Friday, January 11, 2008

Announcing: Disunity08

UPDATED: 16-January-2008

We won’t have Unity08 to kick around anymore. Since they won’t need their cool graphics and logos, DWSUWF (being the environmentally sensitive sort) has been rummaging through the detritus to recycle what we can. Unity08 was always more a slick, professional PR and marketing effort as opposed to the the grass roots political movement they pretended to be, so they’ve got some pretty nice stuff. The hot air expelled and greenhouse gas burned in the short life of Unity08 probably raised the temperature of the globe by a degree or two. It is incumbent on us to recycle and make use of what we can from these Unity08 waste products.

The first indication of the impending Unity08 demise was the story by Elizabeth Benjamin writing in the New York Daily News Politics blog, saying that "Unity08 to jump on Bloomberg Bandwagon":
"A source familiar with the Bloomberg for president movement says the bipartisan Unity08 effort is poised to shut down its Web site, reconstitute as a Draft Bloomberg site and launch its own 50-state signature-gathering operation on behalf of the supposedly reluctant would-be independent presidential candidate."
I checked out the site and found, buried deep in a forum comment thread, one mention of the story:
In this thread, a Unity08 member expresses concern about the NY Daily News story. Understandable, since the raison d’etre for Unity08 was to have the members/delegates select and nominate a centrist, non-partisan ticket. The notion that Unity08 might support Bloomberg appeared to skip a few steps, specifically - asking the members if they want to support Mike Bloomberg. Even though the site shutdown was only hours away, for whatever reason, Bob Roth, VP Marketing, Unity08 saw fit to mislead this member by implying the story was false, while actually only “correcting” one aspect of it - the connection to Bloomberg. Ha! Ha! Good one, Bob!

It seems obvious now, that from the beginning Unity08 was indeed a Mike Bloomberg stalking horse, funded and staffed by Bloomberg loyalists. They couldn’t pull off the Bloomberg run within the Unity08 structure, so they closed up shop to make room for the imminent Bloomberg Independent candidacy, redirecting management and money resources to the impending campaign. The Unity08 tombstone is enlightening:

“And, of course, waiting in the wings should the divide persist, is the potential of a serious non-partisan candidacy in the person of the Mayor of New York (and indeed we have lost two of our leaders, Doug Bailey and Jerry Rafshoon, to a committee :forming to draft Mayor Bloomberg should the circumstances seem right)… But we’re not closing our doors. We believe it is important to see our case against the FEC through (both for Unity08 and any similar movement in the future) and be ready to gear up if (when) we win our case and political circumstances warrant later this spring. Unity is in the air right now, and Mayor Bloomberg seems poised to run on his own (and the fact is that two independent candidacies wouldn’t work) if the parties leave the sensible center open - but all this could change in a matter of weeks.”

[UPDATE: 12-January-08 The above is a quote from the Unity08 announcement as it was orginally posted. In the revised version, the mention of Baily and Rafshoon going to the Bloomberg campaign has been excised.]

Unity08 had over 120,000 members and raised over a million dollars. Not as much as they wanted, but nothing to scoff at. Actually, I liked the idea of a Hagel/Bloomberg Unity08 candidacy, which is why, although dubious, I signed up as a “delegate”. I feel bad for those who put their heart and soul into the effort, as they have been treated rather shabbily by the organization. The whole thing smells so manipulative, so contrived and betrays such cynical contempt for the Unity08 supporters that I would find it difficult to support Bloomberg now.

But Unity08 is dead, and let us not speak ill of the dead. Let us instead reflect on the short life of Unity08, with a retrospective of DWSUWF's greatest Unity08 hits.

Unity08 was created with much fanfare and a big publicity splash in June of 2006, in the same timeframe that DWSUWF published our first blog post. We'll admit to a little popularity envy, as Unity08 was embraced by pundits, bloggers and columnists at a time the infant DWSUWF readership was leveling out in the high single digits.

Our first post focused on Unity08 was October 16, 2006, where we announced the formation of "Disunity '06", comparing and contrasting the differences in our approach to the 2006 midterm elections and the problem of a dangerous single party Republican government that was spinning wildly out of control:
"Now in my simpleminded view, the solution here is not to find ways to hold a civil discourse with the party in power to politely register dissatisfaction with the path they have taken. My view is that very first step in solving these problems, is to rip some the power away from the single party on watch when the problems were created, and give that power to the opposition party. This is a fairly simple solution that can be implemented on November 7 of this year... If the Democrats achieve a majority in both the House and Senate in 2006, vote for a Republican president in 2008. If the Republicans maintain a majority in the House and Senate in 2006, vote for a Democratic President in 2008... Disunity06 - No contributions. No infrastructure. No political party. No delegates. No convention. No leaders. No candidates. Just common sense, and Just Vote Divided."
By November 3, 2006 - just a week before the midterms, it became clear that "Disunity06 kicks Unity08 butt":
"It is just so painfully obvious that the "unity" in Unity08 will last exactly as long as they support no actual candidates, have no platform, and have no opinion on any actual issues, and will not last one minute longer... Lets just call this post a place-holder for me to link with a giant "I told you so" post a year or two from now. I do have one serious question for any Unitoids that may read this - If a divided Republican/Democrat ticket in '08 is a good thing, why wouldn't a divided Republican/Democrat government in '06 be equally good?... Unity08 is promoting a meaningless petition in '06, while voters embracing the idea of divided government may be the very reason that the Democrats take control of the House of Representatives next week. There is a lesson here for Unity08. It is not too late for Unity08 to become relevant in '06."
Umm - I told you so.

On February 22, 2007 we offered a history lesson in "Unity08 and fellow travellers Tony Snow and David Gregory promote Un-American activities" where we concluded:
"One is tempted to suggest that unity, political civility, and polite debate is downright Un-American... It seems pretty obvious to me, that if we want more participation by the American voting populace, we want more, not less, political polarization. And conversely, a unified, politically correct, socially acceptable and boring form of partisan discourse, will inevitably result in less participation in the political process. What to do ? I suggest we just don't pay attention to those Un-American unifiers. Instead, I submit for your consideration - Divided We Stand United We Fall Rule #1: Polarized Partisan Politics Promotes Popular Participation."
There were a few other posts where the Unity08 efforts were noted, but over the last few months it became clear the blogosphere was not big enough for both a Unity08 and Bloomberg independent run. Particularly if the Unity08 members might somehow manage to accidentally not nominate Michael Bloomberg.

Finally, no eulogy of Unity08 would be complete without noting the work of Ahab Jim at the Irregular Times obsessively stalking this extinct white whale. Here we see an un-retouched photo of Jim throwing a few pointed questions at the Unity08 management early last year.

Unity08 is Dead.

Long Live Disunity08.

UPDATE: 16-January-2008
This post was cross-posted at Donklephant, where it caught the attention of Bob Roth and he responded in the comments. In the interest of fairness and completeness I will paste that comment exchange here. I have edited only the portion of Bob's comments that were directed to another commenter, and his full comments can be found at the Donklephant link:

  1. Bob Roth Says:
    January 14th, 2008 at 10:38 am e

    MW, the truth of the matter, if you are interested, is that the closure of Unity08 was not a process of tranfering, redirecting, re-allocating, re-structuring, re-constituting, or re-organizing into a pro-Bloomberg effort. No member information or money was moved from one organization to the other. They are completely separate organizations.

    My comment to the members in the Unity08 forum was the result of their having been a false rumor started that day. We were operating on a time line to close the virtual doors of the organization which we advanced due to the nature of the press report. I felt that I owed it to the membership to tell them what I could since these particular members had worked avidly with me on the movement.

  2. mw Says:
    January 14th, 2008 at 2:06 pm e

    Bob,
    Thanks for stopping by to provide that clarification. Much appreciated. Clearly any linkage between Unity08 and the Bloomberg effort is speculative and purely circumstantial. There just seems to be an awful lot of those convenient circumstances in evidence, most notable the founders of Unity08 now in the Draft Bloomberg camp.

    So just out of curiosity Bob, since Unity08 no longer needs a V.P. of Marketing

    - where are you going?

  3. Bob Roth Says:
    January 15th, 2008 at 4:04 pm e

    MW, I’ve decided to retire to my home state to spend some time with family while also helping out some friends get a few different projects off the ground. As I am sure you might find if you read several political blogs, one of those projects happens to be the draftbloomberg.com movement...

    I don’t consider what is being written necessarily a “backlash.” I see that there are many I-told-ya-so’s out there, but what I have found in the world of politics is that there are a lot of name-callers and few action-takers. I can leave Unity08 with my head held high because I worked the insane hours and slept at the office to try and make a difference and thereby improve our country. You can argue whether it was right or wrong, but I took action.

    Finally, you make an assumption that there was money in the bank when it was all said and done… we had ballot access efforts, direct mail in the works, an office of staff, new site technology built… and we stretched a million and a half dollars in donations over an amazingly long time period equal to about a year and a half. I don’t know about you, but the startups that I have worked for have had a much higher burn rate than that.

    Good luck to you all!

    Sincerely,
    BobR

The Bob Roth chronicles continue at the Irregular Times where Ahab Jim covers the Baily / Rafshoon press conference announcing the new Draft Bloomberg initiative. He also did a little digging into the interesting history of the domain draftmichaelbloomberg.com, apparently secured by Unity08 in June, 2007. Bob Roth explains it all in the comments:
While I was at Unity08, we registered hundreds of domain names for all of the possible well-known candidates that had yet to enter the 2008 race, but could possibly do so. draftmichaelbloomberg.com happened to be one of them. The DBC purchased this asset from Unity08 as a temporary URL until draftbloomerg.com (the current URL) had propagated. draftmichaelbloomberg.com is now redirecting to draftbloomberg.com.

Comment by Bob Roth — 1/16/2008 @ 9:58 am
Curiouser and curiouser.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bloomberg is working for Giuliani. He keeps saying he will run if "extremists" like Huckabee or Obama run. What he is really saying is he want the attention focused on New York by having Rudy and Hill running.

mw said...

anon,
He may or may not be working for Giuliani, but I think you have this backwards. Everything I've read says that if Obama and McCain look like they are going to take the nominations, he'll stay out. But if it looks like Hill and Romney or Huckabee are the nominees, then he'll jump in.

forbesfart said...

It is being reported Bloomberg has been "quietly polling and conducting a sophisticated 50-state voter analysis '


Bloomberg is starting to scare me.The rest of the story is he may not have paid for the research and data. Unity 08 had two board members leave and now Unity 08 closed up shop. One hundred and twenty four thousand (124,00) members who expected to vote on a third party nominee.Unity is closed, web-site and all!

Now Bloomberg is Independent.

What is crap. We who were volunteering working to achieve the goal never received guidance or direction. It was always we will get back to you or later. Those involved with UNITY08 have wasted time and money while he was "quietly polling and conducting a sophisticated 50-state voter analysis ' perhaps at our expense and without our knowledge.We have no one to ask and no one to blame. It looks to me he managed to pissalotofus off who may have voted for him otherwise.

mw said...

forbes,
Starting off with 124,000 pissed off activists does not sound like a good way to launch a political campaign.

He is going to have to maintain a fiction that he was always arms length from Unity08, but I don't see how he can do that with Baily on board.

I was always dubious about Unity08, so did not invest much time or energy in it, but I feel bad for those who did.

Chris Grayson said...

Unity08's demise has no effect on my support for Bloomberg for president. I supported him before I was aware of Unity08, and while I did join, so what. I only joined to have a voice in pushing for Bloomberg anyway. Why would it folding change my support?

I have never held a party affiliation with either major party (or any other party, for that matter). I support Michael Bloomberg for President because he will be the most effective executive.

In our competitive society, the most talented among us do not often pursue positions in government, they pursue fortune in the private sector. To get the best of what is available to us, I wish to see a seasoned executive manager from the private sector in the White House.

Here is my take— It is rare that you find a candidate that agrees with you on every single issue. But at the end of the day, the President is the executive manager of the world's most powerful enterprise, the US government. I believe most voter's underestimate the value of competence and management experience. What is most important to me is, do they have the competence and the experience to manage such an enterprise? Will they keep the economy strong? Will they make sound judgement in a crisis? Will they hire competent people, or just give valuable positions to unqualified individuals because they either have party connects or "owe" someone because of a campaign contribution?

This makes Bloomberg the right man at the right time.

His money buys him independence of a sort no other candidate can claim.

He doesn't look at decisions from an ideological point of view. As mayor of New York, he governs by results. If something works, it works, and it doesn't mater if it comes from the left or the right. If it doesn't work, get rid of it. It is his results driven business-like pragmatism that makes him a success.

He is the only candidate guaranteed to keep the economy strong.

When the economy is strong. When everyone has a job. People tend to be less concerned about the differences among us. When the economy is bad, and people are unemployed, everyone looks for someone to point the finger at, and politicians look for divisive wedge issues to distract their constituents from the real problems at hand.

The fact is, presidents rarely get to implement even a fraction of the so-called promises and policy positions they campaign on. A president's term in office is most largely shaped by events of the day. And a president's successes and failures in dealing with crisis that emerge define most president's term in office more so that any specific piece of legislation that gets passed on their clock.

My 2¢

Jim (er, Ahab) said...

MW -- Nice sum-up. Unity08 VP Bob Roth's insistence (matched by insistence from Doug Bailey) that the Bloomberg "movement" is completely distinct from Unity08 is coming undone, with the domain bought by Unity08, and with all the Unity08 staffers just "happening" to move right over to the Bloomberg campaign. I'm sure it must be a relief to the Unity08, whoops, Bloomberg people to move from a website where they had to pretend to be grassroots to an effort where they can be as elitist and money-chasing as they wanna be.

mw said...

Ahab,
Call me Ishmael. We are not on the same page politically, but you did one hell of a job holding this Unity08 crew's feet to the fire. Well played. Keep up the good work.

Frankly, I am politically sympathetic to the kind of arguments outlined by Chris Grayson in his comment above. I think Bloomberg does potentially have something positive to bring to the 2008 election table. Problem being, Bailey and Rafshoon are (to put it charitably) less than credible. Anyone lying down with these dogs are going to wake up with fleas.

I'll date myself with this reference, but as Stephen Stills sang "paranoia strikes deep". I would like to see a real third party grass roots effort actually get some traction, but I find myself wondering about a whole host of "Draft Mike" blogs "spontaneously" springing into existence in the same general time frame of (and since) the draftmichaelbloomberg domain was purchased by Unity08. Particulary since many of these earnest bloggers seem to be marketing, advertising, public relations, and political consulting professionals.

But then again, maybe I am just a cynical fuck.