Monday, January 09, 2006

Great Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund Meeting

Update: Welcome Kossacks! Please help us get rid of Richard Pombo by getting involved today.

Oh happy day! Yesterday I attended a wonderful meeting in San Ramon put on by Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund and I came away uplifted by my experience there. Although readers might remember that I had initial misgivings, some months ago, about Defenders running the Pombo in Their Pocket campaign, I have now become convinced that they have a tremendous, and very central, role to play in the fight to oust Pombo from office. The meeting itself was great, and even better was the rap session a number of us had after the meeting at a coffee shop. To me it epitomized the confluence of energy and resources it will take to dislodge Pombo from Congress.

To begin with, let me describe the meeting itself.

I actually arrived late, and so came in the building to see a packed room with a small number of people spilling out into the hall. I had gone to the meeting knowing that Defenders had not formally decided to target Pombo in 2006 (the Pombo in Their Pocket Campaign is formally an “accountability campaign” that may end before the election), but I also knew that a good turnout would speak volumes to the DWAF people about the local excitement generated by the anti-Pombo campaigns. Seeing people spilling out into the hallway immediately confirmed what I had known: people are thirsting to fight against Pombo. Indeed, the Defenders people explicitly said that there were surprised by the turnout and had only expected about half the number of people to show up on a Sunday afternoon (I think about 80 people attended). Furthermore, they said that the high turnout will increase the likelihood that they will target the race. In other words, the Defenders of Wildlife crew explicitly acknowledged that they understood the message we were sending by our very attendance.

When I arrived, the Political Director, Mark Longabaugh, and the CEO, Rodger Schlickeisen, of Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund were discussing the Pombo in Their Pocket Campaign. I did not take many notes on their presentation, but you can learn more about their campaign by visiting their website.

One very interesting point that came up was that they said they were committed to grassroots politics, and so they would probably open up a campaign office in the district if they actually target Pombo (which is pretty likely in my estimation). I had assumed that the Defenders targeting Pombo would consist in their spending money on radio and television ads. The fact that they are even discussing running canvassing operations and phone banks, even if nothing has been decided, is greatly encouraging to me.

After the presentation, there was a question and answer session. I will pass over a detailed description of this part of the meeting except to note that it is clear that there were Republicans as well as Democrats and Independents attending the meeting. I think anti-Pombo Republicans will be hugely important in the effort to oust Pombo, and so I was pleased to see that some of them showed up at this meeting and made their presence known.

The meeting ended with the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund people giving Pete McCloskey and Jerry McNerney (both of whom showed up on their own initiative) an opportunity to address the crowd.

McCloskey spoke first, and let me say this: I have Republican friends, there are people close to me who vote for Republican politicians, but I had never seen or met a Republican politician whose hand I wanted to shake until I saw Pete McCloskey speak yesterday. The guy exudes integrity. And he clearly has tons of charisma.

McCloskey spent a good part of his time speaking about the need for a Republican to run against Pombo in the primary. Although McCloskey is ready to run against Pombo if nobody else steps up to the plate, he does not really want to run and is still holding out hope for a “young Republican” (meaning someone under 60) to take on Pombo. (Either that, or he is being very self-effacing). That said, after seeing McCloskey in person, I’d be very, very content to see him running against Pombo in the Republican primary. Put simply, you couldn’t ask for a better foil to Pombo’s sleaze than Pete McCloskey.

McCloskey also spoke a bit about the dynamics of the race and touched on the Democratic side of things. He argued that in such a red district it would be hard for a Democrat to unseat Pombo, but allowed that “Jerry [McNerney] will be a fine congressman if he is elected.” Although McCloskey did not say anything else about the Democrats during his speech, I did overhear him say afterwards that state Senator Mike Machado is adamant about not running against Pombo in 2006. I have heard this from a number of players in the district, and I think it’s gone beyond the usual politician’s coyness about entering a race. I think we cannot expect Machado to run unless something radical happens, like Pombo is indicted. Even then, I’m not sure it’s a given.

After McCloskey spoke, it was Jerry McNerney’s turn. I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised to see McNerney give a really good speech. Every time I see McNerney speaks he gets appreciably better. I’m not sure what he is doing or who he is working with, but whatever it is, it’s working.

On a substantive level, I was pleased to see McNerney mention the following issues that were reasons to oppose Pombo besides the environment: “corruption, ineptitude, assault weapons, downer cows, choice.” I was especially intrigued by his mention of downer cows, which I hope demonstrates an increased willingness on McNerney’s part to discuss the agricultural issues that will be important in the part of the San Joaquin County part of the district. We’ll have to see where he goes with these issues, but the fact they were on his mind probably portends more to come.

After the official meeting ended, a number of us went to a nearby coffee shop to compare notes. I will not say much about that meeting except two things.

First, our rump caucus made me tremendously hopeful that the robust anti-Pombo coalition we need to win is already forming. The participants included the people from Defenders (their CEO, their political director, their CA program director, and a program associate from their Sacramento office); members of the online anti-Pombo community including me and VPO; the state director of Clean Water Action (a grassroots environmental organization that, importantly, can do electoral politics); someone close to McCloskey; someone from the McNerney campaign; a pro-environment Republican; one of the founders of Progressive Democrats of the East Bay (who also worked in CA-11 as part of the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club’s efforts focused on Social Security); and a representative from Project Bluebridge, which came out of the old East Bay for Kerry campaign and is dedicated to getting blue area Democrats to volunteer in red areas (in this they are similar to, connected with, but separate from Take Back Red California, which will also be working on ousting Pombo).

Second I will just mention that I had a chance to discuss how we can leverage the blogosphere in this race. The other people at the meeting seemed receptive, and I had already spoken to one of the Defenders of Wildlife press people about working with them to do something like a Defenders of Wildlife live-blogging session about the NEPA Task Force on Say No to Pombo. Nothing is concrete yet, but I am very optimistic that we will find ways of working together. If any of you have contacts with organizations that want to take on Pombo and need advice about how to utilize the blogosphere, I would be very happy to answer questions. Just have them send me an e-mail.

22 Comments:

Blogger Dan Spomer said...

Matt,

Thank you for posting your observations and impressions of your long day! As I have said repeatedly, a successful campaign will need to cross MANY lines and bring together people with a hodge-podge of ideologies and skills, many whom have been at odds with each other until this race (and will probably be at odds again long AFTER this race- LOL).

I encourage everyone to re-read your post: you can truly sense the remarkable forces and dynamics at play here... and just like watching a truly good football team execute flawlessly, you already know who is going to win.

However, just like a good football team, success comes only from a concerted team effort with everyone doing their assigned task while focusing on a single, tangible goal.

Remarkable. Truly remarkable. I am heartened by your report!

1:35 PM, January 09, 2006  
Blogger Matt said...

Nick Juliano of the Tracy Press has both a newspaper article about the meeting and a response to this blog post on his Political Notes blog.

I want to respond to something Nick wrote on Political Notes. He said:

It's too early to tell whether the group will be able to turn the 75 to 80 people who showed up into a viable ground campaign in the 11th District. It's also unclear just how many of those in attendance actually lived in the district, especially within San Joaquin County, the most populous -- and most conservative -- section of CA-11...A couple of questioners identified themselves as from the county, but I also saw quite a few heads nodding when one woman, who said she was from Oakland, asked how activists from throughout the Bay Area could influence the race. The meetings location in San Ramon, which organizers said was a matter of semantics, [Ed Note: I think he means logistics] probably contributed to an influx of outside-the-district attendees. And as Matt (who is from outside CA-11 himself) noted, an informal strategy session after the meeting consisted largely of groups based outside the district.

First of all, I think Nick is under-estimating the representation of the people from within the district. The mere involvement of both McNerney and McCloskey, each of whom have a significant network of supporters within the district, makes the attendance much more representative than if they hadn't attended.

Second, even those of us who live outside the district have a lot to contribute in terms of time, money, energy, and expertise. I think it would be a mistake to take someone like me and send me out to walk precincts by myself in a place Tracy. I don't know the area well and probably could be easily pegged as an outsider.

But there is no reason why someone from out of the district could not help develop the walk pieces, contribute money to their publication, train the walkers about how to canvass, help with the logistics of setting up the canvassing operation, or help in any number of other productive ways.

Furthermore, I know a lot of the organizations that were represented at the coffee shop have experience pairing volunteers from outside a given district with campaigns within in the district. For example, if I recall correctly, the precincts that Bay Area people walked in Reno in 2004 went for Kerry and were critical in getting a number of local (i.e. Reno-area) Democrats elected.

Lastly, the Defenders people said they had roughly one thousand members and supporters within the district. Even taking away the coalition that might form to take on Pombo, Defenders has enough people within the district to be formidable if they so chose.

I know from my own experience as a street canvasser that I could talk to 20 to 30 people a day and usually raise a significant amount of money from at least two or three of them. If you're not trying to raise money, of course, you can talk to a lot more people. But if Defenders ran a campaign on a PIRG/Grassroots Campaign Inc model they could probably pretty easily have 10-15 paid canvassers working the district (and during the summer as much as double that). 15 canvassers each talking to 25 people a day, five days a week, is 1,875 contacts a week or 7,500 every four weeks. If they started a campaign office during the summer it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect them to reach 20,000-35,000 people by election day. Furthermore, if Defenders had their canvasser raise money, they could very well double or triple their membership in the district while raising a significant amount of money to partially offset the cost of the campaign.

2:08 PM, January 09, 2006  
Blogger kid oakland said...

excellent post.

nuff said.

2:41 PM, January 09, 2006  
Anonymous Fiat Lux said...

Great work Matt!

Sounds like the stars are aligning against Pombo, despite the long odds.

Interesting that no one from Filson's campaign showed up...

5:56 PM, January 09, 2006  
Blogger Matt said...

Fiat Lux,

I am especially interested that nobody from Filson's campaign showed up despite the fact that the event was held less than five miles from his house. In such a far-flung and gerrymandered district, he could not have asked for a better location. Kinda makes you wonder...

6:26 PM, January 09, 2006  
Blogger A. Citizen said...

Great news Matt. I have been sicker'n a dog with the flu but as soon as I am back on my feet I will be checking in with you to see how the LiberalLounge can get involved with the Stop Pombo campaign. I know we can do this and look forward to having some fun doing it too....

6:38 PM, January 09, 2006  
Blogger Cedwyn said...

you've been blogrolled!

8:31 PM, January 09, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More evidence that the fix is in over at the DCCC...

From Grist Magazine's "Get Richard or Die Tryin' ":

Even as enviros mount their opposition to Pombo, they still have no clear challenger to endorse. According to Feinberg of the DCCC, the leading Democratic candidate at the moment is Steve Filson, a former Top Gun-style Navy pilot and now a commercial pilot and active union member -- but he's never held political office. Another potential Democratic contender is Jerry McNerney, an energy consultant and entrepreneur, also with scant political experience.

No mention that McNerney ran in 2004 and thus has higher name recognition and a base of support.

8:38 PM, January 09, 2006  
Blogger Dan Spomer said...

Blogrolled? I think it's safe to say that everyone here is trying to win a Congressional seat, not feed the gaping mouths of some useless far-left POS like yourself. Get a life.

What IS it going to take to make you people understand that folks like this fringer, move-on.org, (insert favorite left wing blog here), et al, are just NOT HELPING?

You need to appeal to the MIDDLE, not the LEFT. Otherwise, what's the point? Am I going to have to come down there and spank all of you???

For chrissakes.... Mr. I-support-Gay-Marriage-but-hate-Bush-and-Irag-sucks is in the bag, OK? So tell me, where are you going to pick up the percentage points to win? Do you intend to import MORE moonbats into your district?

8:40 PM, January 09, 2006  
Anonymous babaloo said...

Hey Cedwyn:

Thanks for the link! We all need to work together to rid our nation of the Pernicious Pombo.

And Dan...

Come on. You're pretty much on the record just above saying "A successful campaign will need to cross MANY lines and bring together people with a hodge-podge of ideologies and skills, many whom have been at odds with each other until this race." Now, er, um, it's not NICE to call someone a POS or a moonbat. Especially Cedwyn.

I don't know about you, but I think there's something really inspirational about people with such different closely-held beliefs joining together in the face of such villainy.

9:19 PM, January 09, 2006  
Blogger Dan Spomer said...

OK, I see your point, and it's a good one. I take back my "moonbat" comment.

But the choices here are a real conundrum...

1) You can appeal to a liberal Oregon-based blog with zero readership... (notice I did not say "moonbat")

1) Or you can appeal to the people who live within two blocks of me, many of whom you don't know, including that nice, elderly couple living just down the street.

One of these options will garner you exactly zero votes.

Let me sleep on this one, OK? I'll check in tomorrow.

Keep up the good work, folks, and I mean that. :)

9:46 PM, January 09, 2006  
Blogger Dan Spomer said...

In my last comment I meant to say "you," not "me" regarding the couple down the street. Sorry about that.

Look. I have just a few months to turn you folks into Republicans. Please don't take that wrong. I bow my head in respect for all you've done, and I certainly appreciate that the cavalry is on the way... but...

It ain't gonna work without a REAL change on the part of you Dems.

It's not my goal to make you value the way the GOP is today... but you are going to have to see, and understand, and respect, the way the party USED to be... the way it was SUPPOSED to be. The way a lot of Republicans feel about the way things SHOULD be- the way they were brought up and raised. They treasure those values more than you could possibly imagine- I know I do.

You are not going to win this race by convincing every left-leaning voter in your district to vote your way. You've been there, done that, am I right? I mean, how many liberals are going to vote for Sir Richard? And a gold star slapped on your foreheard from some liberal blog is not going to help you. It's going to HURT you. You already know how much it impressed me.

The only way you are going to win this race is by scratching and clawing a few thousand votes away from Sir Richard from the moderate right, and maybe even a few from the more extreme right.

If you really want to win this fight, you are going to have to figure out a way to do that. Period. As much as you treasure your pals, move-on.org and other moonbats need not apply. You will only succeed in chasing your winning margin away. In droves.

Trust me, those Republican voters are out there and they are DYING for an alternative. Let's hear your strategy for appealing to them.

10:20 PM, January 09, 2006  
Anonymous babaloo said...

OR you can refuse to buy into labels and try to come to grips with the notion that we all share a lot more of the same dreams and aspirations than we might realize. I passionately believe that the voters of CD-11 aren’t that much different than Cedwyn. Sure, their cultural norms may be a little divergent, but at the end of the day, most of them want the same basic things: a future for themselves and their children that is clean, safe, and filled with REAL fairness and opportunity.

I truly sympathize with your yearnings for the Republican Party of old. But I'm afraid that however much nostalgia you hold for that party, you can't go home again. As to turning us into Republicans -- hah!

10:32 PM, January 09, 2006  
Blogger Dan Spomer said...

Then all the effort here... yours, mine, everyone's, is for naught.

Because those few thousand votes you absolutely must, MUST have all have a little "R" behind their names.

And they all think like me. Or pretty close to it.

Life is all about choices. What are YOU prepared to do?

10:35 PM, January 09, 2006  
Blogger Matt said...

I came back to this thread late because of a meeting I was in. I'm not entirely happy with every turn of the conversation, but I am trying to exercise a bit of forbearance because I hope the upshot will ultimately be productive.

Let me start off by thanking Cedwyn for blogrolling me. There is no reason, political or practical, for me as a blogger to object to this. Frankly, I'm not going to tell anyone not to direct traffic to this site, especially when it is anti-Pombo traffic. I hope my writing is useful to the anti-Pombo crowd of whatever ideological stripe, and I want everyone who is interested in ousting Pombo to get involved in the race.

Where I do have some sympathy with Dan (although it took me awhile to find the kernel of insight in a rather overly abrasive and needlessly belligerent comment) is the idea that we must understand the mindset and worldview of the anti-Pombo Republicans and find a way of bringing them into the larger anti-Pombo coalition. One practical pre-condition for this is avoiding doing things to needlessly inflame their ire.

Dan wants to challenge us to find a way to woo the Republicans who think like him. To some degree we need to deal with how people think no matter how unreasonable their thought processes might seem to us. That is, we need to meet people where they are, not where we wish they were.

In my own way of putting things, this means we need to be sensitive to the Republican anti-Pombo way of thinking.

But there is a difference between being sensitive to Republicans (not to mention Moderates and Independents) and allowing them to dictate what we do and say. If they are going to get irate simply because we are who we are, then they are beyond the realm of reasonable political discourse.

I'm probably as much of a moonbat, fringer, POS as anyone else. But I refuse to apologize for my deeply held convictions. I go to bed each night wondering whether I have done right by the world, and most nights I am able to sleep easy. My political actions are the direct manifestations of the dictates of my conscience. It is for nobody but myself to decide whether it is acceptable for me to have the values and beliefs that I do. And anyone who fails to understand this fails to understand the principles of human dignity and autonomy that form the basis of our democracy.

12:19 AM, January 10, 2006  
Blogger VPO said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:33 AM, January 10, 2006  
Blogger VPO said...

Let me jump in here and say I totally agree with Dan. There is no way this election will be won by preaching to the left-wing choir. Even if every "progressive" in the 11th District voted against him, Pombo would still win due to the 45/38 split in favor of Republicans.

It is absolutely imperative for the moderate Repubs to abandon Pombo. He does not represent their interests or values, and they need to, at some point, realize this.

I have said this all along, just what Dan is saying, the Dems/liberals/enviros are never going to vote for Pombo anyway. There is no need to woo them. Maybe to energize them to get out to vote, yes, but no need to convince them.

The people who need convincing are the ones who pulled the Pombo lever in the last 7 elections, and must be given a reason NOT to pull it this time.

Part of that reason could be the stench coming from Pombo's ethical "lapses". Part of that could be a new realization on just how extreme this guy is on the environment. Part of that could be realizing how little Pombo has done for the district. Part of the reason could be offering an alternative the Republicans can vote for.

The last one is my point: the person running needs to be someone moderate Republicans can vote for. Right now, we have Steve Filson and Jerry McNerney on the Dem side. I can't gauge their appeal to the moderate Repubs.

But the real battle in this election, at least until June 6, will be the Republican primary. Republicans will vote for another Republican, that is for sure. And on the Republican side of things, Pete McCloskey is almost certain to step up and challenge Pombo.

This is about as welcome a happening as we can imagine here in the 11th District. Pete is an experienced campaigner and was in Congress for 12 years. He is charismatic, interesting, and has earned his stripes in ways that few of us can imagine.

Now, if the "blogoshpere" or the "liberals" actually look closely at McCloskey's Republican views, they may not see that much difference on the critical issues between themselves and him. Certainly not on the environment and ethics. I would even speculate that moderate Republicans and progressives are closer in many ways than moderate Republicans and the far right extreme represented by DeLay, Pombo, and Bush.

Matt talks idealistically, and I give him credit for that. But he is young, and I am nearly twice his age. My talk is different, I speak the language of the realist. We need both. The difference is that I would abandon a progressive candidate who may be closer to my values but who is likely to lose the election in favor of a candidate who was farther to the right, but can win this election. I only care about ousting Pombo, whatever it takes, not about electing the next Paul Wellstone.

Because what we are faced here with is a man with tremendous power to wreak destruction on the planet. He is a crazy man, driven by an extreme ideology, and the effects he will have on the natural world will be long lasting and devastating.

I don't really care who the person who ousts Pombo is, as long as he is more environmental and ethical, which is just about anyone. Certainly, the more in line with my values the better, but this is not a requirement for me. Most important, and absolutely critical, is to remove Pombo from Congress before even more of our natural heritage is given up to corporate and developer interests.

10:36 AM, January 10, 2006  
Blogger Matt said...

VPO,

I think we largely agree. I did not mean to imply that I would chose whom to support based on a set of idealistic principles divorced from a hard-nosed assessment of who can win. Like you, I primarily want to see Pombo gone, with other considerations coming in a distant second.

My problem with Dan's comments is that he seemed to imply that Cedwyn's involvement or interest in the race was illegitimate due to Cedwyn's political beliefs. All Cedwyn did was blogroll Say No to Pombo and Dan attacked him for things Cedwyn said on his own blog (things that as far as I can tell had nothing explicitly to do with Pombo or the race in CA-11).

My point was not primarily about what a progressive should do in CA-11, my point was that it is unreasonable to treat progressives as if they carry they carry some sort of plague that will infect the race if they merely pay attention to it.

There is a difference between saying something like, "Dennis Kucinich cannot win because he is too far to the left, so hold you nose and vote for someone else in the primary because he is better than Bush" and "Since Dennis Kucinich is too far to the left, anyone who is ideologically close to Kucinich shouldn't pay attention or help out anyone in the race, whoever that candidate may be, and whatever his political ideology." That is, there is a difference between saying that progressive ideology is counter-productive to the task at hand and saying that progressive ideology is somehow illegitimate.

Your point, and Dan's, is that as progressives we need to act in a way to attract (which implies not anger or scare away) Republicans to the anti-Pombo cause. My point is that neither Dan nor anyone else can expect progressives to go on a self-imposed exile from the broad anti-Pombo coalition simply because their presence (no matter how they act or what they say) will scare Republicans away. I mean, that's just nuts.

VPO, you said that we can count on the Democratic vote. Well in San Joaquin County in 2004 a lot of Democrats voted for Pombo. So I do think we need to figure out how to ensure Democrats vote the Democratic ticket. Also, remember, Barbara Boxer won the district, which suggests that at least half of the voters are comfortable with voting for a progressive Democrat. Granted, she had a weak opponent and the benefits of incumbency, but she also found a way of couching her progressive values in a way that was broadly acceptable within the district.

None of this denies the need to recruit Republicans to oppose Pombo. But, to be honest, I think it's much more likely that Republicans unhappy with Pombo (who very well might be unhappy with Arnold too) would simply stay home than vote for a Democrat.

Furthermore, if the eventual Democratic nominee can get in 2006 every vote that McNerney got in 2004 he (the nominee) would probably win the race.

All of this suggests to me that the pragmatic considerations are more complex than you and Dan have implied. But whatever the case, I think you'll find a lot of genuine, on the left, progressives interested in ousting Pombo. That is where a lot of (the necessary) money and energy will come from. Instead of declaring their (our) ideology illegitimate and their (our) involvement counterproductive at the outset, I think there is an opportunity for someone like Dan to educate us all about how to be productive in this effort.

At the very least, I think I can work with Dan and I think he can work with me. And if some yahoo on the left like me can find a way of working with someone on the right like Dan, I have a lot of faith in the possibilities of a broad-based anti-Pombo movement.

11:36 AM, January 10, 2006  
Blogger Dan Spomer said...

Listen... I seem to have the "skill" of pissing off people from EVERY political persuasion, and it appears that will not change here. However, if I've hurt anyone's feelings here with a few simple posts, just wait until Pombo's people get rolling with THEIR political "wet work."

My point stands: you need to convince several thousand (or more) "R"s to vote for your candidate. You simply can NOT get around that fact.

I also think that McCloskey brings a GREAT deal to this debate. Ideally, I would love to see a bridge built between his efforts and those of the only "D" I see here with a fighting chance: McNerney. I think if those two would cross the Great Political Divide, start dictating the issues and putting Sir Richard on his heels, he would simply not stand a chance.

Having said that, I do apologize if I've offended anyone. But geez... thick hides are going to be needed here. By everyone.

11:38 AM, January 10, 2006  
Blogger Dan Spomer said...

Let's cheer this place up a bit. For your amusement:

http://www.strait-talk.com/2006/01/anagram-for-ragman.html

2:03 PM, January 10, 2006  
Blogger Dan Spomer said...

Matt, I have no idea how you posted that comment in between all the other comments, but kudos for your remarks.

Here's to a hearty, healthy, productive year.

7:29 PM, January 10, 2006  
Blogger Cedwyn said...

wow...i should really search for "Cedwyn" in teh google more often.

Dan - we won! Pombo is gone! so whatever your deal was, i hope you're better. you sound like a very bitter and unhappy person.

and i'm not a guy, thanks.

2:01 PM, November 15, 2006  

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