A Question For Regular Readers

[ Posted Tuesday, August 17th, 2010 – 19:51 UTC ]

Since we've had quite a number of very contentious columns for the past few weeks, I thought we could all use a break, so that I may present a totally and utterly self-serving column.

That's right -- this column is all about this column today. No news, no opinions, nothing to see here but navel-gazing. This is fair warning -- anyone expecting anything else today, don't even bother reading this, and tune in tomorrow when we jump right back into the fray as usual.

Today, instead, I'd like to talk about the Friday Talking Points awards. Again, if you do not instantly recognize this subject matter, I really would advise skipping today's column.

Every Friday (mostly), a new column in the Friday Talking Points series appears. These columns have developed into a three-part format: an intro, where I usually just beat up on the media (for whatever stupidité du jour they're currently hyperventilating over) as a sort of appetizer (although occasionally I'll just fill the spot with bizarre stories which caught my eye), and then on to the more meaty second and third sections. The middle, or "awards" section is where we hand out the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week and the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week awards. And then the final section is comprised of the actual talking points, in my ongoing battle to try to get Democrats to understand the importance of framing your message in an intelligent way.

But, a while back (I specifically waited for a bit to talk about this, so nobody could tell who it actually was I'm talking about), I was asked (for the second time) by a MIDOTW winner for the actual award. Um, well, it's more of a "virtual" award, since while it's easy to blithely write about "golden statuettes" they don't, as such, exist (because it's harder to actually pay for and send out such statuettes, I should point out).

At least this time, I was prepared. The first time I got a request for an actual award (again, I'm not saying who it was), I had a lot of fun playing with templates for university diplomas (you'd be surprised how easy it is to find these things out there) and came up with a snazzy, lots-of-Gothic-lettering, impressive-looking MIDOTW award certificate. So this time, I just had to change the name, the date, and a few supporting facts.

But still, I was conversing with a trusted advisor recently, and upon telling him the story, he suggested that I start sending out the MIDOTW award certificates, even if they don't ask for them.

Which is why I'm writing today. Because I thought the idea had enough merit to put before you, loyal readers. Now, it would admittedly be somewhat of a hassle to print these up every week and send them out, but it wouldn't take that much time or money to do so, meaning it's within the boundaries of what is possible. But would it be worth it, that is really the question.

On a sliding scale, the more powerful politicians are in Washington, the less likely they'd be to even see such an award (their staff may look at it, chuckle, and toss it in the "circular file," in other words). But at the lower end of this scale (backbench House members, candidates for office, advocacy groups, etc.), it might actually bring a smile to someone's face who has been deemed worthy of MIDOTW recognition.

There is, of course, a companion idea -- to send out MDDOTW awards. But that, I fear, wouldn't do much good at all. Number one, they would definitely not make it through staffer screening; and, number two, I just feel it'd be pretty rude -- since most recipients are already fully aware of what the blogosphere thinks of their recent actions, they likely don't need me to pile on in order to get the message.

But, since I thought we all needed a break to talk about something silly (it is, after all, officially "Silly Season" in Washington), this pretty much fits the bill. So I throw it open for discussion -- would it be worth the time and effort to print out and mail physical certificates each week to the winners of the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award? Would most of them even notice? You think it might do some good, or be a gigantic waste of time?

Let me know your thoughts. And, again, my apologies for the egotistical nature of today's "column." Tomorrow, we'll be back on track, I promise.


-- Chris Weigant

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


24 Comments on “A Question For Regular Readers”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I think mailing out certificates to the MIDOTW award winners would be a simply fabulous idea.

    I mean, God knows, it would be the only positive recognition that Secretary Geithner ever gets.


  2. [2] 
    Kevin wrote:


    I'm beginning to think Vice President Biden has a rival for your heart :D

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Biden and Geithner are kindred spirits in this administration ... in more ways than one! :)

  4. [4] 
    Marcus wrote:

    I really like the idea. I actually thought you were already sending out the awards. The more we can do to show politicians and public officials that we support or appreciate their efforts, the better.

  5. [5] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Marcus -

    Well, that's why I had to come clean. I've always written about the awards in sheer "delusions of grandeur" style, speaking of non-existent "Golden Backbone" statuettes as if they were real, as kind of an inside joke. But after the second time someone asked "hey, where's my award?!?" I began to think maybe the column has matured enough and grown enough in audience that it may be worth promoting by putting the energy into actually printing them up every week. I'm still not totally convinced, as 2 out of 134 isn't exactly a tsunami of certificate demands or anything. But maybe it would just be "taking the joke to the next level" as it were, I dunno.

    Anyway, just had to bounce the idea off you guys to see whether anyone thought it had merit or not, so thanks for responding.


    PS. I never did come up with any sort of catchy idea for what the MDDOTW statuette should look like or represent, so anyone with ideas, feel free to chime in (as it's kind of a nonsense column day, as it were).

  6. [6] 
    Jody wrote:

    Chris -- Whenever I send a letter, an email or make a phone call to a candidate or government official, it's rare that I don't get a response in some form. Even the President has someone to push a button that responds to my "thanks" or "you're off track, sir" communiques. If the time, effort and expense is minimal, then do send an award certificate. Most everyone likes being thanked and sometimes the handlers pass on the good stuff; and if the designated receiver is really smart, he'll have handlers who also pass along the "butt kicks." As to a physical image of the Award -- you can't go too wrong with a big green thumb up / big red thumb down. Jody

  7. [7] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    apologies for my long and perhaps not-so-conspicuous absence. i think the awards have always been tongue-in-cheek, so the recipients have sometimes been cop-out choices as well, such as awarding both the golden backbone and the pewter jellyfish to the same person in the same week, or giving an award for fairly whimsical reasons. if you're going to actually send something of substance, i think it would mean having to take your selection criteria for the award a bit more in detail, if not seriously.

    anyhow, i tend to skim that section to get from the intro to the talking points. maybe it should be a separate column. if i were running the show, the award would come out less frequently, or at least have shorter explanations. but then, i don't like awards shows in general.

  8. [8] 
    nypoet22 wrote:
  9. [9] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    Chris, you should most definitely send actual certificates to winners. It's great promotion for yourself, as a writer, and the site. And each Friday Talking Points article you publish at the HuffPo should include a jpeg of the award (featured and linked), as visuals burn into readers' brains better than words alone.

    It won't start getting noticed or referenced by pols for quite awhile, as it'll take them time to realize that this is an ongoing event. But it will, indeed, eventually catch on. I can easily envision pols razzing each other in the Senate dining room.

    I know you're frequently pressed for time, but I recommend issuing both certificates (most disappointing Dem and the most impressive), though featuring only the "most disappointing" jpeg in your HuffPo article, to keep the focus primarily on the thumbs-down Dem. Sending out both, needless to say, reaches twice as many recipients per article, which doubles the effort to create awareness among pols themselves.

    As for the award's visual, I would keep it real simple, e.g., the classic Dem Donkey, kicking up its heels, for the "Most Impressive" document, and the reverse of that, e.g., donkey on its back with its legs in the air, for the "Most Disappointing."

  10. [10] 
    Hawk Owl wrote:

    I thought about, also, sending out both awards every week, but suspect the "Disappointing" awards might generate negative resonances . . . or not. Good question.

    Definitely for the "Most Impressive" winners, though. I thought about a [cartoon] Donkey kicking its heels to maintain the light-hearted tone, though a photo [head shot] of a thoughtful, determined mule might carry some gravitas . . .

    It is great idea. Go for it. After all your whole column is about generating positive reactions . . . why shouldn't you?

  11. [11] 
    Michale wrote:

    I agree that sending out physical awards would be a great idea..

    I am torn about sending out the DISAPPOINTING award, like most others.

    On the one hand, there ain't no such thing as "BAD" publicity..

    On the other hand, given the volatile nature of the blogoshpere, you might get some... er.. aggressive responses.. Could I tell you some horror stories..

    On the THIRD hand, the people likely getting the MDDOTW award are public officials in office so you would expect that they would be a little thicker skinned...

    On the FOURTH hand (like that?? :D) their staff might not be so thick-skinned and might be a tag er.... aggressive in defending their boss..

    CW:"Michale, you're so indecisive!!!"
    Michale:"No I am not! Well, maybe just a little."


    Anyways, that's my 2 cents worth...


  12. [12] 
    Michale wrote:


    Now THAT was funny!!! :D


  13. [13] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    I am torn about sending out the DISAPPOINTING award, like most others.

    On the one hand, there ain't no such thing as "BAD" publicity..

    On the other hand, given the volatile nature of the blogoshpere, you might get some... er.. aggressive responses..

    No guts, no glory, Michale. 'D There's no "Kumbaya" in "The Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week." If ya got the guts to publicly smack pols in HuffPo articles, ya might as well go all the way and market it. The very worst that can happen is ya gain notoriety, your site hits go up, and you distinguish yourself from other writers as the one who "holds their own accountable." Fearlessly. None of that is a bad thing, m'man.

  14. [14] 
    Michale wrote:

    No guts, no glory, Michale. 'D There's no "Kumbaya" in "The Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week." If ya got the guts to publicly smack pols in HuffPo articles, ya might as well go all the way and market it. The very worst that can happen is ya gain notoriety, your site hits go up, and you distinguish yourself from other writers as the one who "holds their own accountable." Fearlessly. None of that is a bad thing, m'man.

    Now THERE's positive framing if I ever heard it! :D


  15. [15] 
    fstanley wrote:

    I think it is a good idea to send out the most impressive award certificates though you need to make sure that you send them to the correct address otherwise they will never be seen. Or, instead of mailing a hard copy you could simply email a pdf/jpeg of the certificate to the winners press contact or chief of staff with the suggestion they post it on the winners website.


  16. [16] 
    Kevin wrote:

    Stan, best idea yet!

  17. [17] 
    dsws wrote:

    I think it would be nice. It would be appreciated by at least some staffers at a solid majority of recipients' offices. But it's your time and your dime.

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    But it's your time and your dime.

    You just reminded me of something I've been meaning to suggest here.

    But, first ... why should it be entirely on Chris's dime?

  19. [19] 
    CWCunningham wrote:

    I would say:


    Don't send the physical awards. Send an email with instructions for how to claim the physical award. It will be informative to see who is paying attention and who actually appreciates the honor. You may even find some who are interested in collecting their MDDOTW award ...?!

  20. [20] 
    dsws wrote:

    Actually, that's what I was obliquely suggesting: if anyone is enthusiastic enough about the idea, they might volunteer to print out the certificates and mail them. The whimsy of Chris's editorial "we" would be transmuted to literalness, at least as regards the awards.

    Meanwhile, I just looked at the commenting tips page,

  21. [21] 
    dsws wrote:

    and I'm curious whether I can make my name and comment number turn italic too.

  22. [22] 
    dsws wrote:

    Nope. This site's IQ > </i> mismatch.

  23. [23] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Jody -

    That is a good point. One of the things which makes me shy away from actual awards, though, is the mail screening process for Congress, which can take MONTHS to get a letter through (as a result of the anthrax attacks of 2001). But you make a good point about them noticing stuff.

    nypoet22 -

    First, let me say: Welcome Back!!


    Secondly, wow, that's kind of a wet blanket on the fire...

    Heh. Yeah, I guess I might have to take things a bit more seriously. I do like your "pewter jellyfish" suggestion, though, best I've heard yet.

    Chris1962 -

    That's kind of the idea, give them something to paper their personal bathroom walls with, so they can joke about it with each other. As for including jpegs, that's just too much work -- you wouldn't believe what goes into formatting the Friday columns, and then reformatting them for DemocraticUnderground. It's all I can do to get them out before midnight as it is! But maybe I should have a generic image of the golden backbone (and a pewter jellyfish) that I could stick inside each award section (into the template, where I wouldn't have to fool with it each week), that might work.

    Hawk Owl -

    I still think sending the MDDOTW awards out might be a tad bit counterproductive. Salt in the wounds, and all of that.

    I should mention that private email with Hawk Owl was what gave me the idea, as he was the one to push "send it out every week!!" So, credit where credit is due and all of that. You've been elevated this week to "trusted advisor"...


    Michale -

    Yeah, the purpose of sending the awards out would primarily be to suck up to the staffers, in the attempt to get everyone on Capitol Hill breathlessly awaiting this column each Friday. And the MDDOTW would be counter-productive, I think, at least at first.

    I'm thinking do it for MIDOTW as a "test case," see how it goes, and then maybe send out the MDDOTW after a trial period.

    Stan -

    Now that's an intriguing idea, and might avoid the whole "Congressional mail screening" bottleneck. Hmmm...

    Elizabeth -


    (cough, cough...) I direct everyone's attention to the "Donate" button up on the top of the right side of your screen (cough, cough...).


    CWCunningham -



    This is an EXCELLENT idea! Absolutely top notch. Contact the offices of the MIDOTW winners, and offer to send a certificate (and also offer a jpeg or PDF version that they can print themselves). See who responds, and mail them out when asked. This way, the big fish will just ignore it, but the little fish backbenchers will likely jump at the chance. That way, the effort goes to those who will appreciate it the most.

    Seriously, this is The Answer. Thank you CWCunningham, your talents obviously run deeper than just the cartoons you so graciously provide this site. I read your comment, and I swear a lightbulb appeared above my head, as you intended (to put the whole thing in the cartoon realm).


    dsws -

    I'm not 100% positive (haven't done this in a while), but I think (someone correct me if I'm wrong here) that if you change your user preferences to add a website URL to your user info, then your username will appear in comments as a link to your site. But I don't think you can otherwise fool with the formatting of your username.

    Thanks to everyone for responding, it helped enormously!


  24. [24] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    In all seriousness,

    It is very important, in this “post-press era” which is characterized by a general “toxic and dysfunctional media and political culture” that we do everything in our power to support journalists and political analysts who rise above the riff-raff and consistently provide reality-based news and analysis that is, at once, informative, enlightening and entertaining.

    We can all agree that Chris personifies all that is good about the media and political analysis and that he deserves our wholehearted support for all of his efforts here.

    Inexcusably, I have not kept up my end of the bargain here and I intend to rectify that situation with a regular contribution to the cause.

    I know everyone here believes as I do that Chris provides us with an invaluable service here, and would agree also that these efforts need to be supported!

    Thanks, Chris, for all that you do!

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