Strategy is the most alluring facet of corporate and political campaigns. Most politicos who manage to get on cable TV news programs take on the title of “strategist.” No one wants to be the “manager,” “organizer” or “communications director.” In politics, strategy is sexy.
And strategy is important. But campaigns and organizations put themselves at a disadvantage when they fail to equally value three other facets: organization, communications, and infrastructure. These components are necessary to move a strategy from theory to practice.
Organization is the structuring and population of groups of people and resources. Organization requires management, leadership, lines of authority, accountability, people, money, improvement cycles, and more. This doesn’t sound very cool in a Fox News interview, but it’s vital for being able to harness people and money and channel these resources into action.
Infrastructure is vital to supporting the organization, and generally falls into two parts: physical infrastructure, and technological infrastructure. Physical infrastructure means headquarters, meeting facilities, equipment, and related physical assets. Technological infrastructure means the data, communications systems, social media systems, hardware, software, and other resources. Again, it’s not sexy to put information technology systems and headquarters together, but failure to do so can mean big problems on Election Day.
Communications means the ability to create and convey messages during the course of the campaign that generate votes, donations, and volunteer engagement. Equally important, it refers to the ability to generate and magnify earned media coverage to advance the campaign’s narrative.
Strategy, infrastructure, organization and communications. Strong campaign leaders recognize and respect each of these four facets of a campaign.
Building a strong Republican Party organization is vital because infrastructure, organization, and communications capacity takes time to develop. Candidate campaign organizations are short-lived, transient projects that start up, live a short life, and die off. In a state of nearly 40 million people, a candidate campaign organization cannot build what it takes to win in an overwhelmingly Democratic state in just a few months.
Our friends on the left in California do not have the same challenge. Democrats can rely on their enormous advantage in voter registration to carry them to victory in downticket statewide races for such offices as Secretary of State, Attorney General, Treasurer, etc. For Republican candidates to compete requires extraordinary effort, and extraordinary capacity to recruit, engage and deploy the resources of volunteers and donors. That capacity doesn’t exist in a startup. Permanent party organization is necessary.