Email to LNC: A Turn for the Civil

You can follow the exchange from the beginning here, it’s not pretty, but it does get better in this installment. George Getz and I both tempered our tone and spoke to each other as two libertarians should, in rational terms and vision. While our views on the path to follow may alter slightly, the path leads to the same place. I am beginning to have more respect for him through this and am doing my best to enlighten him to Internet strategy.

George responds:

Steve,

Thanks for the comprehensive (and polite) response. Had you explained all that the first time around my response would have been different.

You do raise a number of valid points that merit a response.

First, congratulations on your hard work for the Badnarik campaign. As you know firsthand, it’s not easy dealing with all the snipers and Monday morning quarterbacks, and the fact that you managed to answer every e-mail, raise money, and I’m sure do a lot of other things, is fantastic.

As you may know, the LP HQ did what it could to help out, given its limited resources. (We were stretched thin as it was, and were not able to add any new staffers to help with the added work that comes with a presidential
campaign.) I personally wrote a series of e-mail fundraisers for Badnarik TV ads that generated, I believe $30,000, and the direct-mail letter that LPHQ produced raised something like $50K, which was sent directly to the
campaign.

We also did what we could, (though perhaps not enough) to get Badnarik earned media. I believe that our releases pushing the “Badnarik can affect the outcome” theme were partly responsible for the major print coverage that
he got. (LA Times, NYT, Boston Globe, NY Post, etc.)

As your campaign report points out, national TV coverage was a tough nut to crack, (I believe the paid PR firm was unable to produce any.) Nonetheless the LP HQ staff did manage to get two national TV appearances to promote
Badnarik. In one MSNBC interview (which was supposed to be about my press release on Nader’s ballot access problems) I took the opportunity to promote Badnarik two or three times. Then we leveraged that interview into a live interview for Badnarik himself a few days later. Yes, I tried to do more to get Badnarik major media and wish those efforts had been successful. (I had close calls w/CNN, McLaughlin and a few others.)

So is the national TV and print media that the LP HQ produced for Badnarik more or less important than the Internet and other media he got? Frankly, I think they were both very important.

As far as granting media credentials to bloggers, I realize in hindsight that you and I had this talk at the convention. You asked why you were denied credentials and I explained that I had a mandate from the convention
committee to be judicious in handing them out because, unfortunately, many LP members claim they’re “with the media” in order to avoid paying their way in. (Call it Libertarian welfare.) The Rs and Ds may have an unlimited
convention budget, but we do not. After realizing that you were a legitimate blogger I told you I had made a mistake in not granting you credentials and apologized for that oversight.

Finally, could the LP do a better job with Internet communications and marketing? You bet. Keep in mind that there’s only one of me, and if you ask 100 different LP (and LNC) members what I ought to be doing, you’ll get
101 different answers.

“More major media, like mentions in USA Today and the New York Times!”

“No, No. Talk radio is where our audience is — do more of that! (Only the big stations, though, ignore the small stuff!”

“More TV, that’s how you really make an impact!”

“Op-eds really have prestige value, write more of those.”

Reminds me of the Miller Lite commercial: “Tastes great! Less filling! Tastes great! Less filling . . . .”

And of course, many share your view that Internet communications and blogging is what we should be doing.

I believe everyone has a point.

You also have a valid point when you criticize our website. It does have serious problems, and, to make a long story short, I have recently been given the responsibility for solving them quickly, and I will.

Steve, since you’re obviously knowledgeable about this area, with your permission I’ll put you on the list of people I’ll be contacting in the future in order to solicit help and advice.

George Getz

I replied with the proposal for the LNC (based in part on Stephen Gordon’s Open Source proposal draft). If they should accept, I will inform everyone here but will cease dispatches. If the offer is declined or ambivalent… well, let’s just say I won’t be tucking tail and running.

George et al [ed- LNC Chair and LP President were still CCed],

I’m glad we can actually have a real conversation now. I will be civil and lay out exactly what the LP must do to grow and become a viable alternative in the political debate. I want you to keep in mind that I have been doing Internet strategy for well over 8 years now and I know what works in the business world and what works in the political world. In many ways politicking on the Internet is uncharted territory and when possible, we have to be willing to steal the map from our opponents or write it ourselves. What I’m about to tell you is exhaustive, but it’s the clear course for every party.

First, I think the issue of blogger credentials can be safely put behind us since you are aware of the missed opportunity and have taken enough flak on that from me and probably others. I want to make it clear that not allowing bloggers was a strategy failure not because they are a new form of journalism, but because they are a new and powerful tool for cheerleading and publicity. There are many political blogs on the Internet that get well over 100,000 visits per day, and many of them would eagerly have written favorably of the LP simply for the favor of being asked to attend. The DNC invited 25, half of which were staunch supporters and were easy to use as echo chambers for the DNC message. That is the crux of what the LP has been missing.

My beef is not insomuch that the LNC is not working hard enough to get media coverage, it’s that the path to gaining media coverage has been dramatically rerouted. Issuing daily press releases is no longer the name of the game, now everything is about blogging and transparency in the organization. When Howard Dean started his campaign, no one knew or cared much about him, especially not the media. Then, he hired Joe Trippi and Trippi did something that no one had considered before, he let the volunteers and supporters run the entire web strategy on their own, shaping it as they went along and building the tools to make it grow in whatever direction the supporters wanted. In return, the supporters rewarded Dean with millions of dollars in donations from hundreds of thousands of supporters. The average donation size was somewhere around $30 and was constantly flowing in. This was true grassroots campaigning, because the supporters were determining the direction of the campaign.

The story of Dean was not about Dean, it was about the campaign itself.

Now, the LP is in a unique position that it can adopt this kind of web strategy in whole with very little risk. We are not under constant scrutiny by the media and if we falter in any one area we can adjust and move forward with little problem. What I and Stephen Gordon are proposing is for the LP to release the reins of the LP Internet strategy (which includes the Internet communications strategy) to us and let us put the tools and infrastructure in place for our own grassroots movement to take root. We will increase membership, increase visibility of the party across the Internet and in the media, and most importantly, we will increase contributions that can be spent paying for advertising and promotion.

Stephen Gordon and myself will be paid a negotiable salary or fee for our work within the LP plus expenditures for transitional staff or outsourced work, but… and this is the “out” for the LP… only if we raise that money to pay for it. We can discuss the details of this in due time, but in short, if we fail to show contribution results, we will eat our hats and walk home. I know this will not happen.

We will work with an appointed person within the LP who has authority to make decisions on communications (I assume that would be you) and would work to coordinate the Internet strategy with the overall communications strategy as our work progresses.

Now I’m going to talk about the work that we have planned, so you understand the scope of what we are going to accomplish. We are going to turn LP.org into a portal of information, activism and contributions. Information and activism requires us to provide the state LP sites the tools to come back into the fold of the LNC and merge the thousands of dedicated local volunteers into a single national force. What that means is the lp.org website will be running software that will allow us to pull everything together… we will utilize all of our resources to their fullest without abusing them (email being the most obvious form of mass communication) and we will present the information in a coherent and standard atmosphere (redesigning lp.org). Contributions are spurred by our transparency in showing how they are used and our willingness to let supporters decide how to spend the money on marketing. We will present ad creation and media buy options to the supporters and based on their contributions, we will be able to achieve the goals they set. This is the essence of grassroots meritocracy.

I hope I have been thorough in describing exactly what we hope to accomplish and what is expected of the LNC. I know that we may have our differences of opinion on some things, and that can be worked out. I also know that at the end of the day, our unifying goal is the spread of libertarianism. I know that with this plan of action, we can achieve our goals and grow this party, we have a level-playing field when it comes to the Internet, and we should be putting our best foot forward to make sure we get ahead of the competing ideologies.

Regards,
Stephen VanDyke

Cross your fingers and hope the LNC “gets it.”

6 Comments
  1. Great job!

    Oh, I hope they get it……

    I hope that you are able to put your plans into action with fire and high energy….. without this and other big/new ideas, we will still have the same ol’ crusty LP.

  2. Yeah, that convo. gave me some glimmer of hope that things can possibly change for the better. Won’t hold my breath though. Great job Stephen in shaking things up. It’s nice to hear from someone in National, even if it had to be through disclosed emails :o)

  3. One of the things that always amazed me about Libertarians who have good ideas for promoting the LP was the feeling that it was necessary to have sanction from national headquarters. Now clearly, only national headquarters can revamp the national website or answer emails to that domain, but there are lots of other good ideas I’ve heard people advocate and then whine that national didn’t implement. I can’t imagine working at LP headquarters and getting all the ideas coming in that self-reliant Libertarians ought to just run with.

    On the other hand, given the limited funds available to the LP, it’s inexcusable for national HQ to ignore your offers to essentially do the work at no cost until you call them out to that degree. Inexcusable, but unfortunately pretty typical.

    I say this without sarcasm. I wish you good luck in changing the culture of the LP from a church to a political party committed to winning. Kind of looking forward to the day when an LP candidate might be somebody more than the alternative to wasting a vote on the crappy establishment Republican.

  4. Look out for a rebirth of the absolutist faction. The second they see you make headway, they will surround the wagons, and the state LP’s are lousy with em. James Lark said it best – He dared me to convince him that we had the ideas to take the LP higher. “Show me some results”, he said.

    Now the question is – Will the chance be given or taken?

  5. Glad to see the conversation turned civil. It’s necessary to have a plan B for if the LNC does not see things your way.

    Yours truly,
    Mr. X

    …quiet…

%d bloggers like this: