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31
 
Gary is taking a break from blogging. Our guest Tapster today is Nation Hahn. 

It has been clear for several years that the NC Democratic Party has failed to build a deep bench of future leaders. It has become ever more clear during the Chairman race in recent weeks as people have tried to find a candidate who could rebuild our Party.
 
One of the points that Eric Mansfield made over and over again during his bid for Chair was that while Chair he would speak out on issues that mattered, but that we must have teachers to speak out on education, rural leaders to speak out on farming, while he spoke out as a Doctor on health issues as an example. The lack of a bench in recent years made this a salient point as we have been forced to turn to the same spokespeople regardless of issue.
 
The good news is that the next generation is here, if we only pay attention to them.
 
Andy Ball of Boone is running for 3rd Vice Chair and a talent worth noticing. He is a powerful speaker, he genuinely cares and he has a record to be proud of as a City Councilor. Zeb Smathers and Justin Conley are equally talented and remarkable. Zeb will likely make a career for himself out of building coalitions around shared values and getting things done regardless of party label.
 
Sam Spencer, President of the Young Democrats, Aisha Dew, and Tori Taylor are all associated with Charlotte and each bring unique skills to the table. Tori is one of the hardest working people that I know. Aisha has done a masterful job leading the Party in Mecklenburg. Sam has brought the Young Democrats back to a place of respectability.
 
Ryan Butler ought to be a future District Judge from Greensboro and his work as President of the LGBT Democrats has been tremendous.
 
In the Triangle, Zack Hawkins has been 2nd Vice Chair for one year and has a passion for public service. Matt Hughes, the young Chair of the Orange County Democrats, has built a fan club for himself over the last two years and is clearly a rising star.
 
We also know the names of young legislators, or would be legislators, that ought to be mentioned for Governor or Senator or another office in 2016. Eric Mansfield, Jennifer Weiss, Cal Cunningham, Deb Butler, Josh Stein and Deborah Ross among them.
 
I could go on, but I think you see the point.
 
We must begin to invest earlier than ever in recruiting and training candidates. We must develop leadership academies that teach people the essential skills of leadership. We have to provide the resources to move people into positions to make a difference and that includes our senior leadership beginning to make room at the table for young candidates, consultants, policy advisors and more.
 
If we are going to develop an agenda that can win today then we must move past tired ideas and the status quo. We have to figure out an agenda that builds the public will for education in age of choice. We must offer tax reform ideas that address the problems without falling inordinately on the poor and middle class. We have to invest in advanced manufacturing and the liberal arts.
 
The other key is that we must develop a Party that is not absolutist. President Obama was referencing Congressional Republicans and the DC crowd when he said, “We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.”
 
He could well have been speaking to all of us who are meeting in Durham on Saturday for the State Executive Committee meeting.
 
In order to build the next generation of leaders we must retreat from absolutism, focus on getting the work of the people done and encourage reasoned debate.
 
Eric Mansfield would tell folks as he traveled the state that he judged a vote by three characteristics — people, policy and politics. A vote could be good for the people that you represent, in fact it should absolutely serve your constituents needs. A vote could be sound policy, even if it is unpopular, and those stands of principle must be regarded. Or, in the purely bad column, a vote could be just about politics. A vote that is cast only for politics should rightly be criticized, but we can’t be absolutists on the first two.
 
If we we are to build a new generation of leadership we must focus on shared values, even though we’ll occasionally disagree. We must accomplish work for the people of North Carolina, rather than fall victim to spectacles alone, and we can have debates that do not descend to name calling.
 
In order to figure out a new vision, a narrative that will work in the 21st Century and a path back to our progressive tradition we are all going to have work together. That is one lesson of leadership that the older generations can offer all of us, if only we’ll pay attention.

 

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25
Gary is taking a break from blogging. Our guest blogger today is Nation Hahn.
 
In recent weeks North Carolinians have heard two inaugural addresses. One, from Governor Pat McCrory spoke to “Unlimited Opportunity.” The other, from President Barack Obama, was a call for the “country’s reasonable majority” to act.
 
For North Carolina Democrats, the President’s address was inspirational. The truth is that it also could also offer a rebuttal to Governor McCrory’s agenda to come.
The most memorable portion of McCrory’s speech came toward the middle as he hammered home his version of “Main Street.”
 
“As I look out toward Main Street with government at our back, I see unlimited opportunity. Government should not be a barricade or an obstacle to progress. Our face and our approach should be outward, not inward.”
 
In McCrory’s world, and the world of his most prominent supporters, government is a barrier for progress. As President Clinton said at the convention last August, their prescription remains the same — cut taxes, cut regulations and call me in the morning.
 
“We know this philosophy works because we've done it before… My parent's and your parent's North Carolina was a state filled with unlimited opportunity-- opportunity not only for them, but for their kids to get a good education, get a job and fulfill their potential… It is time for us to make sure that North Carolina fulfills and even exceeds that potential once more.”
 
Conservative narratives often harken back to the past. They tie themselves to the traditions of the 1950's — family, apple pie and drive-in movies. It has long been a successful strategy. My friend Jonah Sachs wrote “The Story Wars” explaining the power of partnering your present messaging with the stories that define our history.
 
The President’s inaugural address would also tie his narrative to history, however. President Obama warmed progressive hearts and minds with his own story.
 
“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth. 
 
“For now decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay.  We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect.  We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years and 40 years and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.”
 
Jon Haidt, Jonah Sachs and others have correctly pointed out that the Democratic Party abdicating narratives tied to our history and our founding fathers has been one of our most glaring mistakes in recent decades. 
 
President Obama connected the threads between the battle for equality and progress to the Declaration of Independence. He noted that the right to vote has been constantly advanced — with a subtle notation that today people still must wait in line in some areas and voting rights are under attack in others. He noted that immigrants still see this as a
land of opportunity.
 
Earlier in the address he said, “Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time.  For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth.”
 
On the issue of climate change he declared, “That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God.  That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”
 
His address was powerful because of his nod to our common history. Owning the story of progress, reminding people of our constant struggle to become a more perfect nation and stating that we must secure our “self-evident truths” and our “God given freedom” through our work.
 
North Carolina Democrats must not only be inspired by the President’s address, we must heed the lessons of storytelling that he showed on that bitterly cold January day.
 
We must own our history. We must tie our work to the work of those who came before us. We kept our schools open during the Great Depression and we founded the community college system. Terry Sanford stood up to the segregationists and invested in the war on poverty. Jim Hunt saw the roads being paved in rural NC and understood that government investment could be a force for good.
 
To be clear, we should not rely on tired ideas and narratives. Too often we have found ourselves defending the status quo rather than offering a new vision, but we must not abdicate the story of our state either.
 
It was the public investment in education that drove growth in our state. 
 
It was our dedication to environmental protections, not “regulation”, which preserved our natural beauty and led to our status as one of the top states for tourism.
 
It was the view of our state as a beacon of progress to the rest of the South that led to people moving here and great companies not only being founded but sticking around.
 
We need ideas, yes, but we also must tell the story of what made this state great. It was the people of North Carolina who did so, as McCrory would note, but it was the people working together to build progress. It was people believing in something bigger than themselves. It was people who understood that investing in education, good roads, environmental protections and fighting inequality did not mean a burden.
 
If McCrory’s vision was correct then Mississippi and South Carolina would be beacons of economic success. The truth is that his narrative is wrong, but it is up to all of us to respond with a narrative that reminds people of where we have been while inspiring them to move forward towards a brighter future if we hope to emerge victorious in the years ahead.

 

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08
Few would dispute that Susan G. Komen Foundation has dramatically helped advance the fight for a cure for breast cancer. The organization has helped make pink the national color for October, elevating the search for a cure to the top of the national dialogue for an entire month. Its work has resulted in NFL players wearing pink cleats, NBA players wearing pink headbands, and every brand package having a pink ribbon. This puts a focus on breast cancer in a unique way.

The organization deserves plenty of praise and credit for that accomplishment.

Last week, however, the Komen brand image and reputation took a hit with the revelation of plans to eliminate annual funding for Planned Parenthood Health Systems. Days of debate, backlash, and questions unfolded before Komen agreed to reinstate the funding.

What made the organization change its plans?

Social media played a major role, just ask Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, who told reporters, “The intimate nature of social media, and the ability of folks to communicate across all lines — I’ve never really seen anything like it.”

This was yet another example of outrage spreading rapidly once the match was lit, and another reminder that the world has changed forever.

In the days following the Komen decision, Planned Parenthood picked up 10,000+ new Facebook fans who expressed their anger in the form of $400,000+ in online donations, which helped swell the Planned Parenthood treasury along with a $250,000 gift from Michael Bloomberg.

This growth was accentuated by the grassroots groups that popped up via outraged supporters. 10 people, 100, 1000, or more made up each of these individual groups that expressed outrage in their own unique way.

On Twitter there were 1,300,000 tweets related to Komen in the days immediately following the announcement. These tweets spread far and wide thanks to prominent social media influencers such as Rachel Sklar (a prominent CNN contributor, attorney, and former media editor at Huffington Post).

The grassroots nature of the movement was stoked by the wise moves of Planned Parenthood, which also purchased Twitter advertising related to the issue, generating an additional 400,000 tweets. In addition, Planned Parenthood featured fantastic content throughout the endeavor including the development of social media badges and icons that people used to endorse the message.
The recipe for a social media wildfire could be stated as follows:
  1. Legitimate reason for outrage.
  2. Immediate social media reaction, which drives news coverage and is then accentuated with advertising, driving further social media outrage.
  3. Influencers stoking the flames and staying on message.
  4. The organization behind the movement making the right decisions and driving the movement without trying to control it.
The social media playbook is clear. It won’t take off for everyone like it did for Planned Parenthood, but if an issue arises for your organization that ignites a movement then you should follow their lead.
 
Give your supporters the tools to maximize their energy, fan the flames with the media and influencers in social, help supporters refine their message through your content, and drive the movement without trying to control it. 


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27
With Governor Perdue’s announcement that she will not seek reelection the North Carolina political landscape has shuffled quickly. As of today, candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor (with Walter Dalton’s entry into the Governor’s race) have 107 days to raise money, reach voters, and win a statewide primary. This compressed schedule is unprecedented in North Carolina politics.
 
In order to quickly build buzz, build their list, raise money, and reach voters, all of the candidates should seize the opportunity to become the social media candidate for Governor/Lt. Governor.
 
A few hundred bucks spent on targeted (read: don’t just throw ads up...) Facebook advertising, web videos produced at the fraction of a price of television ads (make sure that they have an actual narrative and theme), a well designed website (could be had for less than $12,500), and well written emails can begin to build the foundation that is needed.
 
The joy of the internet is that it moves at light speed, which is necessary in this short of a campaign.
 
The steps above will get you the foundation of what you need, but to get to the next level you really need to embrace the power of social media.
 
Capture behind the scenes photos using Instagram and post to Facebook and Twitter.
 
Share stories, tidbits, and anecdotes about the candidates that show them to be real people, who care about the rest of us.
 
Post rough cut videos of the family spending time together on the road.
 
Speak in the candidates own voice through the social media.
 
Brad Miller, Cal Cunningham, and other potential candidates have already shown a willingness to use social media to elevate their voice. If others seize on their example, and make it part of the campaign’s DNA, then they have a real shot.
 
Simply putting up a Twitter account (Lt. Governor Dalton...) isn’t enough, you must use the platforms to show that you are different if you hope for real success.
 
Guest Blogger Nation Hahn is the Director of Engagement at New Kind (http://www.newkind.com) in Raleigh.
 

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