Open Letter to VA Dems: The only way to fight Fascism in a Democracy is with more Democracy…not protest mixed with complacency.

Lt. Gov. Northam is getting bad advice that makes the Hillary campaign strategy look like a “grassroots revolution” in comparison

First off, I consider myself an Obama-crat more than anything else and that style of leadership is mostly what I am focusing on with this analysis. It is frankly a term that is under-used when you consider it represents a candidate who actually won something.

As such, I supported Bernie during the 2016 primaries but also believed in unity afterward as I have thought long and hard about how to work with other Democratic leaders and groups to build cooperation and collaboration rather than create a civil war within our Movement.

This starts with the reality that when you don’t have a proven Majority of the voters in your corner you aren’t in a position to create a third team OUTSIDE the two-party system to further split your vote against your much more dangerous opponent. So, the rhetorical battles between Establishment vs. Progressive or whatever are a waste of time unless we’re discussing specific people and actions not just divisive labels that fracture our collective movement further.

But after an idiot fascist became President and 1,000+ Democratic seats have been lost nationwide in just 8 years that are clear evidence it wasn’t a fluke, I really think the time to be brutally honest has begun within the Democratic Party when our team needs to pull a pitcher or sit a slumping hitter.

This is something even Obama shied away from doing by focusing on governing over party politics….and that is partly why we’re here today.

In the case of most candidates and party groups that are often well-intentioned but inexperienced or otherwise need to get used to new voices, I believe working out these issues should come in the form of new platforms for dialogue.

And fortunately there have been several strong efforts to bring people together that I have seen in action in recent months from the DNC Election candidate forums and Unity Commission meetings to the recent Grassroots Town Hall with new DNC CEO Jess O’Connell co-sponsored by both the Woman’s National Democratic Club and numerous Resistance groups here in DC.

In the case of the Women’s March-inspired Women’s Summit in Virginia on June 24th, grassroots folks can often lead the way then successfully invite party insiders and candidates along to participate.

But Virginia is in the political equivalent of World Series Game 7 right now and someone in the dugout has decided to bench some of our best players. And what would Nats fans do if Bryce Harper was replaced by a rookie before the biggest game of his life? They would be loud I know that.

Let’s be clear up front that I don’t see this as much of an ideological quest to move America and the party to the “Left” but a unifying quest to move America and the party “Forward” by first and foremost covering the logistical bases of engaging voters to WIN ELECTIONS.

We can blame “Voter Suppression” and “Fake News” from our opponents for our losses all day but do you think Steve Jobs primarily cared what Samsung or Microsoft were doing….even though he was facing an illegal monopoly? He went out there and recruited customers regardless of what the competitors did because he thought he had a winning product.

But instead of working hard to increase “Voter Participation” when the Democratic Party even gets a scent that it is winning the game, in football terms they often decide to stop running as many plays and try to kill the clock instead of doubling down on its self-branded mission built on a Movement for Democratic Values.

And after the most embarrassing electoral loss in the history of America, it is becoming evident that some influential elements of the party still haven’t changed and are buying time while many newly-engaged supporters have yet to realize what the real problems are.

Because it isn’t just the need for more “money” and “volunteers” but it involves things like better “teamwork” so local candidates and grassroots folks aren’t stuck with the full bill and labor cost for every race that the average donors and activists don’t know enough to care about. So, how about a 51-District Strategy so we mathematically have a chance at a majority if 100 is too ambitious!

The most important need is for Democrats to foster a more sustainable grassroots army of people-savvy Strategists as well as precinct and community-level Ambassadors who are capable of supporting effective campaigns and can be rewarded for their long-term commitment to the cause.

We need leaders who can hit our streets and our online feeds to spread a message of Hope and Democratic Values for our political, social and economic systems of government that goes beyond laughing at or condemning the ideas of the other side. I don’t believe in litmus tests so we can debate the best messages but this absolutely means sharing some form of vision that every American can relate to in their daily lives that is at least partially inspired by the consensus-based 2016 party platform.

Most good candidates don’t need a focus group to come up with 3 bullet points about what their communities need so this shouldn’t be hard.

So, especially after the tragedy in Charlottesville, I believe the best way to honor Heather Heyer’s memory and thank all the Mom’s (from Heather’s to mine who sadly recently-passed) who support brave activists who are willing to stand up for Democracy is to AT MINIMUM show we have the wherewithal to stand up to the GOP in this damn election that is basically the only game in town in 2017.

Now, as Joe Biden has said, I believe in questioning a person’s judgment not their motives, so I’m not going to go too deep into why this “Complacency” philosophy has thrived despite the greatest triumph of the past 8 years being the obvious success of the “Yes We Can”-themed grassroots phenomenon created by the first African-American President.

But in my recent email exchanges with some senior campaign staff I don’t see a true passion to understand how to achieve electoral success. In politics and life connections matter, which i think is great if you can create your own rather than rely on your parents or some other superficial gimmick, but we’re talking much bigger stakes then giving Johnny an internship without asking for his grades because his Dad donated to the campaign. We deserve better.

In the below letter that I handed to Lieutenant Governor Northam on Wednesday, August 23rd at an event in Arlington, I include some email excerpts of a message where his Communicator Director shared with me a bizarre mockery of my concerns about basic concepts of using critical campaign tools like televised debates, web sites and social media to engage the public in supporting our campaigns.

Yes, that covers both OLD MEDIA and NEW MEDIA.

This is especially odd not just because we know both Obama and Bernie used these weapons quite effectively but also because when the primary was over even Hillary Clinton’s general election campaign did boilerplate campaign duties like a normal schedule of debates, shared events on their web site and created social media-friendly photo-ops for their candidate.

To be fair, the Northam campaign and the Democratic Party of Virginia are campaigning online and offline in many ways, some of which is top down and some of which is grassroots-led, but this response served as the very confident spin of someone who was “born on Third Base” by joining a campaign with no opponent until the very end of the primary season. I hope this is just something he was told to regurgitate to cover up someone else’s bunker mentality in spite of a recent poll showing the race as close as tied.

I would say to most people who have worked in communications and politics these arguments can only be perceived as ignorant bullshit that is frankly dangerous to our party regardless of the result in November.

That is because if the campaign loses it might offer some “Hillary didn’t go to Wisconsin” lessons learned that might not might not be ignored AGAIN but it will DEFINITELY help crush the enthuisiasm of both the Resistance in Virginia and Nationwide.

Or if the campaign wins by a few points during a cycle where it was the biggest game in town, these folks will get an inordinate amount of positive attention for using tactics that helped them barely skate by despite a horribly toxic political environment for our opponents while leaving behind their down-ballot colleagues to fend for themselves and probably a GOP-controlled state legislature for decades to come.

That’s why changes need to come from the top starting now. As I am not talking about just a few dumb quotes and my own subjective views. I am hearing similar concerns from other grassroots folks about a lack of engagement statewide.

That is because this race is close. Ed Gillespie is a former RNC Chairman who acts like an old-fashioned Republican not an unhinged bigot and in 2014 he almost beat Mark Warner.

This is a Democratic campaign for Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia not some “Center for Anti-Nazi Progress” think tank where you just write up a “Racism is bad!” Medium post and show up to speak at some small gatherings of like-minded individuals and expect adulation statewide for your courageous views in support of the Constitution.

It is great to share “thoughts and prayers” but, as has been discussed when it comes to mass shootings, that’s the easy part when tragedies happen.

We need Democracy-driven Actions not just “Anti-Fascist” Words.

We need Democracy-driven Offense not just “Anti-Fascist” Defense.

And we definitely don’t need to put the future of America in the hands of anymore Complacency-driven Arrogant Socially-Promoted Hacks.

Politics is complicated but Elections are simple for Democrats who have won the popular vote in 6 of the last 7 presidential elections:

“When We Vote. We Win.”

August 23, 2017

Dear Lt. Governor Northam,

Below are responses I received by email from your Communications Director Brad Turner recently that I would like you to read because i believe they are insulting to anyone’s intelligence who has ever worked in the communications and media field. For myself, that has included over two decades in roles ranging from award-winning public relations agencies to serving under former 11th District Chair George Burke with the International Association of Fire Fighters shortly after 9/11 where i would field up to dozens of media requests in a day.

I’m sure you get lots of advice about how to manage your image but I have shared the below comments with several Democratic leaders and activists who have universally found them misguided and harmful to your campaign. So, in the interest of our collective success i feel it is imperative that these ideas be discredited so hopefully a new course can taken in the Virginia race and lessons can be learned for 2018 and beyond.

Here are the key excerpts:

Turner: “We have not put Northam events on our website. Rarely, if ever, in my decade of campaigning has anyone used the website to come to an event. We ensure local activists are there, but interested voters just showing up isn’t something that happens with regularity.”

In over a decade of my campaigning using web sites like eventbrite and facebook are exactly how you recruit people to attend any event. The whole point is you need to share the web pages via email, social media or text and not just upload them onto your web site and expect people to search for them every day.

Turner: “As for pictures, I am not entirely sure what you are referring to, but if you are using our social media feed as a barometer of activity, I would encourage you not to do so. Ralph has been ensuring we have the funding necessary to win, going to churches, local committee events, a debate, joint appearances, etc.:

In 2017, i shouldn’t judge a campaign by their social media? Gillespie shares pics at events nearly every day while our campaign barely shows any. There apparently aren’t even events for policy roll outs that could garner media coverage so I feel like there is probably a general lack of voter engagement events that could help grow our base.

Turner: “Debate viewership of the last democratic debate was roughly 4,000 Virginians. Generally, this doesn’t generate the coverage you would think, or the viewership you would expect. Debates also provide Ed with a platform that is necessarily beneficial. Debates also aren’t single day events. They require prep, staff resources, the candidate’s time, which means he’s not doing other things like going to community events, holding meetings, roundtables, etc.”

Since when are debates not worth it? The “People’s Debate” that the League of Women Voters and AARP just “canceled” got 200,000+ viewers on PBS and C-SPAN in October 2014….it isn’t just 4,000 from a live stream-only July event.

If you factor in the PR value of TV viewers based on a typical ($10K/Minute Cable News Ad Rates) x (3) Formula, potential online and precinct house party viewers as well as combined social media and press coverage this could one event could offer over $1 million worth of campaign value.

These non-partisan organizations represent constituencies that cover about 75% of the electorate. Mark Warner, Terry McAuliffe and Tim Kaine all agreed to participate in this program during their recent elections.

The only two debates in the fall are regional and business-oriented not statewide. so why are they more important?

AARP Virginia says that based on what they learned during the 2013 situation where Ken Cuccinelli turned down the debate, PBS could still be broadcast if confirmed by Labor Day and it would be great if we could finally put the pressure on Gillespie to accept.

There is no more important event than October 9th to talk to Virginia voters so let’s send a message to Heather Heyer’s family that if she can stand up to Nazis and KKK members with guns then we can stand up to Ed GIllespie in a 60-minute debate to defend our Democratic values. Our message must first and foremost come from the candidate directly.

We need to do more than fight Voter Suppression because we need to encourage Voter Participation regardless of the obstacles if we want to win at the ballot box to control voting policies. Democrats cannot afford any more “low turnout” elections and the Real Clear Politics average showing the race within 5 points is evidence that state elections can’t guarantee a huge Trump Bump.

Hillary Clinton was averaging a 6.5% lead in Wisconsin polls then lost by 0.7%.

Terry McAuliffe was averaging a 6% lead in 2013 but won by only 2.5%.

Polls cannot be trusted. Our best chance at a majority in the House of Delegates and the continued morale and momentum of the nationwide resistance is at stake so let’s fight with everything we got.

As a veteran grassroots ambassador and organizer of volunteer activities I want to be able to confidently say to folks who give up their time and money for the campaign effort that the Democratic Party is doing everything it can to win elections like this in the future but the above assessment is antithetical to our hard work and will require tons of effort to overcome.

Feel free to email me with your feedback on how we can ensure victory in November.


Jim McBride

Network For Progress

Woman’s National Democratic Club’s Grassroots Coordinating Committee

Formerly: Arlington Young Democrats’ President, Arlington Democrats’ Vice Chair Precinct Operations, Virginia For Obama’s Volunteer Database Coordinator


Social & Media Strategist Jim McBride promoting forward-minded messaging & community-building as founder of the post-Obama grassroots group Network For Progress