of the the new crowd coming in to the state are closer politically to those of us outside of Atlanta than those inside Atlanta. I do agree that we must be the political alternative to the Republican party but we need to be a viable alternative with a s set of ideas and values palatable to all of the people in this state.

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