The New Politics Forum labels its program a “Campaign Bootcamp” for a reason. It’s a packed schedule over the course of three days, designed to mimic both a military bootcamp and also the pace of an actual campaign. Students feel there isn’t sufficient time, which is exactly how campaign managers feel as they pursue electoral victory. With these circumstances in mind, we set out to do all that is possible, to the highest quality attainable, in the time allotted.
Our work day did not begin until 11am today, allowing us to get sufficient sleep and breakfast. Fortuitously, we had an inspirational speaker, Secretary Julian Castro, beginning our second day of Bootcamp. Castro’s words were encouraging, expressing the need for young people to get involved.
As the youngest member of President Obama’s Cabinet, Castro was an appropriate person to provide such advice.
Prior to being appointed by President Obama, Castro won a seat on San Antonio’s City Council and, ultimately, was elected as Mayor of San Antonio—the exact office we are running a simulated campaign for! Another aspect of Castro’s career was also appropriate for education as LEAP students at SHSU. When Castro spoke to the Democratic National Convention in 2012, he spoke of the American Dream as a relay, with one generation passing on a “baton” to succeeding generation, but with both generations running on the same race and for the same team.
LEAP students operate under this model: we participate not only to succeed for ourselves, but to hand off the baton to new members such that we maximize their chance of success, too. Our efforts benefit not only, but also those on “our team”—whether that team is LEAP, SHSU, young people, or all Americans.
With this inspirational beginning, we were poised to hear another inspiring speaker: Nancy Bocskor. LEAP students have a rich history with Ms. Bocskor, having hosted her at SHSU to much reward over the years (see here, here, or here for examples).
Ms. Bocskor spoke on fundraising, and she emphasized narratives. While facts and figures may motivate some, most people are drawn to stories, narratives that provide compelling reasons for putting hard-earned money behind a specific candidate.
Moreover, Ms. Bocskor emphasized (1) building trust, (2) keeping overhead low, and (3) giving every donor a chance to invest, even in small amounts.
Building on how to communicate to potential donors, Luke Marchant spent time with us working on a broader communication plan. Marchant gave us much in the way of nuts and bolts, with one of our chief tools being what was once called the “Leesburg Grid.” This is a tool for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates in the race, while also informing the campaign staff of ways to frame their candidate in the best light.
But appropriately, Marchant’s presentation touched on multiple aspects of a campaign.
How do we capitalize opponents’ mistakes and minimize our own candidate’s mistakes? How do we simplify complex issues such that our audience can understand and appreciate them? How, in a world of many issues, do we decide which policies to emphasize? For Bootcamp participants, who will have to communicate their strategy to a panel of experts, the advice was immensely helpful.
I should also add that Luke is one of the genuinely nice guys of Campaign Bootcamp. He has, over the years, helped many SHSU students, helped students irrespective of party, and proved an approachable and amenable mentor.
Helping us to wrap up this together was Matt Glazer, who like Luke Marchant and Nancy Bocskor, has been a part of Campaign Bootcamp for many years. As a long-time communications consultant, as well as a director of non-profits, Glazer was a good person to discuss “the pitch” with us.
Glazer emphasized that the pitch should contain multiple elements, particularly: (1) provide an overview, (2) pitch as an opportunity, (3) identify your problem, (4) offer a solution or solutions, (5) find ways to gain traction, (6) identify your customers/markets, (7) identify your competition, (8) come up with your business model, (9) manage your team effectively, and (10) allocate your funds wisely.
Relevant to all of our discussions over both days was the topics of ethics. To discuss that with us, Jamarr Brown, who has vast experience in staff training (particularly with Planned Parenthood), discussed campaign ethics with us.
While many may think this is an oxymoron, Brown provided some real-world examples to us, helping us keep in mind that, while the goal is to win and make people’s lives better, how we win also matters.
For many, this may have been a workday, but our work was just beginning. Our mission now was to take this learning and put it into practice: work with our team. Our team was assembled by NPF staff, who ensured the teams, at least at the outset, were balanced, and had a roughly equal shot at victory. And with that aim in mind, we set out to represent ourselves, LEAP, and SHSU well.