The Thrill of the Hunt

I’m headed back up to Dean Headquarters in Burlington on Monday to push a couple of initiatives along. Typical of an Internet start-up, these projects grew out of an impression, through a vision and into an imperative. The broadest vision is the one about a Billion Dollar War Chest, because it forces the special interests out of the Presidential Influence game. It’s my Steal this Campaign . . . er, campaign.


A while ago, Jim Moore speculated that there must be a million people in the country willing to give $1,000 to the Dean campaign. As he says, that’s only half the members of MoveOn. So my first priority next week is to push that meme along with my giving club idea: Club 42, Club 83 and Club 166. Those are the monthly contributions one gives to total $500, $1,000 or $2,000 annually. Fortunately, the club levels equate to latté units: you can make those goals by forgoing half or one or two lattés per day. Seems a simple enough metric.

So I’ll work with Bobby Clark to instantiate those club levels on the monthly sustainers page instead of the slightly different $50, $75 or $150 monthly levels. Those donors earn the same bragging rights as some self-important guy who whips out his Mont Blanc and writes a big check to the campaign. Actually, they’re worth more since they don’t demand the kind of coddling that self-important guys demand. Maybe there ought to be a special certificate for people who give so much and demand so little. (I’d suggest it to the campaign staff, but they’d just encourage me to customize a Word template….;-)

Easy Monthly Payments

• Club   42, whose members put $  42.66 on their credit card each month
= $   500 per year
• Club   83, whose members put $  83.33 on their credit card each month
= $1,000 per year
• Club 166, whose members put $166.66 on their credit card each month
= $2,000 per year

In a normal campaign, this adjustment would require a round of meetings, jaw-stroking and deliberations. Not in the Dean HQ permission-free zone. Bobby and I worked this out in about 20 minutes last month, but he was in a big server upgrade and it was the final push of the September to Remember. It never occurred to anyone to circulate a memo, though he did ask me to do a little HTML mockup, like the one above.

The point is that the Dean campaign is open to having a regular guy show up with a laptop and WiFi card and having him be an equal peer. The best place to work in America today is on a folding chair at a folding table in the volunteer bullpen at Dean HQ in Burlington, Vermont.

Small Pieces Loosely Joined*

There’s a kind of Rich Dad, Poor Dad bias against presidential investing. Some people protect their interests with political contributions but it just doesn’t occur to most of us. The virtue of Presidential Investing is another Moore-ism, from when Jim suggested that the amounts that elect a president are chump change compared to the benefit: the Republicans propose to spend $170 million this year to retain control of a federal budget of $1.7 trillion per year! The wealthy got much more than $2,000 in tax refunds and zillions in corporate welfare, so it’s easy enough for 85,000 rich guys to each reinvest the maximum $2,000 contribution to help re-elect their sock-puppet. Actually, it’s probably more like 40,000 families giving as individuals.

That’s an interesting metric. In 411 BCE, Alcibiades briefly imposed the rule of the 400 on 370,000 Greeks. If the 280 million of us are being managed by 40,000 wealthy families, our aristocracy is narrower than theirs by a ratio of 70:1. The 400 held sway only briefly because the Athenian fleet rebelled at this violation of their democratic sensibilities. Perhaps its our turn.

I’m imagining a civil reformation. A few things have changed since 1776. Suppose one of them is that just voting is no longer enough. Suppose each of us gets it that to make a difference we need to vote with our wallet as we do with every other preference we hold in this insanely materialistic society. If we can get just that message across, then we’ll take our country back.

It doesn’t matter if you support Al Sharpton or Genghis Khan, there are two steps each of us can take to carve the special interests out of the political process: give an amount that’s personally significant and advertise our preference on the personal peer-to-peer newsletter we send every day–email messages. I imagine a tipping point where, just as it’s somehow uncivil to not offer an email inbox, it’s unimaginable to not advertise the fact that you support a candidate, any candidate. Anything else should be unthinkable.

Now that’s Campaign Reform!

Takin’ it to the Streets

Rank-and-file Democrats are especially unaccustomed to spending money on their candidates, which is why the DNC is accustomed to raising money in big chunks, but that’s no longer allowed because of McCain-Feingold campaign reform. So the campaign has an education challenge. My proposal is to promote contribution reminders in everyone’s email signature. These signature lines must be constructed as carefully as any movement’s viral email, with a link to the Dean contribution page, and a link to instructions on how to set up your email signature, like this:

I Dug Deep for Dean! You’ll Dig Dean Deeply too.
Advertise your patriotism! Ask me how to support your candidate with every email.
(Because it’s time for We the People to own our next President)

Here are the other tag lines I’m cycling randomly through my email sig. I’d be honored if you steal one.

  • Dollars for Dean. Give ’til it feels good.
  • Be Dean smart: Give $3 per IQ point.
  • REAL patriots contribute to the candidate of their choice.
  • 280 million humans vs. the Fortune 500. No contest.
  • I’m giving Dean $1,000, one latté at a time.
  • Your dollars go farther with Dean.
  • I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to not contribute any more.
  • My Doctor knows how to get health
    care for my family. Does yours?
  • Tired of Dubya’s latex glove? Time to see Dr. Dean!

I’ll be lobbying for the Dean blog to promote this meme regularly, perhaps linking to a web page that teaches people how to configure signature for different email clients. The way it works up there is that, if you want a web page, go ahead and lay one out.

Home Schooling

My other pet project is to call on the resource-rich Dean base to contribute a zillion hours of personal tutoring to the new jobs effort, starting ASAP.The Dean campaign is teeming with technically savvy volunteers anxious to do meaningful work to help elect the Guv. Dean Corps is a place to be a visible volunteer doing public service wearing T-Shirts and other ways of branding your righteous work as Dean-sponsored.

Based on the virtue of giving someone a pole rather than a fish, Dean Corps volunteers could teach their expertise to the underemployed, since everybody feels under-employed and everybody has a skill that her neighbor would like to master. More importantly, Some people are more under-employed than others, consigned to entry-level jobs despite their ambition, intelligence and energy. In the information age, job skills are computer skills and most of Dean’s half a million registrants is a potential instructor, fully equipped with the knowledge and facilities to train another in whatever skill might upgrade a job. What better way to demonstrate that the Dean plan has real solutions for real people with real problems?

Since I’m a slogan kind of guy, this idea inspires a few slogans:

  • We’re all in this together.
  • Give a book, win a heart. (experts urged to donate their preferred texts)
  • Faith-based community service: we have faith in the people Bush forgot.
  • We’re all under-employed: Let’s give each other a hand.
  • Get your Hot Skills here!
  • Upgrade your job, upgrade your life.
  • You, Version 2.0, courtesy of Howard Dean’s Dean Corps
  • More skills, more money, more power.
  • If not now, when? If not you, who?

Remember that feeling of helplessness we had after 9/11? There was little most of us could do–they didn’t even need our blood. Dean Corps gives people something tangible to do. Naturally we’ll set up a DeanSpace site,, to build the community of teachers, students and interested employers who want to do something about the 3 million jobs that seem to have disappeared along with the budget surplus.


I also promised Larry Biddle and Bill Mauk that I’d finish up my Excel analysis tool that presents response data in a high-level control panel, depicting which constituencies are responding to what messages and in what way.

Should be a good week. I’m really looking forward to seeing my coworkers again.

11:41:54 AM    

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