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December 3, 2012 / needhamgrassroots

Needham: ‘What’s Next’ meeting notes (12/2/2012)

Update: Read Stacie’s blog post about our Sunday meeting! 

Yesterday around 20 campaign volunteers, activists and organizers met in Needham to celebrate our November successes and strategize how to stay engaged and advocate for policy changes. Below are the notes from the session–please add any comments or anything missing in the comment section below!

click headings for details/notes. 

What Worked in this Campaign Season

–Accessibility, Transparency, Resources
–Personal Interactions
–Expanding our base
–The Facts

What Didn’t Work/Could’ve Been Better

–Campaign voter ID strategies
–Volunteer experience
–Engaging the Base
–Melding/merging the operations between CAMPAIGN and GRASSROOTS

Going Forward

–What The Election Means
–Tasks, Challenges, Opportunities Ahead
–Our Interests (Ongoing/Long-Term)
–What We Want to Work On (Short and Medium Term)

Action Steps/Next Steps

–Raising Revenue / ‘Act to Invest’ / Campaign for Our Community
–Meet Again


–Comments written in via survey or handed in at meeting


Discussion Slides


What Worked in this Campaign Season

|top| What Worked: Accessibility, Transparency, Resources

  • Having local HQ (really important/made a difference)
  • Having excellent campaign staff
  • Local organizers making it easy to find ways to volunteer
  • Path To Victory/Transparency/Education
    • Learning/discovering there’s a science to winning, GOTV, and a plan to do it
    • Being educated/informed about how your “small” part plays into the bigger picture–empowering/inspiring
  • Technology for involvement
    • Many vols used the at-home calling app for Obama, found it easy and had great interactions w/ voters on the calls.

|top| What Worked: Personal Interactions

  • With Voters:
    • Grassroots convos at the doors (canvassing) were productive/meaningful–really felt made a difference. Was inspiring.
    • Lawn signs and buttons opened door for convos with friends, neighbors–discovering supporters who were a surprise, providing opportunity to dialogue with voters who weren’t yet sure
    • Connecting to people via social media
  • With Campaign:
    • Having local grassroots organizers making it easy to communicate with, find ways to plug in, find the right level of involvement for individual volunteers (as much or little as was comfortable)
    • Being involved at the ground level–feeling part of an active group/community, feeling valued. “It’s FUN to be involved”

|top| What Worked:Expanding our base

  • Voter outreach in under-represented communities– rewarding and electorally important!! (Margaret’s voter registrations in Brockton)
  • Getting teens involved as volunteers–giving them enough direction and autonomy to grow

|top| What Worked: Coordination/Streamlining/Cooperation

  • At first, EW and JK campaigns weren’t working together; that was bad. Once they did, it was GREAT, made a big difference with volunteers’ ability to feel useful and not pulled in different directions (as many were dedicated to seeing both candidates win).
    • And MEETING the candidates was GREAT!

|top|What Worked: The Facts

  • Extremism of our opponents:
    • They showed their true positions. That made it easy. (We should be aware that they won’t be as honest again any time soon–they saw what happened when their true ideas were out there!)
  • Data, data, data — fact-based analysis shows the legitimacy of our policies and positions

What Didn’t Work/Could’ve Been Better

Happily, the good experiences outweighed the bad (as far as we were able to get at the question in our limited time). But there is always room for improvement!

|top| Room for Improvement: Melding/merging the operations between CAMPAIGN and GRASSROOTS

  • there’s a disconnect of goals and practices that could’ve been knitted together more effectively, mutually reinforcing.
  • (What happens when a town with strong, self-starting grassroots team–without a field organizer–suddenly gets a campaign staffer?)

|top| Room for Improvement: Volunteer experience

  • Campaign staffers need to find a way to make new volunteers (perhaps shy volunteers?) ease into campaign at the level at which they are comfortable
    • (grassroots/neighborhood organizers were perhaps better at this, this time around)

    Need more training on issues to better talk to voters at doors and phones

  • NH: mapping and turf was complicated/not necessarily efficient(Obama)

|top|Room for Improvement: Engaging the Base

  • Too many emails from the Obama campaign–started tuning out
  • Elizabeth Warren: Engage with the public EARLIER

|top| Room for Improvement: Campaign voter ID strategies

  • Too many voter ID calls to the same people
  • Calls to voters during day not effective

Going Forward

|top| Forward: What The Election Means

  • The takeaway was, we need to get the wealthiest to pay their fair share and get the country back on track
  • [See also Progressive Mass’s Campaign for a True Commonwealth, which we did not have time to discuss–it is a working draft, and PM is interested in progressive activists’ feedback, which you can post in the comments at the link]

|top| Forward: Tasks, Challenges, Opportunities Ahead

  • Maintain the engagement from campaign into the non-election season!!
    • Need to provide/have some of the structure that campaigns provided that are now gone–information, clear action steps, highlighting priorities as they shift/emerge (Progressive Mass! Local organizers!)
  • Burn-out and sustainable levels of engagement
  • Grow capacity: bring friends in who are willing to work!
  • Be prepared that the Opposition will fix their honesty–they will no longer talk as honestly about their agenda! (47%, rape-babies as god’s gift, self-deportation…).
    • While the language will change, the policies/goals will be the same; we need to be prepared
  • Messaging/Framing
    • Don’t be intimidated–be strong/frame OUR narrative! Be bold.
    • Articulate our positions!
    • Be pithy, be funny, be timely.
    • Seek those values that CONNECT people across ideological spectrum–we agree on majority of things!!
    • Push back against the conservative narrative that Government is “bad”: no!
      • Government is “WE THE PEOPLE” working to accomplish the goals and projects we want!
      • It’s not “politics” into PUBLIC INTEREST
  • CANNOT get complacent (this is how we got Scott Brown in 2010!)
  • Get the extremism out of the opposition!!
    • Find a way to reach the Reasonable people supposedly “on the other side”–
    • there is more that connects us than not!

|top| Forward: Our Interests (Ongoing/Long-Term)

  • (as culled from notes and comments; surely not comprehensive!)
  • Legal issues, Public financing for campaigns, Health Care, Women’s Issues, Banking for All, Voting reforms/election law/voter suppression, CItizens United, Gun Control, Climate Change!!, Economic inequality and the tax system that exacerbates it!
  • “Everything”: being tactical, advancing progressive agenda long-term; get good offense, not just defense, Building the election successes to ensure turn into real/positive policy results, Expanding the liberal success, Keeping grassroots pressure on Pres. Obama and electeds to enact progressive policy
  • “Properly managing the household of humankind”: education, Job creation, homelessness, safe infrastructure, poverty, and immigration— addressing/improving these will create a better and growing economy

|top| Forward: What We Want to Work On (Short and Medium Term)

  • Raising Revenue progressively in Massachusetts–enough with the budget cuts and starving our services: supporting Act to Invest
    • reaching out to our legislators to show support
    • education/increase community awareness: an education event?
  • Fiscal Cliff:
    • No cuts to Social Security and Medicare, no vilifying Unions/working people, yes raise taxes on the wealthiest who need to pay their fair share–so we can fund our nation!
  • Short term campaigns: Elizabeth Warren committee appointments (get her on the banking committee!), Rules Reform: Change the Filibuster back to the “Mr Smith Goes to Washington” style
  • Beat Scott Brown if there’s a special election (triggered by a John Kerry move to cabinet)
  • Messaging/Framing: Asserting our message positively!
    • social media, letters to ed., personal conversations


Action Steps/Next Steps

Action: Raising Revenue / ‘Act to Invest’ / Campaign for Our Community

Contact legislators: (State Rep, State Senator)

[State Rep. Denise Garlick: 617-722-2430; NEEDHAM PRECINCTS A-C, I-J: State Senator Richard Ross:617-722-1555; NEEDHAM PRECINCTS D-H STATE SENATOR MIKE RUSH: 617-722-1348]

— express support for increasing revenue progressively, while protecting vulnerable communities and middle-class; we need a fairer system and we need to fund our communities!  [sample letter at Progressive Mass campaign page]

|top| Action: Meet Again

–Another Debrief / introductory meeting for those who missed first one (as promised) and,
–future Get-to-Work meetings
–Regular meetings? (who will help keep it organized)
–Develop actions for meetings:
–letter campaigns?



Comments written in via survey or handed in at meeting:

  • We need to get a sense of how the political movement is developing here and elsewhere.  The goal is to pressure the administration and Congress to move on progressive policy.  But what will it take to pull together the huge amount of pressure that is needed?
  • We need to identify  strong progressive candidates for possible senate race if Kerry steps down to take cabinet position.
  • Keep pressure on President Obama to advance progressive policies.
  • Use organized, public pressure (petitions, etc.) to try to influence our representatives to promote a more progressive agenda.
  • Urgent we get young Dems to the polls in 2014. Turnout is crucial to get rid of Tea Party Congress”men.”
  • I and others tried to put climate change on the campaign map, and failed. Sandy succeeded, at much cost. My wish to is to move very fast on this, as it is moving very fast on us.
  • Would love to crowdsource ideas, glean info from other area leaders, and figure out how to grow our town committee in a conservative leaning area!


  • From Mr. Swan:
    • 1. Constant diligence that each election is a contest of ideas.
    • 2. Rigorous examination of Scott Brown’s deceptive and misleading statements, as well as unrelenting exposure of his despicable behavior of lies, false claims, and deplorable denigration of opponents character and heritage.
    • 3. How can Republicans continue the recalcitrance of championing the 1% of Americans who are extremely wealthy and are perpetuating the tremendous disparities and inequalities in our beloved nation? The 99% are seething with the desire to be no longer suppressed, oppressed, and exploited by the few who are extremely greedy and unaware that we live in a commonwealth which flourishes only when all are given more opportunity and liberty. Unbelievable it is that the republicans are so callous and cruel to require that the poor and the ones who might have a little more money are required to bear the huge burdens of the unfunded wars and the immorality of Wall Street excesses. Why should the richest Americans have yearly salaries in the millions and billions (for example: Mitt Romney – 14 million with less than 13% tax) benefit, have welfare, and entitlements from colossal tax breaks on both regular income and investment capital gains? Now is the time to end Republican sinister destructive injustice!
    • 4. Continual revision of statements, strategies, and services.
    • 5. Be alert that another Senate election might take place soon and be giving thought about who would be the best qualified and dynamic candidate.”
    • 6. Voter suppression instigated insidiously by the Republicans, usually in districts where Democrats have the most adherents, must be called out and vigorously opposed.
    • 7. We enjoyed engaging opposition sign-holders with the question, “Why are you voting for our opponents?” A response several times expressed was, “We want less government.” We countered with, “The priority is that we have transparent, accountable, and efficient government enough, no more, that will promote the common good. For heavens sake government, stay out of our bodies and bedrooms!
    • 8. Another response to our question was, “I want less taxation. I’m taxed too much.”   “Yes,” we agreed, “No more taxation than necessary.” At the same time, ability to pay reasonable taxes is a great privilege to do what we can together for the betterment of our community – local and global.
    • 9. We all have to join forces to try to solve our nation’s huge social responsibilities and problems. We must deal cooperatively with opportunities and priorities of (to name a few)  education, Job creation, homelessness, safe infrastructure, poverty, and immigration, improved will create a better and growing economy – managing properly the household of humankind.”


  • ongoing issues awareness
  • Fight the House Republicans on the need to avert the fiscal cliff.  Nothing is more pressing than this!!
  • Don’t let the republicans get away with hurling us over the fiscal cliff.  Publicize their irresponsibility and devotion to the 1%.
  • Not specific yet- let’s just not let it fizzle like it did after the ’08 election.
  • Exploring psychological perspectives on political and social consciousness issues.  Eventually hope to get more exposure.
  • Tax fairness , Climate change , Citizens United ,Gun control
  • Thanks for following through to keep momentum going–a tough prospect after such a long and bruising campaign. Climate change and immigration reform are two obvious areas that progressives can organize around. In deficit reduction discussions, cutting the military budget is imperative as is holding the line on medicare, medicaid and social security benefits. Congress will likely fight to weaken Dodd-Frank, as weak as it is, anyway. A ton of issues to to choose from, if we can get a coherent definition of our key goals…


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