Sunday, May 31, 2015

What IF

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on……………"

The 'What If' question has long been a staple of any number of approaches to things - from Hollywood reconfiguring a movie 'pitch' to make it closer to what their audience research says, to Pentagon War Games Scenario Planners.  It's an intriguing way to ponder what certain sets of circumstances might lead to, and as a device to try to get out-of-the-box in coming up with responses.  Asking What If questions is premised on the unexpected happening; that which you didn't see coming.  Sure, it seems like a waste of time asking about the aftermath of something that is highly unlikely to happen -- except that things that are highly unlikely to happen seem to be happening with increasing frequency in an ever changing dynamic.  It's hardly new. Isn't, for example, the whole premise of insurance to have a back up for things that are unlikely to happen?

We play this game sometimes in our own strategic planning, often without even knowing it.  We ask ourselves questions about our goals and objectives and whether or not our actions might get us to where we want to be.  It might be interesting, and telling, if not necessarily immediately helpful, to ask the question directly about a host of our assumptions - as individual organizations and as a sector.  What If something completely unexpected were to happen, or What If we were to do something really left field?  What would be the impact, the outcome, the results?  How would we have to change if something happened that was completely illogical?  What changes would we make, and are we capable of those kinds of fundamental changes on short notice.  WHAT IF we did things differently?

Here are just a few What If Questions that -- were the scenarios to become reality -- might change what we do and how we do it on profound levels.

Big SECTOR Questions:

1.  What If  the demand for certain of our art forms is finite, and unlikely to ever -- no matter what we do in terms of marketing, engagement, programming, changes to delivery systems, or attempts to make it more convenient, less expensive, and culturally friendly -- grow beyond what it is today?

2.  What If public funding for the arts were to grow by two hundred percent across the board in the next three years?

3.  What If ALL the baby boomer Executive Directors in the arts sector were to retire by 2017?

4.  What If virtually none of our research is accurate?

5.  What If the top ten companies in Silicon Valley publicly insisted on STEAM?

6.  What If foundations abandoned territorial funding restrictions?

7.  What If cities without world class cultural organizations starting putting together packages of incentives and sought to steal the best organizations from other cities?

8.  What If taking a selfie photograph doesn't really qualify as participating in cultural activities?

9.  What If everybody in the field gave ten dollars a year for arts lobbying?

10.  What If yet another generation is a have / have not arts education cohort - with half the kids having had a rich mixture of arts education course offerings, and half having had nothing at all?

INDIVIDUAL Arts Organization Questions:

1.  What If we closed our four wall performing facility and had to find other places to perform next year?

2.  What If we put all our advertising dollars into social media outreach?

3.  What If our three biggest donors didn't give us a dime next year?

4.  What If the economy collapses again.

5.  What If half the board left, and were replaced by people in their 20's?

6.  What If the artists associated with our performances demanded twice the pay before they would perform again?

7.  What If the media in our city started covering the arts in a really big way on a daily basis?

8.  What If we drastically changed the length of our performances?

9.  What If we tripled our $500 donors?

10.  What If we focused ALL our efforts exclusively on Arts Education?

It may well be that this is no more than an interesting game to play at the bar during a convention. But while it may have little practical application, it may be that the What If questions you might formulate to ask, and the answers you might come up with when asked a What If  question by someone else, change the way you think about things and move you to points you haven't yet been, nor which you thought you would ever embrace.  It may be that some What If questions are simply too ridiculous to even consider. But there may be any number of What If questions that actually hit home and aren't so far off the truth of things.  And consideration of those questions by you and your organization may not be a game at all, but a smart exercise in preparedness and innovation.

What If your job disappeared tomorrow, what would you do?  What If the two or three things that were holding your organization back were - for whatever reasons - no longer a problem.  How would the organization proceed without those handicaps?

What If you could come up with way better questions?

What If you wrote a blog and no one read it?

What If……………………..

Have a great week.

Don't Quit

Monday, May 25, 2015

Sixth Graders Have No Time for Silly Stuff

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on……………………"

Welcome back from  the Memorial Day weekend.  Summer is a month away but the season starts now. While other times of the year are sometimes more stressful, stress and anxiety in work knows no holiday.  Things seem to get more complex and with that the pressures and stresses seem to grow too.  Some stress may arguably be good; but it can easily lead to anxiety and become the enemy of sound business practices, affecting decision making, productivity, your ability to recognize the key variables in challenges that need to be met and in fashioning smart responses to those challenges, as well as your capacity for leadership, and the morale and vision of the organization itself.

Stress.  Hard to avoid.  On a daily basis, in the struggle to shepherd our organizations, we face innumerable challenges and obstacles.  In the task of navigating  treacherous pathways to keeping things running smoothly, there are often simply not enough hours in the day to get done all that needs to be done. And this takes a toll on us all.  This is, after all, our lives we're dealing with.  And what we deal with is of crucial, critical importance.

Think back to when you were in the third grade.  Not too many memories from that long ago, but you may have some general impressions of life at that age.  Even then, there were daily issues and challenges that you faced that may have caused you anxiety and worry:  Someone may have accused you of having "cooties", or some other offhand remark may have set you to fearing what it might mean.    You fretted and worried about things  back then too.  The point is that there were issues for you that to you seemed earth shattering; issues of the greatest impact and importance; stressful issues.

Now think back to when you were in the sixth grade.  If someone had asked you then if all those third grade matters of great importance still seemed important, your answer would invariably have been: "No, of course not, the things that seemed so critical back then were silly.  I was a baby."  And why would that have been true?   Because you were then occupied with truly grave matters - the really important things only a Sixth Grader could appreciate.  Third grade stuff was nonsense.

And so it goes as you grow older.  All the issues, the problems, the challenges that seem so important, so critical go by the wayside and recede into the background because you are constantly faced with ever new problems to solve and issues to face.  The crises of your teens become not so earth shattering when you are well into your twenties; and the concerns of your twenties take a back seat once you move into your mid thirties.  The past always seems not so frightening as it did when you were in its midst.  Oh and when you get into your fifties or sixties, if you could only share with your children this secret that time has a way of dealing with things. and that most of what causes us anxiety and stress at any given point in time, turns out -- not too much later -- to not have been so threatening or important after all.  In hindsight, things are always more easily managed and successfully handled.  Hindsight makes it easier to see the answers and solutions and the right path. But everybody has to learn this lesson for themselves and its all but impossible to make people understand until they have experienced it for themselves.

And there is the lesson.  All the stuff that makes you crazy and messes with your mojo isn't as critical as you think it is at the time.  Easy to say, much more difficult to internalize as a lesson and a tool to use to face the present.  For the present always seems far more intimidating and difficult.  And important.  But if you can embrace the lesson that only hindsight will verify for you - that the issues you have to face aren't as heavy or large as you think they are -- life becomes much easier, and your ability to successfully deal with life in the moment becomes much, much better.  

I've told this story before, but it fits here:

One of my closest friends has gone to the opening day baseball game of the Giants for years.  It's a kind of tradition.

When his two boys were very young, on one of these opening day occasions, there was a problem with the day care for that particular day.  Unable to find a substitute, my friend decided he would take his youngest son (who was then only about four years old) to the game with him.  He knew Ezra wouldn't likely last the whole game, but he thought he would have fun for a few innings.

So he announced this plan to Ezra the night before at dinner.  Well, Ezra was NOT thrilled with the idea; rather he was adamantly opposed: "I don't wanna go.  I'm not going.  I don't wanna."  He made quite a fuss, much to the confusion of his parents.  But in this contest of wills, a four year old has limited leverage, so Ezra lost, and to the game the next day they went.

When they got home, Ezra's mom was in the kitchen fixing dinner. She asked Ezra how he liked the game, and he told her it was alright; and quickly added that he had ice cream, and a hot dog, and some peanuts too.  Then he looked up at her and said:  "You know what mom?  They're not so big"  And then he scampered out of the kitchen.

His mom was a little confused, but then it dawned on her.  The GIANTS.  Ezra didn't want to go  because he thought they really were giants.

He learned a valuable lesson that day.  What scares us may turn out to be nothing at all.  In fact, often times we suffer anxiety and fear based on false impressions.  The same is true in our business lives.

So when things seem very dire to you.  When anxiety and stress creep up on you (and that happens to us all from time to time), try to put it all in perspective and remember that very shortly in the future you will look back on it all and wonder what possibly made you think any of it was worrisome at all.  Even the big issues in life when you are in the Sixth Grade seem kind of puny and foolish once you are in high school. And so it goes………...

All those issues and challenges and earth shattering, draconian things that can go wrong?  They're not so big after all.

When you need it, take a deep breath.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit

Sunday, May 17, 2015

$179 million for a Picasso and Zero for the Arts

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on………………."

As widely reported last week, the Picasso painting Women of Algiers sold for $179 million (including the Christie's Auction house 12+% commission) to set a new record price.  The price ($160 million without the Christie's fee) was driven (so the speculation goes) by wealthy collectors seeing investment potential and by newer collectors looking for quality pieces - and doubtless by some tax advantages.  Price is apparently no object and a number of experts see no end in sight to the amounts that will be paid for major works as they become available.  This same painting last sold in 1997 for $31.9 million, so profits are there to be made.

$179 million.  Bigger than the NEA's annual budget.  

So once again, my thoughts turned to the logic (to me) of an added fee (let's not call it a tax) on sales of major art works (let's arbitrarily say those that sell for over $10 million) that would augment (not replace) the Endowment funding.   Why not add a 10% premium to any sale of art over $10 million?  I doubt sincerely that such a premium would deter the many private investors who are playing this rarefied game for profit and prestige.  And, in the aggregate, that extra money would help fund a range of art organizations and / or arts education projects; an additional $16 to $17.9 million on just this sale.  How much might that be over the course of a year for all sales over the threshold?  I have no idea.  $50 million?  $100 million?  

Ok, back to reality.  This won't likely happen because the powers that be who are making money off this game have greater political juice than we do, and would likely succeed in killing any such attempt before it got off the ground. In the political sense, it would be difficult for us to even get a bill introduced in Congress, let alone out of committee.  I think the idea has even been put forth before.  This is yet another example of the kind of thing our political impotency closes off as a possibility to even consider.  

And even if we could mount a successful effort, there would be other problems, not the least of which would be the argument by those who think any public funding for the arts is wrong or a waste of money that with the income from this fee, the arts (the Endowment) would no longer need public funding support.  This argument that the arts ought to subsist on private funding is one that surfaces every time there is any discussion about funding for the arts.  It is premised on the unfortunate conclusion that there is a dollar amount that is enough for the arts.  That number is currently near the NEA's annual $150 million (+/-) budget, and that conclusion isn't based on anything other than the fact that that's what the budget has been for awhile.  The whole budgetary process is bizarre - including nonsensical operating premises.  

When I was Director of the California Arts Council, I floated the idea of adding 25 cents to the price of a movie ticket (in California), the money to come to the Arts Council and support Arts Education (a bit of an easier sell than general arts organization funding).  Again, I didn't think an extra quarter would discourage movie goers.  And in the past decade the price of movie tickets (depending on what city you live in) has gone up by several dollars - surpassing the ten dollar threshold in some big cities.  I even proposed that a percentage of that extra 25 cent ticket charge (again let's not call it a tax), would go to the movie theaters themselves to cover their out of pocket costs to do the accounting on the money payable to the arts council so it wouldn't cost them anything (and indeed they would likely even make a small profit on the deal).  

I had (naively) hoped the major studios might be persuaded to go along with such an idea as a way for them to support the arts (something they seemingly favor - as long as they don't really have to do anything).  It wouldn't have cost them a dime.  

As you might surmise, this proposal (never made public - just floated privately) met with the strongest possible opposition by the studios and the theaters.  It was as though the proposal personally attacked motherhood, Girl Scouts, veterans and apple pie.  And, of course, the arts didn't have the political clout to even consider any attempt to take on the film industry. And even had the idea been successful, the Arts Council would likely have faced that argument that with this income source, the Arts Council (and the Arts) would no longer need any general fund support.  

There have been some successful local area attempts to add fees, or at least get a share, of certaintax revenue, to support the arts.  The two most successful of those efforts being: 1) the TOT (tax on transit) or hotel tax income, often shared locally as a way to support the arts, and 2) the percent for arts fees charged local developers to pay for public art in municipal areas.  

But pursuit of most added fee revenue ideas - as a way to support the arts - has largely been closed off because we simply haven't got the political power to fight those who oppose us. (That we actually have the potential for that kind of power is another issue.  Because with political power we could do this kind of thing.)

If the super rich want to use major artworks as part of their investment / tax strategy, as well as one of the mechanisms they use to trade in prestige and cachet, I think they can easily afford a ten percent premium that would be "extra" support for the arts and the hundreds of projects that could be supported.

Last year's federal budget was over $3 trillion.  The NEA got a little over $150 million.  That's one half of one hundredth of one percent of the total budget.  Surely America can afford a full one hundredth of one percent to support art and creativity for its citizens from whatever source.  

One painting, in 20 years, went from about $32 million to about $180 million.  A nice profit for all those involved.  If those people had to pay ten percent more, I wouldn't feel too sorry for them.  

Maybe someday…….

Have a great week.

Don't Quit

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Four Areas Arts Organizations Need to Master

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on………………."

Everywhere the search for lost audiences and a safe haven continues.  We have new research every week that adds new dimensions of things we need to consider as we try to figure out who is coming, who isn't, why and what we can do about it.  We have no shortage of information and data, no shortage of questions -- yet we don't have many answers.

The world has already changed, and it's hard to get a handle on it.  We know a lot, and we know almost nothing.

There are, I think, four areas that we have to figure out, and to some degree, master - if we are to survive and thrive.  There will be no one prescription, no one best practice, no 'model' to adopt - as everything will be localized, individual and different from any mold.  While there may be much to learn from each other - what we need to learn has to do with our collective experience - not with solutions from one place that we hope can work in another place.

Here are the four areas that we need to master:

1.  The digital world:  We absolutely have to master the way digitization defines and impacts our world, and how it might facilitate our future success - and that includes access to what we do, distribution of our art, solicitation of needed support, and recruitment of talent on every level.  It has to do with how we do business, how we compete, and everything else. In literally everything we do, we have got to be on the edge of how anything and everything that has to do with computers and technology may have any bearing on the health and viability of our organizations.  Mastery of the digital world isn't an adjunct to whatever business strategy we have embraced, it is the core of the strategy and how the strategy gets applied.  We've got to equip our people with all the skills (from coding to gaming and beyond) that might be necessary, to first understand, then become expert, at using technology to do what we do.  We have to rethink what we know about technology, and, even more importantly, how we think technology ought to be part of our lives as arts administrators.  We've got to get ahead of the curve.  We have talked about this already.  But we haven't moved on it nearly as much as we need to.  We are nowhere near the head of the class in this area, and it shows.  We're still using flip phones in a smart phone world.

2.  Monetization:  We have to figure out new ways to make money.  NEW ways.  Not just some improvement on returns we have relied on for a long time.  Government money, philanthropic support (individual, corporate and foundation), and earned income (from ticket sales and maybe merchandise) are not going to be enough as we move forward.  For while we need new ways to monetize each of these areas, and improve on what we are already doing, we also need to figure out new revenue sources that don't fall under these common headings.  (Perhaps they might be enough for a few arts organizations -- but over time that number will get smaller and smaller.)    We need to think about how we can invest for profit; we need to think about new benefits and value for people to give us money or invest in us; we need more than new audiences -- we need to figure out ways our audiences can pay more - not less - and be happy to do it.  We need to figure out if there is any way we can make a profit.  This may sound glib, but we have to figure out how to offer art in a way that is valued by a large enough segment of the public to pay what it costs to mount the effort.  Absent that, we won't last long. And we haven't done that yet - except in isolated cases.

3.  New Collaborations, Partnerships, Associations:  The days of each arts organization being able to stand  on its own two feet, independent and isolated from every other arts organization, are likely to soon be over.  Increasingly, to survive,  arts organizations are going to have to find ways to work together to leverage whatever strengths that may give them to open new doors and vistas to new possibilities.  What am I talking about?  I don't know for sure.  But it will likely involve completely rethinking what an arts organization is and how it functions.  We likely won't know what might be possible until we fundamentally change how we see ourselves in the context of independence, and until some of those new doors open up. I'm not talking about economies of scale, and saving money by mergers etc.  I'm talking about what might be possible if we are open to the idea that to survive we have to be open to the idea of being part of something bigger than the way we have scaled ourselves up to this point.  That doesn't mean we have to lose our identify or forsake our mission.  It may mean finding a new identity so that we can fulfill the mission.  This may require us to rethink much of how we have done business for the past half century.  Maybe the Met can go it alone, maybe some others can too.  Most won't be able to do that into the future.  We need to redefine ourselves as a field.

4.  Re-Programming:  We are going to have to move away from the blind and absolute loyalty to protecting and preserving the heritage of our individual art forms to the exclusion of any other purpose, and embrace those arts forms as they might now be transitioned into the new millennium.  That doesn't mean we abandon the great art that our organizations represent, but rather that we complement that art with the great art yet to be created within the form.  Art has to be more than a snapshot of how great it was at a point in time.  If that isn't true, then we aren't arts administrators at all - we are preservationists charged with protecting the zenith of a now dead form.  And we have got to embrace the new art forms that are emerging as the artists of the world themselves change.  Keep the old, but make room for the new - with a solid emphasis on the latter.

Is this simplistic.? Yes, unfortunately it is.   Getting to mastery in these areas (and others) will likely be a step by step process until we get to some milestone tipping points. While there are places, pockets as it were, where we are doing spectacular things - overall, we struggle.  We've got to re-imagine our very being on a fundamental level, or we may go the way of newspapers, records, and other platforms now virtually obsolete and gone.  I think the above four areas demand some new approaches and ideas, and at least people thinking out loud about change.  As a start.  Will that happen?  It already is in a few places.  It will grow.  It has to.  Slowly I suspect, as change is often a difficult thing.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Time for the Arts to Make A Move in the Presidential Election is Now. I hope our people are working on this.

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on……………."

So now it begins.  Republicans are falling over themselves lining up to declare their candidacy for President.  On the Democratic side, Hillary and now Bernie Sanders are in.  We will quickly be inundated with the 2016 campaign.  Whereas at one time the media might have been counted on to zero in on the issues, in all likelihood the media will zero in on scandal where they can find it, and manufacture it when it suits them.  The media long ago came to the conclusion that issues and substance are an audience 'turn-off'. Elections are decided on personality, on perceptions and impressions, on a 'feeling'.  Towards the end of the year the primary season will be in full swing, and we will see a ceaseless parade of meaningless television attack ads, and the best we can expect is a very generalized list of important issues, along with some simplistic and virtually meaningless platitudes about those issues.  Everybody will talk about what we need, almost no one will talk about how we get what we need.

Fundraising will again break records and plaintive cries will rise that money is destroying our democratic system.  Nothing will be done to change it.  Every interest group in the country will try to position themselves so that whomever is the nominee of each party, and ultimately the victor in the general election, will appreciate their needs and positions - and so they will have access to the winner. Much of the positioning will be about campaign contributions.  The few really big money players will be offset by the countless little guys.

So as we begin, I'm hoping there is some kind of discussion of a plan of action going on behind the scenes in our field; some kind of strategy to form an Arts Support Group that will reach out to Presidential candidates to try to get the Arts, and support for the Arts, on the candidate's agendas.  I am hoping some people, somewhere in our world, are reaching out to assemble a core group of our leadership, and devising ways to approach the front runners asking them to embrace the value of the arts and the need for public support; a plan on our behalf to position the arts as players (minor, but players nonetheless) in this election.  That will include ideas as to how we can be seen as valuable to the candidates we support. And that means ideas as to how we can raise campaign funds for them.  I know people in the arts don't like this, but that's how it works.

There are two political realities at stake at this stage of the campaign:  1) Being an early supporter of candidates counts -- a lot.  2) Money contributions are absolutely essential if you want your agenda to be prioritized and if you expect access to the candidate - now or after the election.

The Arts have several problems in trying to play the presidential campaign game to its own advantage.

  • First, our field is overwhelmingly Democratic and liberal.  Though it is clearly the smart political move to hedge your bets and support candidates from both parties, that is probably beyond the ability of our sector.  A wing of the GOP has made the Arts a whipping boy, and written it off as unlikely to be of any advantage, or even relevant to the vote. The Democrats see the Arts community as clearly having no real choice but to support it - and so little reason to pay it anything but lip service support (if they see the Arts community at all)
  • Second, the Arts are, if history is any indication, simply incapable of even being willing to offer any collective financial support to candidates [and for the sake of argument I'm not talking about 'organizations' making any moves towards partisan political favoritism, merely individuals within our sphere.  (And please, spare me the bogus and utterly false belief that we cannot support individual candidates for office - as individuals or organizations].   While it is within our power to bundle contributions and use our numbers to leverage support from candidates, we can't or won't do that.  
  • Third, politicians (especially presidential aspirants) are trained and experienced spin doctors whose default position is to avoid answering questions directly or making real public commitments. And if there is no reason for them to take any sides (and the only valid reasons are that a given 'side' is essential to appeal to their base, represents a substantial voting or financial bloc, or there is widespread consensus), then they won't.  We fall into that category.  There is simply no reason to champion our side.  
  • Fourth, the competition for scarce resources is growing, and it is harder and harder for any interest group to successfully make their case.

So the wise move is to work on these challenges, and I hope our people are doing just that.  And whether or not you have given up on politics, whether or not you think anything will change, whether or not you have any faith in any candidate, the question of what is best for the nonprofit arts field remains important, and I would argue that we ought to do whatever we can to increase government support for our organizations and for artists.

But isn't it really too early to declare support for anyone?    Let's take Hillary Clinton as an example.  She is the presumptive nominee.  Might something happen that would deny her the nomination?  Anything is possible.  Having been around a long time, she has baggage.  Whether or not that baggage might potentially torpedo her candidacy, no one knows for sure at this point.  But the odds suggest she will be the Democratic Party's standard bearer.  Those who get on board her wagon now have a better spot than those who don't.  And frankly the bandwagon has a limited number of good seats.  The price of admission is what you bring to the effort.  It's likely the vast majority of Democrats will have no problem in supporting her.  And the more she looks to be a winner, the more various segments of the party and special interest groups that will want to curry favor with her administration, will raise funds for her and seek to align themselves with her machine.  The same is true with any front runner.

I also have no doubt that Hillary is supportive of the arts - in a general way, and up to a point.  Does she fully get it - like we do?  No, and that might be too much to ask anyway.  When she was the First Lady - [and as Bill Ivey (then Chair of the Endowment) has frequently said:  "The NEA is the province of the East Wing - and the First Lady"], she was supportive, but not significantly.  The same has been true of the Obama Administration, and the same might also be argued to have been true under Bush as well.

White House support, no matter how tepid, is important and critical to the continued existence of the Endowment, and to the arts at all levels.  But what we really need is something more:  A recognition that continuation of the status quo of funding for the Endowment and of support for the value of the arts isn't enough.  We need vision in the White House that understands how undervalued and underutilized as policy the arts are - including arts education.  We need an administration that will fight to expand - significantly - arts funding and the presence of the arts at the decision making tables.  We've never really had that.  And we're not going to get it unless we change our approach dramatically.

How do we get that from say Hillary?  I'm not sure we can, but to even be in the running for that kind of consideration, we need to have a strategy right now about how to support her, and how to gain access to her campaign so we can position ourselves in the event of her victory.  Now if there are substantial numbers among us who prefer Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren or any other candidate (and the same is true on the GOP side) then we ought to have strategies to become involved in those campaigns too.  And the time for that kind of approach is now, not next year, not after the conventions when we will be johnny-come-latelys and indistinguishable among countless others then jockeying for position.

So I hope there are conversations going on right now among the leaders in the city, state and federal arts advocacy halls, among the major service provide organizations, and even among the funders and foundations -- conversations about how we organize support for whichever candidates we prefer (or more importantly whichever candidates we think can win - and I hope that there is talk about which GOP candidates might merit our consideration too).  I hope those conversations include how we can best put together "committees'" for candidates, and how we can approach the campaigns and get involved with them now - and that must include some discussion on how we can marshall support and how we might bundle contributions to candidates we choose to back.  I hope we are already looking for connections and intersections and bridges to the various campaigns, making phone calls, reaching out and initiating contact and building bridges.  We need to engage the candidates in a dialogue with us, and to entice them into doing that we need to bring something to the table beyond how wonderful we are and how we are good for the economy, and education and the salvation of humanity.

I hope we can mount a much more sophisticated arts effort than we did during the 2008 Obama Campaign - which effort was, at that point, somewhat of a milestone - as threadbare as it was.  I hope we can finally appreciate that this is politics in the real world; that the most important story any interest group can tell (and frankly the one that counts the most) is that they have a large committed base that cares about  their issue and votes for those who support them; that the most important numbers and data have to do not with how many jobs we create or how much we contribute to the economy, but with how many votes might be at stake for candidates considering whether or not to align with us, and how much money we might raise for those candidates.

I hope this kind of thinking is already going on behind closed doors, and that we are well along in putting a plan to action so we can benefit from whomever wins the presidency in 2016. There is a lot at stake.  I hope smart people are strategizing, and that we already have pathways into the campaigns.  I really hope that come 2016 we will have done something, and aren't still talking to ourselves; not still sitting on our hands.  Inaction on our part would be absolutely criminal, and herald, I think, our demise for another decade - and maybe longer.

And whomever is leading this charge, you need to share the plan with all of us, and soon.  There is a lot of work to do.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit