Just weeks after an election that saw Democrats retain the White House and the Senate, over 2,000 liberal activists joined together at the Washington Convention Center for RootsCamp 2012, an annual event put on by the New Organizing Institute, to compare notes, share best practices, and start working on 2014. As Dave Weigel from Slate shares:
“On Saturday, I sat in one of the Washington Convention Center’s dark and anonymous meeting rooms and learned just how badly that ad had failed. The lesson was part of RootsCamp, an annual post-election conference of Democratic/progressive campaigners put on by the New Organizing Institute. My teachers were media trackers from the Democratic National Committee, young quants who repeatedly, politely pleaded with reporters to keep quotes and hard numbers off the record.”
While many of the sessions were off the record for reporters — as well as long-time GOP digital strategist Patrick Ruffini, who also attended — the progressive movement’s digital activists and operatives got a really hands on lesson about what worked up and down the ballot. Best practices from candidates, labor unions, and other special interest groups were displayed on projectors and through conversations.
This sort of open collaboration is what makes the Left so successful at capacity building. Rather than preaching, they’re preparing. They are communicating, sweating the details, and moving the ball down the field. While policy may be their passion, they realize that effective campaigning is a necessary precursor to governing.
And when they find something that works, they share that experience with others who can learn from it and implement it as well. They have professionalized campaigning and have become very, ver good at it.
Update: Mother Jones has a wrap up of the conference, focusing on Ruffini’s “invasion” of the event. One line from their article really stood out, especially to anyone who says “Republicans are already doing this”:
The right has no shortage of conferences for activists, but nothing as purpose-driven and digitally-savvy as Roots Camp. For that matter, it has no real answer to the New Organizing Institute itself, which operates in perpetual election mode grooming Democratic field operatives across the country.