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"John McClane: You know what you get for being a hero? Nothin'. You get shot at. You get a little pat on the back, blah, blah, blah, attaboy. You get divorced. Your wife can't remember your last name. Your kids don't want to talk to you. You get to eat a lot of meals by yourself. Trust me, kid, nobody wants to be that guy.
Matt Farrell: Then why you doing this?
John McClane: Because there's no body else to do it right now, that's why. Believe me, if there were somebody else to do it, I'd let them do it, but there's not. So we're doing it.
Matt Farrell: Ah. That's what makes you that guy. "

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The Grassroots Case for Phoenix – Update – Update2

Update: Please don’t get distracted thinking that I’m a huge supporter of Phoenix or anything, this post is about control and who has it. The grassroots controlled party OR people who look at us as an obstacle.

I was at the CD4 GOP convention Saturday. Well, I visited CD3, 5, and 4. But ended the day at CD4. Near the end, Pat Anderson announced that the MNGOP has already decided to hand over its database operations and ownership to outside group(s), that everyone running for state leadership agreed and that it was going to happen. She said this is exactly what the DFL does and its time for the MNGOP to do so as well. – I’d heard the rumors about this, and have even supported the idea in the past.

The idea is supposed to be along the line of “The Colorado Model” where business, owners, big donors, or other interest groups or associations, etc  (like the Chamber & MN Biz Partnership) and/or “Super PACs” take over  and run the database. They build a system (or buy one), clean up the data, and allow people to use it. Its a good model if you have a singular goal, or agreed upon terms. It works very well for the DFL because their base knows that a Democrat winning is the most important thing. We as Republicans, have more principled values, and winning isn’t always all that matters. Many believe some if not most Republicans in public office are no different than Democrats.

When it comes time for the DFL GOTV machine to kick into gear, they push straight ticket no ‘ifs, and’s or but’s about it. They don’t moan and kvetch over this guy or that gal that voted this way once or didn’t pay their BPOU the respect it thought it deserved. Nope, for the DFL, the only thing that matters is that (D) after the name on the ballot and their activists, volunteers, and GOTV goon squad will fight tooth and nail for each and every voter to cast their vote for the Democrat, no questions.

MNGOP activists don’t work that way. While we need to learn from many of the DFL’s tactics in operations, our activists are not lemmings or slaves. If you take a good honest look, the DFL is an anti-grassroots party. Their conventions have checks and balances built in to prevent “getting it wrong” and if they do, their endorsed candidate usually loses in the Primary anyways to who ever the Unions want. Heck, they have quotas to get elected Delegate, walking sub caucuses designed to derail proceedings from the floor of taking control of the business before the body.

But enough of why I am glad I am not a slave in the DFL party.

The 3rd party database model for the MNGOP is probably going to have a buy in process. So if a candidate wants to have the data, there will be a fee or commitment made. I’m not sure if that would be financial, or pledge, or what. But just because BPOU Chair from SD99 says so and so is good so send them the password (like we currently have), isn’t going to fly when someone else owns that data now.

There is apparently a growing desire to go with a 3rd party database  in the MNGOP. Meanwhile, there’s also chest thumping about fighting June Primary because it would allow the Chamber and rich people to undermine the “grassroots” endorsement process. 

Do you spot the huge problem that I do?

On the one hand we want to hand over control and ownership of our biggest resource (data) but on the other we don’t want to trust these very same people in candidate selection.

Why is this a problem? In the DFL, if a local BPOU or CD isn’t doing what it is told to and the DFL needs that District for their plan, they send in the unions or send the work through an outside group. One of their local volunteer leaders isn’t cutting it or doesn’t like the candidate, in comes the paid professional staffer to run local operations.

While I see the merits of that strategy when it comes to winning at all costs, I know that MNGOP activists would scream ‘top down’ and say that you are supposed to walk on the green side of sod not the roots. (attempt to be funny and clever. FAIL)

On a statewide basis this could work, I do believe we GOP activists have to approach endorsements with a much more, just let the primary sort it out” approach. Sorry, but 2 duds in a row and well, fool me once….. I do fully support the endorsement process for Congressional & Legislative races. Its just that a contest of “last man standing” (how I explain the Caucus/endorsement/Delegate selection process) to have 2000 people decide who is best to appeal to 2 million Minnesotans is proving its own faults. The only people to have had any electroal success statewide in Minnesota have run in spite of the objections of the grassroots, that can’t be ignored.

Here’s an example of why the 3rd party model has serious flaws.

DFL Senator Terry Bonnoff is supported by right leaning groups that are likely to have control of the new 3rd party owned database Pat Anderson mentioned on Saturday. The MN Chamber endorsed DFLer Bonoff in 2010 over Republican Liberty Caucus Chair Norann Dillion and again in 2012 over GOP grassroots endorsed David Gaither.

If you are naive enough to think that the people “allegedly” ready to spend their 3rd party war chests to fix our data problem, are going to give a crap if the Executive Committee from SD99 hates the chosen candidate…. Heck, GOP State Rep. Ernie Leidiger endorsed the DFL opponent for GOP Sen. Ortmann. That kind of crap doesn’t work in the business world, and chances are, the business community and professionals are not going to have much patience for the usual grassroots infighting. They will see it as unproductive and quickly solve the problem, and that won’t be finding a new candidate. That will be cutting the problem out of the loop.

Going forward, if the MN Chamber or 3rd party entity,  controls access to the database, what happens to the GOP endorsed candidate or primary winner is different then theirs? Who gets the data? On whose authority? And what if the BPOU doesn’t agree? Do they pull support or access if our guy beats their gal because they know our guy just can’t and/or shouldn’t win?

Think about this folks. You wanna hand over “the data” to the very people you don’t trust to pick the candidates. What happens when grassroots activists pick a candidate other than the Chamber does? Who gets the data? Look at it from their point of view, they have a vested interest in winning elections, not our principles or platform.

Phoenix is far from perfect. I get that. But the party owns it. The party controls it. And the party is responsible and held accountable by the grassroots.

Now let’s get in to the case for why we should stay with Phoenix.

We own it, for better or worse, but *WE* own it. The Party owns it and everything in it. No one can tell us what we can and cannot do with it, and more importantly, no one can tell us what we can do “to” it.

Short of someone finding about $1.5 million dollars laying around give to the party to buy a brand new system, to replace all our VOIP phones, servers, websites, and other things, (This is above and beyond the current debt) the only other options are the 3rd party “Chamber” model” or the RNC system. I’ve gone over some of the bad points above on the 3rd party model so let’s look at the RNC system.

I believe the RNC system is no longer called Voter Vault, its something like Data Center or what not. But here’s the big rub, scrapping Phoenix and going tot he RNC system doesn’t remove the Phoenix budget line item from the party’s budget. From what I understand, we don’t just plug in to some server in DC. Its a DC based system but run locally. Basically they wrote the software, and we have to run it here locally.  We would still have to run and maintain that data here. (Just like we are right now.) It is shared back and forth, but we would still need staff, servers, resources, and money to run the RNC system for just Minnesota.

The fact of the matter is, in some states or select Congressional Districts, yes the RNC helps and pitches in, but given the condition of the Republican Party of Minnesota compared to the footing of the DFL’s and the recent electoral calamities that we have put forth for statewide officer, the RNC wisely won’t waste resources here on a losing proposition. Nor should they in my opinion. They shouldn’t subsidize  poorly run and performing state parties. Its time for the grassroots to share some blame in our state party’s last 4 years. Everyone is great at pointing fingers until they get in front of a mirror.  I’ll save that for a later time, but the point is, we elected Carey, Sutton, and Brodkorb as well as endorsed Emmer & Bills. The results speak for themselves. So does that ash heap over there known as the party.

Frankly I am getting sick and tired of fighting over who to blame for what went right and what went wrong.

Unless Joe Mauer retires from Baseball to run against Mark Dayton, the RNC & Governor’s association are not going to even take a phone call from Minnesota. And if we still haven’t had anyone begin to start talking to the general public and not focussed entirely on GOP Delegates, until next May or June after the endorsement, they will block our phone number because that’s too late.

And even if Matt Birk does run against Al Franken and we have the name ID battle on the same page, the NRSC & RNC are not going to even consider spending a dime in Minnesota. Their logic firmly grounded in the 2012 US Senate results where the grassroots candidate had the worst election performance in modern history for a statewide candidate from a major party, and there have still not been one single set of reforms or at least mea culpa’s over the condition of the party or quality of the candidate. (And yes, I am looking at you grassroots)

In my opinion, the notion of “I hate Phoenix because it doesn’t do what I want so anything has to be better”, it is a lateral move at best, but one we would regret forever. 

Because the chance of a Republican winning statewide in 2014 appear to be, logically, somewhere between slim and fat chance. Its funny, because that’s about the same odds as us getting a bunch of big names in for fundraisers or for RNC staffers and national money to be airdropped in. So if we think that the RNC system we agreed to use, should be changed to do something that works for a BPOU or even if we at the State level want it to be able to perform some new specific function, the RNC isn’t going to change it just for us. Its a one size fits all solution and that’s a problem. Minnesota is a unique state.

Admittedly, I never seen or ever used the RNC system so maybe it is perfect. But what if it isn’t? What if it can’t do everything that Phoenix (whether it does it well or not) currently does for us? What if they don’t allow every single endorsed candidate to use it? During GOTV, I may or may not have seen  local volunteers deciding to add local candidates to GOTV calls. Some may have even  written the names of their County Commissioners into the script, or strayed from it in ways that would be, let’s just say, hard to explain to certain people. Some locals like to do things their own way, and more power to them, but when you buy in to someone else’s system, you work for them now. Its everything on the RNC’s terms. Go ask Bill Paulsen to tell you about the RNC… in case you missed his stump speech.

No matter whether we go 3rd party or RNC on a new database, we’d lose grassroots control and make the Republican Party at all levels virtually useless.

No more meaningful endorsements, no more database. Well what good is a state party with a 3rd party owned database who also controls the candidate selection? Do you think they will care if you endorsed someone else for Mayor, County Commissioner, or State House than they did? Do you think they would have left your phones on, if they knew you were going off script? No, they’d shut you down from DC. Your phones would go dead on GOTV weekend. There’s no incentive for big donors to give anymore. The State Party and all its affiliates would shrivel and die because, unfortunately, a platform is not enough to stand on let alone run a statewide organization on.

Plus, do you really think that they will actually give the grassroots access to the system? I’m guessing it would be read only and you won’t even be able to make changes if you find out someone is really a Democrat, but is marked as a Republican. Either way, they will have delays in updating as chances are it will be verified first. If you think Phoenix is slow, just wait until Minnesota is the lowest priority on that RNC data guy’s list and he  has a stack from every other purple or swing state ahead of Blue State Minnesota’s.

Just think about the logistics for a while folks because this will have lasting effects on the party. While we may enjoy conventions and monthly meetings, they will serve no real purpose. The people with the power and control will no longer be at those meetings.

So, on to the case for Phoenix. 

Since we own Phoenix, we can control not only who has access (as in candidates & BPOUs) but also how it works and what it can do. If there’s a problem or glitch, we can fix it. If it doesn’t do something we need it to, we can fix that. That’s something that will not be possible with the outsourcing options. Yes, it takes money to run our own database, and no it hasn’t been done that well. But just like we hastily and for suspect reasons went to Phoenix, change for change’s sake is not a good enough reason.

Phoenix isn’t perfect, it may not even be good, but its the best option we have to keeping grassroots control of our party. Its going to take work. Its going to take money and effort to get it better and the data better. But, that’s going to have to happen anyways. Someone will have to fix the data, the system, the question is, after its done, who has control of it?

The grassroots, or the people we are supped to be afraid of taking away our endorsement process?

Update 2: I’ve talked to a number of people today.  Contrary to what Ms. Anderson said, this is NOT a done deal and  most people are wondering who she was talking. Maybe this will make them realize that they shouldn’t trust her, but hey, that’s just me.

But there is something happening. And it has to. The question is about who controls controls access and how. Its become clear today that there are different tiers involved, and not everyone understand they aren’t at the head table.

I thought I had the full picture, but did not. Still don’t, but the more I learn the less worried I am. That being said, its a major change and people should be aware of what is happening.

Chose your party leaders wisely,.
I trust Keith Downey, Kelly Fenton, & Chris Fields to make the right call at the State Executive Committee level.
 

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