Weaponizing Eric S. Raymond and other progressive political tactics
March 10, 2018 11:59 AM   Subscribe

Meet the campaign connecting affluent techies with progressive candidates around the country: the Great Slate. The Great Slate, a group of candidates chosen by Pinboard and Tech Solidarity's Maciej Ceglowski, has raised over $1 million for its nine first-time progressive candidates for Congress. "A good chunk of that was driven by security researcher Thomas Ptacek’s promise to stop tweeting about Eric S. Raymond, a notorious figure in the open-source community whose bizarre and abundant ramblings on everything including race and sex could be considered early forerunners of current alt-right strains in the tech community."

"The Great Slate has no splashy slogans, no slick logos: just a bare-bones website, a donate button, and a lot of jokes on Twitter. It isn’t being run by the candidates, a PAC, or the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). The fundraising is almost entirely driven by rank-and-file tech workers — some working for big companies like Google — living in the San Francisco Bay Area."

Candidates have been chosen from more rural, economically-challenged Republican districts where the Democrats have historically either thrown up their hands or chosen to run "centrist" candidates chosen primarily for their ability to fundraise (a tactic debated in some detail previously here).

"'It sounds really shady to the candidates,' says [Mefi's own, I think?] Ceglowski. When a 'random computer guy shows up out of nowhere' and starts promising them free money, the candidates react with understandable suspicion. 'I would say their first impression of me is not very positive.'"
posted by praemunire (33 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've had the first link up in my browser for a few days now, trying to decide if this was a good use of my money.
posted by MtDewd at 12:04 PM on March 10


The link at the end of the article is broken :(.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:07 PM on March 10


I think it is, especially for those of us who (a) live in heavily Democratic districts, meaning that contributions to local candidates are relatively redundant or (b) consider the current Democratic power structure to be doing its best to fumble away the opportunity to use the unusually high unpopularity of the current president and his party to flip Congress and so wish to support candidates that seem to be more in tune with the national mood. Also, to the extent primary canvassing builds voter engagement with the party even if another candidate is chosen, it doesn't seem wasted to me.

I can understand counter-arguments, though.
posted by praemunire at 12:08 PM on March 10 [4 favorites]


I admire Maciej and everyone involved for making this happen. I have some skepticism and reservations but fuck that; at least Great Slate is actively doing something.
posted by Nelson at 12:12 PM on March 10 [14 favorites]


(Seems to be working for me?)
posted by praemunire at 12:12 PM on March 10


Dumb test (nb. This link was to a news story, not the slate.)
posted by Going To Maine at 12:16 PM on March 10


Link to donate seems to work.
posted by jadepearl at 12:21 PM on March 10


Please come to ND for our sole House race; we're going to be outgunned and outnumbered at every turn. But because Craven Kramer is running for the Senate we won't be dealing with an entrenched incumbent. So it's not an impossibility.
posted by Ber at 12:41 PM on March 10 [3 favorites]


I’ve been donating since Maciej announced it. Even if their candidates fail we could do with much less incumbent complacency.
posted by adamsc at 12:57 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


Ber, suggest it to Maciej!
posted by potrzebie at 1:11 PM on March 10


A complementary effort along these lines is the Sister District Project.
posted by PhineasGage at 1:23 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]


I like this approach. I do think there's something inherently problematic with people in bubbles making decisions about who should be supported thousands of miles away BUT if it encourages tech workers in places like SF to donate to winnable-on-the-margins races, that's great. And it seems like all the donations are going directly to the candidates.

At first i didn't get the insistence on the ugly website, and then I looked at Pinboard. OK, the guy is an engineer/purist. I personally hate the idea that ugly fundraising is somehow more pure, but I respect what he's doing.
posted by lunasol at 1:24 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]


I do think there's something inherently problematic with people in bubbles making decisions about who should be supported thousands of miles away

The DCCC is at least equally problematic for the same reason. Perhaps more so, because they have a history of losing house races they should have been able to win, on account of a lack of ground game and a focus on fundraising as a proxy for viability. Rather than repeat myself I'll just link to the first of several of my comments in the previously. They have an overarching tendency to try to suppress progressive candidates in favor of more conservative ones in districts they feel are at risk, and they're now being forced to backpedal a bit on that thanks to the fact that Maciej has become a fundraising force and attracted some press. (And yes, he's mefi's own).

The valuable differentiator, at least to me, is that Maciej is explicitly elevating candidates who are focused on ground operations and not TV ads. The DCCC's focus on the Rolodex is more about (big) money and short term TV ads. Democrats are at least ten years behind the GOP in terms of state and district level operations. They need ground level operations so they can take back state control of redistricting, or they're going to continue to lose the house even as their candidates get more votes nationwide (thanks to gerrymandering and a so-called "seats bonus"). They're not going to do that with Rolodexes and TV ad blitzes.
posted by fedward at 2:28 PM on March 10 [22 favorites]


At first i didn't get the insistence on the ugly website, and then I looked at Pinboard. OK, the guy is an engineer/purist.

You said, on metafilter. Minimally styled boxes is the native design idiom of the internet and I support it
posted by vibratory manner of working at 2:30 PM on March 10 [30 favorites]


I wish Great Slate was much clearer that most of their candidates are in competitive primaries against credible opponents. The way their site is written, I think it's relatively easy to get the impression that their focus is on republican-leaning districts where there the democratic party hasn't bothered fielding a serious candidate at all - which simply isn't the case.
posted by kickingtheground at 3:07 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


Maciej talked about this at Webstock last month. We hope to have the videos available soon.
posted by maupuia at 3:19 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]


I do think there's something inherently problematic with people in bubbles making decisions about who should be supported thousands of miles away

I’ve heard this argument before and I roundly consider it bullshit. It would be one thing if these were local races, but the winners of House and Senate races make decisions that affect every single person in America; those “thousands of miles” are immaterial. This is something that rich Republican donors have known for years, it’s about time we catch up.
posted by Itaxpica at 3:34 PM on March 10 [17 favorites]


I donated during the year-end drive and will again. I’ve really enjoyed following the candidates. One of the campaign managers actually called to personally say thank you for the donation, which was quite nice (amidst shitty robocalls for my local elections).

With regard to candidates in competitive primaries — what I think Maciej would say is that what makes a candidate “credible” to the DCCC is that they already have a sizable campaign warchest and fundraising contacts. So you get bankers and not teachers. The Great Slate helps level the playing field in terms of who is a “credible” candidate.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 3:54 PM on March 10 [3 favorites]


It would be one thing if these were local races, but the winners of House and Senate races make decisions that affect every single person in America; those “thousands of miles” are immaterial.
I guess that's true if you concede that people with money are going to have more representation than other people. But I think the issue is more practical than that: it's hard to make good choices about candidates if you don't know anything about a district. Are you sure that J.D. Scholten is a better candidate for Steve King's seat that Leann Jacobsen, who is also running? (I think he is, but I also don't live in the district.) I just think it's easy to misjudge things when you are at a really big remove from the places you're making decisions about.

Here in Iowa, we're doing a sister district thing, where people from solidly blue districts are teaming up with candidates in less-Democratic districts for fundraising and other forms of support. I sort of like that model, because you get a chance to work directly with people in the district, so hopefully you're a little more informed and accountable to people who actually live there.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:57 PM on March 10 [4 favorites]


And by better, I mean more viable. It's going to take a bit of a miracle to flip Steve King's district, and I want to support the most viable candidate. I think that's Scholten, who the Great Slate is supporting, but I also know that I'm culturally removed from that district, even though I live in the same state.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:00 PM on March 10


David Simon offered handwritten apologies for killing off your favorite characters for anyone who donated over $500 a few days back (twitter link)
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 4:07 PM on March 10 [8 favorites]


Good for Maciej!
posted by doctornemo at 4:25 PM on March 10


Going to Maine, the article does not seem to exist on Bradford Era's site anymore, but I did find it elsewhere. I wrote to the Verge journalist to let her know.
posted by vert canard at 6:18 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


there’s no ideological litmus test. Some are advocates for universal health care, others are driven by immigration reform and the well-being of DACA recipients. There are Catholics on the slate, which raises some questions about how those candidates will approach reproductive issues.

So, no litmus test, you can advocate for progressive cause A or progressive cause B or progressive cause C! Oh wait Catholic THERE ARE QUESTIONS.

I shouldn't be critical here because obviously if there *are* Catholics on the slate this hasn't been treated as an automatic disqualifier and that's huge, particularly in the locales under discussion. It seems maybe a teensy bit disingenuous to say "no litmus test" and then implicitly suggest that religious candidates are questionably edgy and there's a reproductive issues litmus test (which would be a dumb idea at the electoral margins being targeted here even assuming there's a perfect ethical defense for just such a litmus test).

This is nitpicking though. Mucho respect to Ceglowski and Ptacek and the like for making this kind of thing happen. I should contact people I know this might be relevant to and get them hooked in.

Maybe this is also a good place to mention Only If You Run, which has been doing something similar with state legislative seat races in key states.
posted by wildblueyonder at 7:03 PM on March 10


Just want to raise my hand here saying I donated, and I am neither rich nor in tech nor in the SF Bay area. I'm just a huge fan of Pinboard and Maciej, and very happy to support the Great Slate in my own tiny way.
posted by cats are weird at 8:33 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]


Thanks for posting this. I'm a Pinboard subscriber and fan of Maciej. I've seen references popping up to the Great Slate on my Twitter timeline for the last few weeks (thanks largely I believe to David Simon and, of course, Maciej.) I've been donating at least $50 / mo to what I deem worthy progressive causes since Trump got elected. This month's donation will go to the Great Slate.
posted by bunbury at 9:56 PM on March 10


The DCCC is at least equally problematic for the same reason.

Well, yeah. The DCCC is a million times more problematic. That was sort of the unspoken assumption of my comment, but I shouldn’t have assumed!

You said, on metafilter. Minimally styled boxes is the native design idiom of the internet and I support it

Huh. I think metafilter is beautifully designed. It’s engaging and it’s well-built for what its members want to do on the site. Beautiful design doesn’t need to be flashy. The linked site, on the other hand, is just ugly. There’s little info about the candidates or the effort. It’s not entirely intuitive.
posted by lunasol at 10:02 PM on March 10


What I mean by that is that metafilter (at least the classic theme) is very much part of the design tradition of the early internet that I feel like you were referencing. It's accurate to say that it was first established by engineers and academics, but I don't think of it as being ugly.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:52 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


I guess that's true if you concede that people with money are going to have more representation than other people.

I mean... I think we can all agree that they shouldn’t, but it’s also undeniable that they do. So at this point we can stick our heads in the sand, wish for a better world, and watch as rich conservatives with no such qualms conquer the country, or we can fight on the battlefield as it exists now. I know which one I’d choose.
posted by Itaxpica at 6:12 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


Indeed, we need to fight (to the extent possible without being completely craven hypocrites) using tactics that work in a system structured as it is currently. Then we will be in a position to change the system to be more fair.

That said, even wholesale adoption of the right winger's techniques isn't in itself enough given that we are already at a massive structural disadvantage, as much due to systematic disenfranchisement as gerrymandering. The only reason I still get to vote is because I had friends and the ability to scrape together the necessary funds from friends and family. (A couple of miles down the road and it would have cost me nothing but favors, but such is life sometimes)

They still got me but good, but just financially.
posted by wierdo at 8:39 AM on March 11


metafilter, i admire your restraint. 30 comments in and nobody has dragged ESR yet.
posted by murphy slaw at 2:21 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


murphy slaw, there is absolutely no need to ever drag ESR personally ever again. Matthew Garrett has done it for us in that article, scorchingly and conclusively:
“ESR is a talentless hack whose reputation is entirely built on self promotion and being in the right place at the right time. His attempts to define the culture that gave him everything he has have been repugnant,” says Matthew Garrett, a security engineer at Google who donated to the Great Slate. “So am I enthusiastic about performatively associating these things together in a way that also says fuck you to his political views? Yes, yes I am.”
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 2:56 PM on March 11 [6 favorites]


Ber, I'll be happy to visit ND this spring and meet the Hanson campaign!
posted by idlewords at 7:58 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


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