Updated: Jan 6
In response to the “friction” between some of our Party Chairs in recent weeks, I thought I would discuss the problem with some of our great chairs from the past. As these folks served the Party at least a generation ago and currently have no dog in the hunt, their advice seemed to me all the more valuable. I organized their suggestions into a list of what I call the Ten Rules of Great Party Chairs.
Rule 1. It’s Not About You
Come at your responsibilities with an attitude of service. You must be committed to the greater good of the organization, and your personal ambitions are unimportant. Dutifully stand in the back and allow others to shine.
Rule 2. Trust Is Everything
Tell the truth and say the same thing to everyone. Too many people these days believe that lying and manipulation is how you succeed. That line of thinking is always wrong and always destroys the trust you must have to lead.
Rule 3. Lead Where You Are
Lead your organization. Focus on strategies that will win elections for your people, and let other Chairs worry about their organizations.
Rule 4. Don’t Play Favorites
Encourage and support every candidate equally in the primary. Always be seen as a trusted partner and never be seen as a threat. Allow only votes to determine the flow of resources. A big part of your job is keeping factions united around a common cause. Without that basic element of leadership, no one will win.
Rule 5. Be A Great Coach
Candidates are notoriously bad at understanding their own campaign, but only they are responsible for the outcome. By virtue of your experience, you have a responsibility to advise, encourage, support and defend your candidates. Find ways to coach without offending.
Rule 6. Winning is Entirely About Numbers
Every candidate for office represents a complex mathematical equation. What percentage of people will support him or her, if he or she takes this or that position? It is a constant game of pluses and minuses. It is your responsibility to advise candidates on mathematical issues, however, it is entirely up to them whether they want to accept that advice. And, never say, “I told you so.”
Rule 7. Be a Great Recruiter
Finding the best candidate for each race is imperative to long-term success, but this responsibility can also put you in conflict with Rule 4. Say a candidate steps forward with a serious desire to run for a prestigious office for which you don’t believe he or she is particularly qualified. The first thing you must do is reinforce your commitment to be as supportive and honest with the candidate as possible. At the same, you have a duty to explain to them it’s your job to recruit candidates that you think can win, and that you are committed to that responsibility. You can and must do both. If you remain committed to Rule 2, everything should work out.
Rule 8. No Excuses
You must be a master of organization and fundraising. You know what resources are available, and how to get them. You know about a range of venues, concessions, audio-visual requirements, direct mail, phone banks, social media, who can be counted on and who cannot. And, you know how to put together a crowd. You are the organizer that makes the organization work.
Rule 9. Be the Momma Bear
Protect and defend your organization and your candidates. While it is vital to not take sides in primary contests, it is sometimes important to step-in and advise on appropriate primary campaign behavior. Often the source of difficulty comes from Party or Interest Group Consultants from “out-of-town,” who have no concern for the long-term damage of their draconian strategies. While you have little direct control over these situations, you can and should do your best to influence campaigns to stay within appropriate limits.
Rule 10. Failure is Inevitable
Even when you have the perfect candidate and the perfect campaign, you can still lose. There is always something unexpected, and that’s what makes this game so damn much fun. In the face of loss, remain gracious, accept responsibility and above all, cherish the democracy that allows you a voice.