Virginia: Deputizing The Walmart Greeter

I’ve been mulling over Governor Ralph Northam’s mask mandate for businesses I keep coming back to the story of the Family Dollar employee who was killed after trying to enforce MI’s state-mandated mask policy:

Calvin Munerlyn, 43, died at a Flint hospital after he was shot in the head Friday, said Michigan State Police Lt. David Kaiser.

“From all indications, Mr. Munerlyn was simply doing his job in upholding the Governor’s Executive Order related to the COVID-19 pandemic for the safety of store employees and customers,” Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said in the statement.

Many of us have worked in retail and know of the almost universal mandate that if someone bolts for the store with unpaid product you do NOT pursue for legal and insurance reasons.

And that’s to enforce a law on the books.

Here, Northam is telling business owners and employees to enforce an Executive Order and refuse service to people who won’t wear masks – prohibiting them from entering stores or making them leave.

Or they risk the state penalizing them and putting their business at risk.

Enforcement comes down to business owners whose permit or licenses to operate could be on the line.

“The criminal code is not the place you want this enforced. There are tremendous equity issues with enforcing this that we’re cognitive of and there are very practical issues of our police and sheriffs had to enforce this. So we’ve taken that off the table,” said Clark Mercer, Northam’s Chief of Staff.

By putting the burden of enforcement on stores with the threat of losing their ability to lose business, Northam is putting shop owners and employees on the front-lines of enforcing rules and regulations while having zero real authority.

And that puts their lives at risk.

And which businesses and employees are going to have to deal with this the most? The very same low wage, essential business employees who’ve already been working through this entire pandemic.

I get it, Northam is trying to find a way to make this happen with the powers at his disposal, but clearly those limits are creating burdens that are unsustainable or just irresponsible.

If he needs permission of the General Assembly to give it teeth, then call a special session (though based on his Chief of Staff’s quote above it sounds like they don’t want to go that route). Or find other ways to educate and promote mask usage.

But don’t continue to saddle businesses already struggling with more risk.

Be Welcoming Vs Welcomed

At its core, by seeking large groups to be identified with and by, we as individuals have stopped looking for ways to be more welcoming and instead sought more ways to be welcomed.

People love their choirs. We tend to find our people, our tribes, the folks that align with what we identify ourselves by the most, and we hold on to it tight. Those tribes lead to an us vs. them mentality that the drives too many aspects in someone’s life: where to shop, where to consume news, who to call a friend, who to date, who to marry.

This is nothing new. “Identity politics” has been a part of the human fabric since the dawn of man. Sometimes the identity is self-embraced by how one defines themself and all the virtues they determine that contains — I am Catholic, I am vegetarian, I am pro-life. Other times the identity is how one defines others and the negative perception one accounts to those identities — you are foreign, you are Republican, you are anti-choice. Often they go hand in hand. If you’re not with us, you’re against us.

Kenney the Elder defines the problem directly:

Yet if the end state is really a condition between us and them? Who are us?

Shaun’s entire piece is worth a read with a cup of a beverage of your choosing. In a lot of ways I share his concerns, it’s a reflection of conversations we’ve shared time and again. The public sphere has shifted and as someone who’s engaged in often spirited but well respected debate for most of my life, it’s disappointing to see what used to be robust conversations on matters of importance distilled into mocks, memes, or “owning” one side or the other. Again, from Shaun:

In short, we have become a vulgar, boring people… and you can see it every day on social media, legacy media, commercials, entertainment, sports, etc. Our loneliness isn’t the problem — we’re just not interesting anymore (neither to ourselves or to one another).

So we have to manufacture virtue rather than work on becoming better, more interesting people. Turns out, virtue can’t be purchased. So we opt for wit, humor, condescension and the like rather than insight, relevance, and dialogue.

What’s worse, the manufacturing occurs when we stop letting our ideas and our virtues define our groups and instead allow our groups to define our ideas and virtues. Especially when those ideas and virtues are dictated by personalities more than actual intellectual ideas.

In another way, it’s a matter of values over labels. For example, believing in and engaging in Christian values is different than saying you’re a Christian.

As Bryan Caplan says:

The best way to guard against this laxity is to define your large, selective groups in purely intellectual terms. Identify with liberalism or conservatism, not liberals or conservatives. This is the kernel of truth behind the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. Once you insist that “No true libertarian believes in immigration restrictions,” you’ll feel little temptation to ignore, minimize, or justify libertarians who believe in immigration restrictions. And this is precisely how you should feel.

At its core, by seeking large groups to be identified with and by, we as individuals have stopped looking for ways to be more welcoming and instead sought more ways to be welcomed.

It’s a distinction with a difference. You don’t win hearts and minds by “owning the Libs” or seek to understand someone by responding to reasonable discourse with an animated gif of a disappointed Picard. You do get high fives from your tribe, though.

We seek out and embrace large, unselective group identities to be part of something that reinforces what we want to believe about ourselves. In turn, we narrowly define ourselves not just by who we believe we are, but we also define those who are not us and prove unwelcoming to their ideas and experiences, even if they’re unrelated to our group identity.

We start to see the world in black and white terms. Us versus them. We become narrow, in turn, becoming boring.

We need to resist allowing the halo effect to limit how we experience the world and the fantastic people in it. We need to welcome different ideas and disagreement as an opportunity to learn, not just about the values but about the person who holds them.

This doesn’t mean don’t stand for anything. Absolutely have a take. And, yes, there are going to be bad people out there who are not worth your time.

But start from a place of understanding that often we disagree not because of some moral lacking but because of life experiences that have helped shape who we are. And those experiences can be fascinating.

FUNDRAISING DEADLINE!

How’s your inbox looking this morning? Probably a bit better than yesterday’s campaign convulsion of emails because of some arbitrary internal end of month goal that would be the difference between victory and becoming the next Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia (depending on the campaign). We all hear about the “WE NEED 192 MORE DONORS BY MIDNIGHT!” problem (boy, do we hear it) — but what happens when they miss that goal? Where are the morning after emails? Don’t worry, dear reader, Uncle Jay’s got you covered.


FNAME,

Have you ever typed with your nose? I tried this morning. It’s not very easy.

You see, FNAME, we missed our goal yesterday of 135 more donors before our midnight deadline. And you may not know this about the Senator but he’s a mean drunk.

FNAME, he broke my left hand. And I’m a southpaw.

So we’re getting a head start on May’s goal of 300 new donors by the end of the month. Can I count on you to save my right hand?

Nose typing, FNAME. It’s as degrading as it sounds.

Give before our May 30th deadline and your gift will be QUADRUPLE MATCHED and oh god please help me.

Thank you and excelsior!

Jason
Finance Director
Candidate for Senate

PS – Sweet Jesus, he’s awake and still drunk, please help today!


Campaigns, if you’d like to use this copy, I want 5% of the cut.

Email Fundraising and the Fine Art of Shaming

People bemoan the data gap between Democrats and Republicans, but if we can’t get the messaging right the data’s going to be worthless.

There are a lot of factors that go into why Democrats seem to be better at email fundraising than Republicans.

Personalities matter – it’s easier to fundraise for a rockstar (Obama) than a perceived run of the mill candidate (Romney).

Audience matters – Republicans just think and give differently than Democrats.

Issues matter – emotionally driven politics that appeal to a lowest common denominator see better success than something you have to think about to really grasp and care about (also why Democrats have cooler bumperstickers).

But the biggest issue is really the same battle that Republicans and Democrats have been fighting in inboxes, on the airwaves, in mailboxes, door to door, and face to face:

Messaging.

There is a right way and a wrong way to deliver any message. “It’s a boy!” is infinitely more positive than “It’s not a girl!” “My mom works as a mortician” is infinitely more positive than “My mom’s in a morgue.”

“Join us” is infinitely more positive than “Don’t abandon us.”

Today we got a great example of this. The RNC sent out an email to a huge list that split tested between a couple headlines:

Jason, did you abandon the RNC?

Have you given up on Republicans?

Out the gate this email creates a visceral reaction that, sure, will get a few people to open it, but already turns off a vast majority of the audience it’s seeking to appeal to.

The other problem is it uses language that’s already something the Republican brand is suffering from. Far too often you hear from Tea Party-ists, libertarians, social conservatives, moderates, and others that “I did’t abandon the Republican Party, the Republican Party abandoned me.” This is language everyone involved in messaging in the Republican Party is familiar with – and to ignore it is a huge mistake. This email invites a negative response before it’s even opened.

The guts don’t get much better. Let’s take it in parts:

Did you abandon the Republican Party?

No matter what the subject line was, they still hit you with the “abandon” rhetoric. You start on a negative, pushing away the reader and asking them “why aren’t you my friend anymore?” Just as it’s inappropriate for you to nag someone for refusing to respond to your texts after a second date, you really shouldn’t do the same when asking for money.

Chairman Priebus has written to you already this year asking you to contribute to the RNC and renew your membership. But we haven’t received your financial support yet this year.

“You’re ignoring us. I mean, the CHAIRMAN wrote you and you still didn’t give.”

The RNC is implying that you got their email, read their email, then tossed it in the trash. Not that you maybe missed it. Or that it went into your spam folder. Or that your kid accidentally deleted it when playing with your iPhone. They’re jilted.

Your past support has shown us that you believe in the Republican Party and the conservative principles we stand for. That’s why we still believe you haven’t given up on the Republican Party yet.

Here’s a big issue with the email: the RNC is implying that if you haven’t given them a dime, then clearly you don’t believe in the Republican Party and conservative principles. Sure, you may volunteer locally, be a dues paying member of your local unit, bleed for a Senate campaign or have maxed out on every Congressional race in your state. But that’s a springtime Republican. You need to be an all-of-the-time Republican by giving RIGHT NOW.

So we are giving you one more chance to renew your membership with the Republican National Committee.

One more chance. And if you miss this chance, don’t worry. They’re going to send you an email time and time again asking for more money because, c’mon, they need your money.

Right now you are handing the advantage over to Democrats. That’s exactly what President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid want you to do. With committed Republicans like you sitting out in 2014, the Democrats are able to continue their liberal rampage on conservative principles.

Again, the RNC are the gatekeepers of all things Republican. You’re lame if you don’t give them your hard-earned money.

Also, it’s an odd appeal to people who believe in individual responsibility. They’re saying it’s your individual responsibility to give, but using a negative means of doing so. If YOU don’t take responsibility, it’s YOUR fault, YOU lost this, YOU suck.

Personally, I always buy my hot dogs from the vendor who insults me the most.

2014 is our last chance to step in, step up, and take back the Senate to regain Republican control in Washington. Don’t turn your back on the Republican Party now.

Two issues: 2014 is not the last election ever. And Republicans still won’t have the White House, so total control is still out of reach.

Renew your membership with the Republican National Committee now and support our fight to defeat liberal Democrats.

Membership. What does membership get you? A cool hat? A new rag to wash your car with t-shirt? A lapel pin?

No. You get to call yourself a Republican. Isn’t that awesome?

Thanks,

Tony Parker
RNC Treasurer

Honestly, when I first saw the “from” field, I wondered why the San Antonio Spurs point guard was insulting my degree of Republican-ness.

Now, the RNC has gotten heat on this and responded by saying, “hey, Democrats do this all the time!”

“We are always searching for the most effective digital techniques to engage our grassroots and ensure we have the funds necessary to win the midterm elections,” said RNC spokesperson Kirsten Kukowski. “The Democrats have used this tactic regularly – the DCCC did a 48 hour thing like this a couple weeks ago.”

Sure, the DCCC and others have done something “like this” frequently. Shaming people into contributing works – you want to make them feel like they’re missing the boat and don’t want to be the odd man out when all the cool kids contribute.

But it’s HOW they said it that matters. For example:

Subject: FINAL NOTICE

We don’t mean to nag, but President Obama, Vice President Biden and Nancy Pelosi have all asked for your help and we are still lagging dangerously behind.

This is the final notice of your member status before the fundraising deadline.

Name: Jason “The Awesome” Kenney
Supporter record: 8675309
Suggested Support: $5.00

We need a HUGE day today to respond to the unprecedented attacks we’re facing from the Kochs. And since we can only count donations that come in before midnight towards the goal, now is the time to act. Jason, this could make or break us right here.

We need 12,371 more donations by tonight’s midnight fundraising deadline to close the gap. Will you chip in whatever you can now?

MIDNIGHT DEADLINE: All Gifts Triple-Matched!

If you’ve saved your payment information with ActBlue Express, your donation will go through immediately:

EXPRESS DONATE: $5 >>

EXPRESS DONATE: $35 >>

EXPRESS DONATE: $50 >>

EXPRESS DONATE: $100 >>

EXPRESS DONATE: $250 >>

Or click here to donate another amount.

Thanks,

DCCC Membership

First, it’s short and sweet.

Second, it really talks up the membership aspect, complete with a fake number and a specific ask in order to be a member.

Third, it doesn’t way “THE WORLD WILL END” if you don’t give nor do they question your commitment to the cause. They simply say that it’ll be harder to win. And you want to win, right?

Fourth, they give you a goal you feel that can be achieved. It’s a numbers game. People like numbers and they like games. You can be part of the exclusive national audience of 12,371 who help get them over their goal by midnight tonight.

And this is where we see why Democrats are better than Republicans at email fundraising: The RNC email is a caricature of the DCCC email. Someone at the RNC read the DCCC email and walked away with the impression that it was berating, threatening, and demeaning, so they wrote exactly that and sent it out because, hey, it worked for them!

But what worked for the Democrats wasn’t done over night. It was built, it was tested, it was monitored, it was tweaked, it was softened, it failed, it succeeded, and it worked. Democrats have figured out the art of shaming with a gentle touch while the RNC is trying to do it with a club.

The broad brush concepts behind what the Democrats do well are straight forward:

1) Keep it brief – Short and sweet, get to the point.

2) Make people feel like part of something – We need you to join a number of people just like you!

3) Keep it cheap – Easier to get someone to part with their daily Starbucks than a credit card payment.

Consider the following:

I know you’ve been getting a lot of these but I wanted to make sure you knew that now’s your last chance to help us before tonight’s deadline. We’re so close to our goal but we could still use your help.

$5 will go a long way to fight back against the attacks that are coming every day.

We need 1,253 more donors to meet our goal by midnight tonight. Won’t you help tonight?

Some links to click to specific amounts because people like that stuff.

This stuff works. It’s how Democrats do it. It’s how E.W. Jackson was able to show more individual contributions than any other non-incumbent Lieutenant Governor candidate in Virginia’s history (end self horn tooting).

It’s just a start. I could write a book about list segmentation, data mining, targeting messaging based on interests, past open rates, donor history, etc (If the RNC sent this to existing donors, heaven help them…)

But if we can’t get the messaging right, the data’s going to be worthless.

Thankfully, these kind of emails out of the RNC and other Republicans are rare. The core Republican message can resonate and is something that can be packaged to new voters. But we don’t need to berate the choir to get them to sing in key.

Promoting The Right Online And The Negative Value Of My Thoughts

NOTE: I have no idea why this post is suddenly current. It was originally drafted in August, 2007. Why it’s here now, I dunno. But as it’s out there, no point in pulling it down. But do keep in mind all thoughts are in the context of 2007. Then again, how much has really changed in almost three years?

James Durbin at TechRepublican laments on the lack of any real organization like MoveOn or DailyKos on the conservative side of the web:

The sad thing is it wouldn’t take that much to build a solid organization. There are probably 5,000 blogs nationwide that could be organized into a conservative community and propped up with a Conservative Advertisers Network where politicians could buy geo-targeted ads and in-text ad links. For say, $500,000 total, we could work with one of the existing communities and grow it into a conservative powerhouse.

Any conservative George Soros out there want to pitch in some cheddar? Think of it this way – you’ll make more in a business-friendly environment then you will under a socialist one. I’m willing to give the set of plans to the right people, if anyone is interested.

And right there we see the problem with many people trying to play catch-up on the political side of Web 2.0.

It’s all about the money.

But it shouldn’t be. As I say in the comments:

Are we really just a bunch of mercenaries willing to go out of our way to advance the Conservative cause on the internet only if it pays well? Creating the “next big thing” or even utilizing what’s already there for the cause doesn’t take a lot of money, it simply takes time and a willingness to make it happen. Yet too many people are thinking in terms of dollars and seeing this as a money making opportunity. We’ve got to get past that if we can even hope to begin to compete on the web. Once you build something, once you have a model that works, then you can ask people to invest in it.

The reader generated value of my comment? -1 points. So is the comment of Brian Edwards who uses a comment to hype GOPHub which is an actual effort to create a Digg for right of center blog content.

So a comment that talks about what is being done (and without a half a million dollar investment) and another that points out that money should not be the issue aren’t worth noting. They’re worth less than that. Good to know.

The problem is that the right is trying to create the “next big thing” right away. And while that might not come cheap, it’s a flawed approach at the issue. MoveOn had some big backing, sure, but DailyKos, ActBlue, these sites started as activist driven, grassroots organizations that have grown through the years. If DailyKos and ActBlue have made their organizers money, I’m pretty sure that wasn’t their intention and has become a delightful perk. It’s also ignoring the existance of sites like RedState which act as hubs of conservative thought without large financial backing.

Let’s look locally. Virginia Political Blogs and Richmond Sunlight are two projects from Waldo Jaquith that show what one can do if they simply have the desire and the time. While money might have been nice, Waldo didn’t need a big chunk of cash to provide a great political service. Either of these projects could have been made to target one political side or another if Waldo were so inclined, and at the same low cost and great service.
So the question becomes, are folks on the right really seeking the next big thing that will drive conservative activism or the next big thing that will make money?

Ultimately it comes down to the line that still holds true: if you build it they will come. You can’t just ask for a chunk of change upfront and promise to deliver some amazing product that will be the answer to everyone’s prayers. You have to have a product that’s already doing something, a working model that shows potential that only needs a little boost to dominate. GOPHub is a good service in its infancy. If it just had a bit more backing, not just financially but among the blogs, it could go a long way to act as a clearing house for the national conservative blogosphere. That they have a working model shows that it can be capable of and that’s a better thing to look to than so far empty promises and hype that smacks more of panhandling than actual substance.