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The Why and How of Party Reform

The purpose of a political party is to get out the vote for candidates who support a platform. We have allowed our parties to atrophy, so that rather than the parties controlling candidates, incumbents and candidates with money control the parties.

In particular, parties have not performed their get out the vote (GOTV) duties, so candidates have had to take up the slack. Usually the campaigns and parties coordinate poorly, so that some voters are never contacted while others, the more attractive voters, may be contacted even if they have already voted. Along with negative campaigning and an emphasis on appealing to moderate and independent voters, the lack of a party structure has led to low voter turnout.

These conditions have given us candidates, especially incumbents, who are not beholden to parties. They raise their own funds and each perform their own targeted GOTV. As a result, it has been said recently that a member of Congress is more likely to die in office than to lose a reelection bid.

The cure for all of these ills is to rebuild the parties from the ground up, starting with ideologically motivated Precinct Committeemen (PC).

The function of a PC is slightly different from a campaign’s precinct captain:

  • The PC’s first job is to find a replacement, then a team
  • PCs need to develop ongoing relationships with voters using data tools for casual contacts, online interaction, door-knocks and phone calls
  • The PC is a farmer, growing a crop of voters a little bit at a time
  • Every voter (even outside party) should know how to contact the PC
  • Success for a PC lies in improvement, not just in winning the precinct
  • Each PC should be self-sufficient in funding

If the PCs and various levels of the hierarchy were all doing their jobs, campaigns would not need to do GOTV and could focus on messaging and publicity.

One of the key functions of a PC is to catch a voter’s eye at the convenience store or at church and remind them, sometimes with just a nod in an off-year, that he or she is a voter. That ongoing relationship is the difference between a campaign precinct captain and a PC. The campaign harvests what the PC sows.

Originally posted August 11, 2011..

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