Night of the Living Helpers II

Before I even had opportunity to put up my first post on helpers, I was talking to one of my friends who mentioned that he had heard a nice comment from one of the Democratic Constitutional Officers who had read War College and found it interesting. (ok, that's a short list so it's pretty easy to figure out). Bryce had figured out who it was writing this, as if I hide it much at all, and said he enjoyed what I had to say. And that he was looking at sponsoring a stock car, too.

I'm pretty open with my identity on this, as it's not intended to attack, or be snarky, but to legitimately raise the bar on the quality of campaigns in South Dakota. Hopefully, I can provide some anecdotal history and stories, and make political hacks like me seem *sniff* almost human.

If I did want to conceal my identity, it's pretty easy. A Hotmail account and not directly answering e-mail would take care of 90% of it, and it's "Scorched Earth" time, baby!

But I don't want it to be like Argus V Thune, where it was like a meteor, shooting across the blogosphere scene, only to disappear when CCK figured out the source. Struck down by the mysterious virus that affects one blog at a time. Sorry, that was snarky. I honestly hope they'll come back, I did enjoy the read while they were out there.

Anyway, I'm drifting. My friend had called, and I was mentioning my post on helpers. He said, "well are you going to talk about the person who was going around my back on my campaign?" And I said, no, I'm telling the one on the guy who tried to bill us for the banquet he was sponsoring. And then he said, "well, what about the volunteer ‘consultants’ that were trying to torpedo me?" And I realized, there's plenty of helpers out there who do more than steal your money. There are helpers out there that sap your energy and the campaign’s momentum.

This candidate who is a close friend, did a bad thing, which was to dabble as his own campaign manager. He had help, but there was too much he just could not let go of himself. So, he really didn’t have that manager running interference for him.

On his campaign, he had a case of ‘helper infestation.’ He had one person who would just not take no for an answer. This person expressed some disagreement with the direction the campaign was going. And my friend the candidate said, “OK, but I disagree, so we're doing it my way.” Should have been the end of the story? Apparently not.

This helper went to every other person on the campaign, after the candidate said no, trying to get them to intervene to advocate her position. When that didn’t work, She started calling his circle of friends who were outside the campaign, to get them to contact the candidate. It really got bothersome.

If this helper had put half the energy she put into changing the candidate’s mind, after he already said NO, into arranging speaking engagements, or some other useful task, he would have been that much farther ahead, instead of the campaign grinding it’s wheels for literally a week, because the candidate didn’t agree with her.

Just because people volunteer for a campaign, don’t think you can’t fire them. If they are like sand in an engine, it’s time to reassign them to another task, or to thank them for their efforts and send them down the road. That’s one of the reasons you have to have a campaign manager for this stuff.

Volunteer management should not be the job of the candidate. You need a command structure. On a small campaign, you can probably get away with a manager alone. On a larger one, you would have a manager, a finance director, a volunteer coordinator, possibly a scheduler, and so on. And at the end of the day, organizational issues should go no farther than the campaign manager.

If issues get to the level of the candidate, there’s a problem with the manager. Of course, we also have to consider the South Dakota corollary to this rule. In South Dakota, it’s more often a problem of candidates not sticking to their job of being the candidate, than with the manager, because they don’t use one. (Remember Luke - Use the manager. Use the manager...)

Just like Roundup, a campaign manager can help rid your office of chickweed, cocklebur, and overzealous helpers.

oh - also a nice compliment from Joel Arends, back from Iraq not that long ago. Between college & going to USD Law School, Joel took on Dem. Representative Steve Warnstadt of Sioux City in 2000. You'll see him running in our state one of these days!

Rich Engels also had read my post on him and pointed out another fact I screwed up. DOH!

to my wife MP - I think I'm up to 15 readers now.


Erin said…
Have you noticed how heavy the role "interns" or people in that generational group play in campaigns and politics? For campaigns they are hired, largely from out-of-state, and given much responsibility and authority. They are exceptionally energetic, and they work cheap. Mostly because they see the campaigns as pathways to larger things. But they are young and given to the ravages of youthful egotism: brash, blissfully ignorant, presumptuous, and vulnerable to near-fatal sieges of self-importance. Speaking as a long time worker for the party of ass, I would say that one of the biggest reasons holding it back from bigger inroads is that its members get tied up in ego games and pissing duels. Most mistakes could be eliminated if the campaign managers would work through local operatives, who know the issues and personalities. As a person who managed a campaign office while still in college, I am often embarrassed to think back about the blunders I made despite warnings by knowledgeable and competent people. Good campaigns are matters of applying knowledge, not dreaming up clever tricks, which the intern-age think is the way to fame and political fortune. It is good that you are doing a blog that can look at campaigning as something that requires knowledge and skill, not just the killer instinct. And for we young people, we may have to acknowledge that our seniors often know what they are doing. And the seniors may have to acknowledge that some of we intern-aged campaigners do, too.

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