Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wrestling with Pigs - Advice for Local Politicians

The political season is warming up again, and new candidates are jumping into the pool. And, happily, there are some great ones - Jay Swearingen in the 31st District and Kevin McManus in the 46th District stand out as fresh faces ready to run great campaigns. Both have kicked off their efforts with successful fundraising and meeting lots of people.

As a blogger, I have a few words of advice for Jay, Kevin, and any other first-time candidates. Ignore us.

Here's a true story of why. A couple election cycles ago, I had chosen to support a primary candidate in a hard-fought state rep race. As is often the case, the partisans on both sides were getting kind of nasty in blog comments, while the candidates themselves were staying above it all.

One fine Saturday morning, when the weather was picture-perfect for door-to-door campaigning, the candidate I was supporting was out meeting people and asking for their votes. Around noon, though, the other candidate posted a long, passionate comment on my blog, way at the bottom of 80 or so comments. The candidate had obviously spent the morning on a computer instead of a sidewalk.

I knew the race was over right then. Shaking hands, asking for donations, putting yard-signs up - that's the way for a candidate to spend a sunny Saturday morning during campaign season. Worrying about what a few, mostly anonymous, commenters are saying is not. A few of that candidate's supporters told me after the election that they lost their optimism when they saw the comment, because they knew the candidate was not disciplined enough to stick to priorities. When the votes were counted, the candidate who spent Saturday morning going door-to-door clobbered the one who spent Saturday morning writing a comment on Gone Mild.

You will not win or lost your campaign by what is written on blogs. Another anecdote - back in 2006, another local candidate ran the most effective blog-based campaign I had ever imagined. He ran a first-class blog, participated in conversations in other blogs, and basically won the hearts and minds of everyone in the blogosphere. I sincerely thought he was going to win. He got crushed.

My point is that the blogosphere in local politics is a raucous scene populated by anonymous agitators who will say just about anything under their cloak of anonymity. Don't confuse them with the people you need to persuade.

If a blogger posts something factually inaccurate about you, go ahead and email the person and politely explain where he or she is mistaken. Most bloggers I know do try to stick to the truth, and the majority of us will print a correction. But ignore the comments, and don't try to win a battle in the comment section of a blog.

George Bernard Shaw wrote, "I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it." While there are some tremendously thoughtful and fair blog commenters out there, the analogy fits.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's quite a change of heart - you repeatedly encouraged Amy Coffman to comment on your blog, and repeatedly criticized and antagonized her campaign in several posts for not having a website.

6/25/2009 10:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's no change of heart, that's a great example of what he's saying. Not only did Coffman waste her time, he managed to make her look like an illiterate chicken for weeks afterward. She gave him all the material he needed. Nobody would have paid attention to his pro-Kander site if she hadn't "dignified" with her whiny, poorly written response.

6/25/2009 10:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lol you're saying, andit's true , that Amy & Company rose to Dan's bait.

Dan encouraged her to comment, as he has encouraged other politicos to comment, as he has antagonized yet other politicos on this blog.

Kind of like a drug addict telling us to "just say no". Fitting analogy.

It's a good change of heart, don't get me wrong -- I agree, applaud Dan's effort and I think he is providing valuable advice, especially to the naive and uninitiated.

6/25/2009 12:10 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Anonymous #1 - Anonymous #2 has it right. My desire to have her answer my simple question was motivated partially by a sincere curiosity about how should would answer, and partially by a hope that she would waste more of her time arguing with me instead of working on her campaign. If she had asked my advice on whether to spend more time arguing me, I would have advised her to spend her time campaigning instead. She should have asked, I suppose.

6/25/2009 8:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't read your blog for a while. It just ocurred to me that you are irrelevant. So long.

6/25/2009 9:04 PM  
Anonymous artemus said...

Dan, the duality of your motivations is fascinating.

You want to lure an opponent in for the sake of humiliating them, but would simultaneously tell your opponent to avoid you - if they asked you if they should talk to you.

Is this really Dan, as you explain, an issue of self-hate, or self-loathing -- Dr. Jekyll warning people of Mr. Hyde?

I know the answer, and it is not quite so dramatic.

6/25/2009 9:55 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Anonymous 9:04 - thanks for taking the time to share your insight.

Artemus - I don't say it's self-loathing. That's not it at all. In fact, I was pretty proud of my ability to tie a campaign in knots because of my insight and wit. But I'm a kind, fair person, and if she had asked, I would have given her my honest advice. It's really not all that hard to understand, nor is it inconsistent.

Besides, I never wanted to humiliate her, nor do I think I'm capable of that. I just wanted her to answer my simple question, and to continue to focus on my blog rather than her campaign.

6/25/2009 10:02 PM  
Anonymous South of 63rd said...

Dan you were filth to Amy Coffman.

I will never trust Jason Kander because he associated himself with you. I also find the fact that you deleted comments from your blog in such a way that tainted the historical record to be immoral.

I hope you burn in hell with people like Nixon and Agnew.

6/25/2009 10:29 PM  
Anonymous Artemus said...

Dan, LBJ had the same tone of voice when he talked to Congress about the Gulf of Tonkin.

I recall the tone of your blog - and it ties with your comments above -

"I was pretty proud of my ability to tie a campaign in knots"

With your blog.

And now you, with your VERY LONG post above, emplore candidates not to respond to your less-than-honorable tactics.

Why are you arguing with yourself? With your statements you represent they very worst in blogging and politics - and you say

"Do as I (recently) say, not as I do."

6/25/2009 10:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this the Kevin McManus that lives on Gregory blvd. I didn't know the 46th district went that far north.

6/25/2009 10:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Dan is proud that his blog can tie a campaign in knots, but he advises people against interacting with bloggers like himself.

I guess that makes sense to Dan.

6/25/2009 11:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I was pretty proud of my ability to tie a campaign in knots"

During the last election, Laura Ingraham encouraged her listeners to call the Democratic voter assistance hotline and basically "to the campaign in knots."
( )

So are you saying you agree with that type of behavior?

At the time, I thought you had good intent when asking for comments and was actually interested in hearing her answers. Shame on me for thinking so highly of you.

6/26/2009 12:43 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

This is all kind of funny. So, do any of you think the advice I'm giving here is bad? Do you think candidates ought to wrestle with you anonymice (anonyswine? posting puercos?) instead of focusing on their campaign?

Do you think that's bad advice?

I didn't think so.

Now, as for the prior campaign, I definitely did want to hear her answer my simple question. Heck, if she did a great enough job of it, she might have persuaded me! But that doesn't mean that it would be wise for her to spend her time in that effort.

I want every candidate to come to my house and spend an hour with me talking about issues and political philosophy. But that is not how I would advise a candidate to spend his or her time.

Anonymous 12:43 - Stop and think really hard about whether you can find any distinction between illegally jamming phone lines and inviting someone to answer a simple question and providing them the space to do it. Or, better yet, get some sleep.

South of 63rd - the only comments deleted were a few filthy attacks on each of the candidates, and then the ones I deleted to keep the space open for the candidate to respond to my simple question without getting buried. If you have a different recollection, you have a mistaken recollection.

6/26/2009 5:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Heck, if she did a great enough job of it, she might have persuaded me!"

Persuaded you to do what? Jump ship from the Kander Campaign?

"Stop and think really hard about whether you can find any distinction between illegally jamming phone lines and inviting someone to answer a simple question and providing them the space to do it."

That's a new one for me. What law would have been broken by callers flooding a campaign line? I would consider it to be dirty pool, and a pretty chicken-shit tactic; but illegal?

6/26/2009 9:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


6/26/2009 9:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This says it all:

"I was pretty proud of my ability to tie a campaign in knots"

You're proud of that, but you condemn others for doing it? Especially anony commenters? You can have an agenda as Dan at gonemild to "tie campaigns in knots" and that is....good? But anony commenters doing the same thing is.... bad?

And advise politicos not to engage with....people like you.

Ok, I think I've got it.

6/26/2009 10:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, do any of you think the advice I'm giving here is bad? Do you think candidates ought to wrestle with you anonymice (anonyswine? posting puercos?) instead of focusing on their campaign?

I am just asking questions so you will keep responding and not have time to write more Pro-Funk posts!

Anxiously awaiting your reply.


6/26/2009 12:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan on 6/8/08 criticizing a candidate's disdian for engaging bloggers:

"What's remarkable, though, is that the distrust and hostility toward blogs and those that read them has led a local candidate [COFFMAN] to refuse such a great opportunity, and to write so negatively about those of us who participate in the "senseless world of blogging". Some of us vote, and many of us host yard signs. Why would she accuse us all of discrediting the democratic process, when we're only trying to participate?"

And now, Dan, you're voicing the same disdain in this post. I guess you agree that Amy was correct. After all, you're now saying it is senseless for politicos to engage the blogs.

That's quite a turnaround, and very good advice btw.

6/26/2009 2:14 PM  

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