Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Support resolutions at precinct conventions to reform adult and youth corrections: A Grits mini-campaign

In Texas' Democratic primary this year, voters get to "vote twice," meaning they can vote once at the ballot box and, for the very committed, they can go to local precinct conventions on election night and vote again in party caucuses.

For many people, these caucuses will be their first experience with their political party's internal machinery (on the GOP side, precinct-level battles have been more common over the last two decades). Burnt Orange Report recently had an excellent two-part series describing the delegate selection process on the D-side, and Mark Camann over at BOR had a nice post describing the resolutions process that inspired this campaign.

With so many folks attending their precinct conventions for the first time, I decided to craft two criminal justice related resolutions for readers to propose when they go, and we're going to run a little mini-campaign here on Grits to see in how many different places around the state we can get them passed.

These resolutions serve two purposes: 1) if they pass, they formally request action by legislators and county officials from the party that can assist in persuading politicians on issues, and 2) the process educates party members about criminal justice problems and solutions and expands the base of support for these ideas among politically active people. Basically, you get a lot of public education bang for the buck by directly educating influential people and opinion leaders, particularly in a year when so many more folks will be attending.

Every blogger operates within their own personal theoretical framework about what blogs are for, what they're not, and what they are able to accomplish. For me, from the beginning, part of that framework has been, as I wrote in 2005, that "Blogs are a media strategy, not an activist medium." A lot of bloggers disagree with that conclusion, which I drew in part after observing the results of blog promotion in the Howard Dean campaign. But the blogosphere has matured substantially since then, and certainly Grits' readership is much larger now. So with your help, we're going to re-test the hypothesis, to see whether blogs can effectively generate direct political action, or at least whether this one can.

Last week I proposed drafts of both resolutions, and I've updated the one on TYC to include many suggestions from readers. If you're going to propose one or both of the resolutions, use these versions I posted on Google Documents:
These versions are written for the Texas Democratic Party, but the resolutions are equally suitable for use in the Republican Party of Texas just by changing out the party name. These issues are mostly bipartisan and support (and opposition) comes from both sides of the aisle.

If you're planning to attend your election-night precinct convention (in either party), please print out copies of these resolutions and propose them to your fellow precinct meeting attendees. I
f you represent a group that would like to endorse these proposals, let me know via email or in the comments, and we'll create an endorsement list for folks to take with them on election night.

Remember, as a regular Grits reader, you've given these issues a lot more thought than most people, and your expertise will matter to others. Many readers, such as TYC employees and inmate family members, have special experiences to bring to bear that will encourage people will listen to you.

All successful grassroots campaigns have three basic components: Identify, educate, and mobilize. That means identifying supporters (and in larger campaigns, opposition and "swing" constituencies), then educating them about the issue, messaging, and the process so that, at the appropriate time, they can be mobilized to participate in an election, a legislative vote, or whatever is at stake.

To perform these tasks, we're going to use several online tools to promote these resolutions. For starters, I'm asking participants to take this short survey, which will let us know how many people are going to propose the resolutions and where they are geographically.
(That's the "identify" part.)

The survey collects an email (that won't be shared, and from which you can opt out) for direct correspondence with campaign participants via a Google group I set up just for this purpose (announcement only--no piles of email). That process and the blog itself will constitute the "education" portion of the campaign.

Then, on election night, the goal of the campaign is to pass the resolutions in as many different precincts in both parties in as many senate districts as possible. If I can figure out the back end, I'm hoping to utilize a Twitter account so folks can tell us by cell phone what the results were at their precinct. If it works, those results will show up on an RSS feed on Grits in real time. Feel "mobilized" yet?

After March 4, the process is not over. With luck, some reader-participants will have been named delegates to the county conventions, which is the next stop in the process. Precincts suggest resolutions to their county conventions, which themselves must recommend them to the convention at the state senate district level. There are 31 state senate districts, and the idea is to get the resolutions approved in as many separate senate districts as possible leading up to the state conventions.

My purpose here is two-fold: To support solutions-oriented criminal justice positions among Texas pols in both parties (who are used to hearing mostly politicized, "tuff on crime" rhetoric), and to test the possibilities and limits of blog-generated grass roots activism, including several specific free or low-cost tools. So we'll be following the process closely on Grits to report what works and what doesn't.

So if you'd like to participate in Grits' online mini-campaign, take this short survey. Be sure to give me an email address so you can receive campaign updates and a last-minute reminder.

Finally email this post to anyone you know who may be interested in promoting these resolutions, post it to listservs of party clubs or neighborhood groups, etc., help generate endorsements if you can, and let's see what kind of support we can generate for these solutions-oriented criminal justice proposals on election night.


Gary said...

I have been trying to use the Burnt Orange page to place all Democratic resolutions to consider.


Anonymous said...

Couldn't help but notice that you ignored my suggestion on the resolution that you leave out the part about the "punishment culture" even though it isn't true. You should include that we now have a "no punishment culture". Pretty unbelievable to those in the trenches.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I left that in because others disagree with you on the issue of TYC's "punishment culture," and also that's the phrase the Blue Ribbon Panel Commission used to describe the situation.

To me, the pepper spray policy fiasco shows the punishment culture mentality of Dimitria Pope and the TDCJrs - spray 'em into compliance. Similarly, the overuse of solitary confinement typifies a punishemnt culture that national juvenile best practices don't support. Plus, understaffing has caused staff on youth assaults to triple over the last few years.

By "no punishment," you mean nothing happens when you file a 225. That's a different issue than the overall culture of the institution, which is premised on a lock-em-up mentality that believes that rehabilitation can't be had. These kids have "lost their angel wings," as Pope said, and deserve what they get. That's a punishment culture, in my book.

For those reasons, your suggestion seemed defensive to me, and since the Blue Ribbon Panel used the term and I endorsed their recommendations, I stuck with it. But you're welcome to alter the version you propopse in your own precinct convention - the resolutions commitee, in the end, will decide between any disparities in the language.

Anonymous said...


FYI. There is a new Conservator's report on the TYC website.

Howard A. Hickman

Gayathri said...

Looks great to see.awesome.


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Anonymous said...

I just wanted to tell you I love the name of your blog. A great way to create buzz is an interesting name.

Jonathan Mac
Social Media Marketing

Anonymous said...

Did you get your Twitter account set up for the GOP Convention??? How to subscribe?