Tag Archives: list building

stop-online-petitions

Political Emails: Sign this Petition! It Will Save the Country!

A while back, I posted an article on the general subject of “political emails”.

There are people who do a lot of forwarding of the email messages they receive, many of which have been forwarded to them. Too many remind me of the old-fashioned chain mail letters that used to circulate before the advent of personal computer usage. Unlike the sending of a chain mail letter, which required more effort and expense (going out to make copies somewhere, envelopes, and postage), it is just so very easy to hit “forward”. So, rather than seeing one of these chain mail letters showing up in the mail infrequently, email inboxes can fill with a multitude of the stuff if one has friends who are politically interested and/or involved. Outside of the chain-mail like character, this email forwarding reminds a great deal of the party game “telephone”.  Since the messages are forwarded, re-forwarded, and re-re-forwarded, and so on, sometimes things get lost in translation. Who knows what is going to come out the other end?

Since I don’t see any decrease in the volume of these kinds of messages, I decided to start writing about them. In my first round, I covered the general problem and admitted, likely, this whole exercise will only serve as an outlet by which I can personally vent. So be it…*sigh*. Maybe, just maybe, though something I put forward will have a tiny impact. In reviewing what I wrote on the first round, it occurs to me that there were several basic points it might be helpful to highlight.

Problems with the forwarding phenomenon for those interested in having some impact on important issues:

  • It creates a lot of noise. All of these forwards piling up in peoples’ email boxes mean IF there are any really good pieces of information sitting there, they are less likely to be seen, read, and/or acted upon.
  • Substantive, effective information and solid recommendations for actions that can be taken are the exception, not the rule.
  • Too many of the messages have no real basis in fact, or at best, have a grain of truth running through them that is often obscured by the “Chicken Little” style in which they’re written. While I have not done a scientific, statistical analysis, my experience tells me fewer than half include links to the original information source or any supporting documentation.
  • The majority of forwarded messages I see are nationally focused; federal government problems, politicians, etc. rule the information, not state or local, which is where people are more likely to have success. How much can we do to impact Washington, D.C.? Meanwhile, “back at the ranch” your state and local officials are selling state sovereignty down the river to suck up federal funds as fast as they can, implementing the health care law, and doing everything they can to avoid making necessary cuts to state budgets drowning in red ink.

Now to my biggest pet peeve…

Nearly-panic stricken urgings to “sign” some petition.

Such petition appeals, in my opinion, are problematic for a lot of reasons. I have included just one of many examples of petition appeal emails that has been forwarded to me. The example I’ve provided is the email in its entirety, outside of necessary editing to remove the name of the entity and any links. I did the editing not because any “innocents” need protecting, but because I’m not going to give the organization sending it any particular attention…they don’t deserve it.

The email was sent to all of the “members” of an online site which is comprised of many different sub-groups, both geographically and issue-based.

“The House will vote on repealing ObamaCare in less than a week. We want to present 100,000 “Repeal ObamaCare” petitions to Speaker Boehner before the scheduled House vote. Go here to sign and see below for more information:

[This bit was followed by a link to the petition, which I have removed]

The results from our CITIZEN MANDATE were startling…

Ninety-seven percent of  [the group membership] listed Repealing ObamaCare as an important issue. Even more telling was the fact that repealing ObamaCare was far and away the single most important issue to [all of the members] — more than twice as important as any other issue!”

In fact, when you completed your Citizen Mandate, you told us that “Repealing ObamaCare” was one of your important issues…

Now with the House preparing to vote on the “Repealing the Job-Killing Healh Care Law Act” on January 12, [the group] has launched a “Repeal ObamaCare” petition to give citizens an opportunity to voice their opinion on the repeal effort.

In fact, when you completed your Citizen Mandate, you told us that “Repealing ObamaCare” was your single most important issue…

We have less than one week to gather and deliver Repeal ObamaCare petitions. Take a moment right now to be part of this delivery by clicking below and using our exclusive QUICK SIGN feature to add your name to our “Repeal ObamaCare” petition:

[another link to the petition...removed]

In addition to demanding a Repeal of ObamaCare, this petition also calls on Congress to Defund all aspects of the ObamaCare  legislation until it is purged from our laws.

Obama can’t fund his socialist health care plan if he doesn’t have the money!

That’s why this delivery is so important!

[our] members have spoken on the issue. You have said that Repealing ObamaCare is your #1 issue. Now we want to send Congress a strong, unwavering message on your behalf.

But we have less than a week to make it happen! Because time is SO LIMITED, we are counting on you to sound the alarm and rally your friends and family to join with you.

Forward this message DIRECTLY to 30-40 conservative friends and family urging them to sign our petition in time to be included in our upcoming delivery on January 11.

Have them click here to sign our petition:

[yet another link to the petition...removed]

We want to overwhelm Speaker Boehner, and other members of Congress as they prepare to cast their votes. We want them to understand clearly that the American people don’t want the federal government involved in their healthcare decisions!

We also want our petitions to serve as a reminder to every member of Congress that the repealing of ObamaCare is a MANDATE from the American people!

But as is so often the case, we are dependent on your actions over these next several days.

Don’t delay. Take a moment to sign our petition by using our QUICK SIGN feature by clicking below:

[and amazingly, yet another link to the petition...removed]

Then use the remaining time to alert and rally your friends!

This is an important first step in the restoration of our nation. Thank you for letting your voice be heard.

Your friends at [name of entity removed]

P.S. Again, after signing our petition, forward this message to 30-40 friends alerting them to our petition delivery to Speaker Boehner’s office the day before the January 12, House vote to repeal ObamaCare. Encourage them to be a part of this important vote by clicking here now:

[yes, believe it or not...another link...removed]

end of message…

________________________

Wow! Where DO I start?

Substance of the issue…

  • Did the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, seem “weak-kneed” regarding whether or not there would be a vote on repealing the health care law? The “membership” is CLEARLY on board, Speaker Boehner and company, clearly on record regarding taking the action noted. Is this a necessary effort or just an opportunistic way to get some attention by members AND most importantly, get them to forward the thing to non-members so the group can get their contact information?
  • Is this the only way to “stop Obamacare”? Is it even a viable way to stop implementation of the health care law at this time? I support the idea of the House vote – the political point did need to get made. BUT, did the House vote stand any chance of resulting in actual repeal? NO. Does the petition encourage any action regarding the set up of insurance exchanges in your home state? Vast expansion of your home state’s Medicaid program (a huge element of “Obamacare”)? Grant monies requested by your state’s Governor to implement the law? Address the medical records technology and “comparative effectiveness council” in the February 2009 Stimulus bill which affects ALL Americans? (Click HERE for more.)

Insulting the intelligence of the reader…oh, let me count the ways…

  • Just how many times does one need the link to be presented? There is less repetition in a kindergarten class memorizing nursery rhymes. Why? Clearly, the group / organization wants to get signers, even if they bail out from their reading early on.
  • THE GROUP / ORGANIZATION is NECESSARY…you, the reader, needs to interact with this group…THEY are going to deliver this petition ON YOUR BEHALF.  Would you have a voice WITHOUT THEM? If the point is truly to encourage people to in turn, encourage Speaker Boehner to carry on with the vote…why not just give his contact information and request that people contact him themselves?

Food for thought on petition drives:

More than shades of populism…

Should the passion of any given moment drive the decisions of elected representatives?

Isn’t momentary public passion an element of democracy?

Is democracy a good thing?

Are we a democracy or a representative republic?

Should opinion polls and petitions be important factors in public policy decisions or should the electoral process, fact gathering, and deliberation?

(Jonah Goldberg wrote an article in 2006 about populism that gets right to the point in paragraph one. Important note…Goldberg needs a refresher on what the Founders thought about democracy.)

Effectiveness:

  • Is there evidence that this sort of populism has done much to affect the what happens in our government? I’ll get to a good example of such a petition drive effort that did accomplish a number of things, none of which were associated with affecting public policy, momentarily.
  • Consider the no to yes call ratios going into Congress during the fall of 2008 associated with the bailout bill. I’ve heard a minimum of 9 to 1 against. Did that stop the people in Washington from carrying out their bailout? NO.
  • Nebraskans inundated Senator Ben Nelson with calls, emails, letters, and ad campaigns urging him to vote against cloture on the health care law. Public opinion polls conducted within the State clearly indicated his constituents did not support the bill. Did it stop him from voting to allow the bill to go to the Senate floor for a vote?
  • Do we really want to have government that means whoever can pull off the most phone calls, emails, or letters (not to mention TV, radio, mailers, and newspapers ads) wins the issue of the day? Should elected officials be so easily swayed? Should we have to hover over our representatives to this extent? Or should we be considering many more factors before we vote for them?
  • What are the most appropriate circumstances under which making contact with elected officials makes sense? Ideally, it is an elected officials’ constituents giving feedback to the person representing them that is most appropriate.

When contact is appropriate…

What do you think is more effective? Individual emails, letters, and phone calls from constituents written in their own words and sent directly to an elected official, or a petition collected by a single online entity, with unverifiable information as to the participants? (Regarding online groups;  do group members have anonymous usernames?)

Entities can be easily pigeon-holed in an instant. Large number of individuals taking time to make contact in their own words are much more difficult to dismiss.

The largest effort I can recall in the past couple of years is a perfect example of “petition populism”…

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich conducted a full-court press for his American Solutions “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” petition drive in 2008. In fact, the effort is ongoing, and yes, the entity is continuing to disseminate information about oil prices and drilling. To date, American Solutions has collected 1.5 million+ plus petition signatures. In late summer 2008, Gingrich did present the original petition, in some form, to members of Congress.

Question: Did that petition drive change anything whatsoever about American oil drilling policy?

Answer: No.

Here’s what it did accomplish…

Gingrich managed to collect approximately 1.2 million Americans’ information. That number has risen by about 300,000 since. That’s a HUGE contact database. It might be really handy for something like a presidential campaign.

I have questions…

  • Just what information collected was given to Congress? Who has it now…anyone?
  • Where else might the information be sent?
  • Does American Solutions rent or sell its list to other groups, organizations, or individuals as a means by which to generate revenue?

Petition drives… UNLESS they are limited to putting a bond issue, constitutional amendment, law, or candidate on a ballot…

  • Are nothing more than list building marketing tools
  • Provide a potential revenue stream (through renting or selling of the list)
  • Encourage people to give their information away indiscriminately
  • Potentially provide opposition with a list of people who oppose them
  • Condition people to believe they are doing something effective about an issue when history proves otherwise
  • Allow groups and organizations to claim large numbers of “members”, increasing their own influence and profile
  • Fill people’s email boxes with junk
  • Encourage populism and small “d” democracy, not republican government

Image found on Michael Hyland’s Tumblr.

A Real Grassroots Alternative & Objective for Tea Party: Summary

Updated:

I am in the process of rewriting this summary. I was mistaken in my idea that there was a consensus on the next round, or at least I underestimated how much the “national coalition” would fall apart.

A consensus seems to have developed regarding when the next Tea Party event should be held: July 4.  In addition to this post, which summarizes the reasons for a grassroots alternative to the present structure, I have proposed an objective going forward. This is a summary of both. The full text of the objective can be found here.

Proposal:

Consider a real grassroots alternative for the Tea Party “movement”

 

We the people of the grassroots need to provide an alternative to the top-down entities who appointed themselves sponsors and whose agendas and motives are at best, unclear.

For any who may be angered about why I should say such a blasphemous thing, know that it is no easy thing to risk voicing criticism at this stage, not only considering the number of Americans waking up to the problems  we are facing,  but also to risk the potential backlash from my fellow Tea Partiers, and providing fodder for the vicious Left, who don’ t need anymore ammunition.

The consequences of mismanagement, fragmentation, and lack of effectiveness at this point are dire enough that it is time to speak out.

If we want to re-tether ourselves to Constitutional principles as a nation, then that means we want the power to come from the bottom up, not the top down.

If we cannot abide by or implement those principles in the way we conduct ourselves in an effort to rally our fellow countrymen against an ever more powerful government, do we have any real business leading the charge?

The first round of Tea Party event was Feb. 27th, the impetus for which was Rick Santelli’s “rant” on the CNBC morning show “SquawkBox” on Feb. 19 wherein he said he was going to have a Tea Party on July 4 on Lake Michigan in protest of the mortgage rescue plan and all of the bailouts.

Essentially two little “seeds” germinated the day of Santelli’s rant; American Spectator’s J.P. Freire decided to have a Tea Party at NOON EST in Washington, D.C. on Friday, Feb. 27th while CPAC was in session and a couple of very feisty Twitter users began to Tweet like crazy trying to rally everyone who would listen to do something about putting on Tea Parties.

What happened next is partly unclear, but by mid-afternoon on Friday, TCOT’s Michael P. Leahy scheduled a conference call for anyone who was interested in a “CNBC Reporter Tea Party Event”.  There were approximately a dozen people on the call. Everyone present either agreed to put on a Tea Party or help with effort nationally.

Those efforts grew over the course of six days into 40+ cities with 15,000 – 20,000 participants. A handful of volunteers on the national level and one to three people in each of those cities pulled off a near miracle. They worked extremely hard, showing leadership. Included in that effort was the setup of a NING site for each of the fifty states, to provide a launching pad for organizing the Tea Party events and to lay a foundation for a network in each state.

Although the Feb. 27 events didn’t receive widespread “main stream media” coverage nationally, the phenomenon ultimately went viral.

But even before that began happening, the hi-jacking effort was in full swing. Don’t Go’s Eric Odom, who was not a major player in the events leading up to Feb. 27, put up the taxdayteaparty.com website live by 2:30PM CST on Feb. 28. TCOT’s Leahy by all indications was not aware of this until after it occurred.

By Monday, March 2, Odom and Leahy had somehow come to “terms” and had decided to roll-in another, even newer online entity, Smart Girl Politics. On that evening’s conference call which was supposed to be primarily evaluative in nature and a discussion of next steps, was in reality a top-down call that consisted of announcements of the next steps, themes, “sponsors”, and instruction to forward all contact information collected by local event organizers into TCOT to be shared among the three groups.

Leahy defined success for the next national event day of April 15 this way:

“more people, more email addresses”

He noted the theme:

“Repeal the Pork, Cut Taxes”

How would the collection of email addresses Repeal the Pork or cut taxes?

Obviously, it won’t. What it could do, however, is provide a ready-made database for any variety of purposes including building new organizations, sending fund raising appeals, or for a major political campaign.

The March 2 had contentious moments. Leahy became what can only be described as irritated when questioned by late comers to the call about the selection of another weekday for another Tea Party event.

Besides the irritation, Leahy reminded callers on the line several times that the conference was being broadcast live on two Blog Talk Radio shows. (You can listen to the Grizzly Groundswell verion here.)

He also deflected particular questions, noting that discussions on those issues would occur “offline”. Most of those offline calls never took place.

A number of others did, however. For the next several days I and several other people across the country received calls from organizers who were not happy about the top-down nature of the call, and questioned the motive behind the instruction to  forward email lists. Most expressed a desire to “do something” about the situation. None wanted to lose the momentum coming out of their events.

Ultimately, some decided not to participate in any future conference calls with more dropping out when fund raising efforts began. To the best of my knowledge, it never went to any of the Tea party coordinators.

In other words, many organizing Tea Party events simply went their own way and a golden opportunity to form a truly grassroots effort with a cohesive message and effective objective was lost.

Unfortunately, the “walk-away message” from Tax Day Tea Party, from most media outlets, even including Fox News Channel, was that the events were tax revolts. The overwhelming majority further painted the events as Republican party, Newt Gingrich, Freedom Works orchestrated tax protests.

And unfortunately, both the truth of the situation and decisions by local organizers about speakers played directly into these characterizations. It is a fact that there has been very curious involvement by Freedom Works from the national level.  I was personally contacted by a man in their Washington, D.C. office, a fellow Nebraskan by Dick Armey himself. People with connections to Newt Gingrich also contacted organizers. And former Speaker Gingrich himself was at one point names “official spokesmen” for the Tea Party movement.

The best thing to come out of the whole movement would be the establishment of truly grassroots local networks.  That assumes, in the absence of effective leadership from the national “coalition” or consistent communications with other organizers a recognition of that fact and a plan for best doing so by each coordinator in each locality.  Considering that they had no guidance on this issue at all, and no good example of what should be avoided, it is difficult, at best to believe that these efforts to be effective over the long term are widespread.

The simple facts are these:

  • In general, our country has come untethered from its Constitutional basis.
  • Government is out of control, at all levels.
  • Unsustainable, reckless spending, borrowing, and printing of money seriously threatens to collapse the value of our currency.
  • A plethora of proposed legislation threatens individual liberty.
  • A serious world-wide drive towards a one-world currency permanently threatens the sovereignty of the United States.
  • The majority of the media doesn’t investigate or report fully on events or people. As a result we are under-informed about who represents us, who is running for office, and the actions taken by government.

Beyond PR concerns, and the specific issues surrounding the Republican Party, it begs the question, once again, if we have even a small amount of understanding in regards to how serious are problems are, why are we not re-examining the way we do EVERYTHING?