Press "Enter" to skip to content

Joe Lowe, SD Progress, Bloggers, Elizabeth Warren: Outside or Inside?

Last updated on 2014.12.16

Dear readers, would you agree that the new chair of the South Dakota Democratic Party, Ann Tornberg, is a party insider, and that her new vice-chair, Joe Lowe, is a party outsider? If Lowe is an outsider, does becoming state vice-chair now make him a full-bird insider?

Would you also agree that the new South Dakota Progress organization, which I hear was well received at last weekend's SDDP Central Committee meeting, is an interesting mix of party outsiders and (former?) party insiders?

Would you further agree that this blog is more a conversation of party outsiders than party insiders?Whatever your assessment of our inside-outside quotients, who's better positioned to effect real change, insiders or outsiders?As you contemplate those questions, consider this Washington Post column on Senator Elizabeth Warren's insider-outsider balancing act. Zachary A. Goldfarb opens with this quote from Senator Warrne's new book, in which she recounts advice offered her in April 2009 by Larry Summers:

I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don’t listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People — powerful people — listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule. They don’t criticize other insiders [Elizabeth Warren, A Fighting Chance, New York: Henry Holt, p. 106].

They don't criticize other insiders—well, what fun is that?Goldfarb says Warren has gained clout by ignoring that warning:

...if the past few weeks are any indication, she can operate as an insider without giving her up outsider credentials. She’s remained outspoken, but has become even more influential. She hasn't stopped throwing bombs at the rich and powerful — and causing trouble for the White House — but she's won a spot in Senate leadership, changed the shape of congressional debates over financial regulation and continued to draw widespread attention as a potential presidential candidate.

It all helps to explain why – for the 300 former Obama campaign officials who last week urged her to run in 2016 – she is the one they’ve been waiting for [Zachary A. Goldfarb, "Elizabeth Warren Was Told to Stay Quiet, but She Didn’t – and It’s Paying Off," Washington Post: Wonkblog, 2014.12.14].

Where do you want to be, Joe, SD Progress, blog friends, outside or in?


  1. grudznick 2014.12.15

    I think your blog, Mr. H, is a mix of party insiders and outsiders. In fact, there is no bigger SDDP insider than Mr. kurtz, and when you combine him with the party outsider, our good friend Mr. Fleming, you have the best tag-team combination right here, working for that belt. The West-Southwest connection.

  2. larry kurtz 2014.12.15

    Imagine Tornberg being the spokesperson for Democrats on background when media also seeks comment from don Juan Thune on specific issues.

  3. judy judy 2014.12.15

    Mr. Lowe is neither and insider nor and outsider. He is merely a former Republican and a naked opportunist. It is sad that the Democratic Party West River has devolved toward a leader like Joe and has no one else to offer. Perhaps it will be rejuvenated the young people pushing to be included in the local Democratic Party.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.12.15

    (Grudz, you continue to play word games.)

  5. Tasiyagnunpa Livermont 2014.12.15

    There's no cronies like new cronies.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.12.15

    Judy, forgive me if we've covered this ground previously, but on what evidence do you conclude that Lowe is a "naked opportunist"? What grand opportunity does one gain from signing on to be vice-chair of the South Dakota Democratic Party?

    Let me offer some objective facts as the basis for a counter-narrative:

    Joe Lowe is a businessman in Rapid City. He worked in state government directing the wildland fire division for twelve years, under three Republican administrations.

    A naked opportunist in that situation would be more likely to forswear his Democratic past, register Republican, and leverage his Republican connections to boost his business and political fortunes. No serious South Dakota opportunist joins the South Dakota Democratic Party, because again, what opportunity do we currently offer?

    Veering back to the original questions, for twelve years, Joe Lowe was closer to Republican insiders. Could he have exerted more change on South Dakota by going further inside the Republican Party?

  7. Bill Fleming 2014.12.15

    Organizers. The party needs organizers. There's no inside or outside to that is there Cory? You either are or you aren't. That said, I think organizing Democrats is a lot like herding cats, but my hat is off to anyone who's willing to give it a shot. 'I don't belong to any organized political party. I'm a democrat.' - Will Rogers

  8. Dave Baumeister 2014.12.15

    Ann Tornberg is not an insider or an outsider; she is a South Dakotan. She is the wife of a farmer. She has always been from a very small town. She had taught most of her career at a very small school; her alma matter, in fact. She knows how to organize. And she is one of the smartest people I know. Ann is more of a traditional South Dakotan, and will have a great chance at building the party. I think Joe Lowe fits some of the same categories. They are not tied to DC, and they are certainly not "high brow intellectual types" that many South Dakotans love to hate. If Ann Tornberg is pro-life, I doubt it is because she doesn't want women to be able to control their reproductive rights, it is probably because to NOT be "pro-life" must mean one is "pro-death," and that just doesn't seem to be a good place for anyone to be if they want acceptance. (Ann is a wordsmith, she would know this.) Having Ann Tornberg as the chair of the state Democratic party actually gives me hope for the party's future. Go get 'em, Annie!

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.12.15

    Democrats and organizers, not insiders vs. outsiders—I like the sound of that. But please clarify: are we saying there is no power structure firm enough to define an inside and an outside? Or are we just saying we simply shouldn't spend time studying (fretting about?) who's inside and who's outside?

  10. Bill Fleming 2014.12.15

    Cory, I'm saying the latter. No doubt there is an "inside and an outside" to the SDDP, but if the "insiders" can't even organize themselves, much less the "outsiders" it's a big so-what, isn't it? Dems in SD have a super-heavy lift. In order to win elections, they have to be able to whip not only their own party's votes, but Republican and Indy votes as well. Tom Daschle, Tim Johnson and SHS operations knew how to do that. Does this new party leadership team know how to do that? And isn't that the only question that matters?

  11. jerry 2014.12.15

    I am an outsider from outside the looking glass so I can see life with the help of bifocals. What I see is Ann is an insider that conveys the views of the old guard Democratic Party or she would not have gotten the nod. To say that she is pro-choice while she declares she is pro-life is the wrong way to thread the needle. Ann is what she is, a blue dog Democrat, most of the folks I know have had a belly full of them. For her to have the reins of the party will guarantee that Democrats will continue to be the mutt party. The good news though is that we can continue to beat Gordon Howie, so we have that going for us, which is a good thing.

  12. Joe Lowe 2014.12.15

    Cory, you asked me whether I was an insider or outsider. I think Bill answered it for me. I am a Democrat.

    During my travels throughout the state I heard about insiders, outsiders, West River, East River, and Native American Democrats. This needs to change. We need to come together as one Democratic Party. Once that happens we will be a force to be reckoned with.

    Ann and I are committed to working together to organize, raise money, and win elections. In order for our party to have any power it must win elections. I am glad to be part of her team and be an agent of change. History will be the judge of whether we were able to do this. Here is one of my favorite quotes by General David M Shoup –“The galleries are full of critics. They play no ball they fight no fights. They make no mistakes because they attempt nothing. Down in the arena are the doers. They make mistakes because they try many things. The man who makes no mistakes lacks boldness and the spirit of adventure He is the one who never tries anything. His is the brake on the wheel of progress. And yet it cannot be truly said he makes no mistakes because his biggest mistake is the very fact that he tries nothing does nothing except criticize those who do things.” Are you are going to be a critic or a doer? I hope you will help us move the party forward.

    Secondly, if you want to get to know me do not hide behind pen names on the blog and spread negative half truths about me. I am always open to meeting with you and getting to know you and discussing your issues. We may not always agree, but I will listen to your concerns.


  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.12.15

    That question about the new party leadership is the primary question. But I think we still have to wonder: is SD Progress and outsider group, and if so, can it make more of a difference from that position instead of from positions within the party?

  14. larry kurtz 2014.12.15

    Mr. Lowe, which Dems can blog under the SDDP banner?

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.12.15

    Larry, I don't think the SDDP is issuing any blog licenses. They also don't have a copyright on the Democratic label.

  16. larry kurtz 2014.12.15

    Joe Lowe, which Dems can blog under the SDDP banner at ?

  17. Lynn 2014.12.15


    Thank you for your involvement!

  18. mikeyc, that's me! 2014.12.15

    I think Cory is the best cat-herder we've got.

  19. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.12.15

    Kudos to Mr. Lowe for responding here.

    The words I'm thinking of include organization and my addition, structure.

    I suppose structure might be a given with organization. I think it's critical to have a structure at the county level - of Every County. Also Every Reservation.

    Such a plan in place would create a state full of Democratic insiders, and that would be a very good thing. Meetings via Skype keeps county folks in the loop. Oh yes, there would still be a few outsiders, but that would be by choice, not lack of options.

    I'd like to hear about Ms. Tornberg's and Mr. Lowe's plans to achieve that, if they feel it's necessary.

  20. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.12.15

    Bill, I have just one, long word to say:

    (I'm a cat person a cat video lover.)

  21. Bill Fleming 2014.12.15

    :-) Glad you like, Deb. I thought it was a hoot. also.
    Western SD Dems (or Dems anywhere for that matter)in a nutshell. LOL

  22. Lynn 2014.12.15


    I loved it also being a cat lover. independent! lol

    Thank you!

  23. Adam McLean 2014.12.15

    There is nothing Joe Lowe has ever done that would somehow suggest that he's a DINO, and I consider myself an expert on that issue. If you don't trust Joe, you just don't know him well enough yet, and you can at least trust me on this one.

  24. larry kurtz 2014.12.15

    Mr. McLean: source?

  25. larry kurtz 2014.12.15

    I sent money to the Lowe campaign and got no reply.

  26. larry kurtz 2014.12.15

    Lowe did NOT attend the Democratic Convention in Yankton.

  27. Lynn 2014.12.15

    Larry why don't you email or call Joe Lowe regarding your concerns. He just asked us to do so above.

  28. larry kurtz 2014.12.15

    Lynn: Joe should call or email me.

  29. Lynn 2014.12.15

    Larry maybe he will. There could of been a miss-communication or something. I don't know but I do hope you two do connect.

  30. larry kurtz 2014.12.15

    Joe Lowe is out of his depth on so many issues it should scare the spit from South Dakota Democrats.

  31. Lynn 2014.12.15

    Larry what issues do you feel that are out of his depth?

  32. larry kurtz 2014.12.15

    The Black Hills for one, Lynn: he has no policy on record anywhere.

  33. oldhand 2014.12.15

    The dysfunction of the SDDP is not a result of lack of clear goals or a clear understanding of the path to achieve them. Those involved in The Party know what the goals are (elect Democrats and affect policy) and they know the path to get there (money/resources, organizing, and messaging.)

    We have, and have had, a lot of smart people involved in Party Politics over the past decade (the post-Daschle era) as The Party has devolved from weak to inconsequential. We just haven’t had a lot of hard working people in The Party. Too many people, including readers of the weblog, have a false understanding of how to get out of this rut. It isn’t about ideas: it is about hard work.

    I say it isn’t about ideas because the ideas are already laid out there for us. In other words, the framework under which we must work already exists: raise money and leverage other resources, organize at the grassroots, and get the message out. These are simple concepts used for decades by all political parties. George McGovern created the modern SDDP nearly 70 years ago using these simple concepts.

    Now, sure, some of the means used have changed - technology has changed the tools and means used along the path toward our goals, but really little has changed. Money, organization, message.

    The part that has been missing is Hard Work.

    To dig out of this hole, it isn’t going to take a fancy new organization outside The Party. It isn’t going to take long back and forth conversations on weblogs immediately following an election. It isn’t going to take Really Smart People.

    It’s going to take Hard Work. A lot of it. Over a couple, perhaps several, election cycles. Along with that Hard Work, a healthy dose of patience will be required. Without patience, any Hard Work invested will be for naught. Victory isn’t about winning the next election - we need get that deeply rooted idea out of our heads. While The Party needs short term goals, a decade long series of goals might be better suited for the situation we have found ourselves in. That’s a long time and will require a lot of patience.

    The question becomes does the SDDP have what it will take? Tornberg and Lowe?

    The will need to be off their asses raising money at all times. Perhaps devising a new and innovative method of gathering small dollar contributions. But raising money should be on their minds all day every day. This comes first for party chair, unfortunately.

    Organizing at the grassroots is going to require a good look at The Party’s voter file. Is it in good shape and what needs to be done to bring it up to speed. From there, organizing down to the precinct level will be required. This means a lot of Hard Work from county party chairs and their volunteers. Precinct captains need to be identified, tasked, and held accountable.
    Messaging can get tricky and it’s where things get thick ugly. But The Party needs to come to a consensus of the area where The Message will be derived. And then stick with it. What resonates with The Base, independents, and moderate Republicans? This needs to be identified and crafted. It is my belief that The Message needs to be economic in nature. It avoids sick and twisted wedge issues that are ultimately decided in courtrooms, yet can be emotional enough in nature to drive voters to the polls. Weiland was on the right track in that he constantly messaged on what’s wrong with Washington and politics in general, but he failed to connect that to the every day lives of South Dakotans. In other words, we have a political problem in South Dakota and really across the country: the powerful are getting more powerful, the voices of “normal” people are rarely heard …. but …. too many people fail to see how that really affects their lives. The Party needs to develop a message that show how the life circumstances of everyday South Dakotans are adversely affected and how The Party can work to change that. If that sounds like “class warfare,” perhaps it is. But if The Party is hoping to find a general consensus issue that is emotional enough to drive turnout, they are going to need to find a way to morph “class warfare” into a less divisive issue.

    Every day people don’t care about pipelines or corruption unless it is explained how it makes their lives easier or more difficult. People don’t have time to think about it because they’re too busy just getting by. The average person doesn’t give a shit about abortion or gay rights and they rarely vote on those things. They don’t have time to think about them because they’re too busy just getting by. The Party needs a message that Connects the Dots in their message.


    1. Use the tried and true framework we’ve been given: money, organization, message.
    2. Hard work. Get of our asses and do the work required.
    3. Patience. Victory comes over time. This is a battle that really doesn’t ever end.

    1. Always raising money. Always.
    2. Always organizing at the county and precinct level. Use a hierarchy: state party aids in organizing the county parties. The county parties get off their asses and organize down to the precinct level.
    3. Craft an economic message that energizes the base, yet appeals to independents and moderate Republicans.

  34. Lynn 2014.12.15

    Oldhand Great comment! I'm in the process of exploring options for an out of state move but if I decide to stay that is exactly what I planned to do was be a grunt and it would be considered old school by today's standards. Making phone calls, fundraising, whatever is needed in the county level.

  35. larry kurtz 2014.12.15

    Lynn, why are you not chair of the party in your county?

  36. Lynn 2014.12.15

    Larry, This past year I have been traveling across the state several days per week with owning property in one county, having a temporary residence in another and staying overnight in other counties throughout the week.

    Once things settle I would rather volunteer and be a support person to the county chair and others for example and as mentioned above be a grunt and help any way I can while trying to learn the mechanics as oldhand mentioned above so I can be more effective.

  37. 96Tears 2014.12.15

    oldhand's comments should be sent to the entire Democratic Party State Central Committee and to anybody who wants to see the two-party system return to South Dakota. The age old truth about Democrats and Republicans in South Dakota has been Democrats win when they outwork the Republican money. Yes, that four-letter word W-O-R-K!!!

    Get the candidates who can speak in complete sentences and articulate a vision for South Dakota. Stop whining and carping about their shortcomings. Celebrate their strengths and WORK. Work hard and win.

  38. Bob Klein 2014.12.15

    Oldhand has it exactly correct. It takes a hell of a lot of hard work.

  39. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.12.15

    oldhand said "While The Party needs short term goals, a decade long series of goals might be better suited for the situation we have found ourselves in."

    In addition to the rest of oldhand's excellent comment, I want to highlight the above cut and paste. It will be a grind requiring grunt work, as Lynn alluded to. Short, medium and long term goals. Monthly, quarterly, annual and longer goals.

    oldhand, I get that you want to protect your identity. Can you tell us if you are a current South Dakotan? Are you involved in SD Democratic politics? I'm asking because I think you are someone whom the SDDP needs.

    Thank you for your wise comment.

  40. JeniW 2014.12.15

    The downside of technology is that it decreased the opportunity for people to volunteer for the party or for candidates.

    There was a time when volunteers were needed to help with mass mailings, to do data entry, and work on various projects during the year. These activities brought people to the office, it generated energy and loyalty. Now all there seems to be available to do are phones calls, putting up campaign signs, and maybe letter writing to the newspapers.

    Now mass mailing is done by printing companies, newsletter type of information is sent through e-mail or other social media, phone calls have become robo calls. These certainly are less expensive and perhaps more efficient, but the price is losing the human contact.

    I used to love to volunteer for candidates or the party, but when all there was to do was to make phone calls, I lost interest.

    There were projects that volunteers worked on such as packing gifts to send to those in the military, or for the veterans at the VA hospital, or DVA, or PVA at Christmas, or at Valentine's Day.

    The way to get people connected and engaged is giving them opportunities to be connected and engaged through a variety of activities.

  41. jerry 2014.12.15

    What is the South Dakota Democratic Party's view of the Keystone XL, anyone know?

  42. jerry 2014.12.15

    I cannot seem to access the sddp, is it working?

  43. Jenny 2014.12.16

    During this last election cycle in my county in SE MN, I had, a couple times, DFL volunteers knock on my door in a 'get out the vote' effort. I didn't have one GOP volunteer stop by. I'm wondering if this is just the opposite in SD. Are there many committed GOP volunteers and very few Dems?

    There are mass mailings going on all the time at my local DFL headquarters, Jeni. Technology hasn't taken away the old fashioned letter and envelope yet, and I hope it never does.

  44. JeniW 2014.12.16

    Jenny, thank you for sharing that. The knocking on doors was an option here too, the problem with the knocking on doors is there is a lot of walking, and stair climbing which some people are not physically able to do.

    How does your DFL keep volunteers engaged outside of the election cycle?

  45. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.12.16

    (I'm looking at the comment from "oldhand" and wondering, why can't people put their real names to such intelligent analysis?)

  46. Lynn 2014.12.16


    I really enjoy face to face contact also and feel it's far more effective than being online though it requires time to do so. It helps break down barriers and is much easier to find common ground. Besides going door to door and again this is all old school I was thinking of reaching out to various organizations and speaking or even manning a booth or table at an event. It shows people that the SDDP is out there and provides an excellent opportunity to visit, answer questions and communicate what we stand for and how we can help.

    Years ago my grandparents used to man the SDDP booth at Corn Palace Days in Mitchell where my grandmother would bring her homemade pies and cookies to sell with proceeds going to the party. Those pies and cookies were incredible! lol

  47. Lynn 2014.12.16

    Cory would you please check the IP address posting under my name to out Larry? I did not post that but would be very curious where it originated in case they do it again.

  48. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.12.16

    Jerry, is working... if by "working" you mean providing access to material that hasn't been updated since before convention. I still don't see updated platform from Yankton. And no one has bothered to change the party officers' roster yet.

  49. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.12.16

    Now, "oldhand", let me ask you something: Deb Knecht got a standing ovation from a roomful of smart people on Saturday for her "outstanding work." Are you saying all those people don't recognize hard work or its opposite when they see it?

  50. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.12.16

    Jerry, on Keystone XL: the SDDP 2014 convention appears to have approved a resolution (#18 in this PDF packet) opposing the pipeline based on environmental risks, tribal concerns, eminent domain, and those bogus jobs numbers.

  51. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.12.16

    That 2014 resolution packet also includes a personal conscience resolution, in which the SDDP "recognizes that individual members have a right to abide by their conscience on difficult issues and are welcome participants at every level of the party."

  52. Bob Klein 2014.12.16

    Deb likely got a standing ovation because she's a wonderful person, not because everyone in the room thought she did a fantastic job.

  53. JeniW 2014.12.16

    Will someone define what "hard work" means in objective and measurable terms?

  54. Roger Elgersma 2014.12.16

    Elizabeth Warren does not have influence because she is either and insider or an outsider. She has influence because she says what is right and is able to say it clearly enough that she can not easily be put down. People of any party appreciate anyone who can improve on a situation without doing it for that insider prestige and to make a good difference.

  55. Bob Klein 2014.12.16

    Hard work in objective and measurable terms?

    The items Oldhand mentioned are objective and measurable: How many donors, how many new donors, how many counties have active organizations, how many precincts are organized?

    For a good example, look at the work done by George McGovern in 1952. There are other tools available now, which is both good and bad.

  56. JeniW 2014.12.16

    Bob, indeed those are objective and measurable. But who will set the criteria to make it fit the subjective term of hard work. Will it be five donors who donate $100.00 each, or will it be 100 donors who donate $10.00 each?

    The thing is "hard work" is subjective terms. Oldhand did not define his perception of "hard work." I

    When people are given advice about how much tip to give to the wait staff at a restaurant, they are usually told 15 - 20% of the cost of the meal(s.) It is a starting point, but should not be the main criteria. For example, someone orders an expensive meal, from salad to dessert, the tip is higher than someone who orders a side of french fries, the tip would be less even though the wait staff worked just as hard for the customer who ordered the fries as s/he does for the customer who has the more expensive meal.

  57. tara volesky 2014.12.16

    Very well put Roger.

  58. Roger Cornelius 2014.12.16

    Rick Weiland was the hardest working political candidate in this past election, in fact he was one of the hardest working candidates that I have seen in quite awhile, and look what happened to him.
    One could argue that voters didn't get his message or got it and rejected it. My opinion is that Republicans have so indoctrinated their low information voters with propaganda that they don't know what is good for them.

  59. oldhand 2014.12.16

    Answers to questions/comments:

    1. I am a current South Dakotan. Previously heavily involved in Democratic politics here. Only peripherally involved that past few years. But I don't want this thread to be about me. It really doesn't matter who I am -- unfortunately time is a factor for me right now in my life, but that could change. It might have to because this is just too damn important.

    2. You don't want to know my real name, lol. But again, it doesn't matter and this discussion and how the party moves forward shouldn't and can't be about personalities.

    3. Does the SDDP recognize Hard Work? No, they do not. I'm not going to pull any punches. The results of the past couple of election cycles (perhaps since 2006 when Democrats last made gains in the legislature) should be evidence enough. How much money was raised? How many county parties and precincts were really organized? What messages were developed? I'd give the SDDP a big fat zero on all three counts. With that said, all the blame doesn't go to the party chair and staff, but they certainly must own most of it.

    4. How do we measure Hard Work? Results are an easy way to measure it in hard terms. Results are more than elections, of course. A lot of people would argue with this, but given the fact that the SDDP in Pierre has gone from a non-factor to pretty much non-existent, we need to start at the bottom and STOP measuring by election results. At least for a cycle or two. Let's measure Hard Work (and this is literally just coming off the top of my head right now) through:
    a. Number of new donors.
    b. Increases in dollars raised over last year or over last cycle.
    c. Number of county parties organized.
    d. Number of phone calls made.
    e. Number of pieces of mail sent out.
    f. Number of doors knocked on.
    g. Number of new voters registered.
    h. Number of new volunteers identified.
    The list goes on, but you get the idea. These are the metrics used to measure Hard Work of the party. Does anyone know the numbers for these kinds of things the past couple of cycles? I doubt it. No on has been measuring. Look at the results. When we measure, there is accountability. When a precinct captain isn't performing, we know it's time to get them help or replace them. Without numbers, we have no way of knowing what is going on out in the sticks.

    One other item I want to add, a point I hadn't raised.
    A rebuilding efforts needs to happen absent the heavy assistance of top of the ticket candidates. I believe a big part of the problem with the SDDP is that it came to heavily rely on the Daschle/Johnson machines. The party needs to become strong on its own. If it isn't developed in this way, any rebuilding effort will fail.

    And in a lot of ways, I think this point reemphasizes an earlier point: An effort like this CANNOT focus on winning the next election. There will be some electoral victories along the way, for sure - that tends to happen when Hard Work happens. But everyone needs to empty their minds that this is about 2016 or 2018 and certainly not about who is at the top of the ticket. The party, in theory, will exist for eternity. Focus on the Hard Work and the victories will come over time. Focus on the Hard Work and you might be surprised at the number of good candidates who suddenly want to run and who will win.

  60. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.12.16

    ["oldhand": who you are does matter to me and to the integrity of our conversation. Please check your e-mail and reply so I may verify that your commentary is sockpuppetry.]

  61. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.12.16

    But because the issues are important, let's pursue "oldhand"'s comments:

    Stop measuring by election results? The SDDP seems to have already done that, for several cycles. That mindset isn't serving us well.

    I understand that turning this ship around will take multiple cycles and that we add to the foundation of a strong party in each cycle. I agree that the ship won't turn without hard work. I agree that we need to measure our successes by multiple metrics. All eight of the numbers our shy interlocutor mentions are vital, and we should be making spreadsheets and charting the cycle-over-cycle improvements on each one.

    But the number of doors we knocked on and phones we dialed don't mean diddly if we cannot then say, "...and those knocks and calls turned into X-thousand more votes."

    Our shy interlocutor is talking about measuring activity. We need to measure activity and how that activity translates into results. The one result that matters is that more people come vote for us. Why does anyone get a pat on the back for anything else?

    Do those eight metrics listed above matter to voters, possible future candidates, or donors? Can we win the respect (and tangible assistance) of the national party and other allies without demonstrating that the SDDP can field candidates who win elections?

  62. oldhand 2014.12.16

    Cory raises important points about measurement and I'd love to address them.

    When I suggest we need to stop using election results as the ultimate measurement, I think I need to elaborate. The Party and its limited number of dedicated activists, right now, enter an election cycle with the mindset that the ONLY measurement that matters is the results on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. This mindset needs to change if we are going to engage in true party building. Of course election results matter. But currently, not only are we not winning elections, we are also not able to measure any form of progress through the examples of measurement that I offer. This kind of mindset works just fine for a candidate's campaign. But it does nothing (or virtually nothing) when it comes to party building.

    So are we engaged in election campaigns or party building? Probably a lot of both, for sure. My point, indeed my core argument, is that given the state of things, we need to be heavily geared toward party building. Party building, in my eyes, takes the results of the previous election and builds on it. The way we are operating now it seems to me is every two years we start over. The amount of party building that has occurred over the past few cycles (I'd even say past couple of decades) is about zilch.

    The metric examples I give are important. The ingredient missing when considering them is The Message. When using these metrics with accountability and coupling that with an effective and consistent message that connects to voter's lives, electoral victories will come. Probably sooner and easier than we realize.

    Focusing alone on top of the ticket electoral victories does nothing for building the party and thus creates a situation where future top of the ticket victory becomes more difficult. Build the party infrastructure completely outside the top of the ticket where there is a justifiable do-or-die mentality. Continual short term thinking is what has created the serious situation we are in.

    Let the top of the ticket focus on their races and a rebuilt party can come in and get out the vote the last weeks of the cycle. That's really the only role The Party needs to have: build the infrastructure that can effectively get out the vote. That infrastructure requires organization down to the precinct level that largely carries over from cycle to cycle. That precinct level organization can focus on mail/phone/doors/texts/social networking/etc that needs to be measured and held accountable. I wonder if we have enough Hard Workers to get the job done over time.

  63. oldhand 2014.12.16

    I would add, that sometimes, and 2014 might be the best example of this, no matter what you do in a cycle, you're just not going to win. It often (and I think I could even say usually) has nothing to do with the candidates. 2014 wasn't going to produce any Democratic victories no matter what. The political environment created in Washington just wasn't conducive to Dem victories. There were exceptions across the country, but sometimes you just have to face the facts.

    But that doesn't mean we stop measuring the progress of our party building. In other words, there are ways to measure success outside of electoral victory. Especially when electoral victory seems unlikely or impossible. The mindset we have now produces nothing: no electoral victories and no measurable party building.

    A focus on party building will make electoral victory a lot easier as time goes by. I'll be honest in saying that I have little faith in the chances of this paradigm shift I suggest in actually happening. We like to focus on electoral victories because it creates better headlines, brings faster policy change, and just makes us feel better. I guess it's probably a symptom of our overall "better, now, faster" ego driven society.

  64. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.12.16

    I disagree with you Cory. Building begins from the bottom. No one builds the top first. (Except round steel grain bins.)

    A series of goals are necessary. If the SDDP began efforts in January, I wouldn't expect elections won in 2016, but if any were won, that would be a bonus. Don't begin calculating wins on any level until 2018.

  65. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.12.17

    Deb, maybe we're crossing wires on the meaning of "top." I'm not just talking about running someone against Thune and Noem in 2016. I'm talking about winning more seats across the state, more of the local and legislative seats SD Progress plans to focus on as well as waging viable campaigns in the marquee races.

    I agree wholeheartedly that wins will come from a battery of party-building activities, and that they will not come instantly. But even as we engage in all of those activities (work and measurement that we should expect of every party apparatus), we need to look for races where we can convert those efforts into wins, not just good efforts.

    Party-building and election-winning—we can hold both thoughts in our mind.

Comments are closed.