Unintended Consequences

Capital TonightTim Boyum of Capital Tonight gave me another chance to talk about party politics yesterday, and one of the points that came up was that McCain-Feingold and the Citizens United decision (and in North Carolina specifically, the end of tax checkoff funds) have converged with organizational decline to make this the worst environment in decades for political parties.

This environment wasn't intended. For example, while getting rid of soft money was an intentional consequence of McCain-Feingold, making parties a less attractive vehicle for donations was probably unintentional. Since parties aren't the fundraising powerhouse they used to be, Tim made the good argument that parties could become a "training tool, a recruiting tool, and a get-out-the-vote tool" in this new environment.

If NCDP were to clarify its mission to training, recruiting, and getting-out-the-vote for Democrats, and put a structure and staff in place that accomplishes this, they would go a long way towards demonstrating the value of the organization. Sometimes I feel like I'm beating a dead donkey here, but most donors have to think an organization has value before they donate.

Even if the organization is in decline, that value may be historical, it may be sentimental, it may be because the organization is perceived as "fighting the good fight." However, parties that can't demonstrate their value in this environment are only going to raise money from the die-hards because power donors are avoiding parties. As the die-hards either leave the party or pass away, the financial situation for parties becomes ever more bleak.

Patsy Keever has a chance to reverse entropy and create something out of 5 years of chaos and unintended consequences since the double blow of Citizens United and losing the General Assembly. Whatever NCDP decides to do, it needs to create value for more than just the die-hards.

PS - The Young Democrats of North Carolina have been training, recruiting, and getting-out-the-vote for Democrats for almost 90 years. Their convention is this month, they're always invested in bringing up the next generation, and they deserve your support.

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