Author Archives: Antonia

REFRAME: The pandemic caused an economic natural disaster. We need rescue, relief and rebuilding.

President Biden’s excellent communications team understands this. That’s why they have named his proposal the American Rescue Plan. We can support his administration’s efforts by keeping the conversation squarely in the disaster rescue frame, pushing the right narratives and extending the metaphor wherever possible!

(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)


The situation is an Economic Crisis like 2008.
These funding proposals are for STIMULUS SPENDING.

Wrong goal:

This frame says that the goal is for the economy as a whole to recover, something it may eventually do on its own once the virus is defeated.

Wrong debate:

“Was the 900 billion we already spent enough stimulus?”
“Is there sufficient economic demand in the economy?”

Outside the frame:

It doesn’t address the problem that the people in the economy are suffering, that people’s lives are being harmed or that small business will be out of business by the time the economy recovers, nor does it address the fact that the economy as a whole can recover while huge portions of the population are left behind.

Conservative values:

We’re not responsible for the suffering of others. The economy itself is more important that the people in it. It’s morally acceptable, even morally right that some people win out in this economy and some people lose. The private sector can handle it. We don’t need government intervention.


This is a natural economic disaster, like a hurricane or flood that’s still happening. We need funding for disaster rescue, relief and rebuilding.

How do you respond to a natural disaster?

  • You find out who needs to be rescued and you rescue them.
  • You find out who is suffering and you alleviate their suffering.
  • You make a plan to rebuild.

Right narrative:

We need to rescue people (and businesses) who are drowning. Disaster relief aid is like boats, shelter, food and water. We need to keep people’s financial heads above water until the water recedes. We need to relieve people’s suffering now and as long as it takes.

We’re going to need funding to rebuild. Once the flood is over, people will need to start over. Some people will have to rebuild their lives or their businesses from scratch.

Right goals:

To alleviate suffering and make sure everyone gets through the situation and comes out okay. To rebuild something hopefully better than before.

Right debate:

What is necessary to keep people from suffering? What do we need to do to make sure people get through this okay?

How can we prevent the permanent loss of jobs and businesses? What do we have to do to rebuild people’s lives and businesses?

What can we do to rebuild in such a way that we don’t experience these same problems again?

Outside the frame:

In a natural disaster, we do not debate whether or not to rescue people who are drowning. The disaster frame establishes an assumption that we will do it and redirects the debate to how we will do it.

Liberal values:

When disaster strikes, Americans step up. We take responsibility for each other. We don’t leave anybody behind. What matters is that people are thriving and not suffering, regardless of what happens in the stock market or the GDP.

The federal government is a tool we use to cooperate to tackle problems like major disaster response. There are problems we can’t fix on our own or that the private sector can’t handle, problems that require things like rapid increases in scale, coordination between states and countries, large scale funding, mobilizing research and manufacturing, mass communication, universal adoption, or even provision of military human and physical resources.


If we frame the proposals currently being debated in Congress as DISASTER RESCUE AND RELIEF instead of as STIMULUS SPENDING, we’ll put the focus on people’s well-being and what our moral obligations are, and block thinking in terms of economic cost benefit analyses that completely leave out the cost of human suffering.

If we frame Biden’s proposals as DISASTER RESCUE AND RELIEF instead of as STIMULUS we’ll put the focus on people’s well-being and our moral obligations and block thinking of cost benefit analyses that ignore the cost of human suffering.

When people are drowning, you rescue them. We need to keep people’s financial heads above water. We need to relieve people’s suffering now and help them rebuild. When disaster strikes, Americans step up. That’s Liberal American values at work.

Amanda Gorman – The Hill We Climb

Inaugural of Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris
January 20, 2021

A Moment in History: January 20, 2021

It is so rare to experience a moment in history like the one we had today. It’s even rarer to experience one marked by a work of art worthy of the occasion. I could not put into words the feeling of watching Joe Biden become President of the United States. Fortunately, this extraordinary young woman did that for us.

National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman at Presidential Inauguration

The Hill We Climb

By Amanda Gorman

When day comes we ask ourselves,
where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry,
a sea we must wade

We’ve braved the belly of the beast
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace
And the norms and notions
of what just is
Isn’t always just-ice

And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
Somehow we do it
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished

We the successors of a country and a time
Where a skinny Black girl
descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
can dream of becoming president
only to find herself reciting for one

And yes we are far from polished
far from pristine
but that doesn’t mean we are
striving to form a union that is perfect
We are striving to forge a union with purpose
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and
conditions of man

And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us
but what stands before us
We close the divide
because we know, to put our future first,
we must first put our differences aside

We lay down our arms
so we can reach out our arms
to one another
We seek harm to none and harmony for all

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew
That even as we hurt, we hoped
That even as we tired, we tried
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious
Not because we will never again know defeat
but because we will never again sow division
Scripture tells us to envision
that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree
And no one shall make them afraid
If we’re to live up to our own time
Then victory won’t lie in the blade
But in all the bridges we’ve made
That is the promise to glade
The hill we climb
If only we dare

It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into
and how we repair it
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation
rather than share it
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy
And this effort very nearly succeeded
But while democracy can be periodically delayed
it can never be permanently defeated

It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into
and how we repair it
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation
rather than share it
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy
And this effort very nearly succeeded
But while democracy can be periodically delayed
it can never be permanently defeated

In this truth
in this faith we trust
For while we have our eyes on the future
history has its eyes on us

This is the era of just redemption
We feared at its inception
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs
of such a terrifying hour
but within it we found the power
to author a new chapter
To offer hope and laughter to ourselves

So while once we asked,
how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?
Now we assert
How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was
but move to what shall be
A country that is bruised but whole,
benevolent but bold,
fierce and free

We will not be turned around
or interrupted by intimidation
because we know our inaction and inertia
will be the inheritance of the next generation
Our blunders become their burdens
But one thing is certain:
If we merge mercy with might,
and might with right,
then love becomes our legacy
and change our children’s birthright

We will not be turned around
or interrupted by intimidation
because we know our inaction and inertia
will be the inheritance of the next generation
Our blunders become their burdens
But one thing is certain:
If we merge mercy with might,
and might with right,
then love becomes our legacy
and change our children’s birthright

So let us leave behind a country
better than the one we were left with
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest,
we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one

We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west,
we will rise from the windswept northeast
where our forefathers first realized revolution
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states,
we will rise from the sunbaked south

We will rebuild, reconcile and recover
and every known nook of our nation and
every corner called our country,
our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,
battered and beautiful

When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it

Educational Elitism: The culture war we’re currently losing – but don’t even know we’re in.

By Antonia Scatton


Oops, they did it again. Since writing this, Ted Cruz tweeted something suggesting that he thought that the Paris Climate Accords had something to do with the people of Paris as opposed to the whole world. Ted Cruz isn’t dumb. He just knows how this game is played. He played us into giving him 77K retweets, another day’s worth of valuable exposure and allowing him to control the agenda of the debate.

They keep lighting dumpster fires. We keep giving them oxygen. We have to stop.

Here’s a better way to respond:

TWEET: Ted Cruz knows darned well that the Paris Climate Agreement is a critical step forward in bringing countries together to fight global warming – one that will literally benefit everyone on earth. He is just trying to divide us. Shame on you, Ted Cruz.

Back in 2016, I had an argument with my dear friend Dave “Mudcat” Saunders, Democratic strategist and human divining rod of the hillbilly psyche. I questioned (yelled) why so many people were supporting Donald Trump despite his racism and sexism. He explained, “They think our party is a bunch of hypocrites. While the far left of the party actively pursues social justice for race and gender, they actively bash and ridicule social justice for those based on religion, education, and culture.” Over the years since, I have come to realize how tragically right he is.

Just this month, two seemingly insignificant arguments broke out in the Twitterverse. In both cases, we, the Left, were certain we came out on top. One had to do with Dr. Jill Biden’s use of the title of “doctor.” The other had to do with Charlie Kirk and the population of counties. As we congratulate ourselves on our cleverness, the Right scores another victory in the latest culture war. I will explain exactly how they pulled off these tactical victories, but first, what culture war?

There has been much talk about the education gap, how voters are moving in the direction of polarization based on level of education. Democrats are gaining among voters with college degrees, while Republicans are gaining among voters without degrees. Some Democrats think this is great. After all, we won the Presidential election with an increase in educated suburban voters, combined with our usual coalition of Black and Hispanic voters and a strong performance from young people. The “Demographics is Destiny” crowd sees this as a sign that all is well. We are cruising our way to demographic dominance.

We make a critical mistake in taking for granted the high percentages of votes received from Black and Hispanic communities. Taking people for granted and assuming they will vote their demographics is insulting, reductive and strategically fatal. While Democratic performance in communities of color is still extremely high, the trends are going in the wrong direction. Just looking at these maps strikes terror into my Democratic heart.

New York Times: Immigrant Neighborhoods Shifted Red as the Country Chose Blue

Democrats constantly argue over whether more resources should be put into “base mobilization” or “outreach to rural voters”. What if this is the wrong question? What if Black and Hispanic working-class voters are fed up with us for the same reasons rural white voters are?

That reason might be our failure to talk about their biggest problems: that an economy in which only the “learning class” thrives is one that inevitably leaves an enormous number of people behind, namely, Black, White and Hispanic working classes, and that a college education is not a viable solution for everyone. Not only are the skills valued in our economy distributed by a roll of the genetic dice, but the circumstances that allow children to develop those skills are often unavailable to working class families of every color.

What if Black and Hispanic working-class voters are fed up with us for the same reasons rural white voters are?

Many on the Left still believe that education is the solution to everything. Like Rahm Emanuel says, if you have lost your service job, just learn to code. This attitude is the root of the latest “culture war” inflicted on the Left by the Right, and I say inflicted, because the Left is usually unaware that they are in a war until they find themselves being beaten.

If this attitude were confined to economic naivete, we might not have left ourselves open to attack. Unfortunately, it goes far beyond that. As I browse social media, I am astounded by the frequency by which otherwise perfectly nice people on the Left insult people on the Right by attacking their intelligence. We call them ignorant and stupid. We point out their misspelled words as if to say, “Your feelings are invalid and I don’t even have to bother engaging with your argument, because you are poorly educated.” Even when we don’t insult people outright, we insist on trying to “educate” them rather than connecting with what they already know and feel.

Many of us believe, consciously or unconsciously, that those who are well educated and meet our standards for cultural sophistication are “better” than those who do not. We don’t even try to hide it. Trump claims to hear their pain, but then dishes it out to the global corporate elite. We insult people and then wonder why they don’t like us.

We will continue to hemorrhage working class support as long as we keep providing conservatives with fuel to label us as elites in their culture war.  

The conservative Right control the agenda of the public debate by 1. saying things that are blatantly offensive or demonstrably false and 2. proposing laws that are offensive and clearly unconstitutional.

We’re the Libs. They trigger us. We respond – giving oxygen to their dumpster fire.

The conservative Right control the agenda of the public debate by
1. saying things that are blatantly offensive or demonstrably false and
2. proposing laws that are offensive and clearly unconstitutional.

We’re the Libs. They trigger us. We respond – giving oxygen to their dumpster fire.

We can’t resist correcting people who are wrong or calling out people who are racist or sexist, and they know it. We get triggered and spend the rest of the day, week, year or decade wasting the bulk of our valuable media real estate pointing out what horrible people they are, helping them dominate the public’s neurological air time. Meanwhile the things we really need people to know, like what we believe and what we think is important, get absolutely zero brain-share. Conservatives run this play on us every day, and we fall for it every single time.

The Right’s number one goal right now, is to get working class people to believe that we think we’re better than they are because we think we’re smarter and better educated. Their mission is to keep the portrayal of us as educational elites front and center in the public debate.

So how did we get totally “owned” in the media recently by a couple of jerks named Charlie Kirk and Joseph Epstein?

The other day, Charlie Kirk, prominent purveyor of Right-wing nonsense, was getting some bad press over a party he threw in Florida. No masks of course, but plenty of strippers shooting money out of cannons into the crowd. Not good. What did he do? Defend his decisions? Nope. He threw out this little doozy:

As far as conspiratorial nonsense goes, this suggestion that the numbers don’t add up might seem plausible. Truth be told, a lot of people don’t give much thought to county population discrepancies. It is just the kind of iffy fuel that keeps conspiracies alive.

We, the Left, assumed that Charlie Kirk doesn’t know that counties come in different sizes, when we should have assumed that he does know and that he said it anyway for a reason. We re-tweeted this more than 5,000 times, making it “trend” on Twitter. Virtually all comments consisted of various ways of making fun of Charlie Kirk’s supposed ignorance.

Our actions drove the massive distribution of Kirk’s original message plus the message that we take enormous delight in mocking and disdaining people who might not know that U.S. counties have disparate populations. That “stupid” Charlie Kirk played us like a fiddle.

What does this have to do with Joseph Epstein’s Op-ed about Dr. Jill Biden? Did Epstein do it intentionally or did he just luck out by doing something so offensive it caused the entirety of the American Left to spend a week defending the rights of women with doctoral degrees to be referred to as Doctor.

Joseph Epstein was clearly wrong. But, if we had been given the choice of what to do with our share of the American mind for a week and a half, would this have been our top choice? Not a chance.

We don’t pick our battles. Vaccines are being approved, our former president is trying to engineer a coup and we’re still negotiating an economic rescue bill. What are we Lefties spending our time talking about? How hard it is to write a decent doctoral thesis. They got us to keep the issue of educational elitism front and center of the public debate for yet another week.

This is how the conservative right wages culture wars. This is how Donald Trump controls the media agenda. They bait. We jump. Every time.

What could we do differently?

Ignore Charlie Kirk. Ignore every right-wing conservative. Every time you comment on or re-tweet or share a post to your Facebook group, you are giving them control of the agenda. They are going to say blatantly false, offensive and unconstitutional things. We don’t have to respond.

The best strategy is to starve their messages of oxygen and use your media real-estate to talk about what you think is important.

Changing behavior is hard. Learning how to not get triggered by right wing manipulation isn’t going to be easy. Figuring out how to set our own agenda will be harder still. But there is something we can do right now.

Every time you feel the urge to insult someone’s spelling or mock their stupidity or ignorance, even Donald Trump’s, think twice. Think about what message it sends to people about who we are and what we think is important.

We truly care what happens to people. Not everyone is an “A” student. Parents love their “C” student kids just as much and need them to succeed too. We want to build an economy with a wide variety of jobs that provide dignity and a decent wage, so we can meet the needs of the wide variety of people we have in our society, including those who are better with people than books or those who are better with cars than with computers.

We are the Party of the working class. Let’s stop taking the bait and spend more time showing people that side of ourselves.

Blueprint for a Better Party

I originally developed this Blueprint for a Better Party working with the leadership of the state Democratic Party of Arizona, for deployment in early 2019 through the 2020 elections.

It is a set of recommendations for a strategic improvement process to build capacity, improve services to candidates, develop leadership at all levels, increase volunteer participation, develop year round community presence and voter engagement, and improve the party brand both internally and externally.

These recommendations were based on more than 120 individual interviews and feedback from hundreds of party stakeholders including staff, leadership and volunteers at all levels, professionals, community activists and representatives of allied organizations.

Property of Antonia Scatton and UpRise Campaigns.


The purpose of this project is to significantly increase the effectiveness and capacity of your State Party Committee in the 2023 building year and into the 2024 election cycle, by tapping into the skills, knowledge and relationships of our volunteers, activists, allies and other community leaders.

The project will involve

  1. Identifying the stakeholders: a broader range of people in the community who have a stake in the success of the Party and whose work, professional and/or volunteer, contributes in some way.
  2. Identifying what people want and need from the Party.
  3. Organizing groups to work on specific areas of improvement.
  4. Throwing out preconceived limits and imagining what we could do.
  5. Collecting existing information – no reinventing wheels.
  6. Developing ambitious plans for new programs.
  7. Writing quality proposals and seeking funding for new programs.
  8. Making a collective commitment to follow through.

The “project team” refers to the dedicated person or persons either assigned by or hired by the state party leadership to shepherd this project.

Needs Assessment

Stakeholder Inventory

The project team will work with the state party and others to identify stakeholders across the broader allied community including elected officials, candidates and party leadership at the state, county, regional and local levels, political donors and professionals, precinct committee members and volunteers. The project team will also reach out to activists and leaders of allied issue, identity and community organizations, and will build a contact database of these stakeholders.

Stakeholder Outreach

The project team will conduct surveys and organize both one-on-one interviews and group sessions to gather feedback and assess what people want and need from the party. During this process, the project team will identify and recommend people to participate in the next phase of this project and otherwise volunteer their skills, experience, local knowledge and relationships. This stakeholder identification and outreach should become an ongoing part of Party operations.

Bringing people in from the broader community will be critical. This is a huge undertaking. The more people to share the workload, the more we can achieve. We need the contribution of everyone’s skills and professional experience. The project will need buy-in from the whole community if we’re going to succeed in implementing these major changes. We will also be living up to our values of inclusiveness and democratic engagement.

Working Groups

The project team will work with the state chair and party leadership to organize willing participants into working groups. The following areas of improvement have emerged from stakeholder discussions so far. Others may be identified as stakeholder interviews continue.

  1. Year-round voter and community relations
  2. Candidate recruiting, development and campaign services
  3. Precinct committee member recruitment, development and support
  4. County and local leadership development and support
  5. Communications, party branding and content (separate from policy/issue questions)
  6. Volunteer relationship management and engagement
  7. Creating permanent local office and community centers

See Exhibit A below for a preliminary description of the scope of each working group.

Working groups will operate under the authority and leadership of corresponding state party standing or ad hoc committees. New ad hoc committees may need to be created. Each working group should have at least one member of the state executive committee or executive board serving as a coordinator and representing the working group to the full state party leadership.

Each group will meet regularly and carry out a clearly defined process to:

  1. Define their mission. If necessary, break into subgroups with narrower missions. Describe what success looks like.
  2. Gather and review all existing information. (No reinventing wheels.) Get input from the community. Consult expert advice.
  3. Make decisions. Define improvements. Set qualitative and quantitative goals. Determine what new programs are needed.
  4. Write program funding proposals including staff, infrastructure and resource needs and accountability measures.
Skilled Support Teams

The project team will work with the volunteer community to identify people with skills relevant to this process and build teams who will provide “staff” support the working groups. These will include people with professional or other expertise in business operations, project management, human resources, grant writing, research, event planning and business analytics.

Note: In early 2019, before we even announced the program, we had four professional project managers and fifteen professionals in writing/advertising/marketing fields volunteer to provide free staff support for the working group efforts.

Strategic Plan Development and Funding

The state chair will appoint a special task force to compile and prioritize these proposals into a strategic plan for the state party for building capacity for the next election cycle and beyond. This task force may also choose to use the output of the working groups to develop longer-term strategic plans.

This may seem ambitious but there are several reasons to believe that significant increases in funding are achievable.

First, these proposals should have the level of detail and accountability usually seen only in proposals for federal government or major foundation grants. This will provide potential donors with greater confidence that funding will be effectively utilized.

Second, both the level of ambition and the unique process of development should provide ample opportunity for positive media coverage which will draw attention from small and large donors alike.

NOTE: Donors are frustrated by disappointing results, despite dramatic increases in campaign spending ($15 billion in 2020 federal races alone), especially massive expenditures on television advertising with diminishing return on investment. Donors may be motivated to fund projects with a higher potential rate of impact, like the type of long-term organizing that showed postive results in Georgia.


The project team will facilitate the completion of the working groups and the transition to, and management of new implementation teams. The number and composition of these teams will depend on the output of the planning process. We expect to build dozens of teams, each with fewer members, more narrowly defined tasks and a longer term, possibly open ended, mandate.

Some operational improvements can be adopted by existing party staff. Some improvements and new programs could be managed by skilled volunteer teams and/or skilled volunteers acting as full or part-time uncompensated staff.

Other new programs will be dependent on the acquisition of funding for new staff positions or other needed resources. The project team, with the help of volunteer support staff, will assist with generating presentations to solicit support from potential funders and promote new programs to stakeholders from the local to the national level.

Working closely with state party leadership and staff, the project team will assist with defining new staff needs and potential roles. We expect that most new staff positions will be managing the work of large teams of skilled volunteers. The project team will work to leverage every new position, whether paid or unpaid, into exponential increases in volunteer labor across all areas of our workload.

The project team will also assist in the development of new training programs needed for effective adoption of new programs and activities.

The project team will also work to assess and define technology needs to support all new and existing operations, evaluate off the shelf options and potential customization requirements, and make recommendations for new technology acquisition and/or development.

For all programs, the project team will establish best practices for continuous improvement: processes for meaningful measurement, feedback gathering, analysis and ongoing adjustment.

Building Institutional Trust

A new ombudsperson role will be created to facilitate ongoing feedback procedures, hear issues and intermediate between stakeholders and volunteers and the state party.

The ombudsperson will also take responsibility for helping the party at all levels live up to a code of behavior designed to build trust in the party as an institution and encourage greater commitment by outside individuals and groups.

The following code was derived from the feedback of hundreds of dedicated party staff, state and local leaders and volunteers across the state and across the country.

The Better Party Pledge

We will:

  1. Practice our values internally and externally.
  2. Listen, communicate regularly and keep you informed.
  3. Build real relationships, not just get what we need​.​
  4. Increase local decision making and reduce top-down rigidity.
  5. Build procedures for feedback and improvement into everything we do.
  6. Measure what really matters, not just what is easy to count.
  7. ​Be transparent about decision making, roles and responsibilities.
  8. Be held accountable for getting our jobs done.
  9. Give you the information and tools you need to effectively do your job.​
  10. Allocate resources in a way that reflects the right priorities.
  11. Invest in our people (“human capital”) whether they are current or potential candidates, staffers or volunteers.
  12. Pro-actively increase diversity and inclusion.
  13. Build trust by being honest and following through on our promises.

Campaign Season

Once the campaign season kicks into high gear, change will necessarily slow down in favor of scaling up the programs we have put into place. For this reason, we should do our best to build all the infrastructure we can in advance and leave nothing to the campaign season except that which cannot be done in advance.

We firmly believe that the best outcome for all candidates necessitates activating every single volunteer and stakeholder to the best of their ability, in every district across the state.

The role of the project team during the election cycle could be to facilitate the intake, assessment and placement of volunteers, either with individual candidates or with independent volunteer teams organized around particular skills (like graphic design) or activities (like postcard writing) that serve to support multiple candidates.

For more information, contact Antonia Scatton

Exhibit A

Year-round voter and community relations

How could we develop deeper relationships with voters across the state and across a wide range of communities between election cycles, especially underrepresented and low turnout communities? How could we generate positive word-of-mouth by giving people more opportunities to personally interact with the party and making that interaction a positive and memorable experience? How could we improve relations with our community organization partners and collaborate in mutually beneficial ways?

Candidate recruiting, development and services

How could we build a diverse bench of talented future candidates, campaign managers and staffers? What information do people need about running and about their communities? How could we help develop their skills? What kind of support do they need from us before and during their campaigns and after they have been elected?

Precinct committee member recruitment, development and support

What is the role of the precinct committee member (PC) a.k.a. precinct captain, in community organizing? Supporting the party? How could we communicate that to potential PCs? How could we help them develop their skills? What additional training and resources could the party provide PCs to help them do their jobs? Might we need to expand the definition of PC to include a wider diversity of volunteer roles, including the many described in this document?

County and local leadership development

How could we clearly define the roles and responsibilities of county and local committee leadership and the relationships between them and the state party? How could we identify and share best practices? How could we best support county and local leadership in their efforts to improve? What training and resources could we provide? Should we build cross-committee teams around areas of expertise?

Communications and content

Independently of our platform/positions on issues, how could we develop a brand identity for the party that is culturally appealing to voters and allows our candidates and supporters to represent us with pride? How could we best articulate the common value system that underlies and connects our policy positions? How could we develop emotionally impactful language and content that illustrates those values and then distribute it through all available channels: owned, earned, paid and social media? How could we train our candidates and other spokespersons to communicate effectively? How could we enable every party supporter to distribute that language and content to others?

Volunteer management and engagement

How could we engage every volunteer as an individual and find the most productive and rewarding way for them to participate? How could we maximize the value of the 60% of volunteers who prefer not to engage in “direct sales” type activities like canvassing or calling voters, especially those with relevant professional skills? How would we build an infrastructure to leverage thousands of hours of skilled labor with a small paid staff? How could we build and sustain volunteer communities between elections? How could we better provide a sense of achievement and the social rewards that incentivize volunteers to get and stay engaged?

Creating permanent local office and community centers

Having local offices open year-round would support local committees and keep volunteer communities together in between campaigns. It would give the party a physical presence in our neighborhoods so new people can find and join us. A year-round community presence would also help dispel the recurring complaints that we “only come around when we want something.”

We need to investigate the possibility of a better model than the current one of limited, temporary office space completely dependent on donations. We have volunteers with business experience who could help us create multi-purpose community centers. We could theoretically combine elements of campaign and local committee offices, coffee shops, co-working spaces for allied organizations and individuals and even party gift shops. It might even be possible for a multi-use center like this to operate at some level of financial self-sufficiency.

Reframing the House Race: Polls created unreasonable expectations. Democrats are doing just fine.

In the Blue Wave of 2018, Democrats won seats well into Red America. They should have been expecting to lose a few, but with the polling showing pick ups they weren’t paying attention to the reality on the ground. I was in Arizona in 2018 when Democrats picked up the 2nd CD. The 6th CD was a very long shot at best.

If we look at the accumulated gains since 2016, we see a different story. Democrats have had a good run.

UPDATE: Dems will hold the US House.
Dems are at 220 seats in the House: net +26 over 2016.
If Dems lose all 11 remaining TBD seats,
they would still hold 25 of the 40 seats they gained in 2016.
If Dems win IL-14, NY-19 and IA-02 (likely D) they’ll be net +28 over 2016.
I’m calling that a pretty good outcome.

Since 2016, 50 Congressional seats changed hands at least once:

DEMs flipped 26
REPs flipped 3
DEMs gained +23 seats
14 races are still TBD

7 seats changed but changed back:

DEMs won 7 seats in 2018 that REPs retook in 2020 (RDR)

29 seats changed hands:

REPs flip 3:
2 picked up by REPs in 2018 and held in 2020 (DRR)
1 picked up by REPs in 2020 (DDR)

DEMs flip 26 seats:
25 seats won in the 2018 blue wave and held in 2020 (RDD)
1 seat picked up in 2020 (RRD)

14 seats are still TBD:

6 lean D:
6 flip opportunities for Ds (RDD or RRD)

8 toss up:
7 flip opportunities for Ds (RDD or RRD)
1 flip opportunity for Rs (DDR)

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Reframing the U.S. House Race: Polls created unreasonable expectations. Democrats are doing just fine. If we look at the accumulated gains since 2016, we see a different story: Democrats had a net gain of 23 seats with 13 pick up opportunities still TBD.

Talking Points: Legitimate Elections


OUR MESSAGE: Americans are capable of coming together as a country, to hold free and fair elections based on democratic principles we all share. If we stand by these principles, our elections and our government will be legitimate.

Is this true? God, I hope so. But the more we say that it is true and the more we fight to uphold these principles, the truer it will be:

Voting is what makes us free.

For an election to be legitimate, it must reflect the will of the people.

Election laws should not suppress more legitimate votes than they prevent illegitimate votes.

The right to vote is self-evident and inalienable. Everyone who has the right to vote must be able to exercise that right by casting their vote.

Every vote must be counted.

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How to Fight the Fraud Frame and Re-legitimize our Elections

Framing Memo #1: Legitimate Elections

Go to Talking Points

The rights of voters are being attacked on every front. Trump and friends’ favorite tactic is pre-emptive projection: they accuse us of what they are about to do, so when we accuse them, it sounds like yet another “he said/she said” partisan fight.

Republicans: “They are trying to steal the election through mass voter fraud. We are doing everything we can to fight voter fraud.”

Democrats: “They are trying to steal the election through mass voter suppression. We are doing everything we can to fight voter suppression.”

Voters: “Screw you guys! I’m going home.”

Purveyors of disinformation say that if you can’t win on the merits, flood the zone. Chaos is the autocrat’s best friend. With literally hundreds of voter suppression cases working their way through the courts, how do we break through the crazy?

We win the debate by putting it all in a larger context: by giving the public a set of criteria they can use to judge right and wrong for themselves, PRINCIPLES that are morally unassailable and that can be applied consistently across this entire chaotic collection of offenses. Doing this will also give us the consistent and clear message that so often eludes us.

Our Principles:

  • We believe in democracy.
  • All authority comes from the consent of the governed.
  • For government to be legitimate, elections have to express the will of the people.
  • The right to vote is what makes us free.
  • Our right to vote shouldn’t have to be spelled out in the constitution. This is a democracy. The right to vote should be self-evident and inalienable.
  • Everyone must be able to exercise their right to vote by casting their vote.
  • Every vote must be counted.

That is the standard by which everyone should judge right and wrong when it comes to our elections. Every individual case can be tied back to this theme.

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The Science of Messaging: Take back the public debate with strategic framing.

Professional development workshop for political communications professionals and other progressive stakeholders.

If you would like to be notified when the training becomes available, please leave me a note here.

This training won’t just tell you what to say, it will change how you think. You will get the tools you need to figure out for yourself what to say, every day, to wrestle control of the public debate back from your opposition.

The conservative movement has dominated the public debate. They effectively communicate a common set of values and beliefs, and they are willing to use any psychological tactic that works to spread disinformation, sow fear and divide people.

We need to understand how they do it, so we can regain control. We need to learn effective reframing tactics and use them to promote the truth, inspire hope and bring people back together.

I have spent many years gathering the wisdom of experts across disciplines, from cognitive science and behavioral psychology to marketing and advertising, political history and moral philosophy. I also worked for more than a year with progressive messaging guru George Lakoff, renowned cognitive linguistics expert and best-selling author of Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate.

My mission is to make all of this material accessible for busy professionals and activists by giving you just what you really need to know and showing you how to apply it in your day-to-day work.

We’re all tired of being beaten up in a game where we either don’t understand the rules or don’t even know we’re playing. If you go through this training, you will come out the other side feeling like you are in control, have a game plan and are ready to dominate the field.

101 – How Language Influences Thinking

  • Learn how to win the debate over individual issues by changing the dominant frame in the conversation including: what frames are and how they work on a neurological level, how they influence judgment of right and wrong, and how we use narratives to promote them.
  • Learn how our country developed a political culture around two highly contrasting worldviews. Learn who is persuadable and how they can be persuaded.
  • Learn why moving the entire public debate (and the country) toward the Left requires repeatedly using frames that illustrate our belief system. Learn why exposure, repetition, controversy and agenda setting are so critical.

102 – What We Believe

  • Learn the dominant narratives of conservative and progressive belief systems, our core values and how to contrast them with conservative values.
  • Learn how to debunk dominant conservative myths and provide a better vision of the relationship between society, government and our economic system.
  • Learn how to articulate our beliefs in the proper role of government and how to get people to understand and support our policy positions by placing them in the context of those beliefs.

103 – Take Back the Debate

  • Learn how to analyze the current public debate and identify the prominent frames and how they are being used to influence people’s perception.
  • Learn how to develop our own frames, ones that will get people to see situations from our point of view and judge our actions to be morally right.
  • Learn how to develop and execute our own reframing strategy. Learn practical tools and tactics we can use to regain control of the debate, set or change the agenda and get people to think using our frames.

Anatomy of a Message


How do you develop a core message strategy? You need to figure out the one message you want to sink in over the course of the entire campaign. What is the relationship between that core message and the content you produce? Everything your campaign communicates and everything your supporters say have to illustrate and reinforce that one core message. 

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What Star Trek can teach us about message management.

The entertainment industry has a special problem. Writers and director, and even sometimes actors, change from movie to movie or episode to episode, but the franchise has to meticulously maintain its unique style and characters. Science fiction shows have an even bigger burden. They have to maintain an entire fictional universe, and their notoriously demanding fans will catch them in even the tiniest slip up.

The Star Trek franchise has been around since 1966, and has managed to keep its fictional world consistent through 6 TV series’ and 12 movies. How? Through the Star Trek Bible. Every TV show has one, but Star Trek’s is probably the most famous and extensive of them all. Continue reading