As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Full Spectrum Organizing

What the Obama campaign is doing really deserves a full academic treatment. Campaign managers and consultant need to study it for the next twenty years. The level of innovation is really a quantum leap.

Their Internet fundraising, inspiring low-dollar donors to contribute over and over, has become an alternative public financing system and allowed them to stretch their dollars on the air war, including national spots at key moments and the upcoming purchase of a half-hour block of primetime a week before the election. But they are also advertising in the most unlikely places, using Google ads and iPhone applications and even buying billboards in video games like Burnout Paradise (I'm not a gamer, but Burnout rules and it's a perfect venue to find young male voters).

As for the 50-state strategy, they're being realistic (obviously) but they aren't leaving anything to chance, going hard after the extra electoral vote in Nebraska and using outlets like the DCCC to make sure allies are sent to Congress to help implement his agenda.

The voter registration project over the summer appears to have been a resounding success. An unusual amount of that record fundraising was put into work on the ground, and it has led to a five percent increase nationwide in Democratic registration, which is really game-changing and significant. In Ohio alone, 666,000 new voters have been registered, making NINETY-FOUR PERCENT of the population eligible to vote in 2008, a stunning achievement.

And then, there's the care and feeding attended to a new generation of organizers, which will be the backbone of the party for the next two decades.

Inside the Obama campaign, almost without anyone noticing, an insurgent generation of organizers has built the Progressive movement a brand new and potentially durable people's organization, in a dozen states, rooted at the neighborhood level.

The "New Organizers" have succeeded in building what many netroots-oriented campaigners have been dreaming about for a decade. Other recent attempts have failed because they were either so "top-down" and/or poorly-managed that they choked volunteer leadership and enthusiasm; or because they were so dogmatically fixated on pure peer-to-peer or "bottom-up" organizing that they rejected basic management, accountability and planning. The architects and builders of the Obama field campaign, on the other hand, have undogmatically mixed timeless traditions and discipline of good organizing with new technologies of decentralization and self-organization.

Win or lose, "The New Organizers" have already transformed thousands of communities—and revolutionized the way organizing itself will be understood and practiced for at least the next generation. Obama must continue to feed and lead the organization they have built—either as president or in opposition. If he doesn't, then the broader progressive movement needs to figure out how to pick this up, keep it going and spread it to all 50 states. For any of that to happen, the incredible organizing that has taken place this year inside Obama's campaign—and also here and there in Clinton's—needs to be thoroughly understood and celebrated. Toward that end, here are glimpses from several days of observations and interviews in Central and Southwest Ohio. This article focuses on the field program's innovative "neighborhood team" structure and the philosophy of volunteer management underlying it that is best summarized by the field campaign's ubiquitous motto: "Respect. Empower. Include."

Read that whole article. The number that is unbelievable is that around 40% of everyone in the likely voter screen of one major poll has been contacted by the Obama campaign. That's a bigger number than anybody has ever seen.

As part of one of those neighborhood teams, it's really encouraging to see. And I do think that the teams are going to be a significant help to the progressive movement. I don't think they are tethered to the party or even Senator Obama, though that is the focus right now. After the election, a shift will occur, to cementing an agenda, and these teams will be the infrastructure for making sure that agenda gets attention, recognition and passage. And if it doesn't, I don't think anyone will hesitate to demand accountability and punish those legislators who vote against the interests of their constituents.

This election could have been won by the standard Democratic approach. Obama has built an enduring structure to last far into the future. This is really important in these times of struggle and great challenge, and it's going to lead us into the 21st century the right way.

If you're so inclined, you can give Barack a day and be a part of this exciting experiment in modern organizing.

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