Daily Archives: November 6, 2008

Don’t gloat too much…

For those of you who think all Republicans are mentally deficient…

Check out this discussion on Slate.

I affiliated with political party for the first time this year in part because I finally became convinced that the Republican party was not only not interested in having me in it but would do everything it could to keep me out.

If the party decides to put the smart people (like this) in charge and stops trying to fulfill biblical prophecy through government policy or acting like they’re envious of the Taliban’s ability to enforce cultural standards they could not only be a real challenge across the nation in the long term but they could actually improve the level of discussion.

(Un)fortunately, that doesn’t seem too likely but who knows.  Maybe they can get they’re act together and I can return to being an independent.

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This victory alone is not the change we seek. Post Election Wrap Up (Part 2)

 

Ok, you’ve just been elected president. You’ve got a lot of challenges (opportunities to excel as my old First Sergeant would have said), made a lot of promises, have a potentially hostile minority hoping to make you crash and burn and an allied congress which has a similar (but not necessarily identical) agenda.  You’ve also got millions of donors.  Thousands of people who have never engaged in political activities before have given their time to get you elected and you won.

I suspect, given his tradition and affinity for community organization, Obama might want to keep those supporters plugged in and activiated in case he runs into obstacles.  I’m not exactly sure how such a mobilization of the troops would take place but it seems to me tailor fit to Obama’s emphasis on community/national service.

Also, consider these remarks from his victory speech:

And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change.  And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.  It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other.

Now, usually campaign supporters go back to their lives after the election and become passive supporters until the next election.  Of course, it’s hard for me to imagine that Obama could reignite this sort of enthusiasm after four years in power if he doesn’t continue to call upon his supporters to work for him.  I can only imagine how hard it would be to recreate the infamous ‘ground game’ he took two years to build.  Better to keep that organization functioning to some degree so it’ll be easier to get running again.

Another interesting thing to watch will be to see how someone so focused on ‘bottom up’ organizing (I’m adding Alinsky to my reading list) utilizes resources when he’s on the top of the heap.

Should be a fascinating four years.

Post election wrap up (part 1)

Ok, ok…I know you’re tired of talk about the election but I’ve got to put a big ol’ cherry on top of this sundae.

This campaign was the first time I ever participated in any sort of organized political activity and it looks like if I was only going to volunteer for one election this was the one to get involved with.  That being said, here are my impressions of the working for the Obama campaign in one of those ‘battleground counties’ in suburban Philadelphia.

In August an Obama satellite office (really just a local business that donated some space) opened up close to my home and so I ‘transferred’ there.  We had a new ‘official’ Obama campaign organizer (I assume he was paid) who was charged with staffing an area that had been rather neglected during the primaries.  I started phone banking (calling potential voters to find out how they were leaning and trying to convince those not already supporting Obama) one night a week.

Within a month or so, one of the real strengths of the campaign came out.  As the campaign began to make more administrative demands on the official organizer, he began to push responsibility down to us volunteers.  Some people became responsible for coordinating other volunteers to come in, some people worked donations, I was assigned responsibility for the Monday night phone banking.  My understanding is that in other campaigns, volunteers were basically treated like toadies to do the grunt work and kept in the dark.  Here, the campaign seemed to understand a couple of important lessons.

  • If you give your volunteers responsibility (real or perceived) for something they consider important, they will often exceed expectations.  It also seemed to create a sort of feedback loop where the more asked of volunteers, the more they wanted to work (except for me, of course.  I may be dedicated but I’m still a slacker)
  • Giving volunteers information (real or perceived) makes them feel like they have a stake in the process, increasing cohesion.

In fact, the whole process really reminded me of being in a TOC during military exercises.  It had (particularly on Election Day and the day before) very much the same sort of vibe.  So much so, in fact, that all day on the 3rd I kept catching myself using military time instead of civilian time, something I never do when I’m not in uniform.  I also had the urge to pepper my speech with totally unneeded expletives.  Thank goodness I managed to keep that in check.

The practice of giving volunteers responsibility created some interesting exchanges.  I can’t tell you how many times volunteers, some who had come to the campaign weeks or days after me just assumed that I (and others in similar positions) were full time/paid campaign members.  It was also nice (although I don’t know if this was unique to this campaign) to not see any sort of divide between full time staff and volunteers.  The operation was able to be both inclusive and professional which is impressive.

The campaign seemed totally comfortable accepting the risk of loosening control on volunteers (and thereby their behavior) in exchange for greater levels of cohesion.  It seems like a big risk and, I’m sure, there were people who volunteered who went ‘off message’ or may have done or said things that would not have been approved of by the campaign but I’m guessing that was more than offset by attracting and keeping bright, mature people who enjoyed the idea of being able to use their own initiative without being smothered.

What was particularly impressive was the sheer number of volunteers that were coming in.  I was tasked with managing the phone calls on the day before Election Day and at one point, had too many volunteers and not enough phone numbers to call.

On Election Day itself, I was signed up to drop off literature in various neighborhoods.  I committed to working a full day but, again, there were so many volunteers that there was only about a half day of work to be done.

By comparison, I didn’t see one piece of McCain literature throughout my entire time volunteering.  I didn’t see one person walking around neighborhoods talking to voters from the McCain camp.  One day, while calling, I spoke to a woman who laughed as soon as I identified myself.  She told me that I was the fourth person from the Obama campaign to call her and inquire how she’d vote on Election Day.  After I apologized for the inconvenience, she said she didn’t mind but that her husband, a registered Republican, hadn’t heard anything from his party.

And this was in in critical county in a state the McCain campaign said they ‘had to win’.