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Jul 22, 2009

Some more advice to the DPP

One thing I don't make a lot of friends with is my habit of telling the DPP what to do. But I can't help myself, since I really want them to win, and really don't see how they're going to do it using their current strategies. Not long ago I outlined my platform advice to the DPP. So today I'm going to focus on the ground game. Get more people on the ground, get a better message on the air. That would be the gist of it. Here are the details.

  • Make the "shadow government" a real shadow government. So far, 2008 presidential candidate Frank "I'm retired from politics" Hsieh has been using his weekly radio show on GreenPeace 97.3, his blog and his shadow government website to push back against KMT policies -- without actually forming a shadow cabinet or coordinating with the DPP party apparatus. This is a tremendous waste of resources. A shadow cabinet that had the party's backing would get more air and print time, presenting coordinated views on the range of topics. The shadow cabinet should draw credible scholars and professionals from the Taiwan Thinktank, Taiwan Society and professional organizations. Such a shadow cabinet would help the DPP present a set of faces that would offer voters a measure of continuity even in the event of a transfer of power, and give people a better idea of what they'd be getting with a DPP administration. This is especially important since the DPP's cabinet during it's 8 years were frequently replaced and sometimes picked for ideological loyalty over competence (see Mark Chen, a hero of the democracy movement who made a lousy foreign minister).
  • Figure out what people actually want. Not everyone is as obsessed with cross-strait issues as the DPP Central Standing Committee or I am, and the party must take that lesson to heart. After the Democratic Party's 2004 election loss in the United States, Howard Dean won the election for DNC chair. One of his first acts was to send out a mail survey far and wide -- my Republican grandfather in Indiana filled it out, as did my Democratic parents in Texas and some friends in California. The survey asked people questions about their positions and priorities. The two page survey gave the Democratic yet another tool to see what voters of different ages and in different regions wanted.

    Some of this data was redundant -- exit polls in the US are very long sets of questionnaires and included not only the DNC's questions, but a great many others. But exit polls are filled out mostly by very motivated & excited voters (few others have the patience), and telephone surveys put pressure on respondents to reply quickly and sometimes thoughtlessly. The DNC's survey was designed to complement these other data sources and helped serve as a starting point for Dean's 50-state strategy. That leads us to...

  • Take a page from Howard Dean's book. Dean's "50-state strategy" involved pumping money into the local party apparatus in places that the DNC had long given up on, like Texas, Kansas, Alaska or Indiana; paying field workers and organizers on the ground in every congressional district in every state; running at all levels in every state; expanding advertising; and backing locals to run in a district whether that meant producing "blue dog Democrats" or "left coast liberals." And Obama's strategy was Dean's strategy on steroids.

    The DPP, which has virtually no party apparatus or activity in huge swaths of the country, ought to consider just how significant this strategy was to the change in Democratic fortunes between 2004 and 2008.

    To get an idea of the significance of that change, see The Dean Legacy, The Howard Dean Nominee, and Kamarck, Elaine C. (2006) "Assessing Howard Dean's Fifty State Strategy and the 2006 Midterm Elections," The Forum: Vol. 4 : Iss. 3, Article 5.

  • Co-opt the independents. At some of the lower levels, there are more independent office holders than DPP candidates. The DPP ought to make efforts to recruit those independents who can agree with the party's core principles. This is no small task; these candidates don't need the DPP's money to win (what money?), so the party is going to have to attract them with an improved image and, perhaps in some cases, tactic threats of backing their rivals. There are promising signs the DPP has realized the value of tactically backing independent rivals of KMT candidates; let's see them take it to the next level.
  • Clean up the website. It's easier to find past election results than current candidate information on the DPP site. Come on people!


Taiwan Echo said...

WOW, a-gu! This article excites me !!!

Did you send this to DPP ? You've got a Chinese version?

chingsm said...

Many thanks for the fine article.

Yes, always learn from others for the strategy that has worked beautifully. I hope DPP is listening.

Ben Goren said...

Excellent suggestions A-gu. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Dean's work is overrated. I give more credit to local organizers, young people, Obama, and oddly enough--Bush.

阿牛 said...

No Chinese version yet! :) Thought about sending it in as an editorial but haven't done so yet.

Sanj Mahapatra said...

would like to contact you via email or phone

阿牛 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.