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Got goals?. Steve Kirsch Agenda. What are long-term goals? Do we have any? Why not? Are they important? Can they help win elections? How you can help change this (in < 10 minutes). Today.

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Got goals

Got goals?



  • What are long-term goals?

  • Do we have any? Why not?

  • Are they important? Can they help win elections?

  • How you can help change this (in < 10 minutes)


  • “If you vote for me, I’ll do good things. I’ll work for better education, a cleaner environment, universal health care coverage, more jobs, and more!

  • I believe in small class sizes, …”

  • …it sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

  • …but let’s see how it sounds in a business setting…

Would you invest in this company
Would you invest in this company???

CEO says:

  • No business plan

  • No product roadmap

  • No ship dates

  • No revenue or profit projections

  • No marketing or sales strategy

  • No engineering plan


  • I’ll make money for you

  • I support good health coverage

  • I will treat my employees fairly

What is a long term goal
What is a long-term goal?

  • A key milestone in achieving your vision

    • Vision: Eliminate the use of polluting fossil fuels

    • Goal: Reduce our dependence on foreign oil by 20% from 2000 levels by 2020

  • >3 year time horizon. Quantifiable: Dates, numbers.

  • Specific, measurable, important to achieve. Deadline. Specific enough to form the basis of an implementation plan (“business plan”).

  • Bold and inspiring. Example:

    • “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out,of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth”

    • That was 40 years ago! Can you name another national goal that survived >3 years since then?

    • MoveOn used the same goal in their goals effort since they couldn’t think of a more recent one either!

Don t we already have goals
Don’t we already have goals?

  • No, not at a party level or even individual level

    • What’s the 5 year Democratic goal for education? 20 year goal? Answer: none

    • What’s the goal for energy? the environment?

    • Can you name ONE that you can find in writing somewhere that has numbers and dates?

  • I’ve asked Members for their top 10 long-term goals

    • Invariably, I get back a list of legislation they are working on now.

    • Most can’t name a single long-term goal they have (and most tell me it’s a great question)

An example education
An example: Education

  • We don’t have a long term goal for education

  • Without that, we can’t develop a plan to get there since we don’t know where “there” is!

  • Are we trying to:

    • Close the achievement gap? How much?

    • Reduce the dropout rate? How much?

    • Improve average test scores? By how much?

    • Achieve international parity?

    • Achieve the high test scores on an international basis?

    • All of the above?

    • Some of the above?

    • Something else?

  • Each goal requires a different plan

  • Our current situation: no goal, no plan. NCLB focused on “accountability.” But we have no clue what we are supposed to be accountable for achieving other than parity with the status quo. There is no direction for improvement .

The excuses
The excuses

  • Term limits (from California State lawmakers)

    • Irrelevant since it is a commit to support a goal (in votes and actions while in office), not achieve a goal

  • We’re too diverse a caucus…Zell Miller/Boxer

    • Didn’t seem to stop Gephardt/Daschle in 1996 from uniting the Democrats behind “Families First” (the Demo version of “Contract”)

    • Strong leaders (Bush, Clinton) seem to have little trouble aligning Democrats on key issues!

Should democrats have goals
Should Democrats have goals?

  • How do we expect to get anything accomplished if we can’t even agree on what it is we WANT to accomplish?

    • If you don’t know where you are going, any path will take you there

  • How can you responsibly vote on current issues (such as NCLB) if you don’t know:

    • what the key objective is

    • what the best strategies are

Should democrats have goals1
Should Democrats have goals?

  • Leadership’s first task: Define clear goals

  • Goals tell people what you commit to TRY to achieve if you get elected (it is NOT a guarantee of what you WILL achieve)

    • If you can’t explain your vision, why should they donate $ and/or go out and vote (for you)?

  • Democrats constantly complain about messaging and the lack of party unity

    • A set of stable, long-term goals provides the foundation for message and unity

Lawmakers need to treat policy like fundraising
Lawmakers need to treat policy like fundraising

  • Policy (no goals, no plan)

    • “We want to reduce our dependence on foreign oil”

  • Fundraising (clear goals, clear plan)

    • “We have to raise $25M by March 31. In addition, we have 12 other events already planned for the rest of the year in 10 cities (here are the locations and dates… ) to achieve our $100M fundraising goal by December 31.”

Can goals win elections
Can goals win elections?

  • Absolutely.

    • They get everyone “on message” and provide party unity

  • Clinton’s advice to Presidential candidates:

    • Pick 2 or 3 “signature goals”

    • You must paint a positive vision of where you want to take the country

  • “Contract with America” (1994)

    • 100% sign-on of House Republicans

    • First Republican majority in the House since 1954

    • +9 seats in the Senate

    • +52 seats in House (unprecedented!)

    • +11 governorships

A proposal
A proposal

  • Group of interested donors brainstorms a menu of 30 long-term goals (in person/via email)

  • Larger group (50 people) modifies/approves the list (can be done via email)

  • Each candidate spends then only has to spend a few minutes checking off goals they agree to TRY to achieve

  • Website posts the positions of each candidate

Desired outcome
Desired outcome

  • Input to the Kerry campaign/Democratic Convention

    • If they adopt just 2 or 3 of the goals, we’re way ahead

  • Energize the voter base if any of these goals are adopted by Kerry and/or Democrats

  • A pre-requisite for giving (you’re helping the party by helping them to articulate their message/vision)

  • A tool for achieving party unity

  • A tool for assessing where candidates stand before you invest your time, money, or vote

  • A tool for holding lawmakers accountable

  • A tool that facilitates the creation of strategic plans (“business plans”) and policies organized around stable long-term objectives

An opportunity to get involved
An opportunity to get involved…

  • If you are interested in working on this, let me know

  • It will be a modest effort at first producing 30 goals that a candidate can just “check off” if they agree (with space for write in suggestions)

  • It is not intended to be comprehensive nor definitive; it is intended to be a good start