"It Felt so Good to Be Out in the Community Again"
By Al Giordano
Across the fruited plain, folks are still going door-to-door today in the first round of Organizing for America’s pledge project to build public support for big budgetary investments in education, energy and health care.
Here’s an early report from a reader in Washington state:
Hello, my name is Peter Fraser and I saw your invitation to send an e-mail to you describing our Pledge-Drive Canvass experience, so I thought I would give it a try!! I live in Tacoma, WA and there is a volunteer group here that has grown up post-campaign that does an awesome job organizing (www.piercecountyforchange.org). They put together packets and material for us and we met in the basement of a church (prescribed community organizing gathering place!) and had a meeting and watched the training video and then started canvassing.
I was by myself today, but I was able to knock on 46 doors and of those was able to get 8 people to sign the pledge. It had a different feel from door-belling during the campaign (and I had to watch myself that I didn't say the "Obama Campaign" a few times), but it felt so good to be out in the community again trying to build support for the drive to change our country. I had an array of responses, some very positive, some door closings in my face, and one man that said "That rascal is destroying our country, get off my porch, there's the street," but I take comfort in the fact that my 8 sign-ups are magnified by all the people across our city, county, state and country doing the same thing today, and it's a small step in the process of drowning out the voices of lobbyists and the corporate media.
In trying to get a handle on how "country" organizing works after a campaign, I wasn't totally sure how it would pan out. But if this pledge drive is a start, I have a better idea of how it might work, and therefore a little more hope that we can truly make changes one block at a time. Thanks for your writing Al and for all you do to help our country.
Peter’s reported eight pledges out of 46 contacts – a better than 17 percent response rate – is impressive in such an apolitical nation, as any experienced canvasser or phone banker for any cause will testify. Should that be multiplied by even a quarter of the doors across the country, that’s a potential grassroots army of tens of millions of Americans that can be built (and perpetually rebuilt, because organization doesn't ever exist in stagnant lists or letterheads, but, rather, it is always in the present and by necessity a constantly replenishing process) to overwhelm the influence of the monied interests in Congress.
A grassroots organization built in the context of a campaign overlaps somewhat with the kind that has to be constructed between electoral campaigns, but also appeals to different sectors of the public. There are campaign volunteers that simply won’t be that involved in anything but campaigns. And there are everyday Americans that don’t involve themselves in electoral campaigns but who will gladly participate in a concrete drive for a policy that can bring them and their kids health care, or better schools, or cleaner energy. That’s one of the factors that make this unprecedented door-to-door effort around governing so interesting and appealing: there are new masses of people that can be reached and mobilized. Many don’t even vote. But by getting them invested in the project now, the chances that they do in 2010 rise exponentially. (As I’ve noted before, this Organizing for America effort seems partly aimed at identifying those sympathetic non-voters for the coming voter registration drives next year.)
Notable about Peter’s reflections is not a single mention of public poutrage over AIG-related matters, as much as some who don't seek out or directly listen to the public are ignorantly betting that the corporate media has found for them a magical "silver bullet" that will bring about a rebellion for such desk jockeys to imagine themselves as leading.
Meanwhile, we’ll try to dig up the training video he mentions, for all to see.
I’m looking forward to reading more of your reports from the weekend’s canvass. Post them in the comments section or send them to me, as Peter did, at email@example.com.
Update: From Elsie in San Jose, California:
Thank you for keeping me sane with your analysis.
I couldn't go door to door yesterday because I have two little ones so what I did was go through my phone book and contacted friends and family and informed them about the budget. I got almost all of them to support the pledge. In the end I entered about 85 people in the Obama website as supporters of the budget. I felt good getting things done instead of reading the bashing that's going on the left (HuffPost, TMP, OpenLeft etc). Thank you Al for all that you do.
As the son of a working single mom, I'm always impressed when someone like Elsie, with two kids, finds a way to organize politically around the many obstacles in daily life. Not surprised: impressed. Indeed, it happens every day. Those with less leisure time typically carry more than their share of the weight in any organizing venture. A result of 85 pledges in a single weekend - along with doing her own data entry - from someone who couldn't leave the house should be a lesson to us all. (And a shout out to all the data entry folks who choose to spend your time in front of the computer doing productive organizing work rather than just conjuring up new words with which to declare that the sky is falling and calling it "activism.")
See Also: Two new diaries atop the Daily Kos rec list...
"Katrina Moment?" How Dare You by Inky99
(Yes, I've read the various comments here that appeal to me to do more crossposting over at DKos, but as most organizers know, there are times to create a vacuum in order to let new voices and leadership surface. The cavalry always comes from below and to the left. That seems to be happening already over there and elsewhere as the grand rank-and-file, the worker ants of the Netroots, that at first generally give the Chicken Littles the benefit of the doubt then watch the CLs then go overboard in all the perennial shrill ways that chart their own disgrace. I've watched this happen again and again, there and elsewhere, and sometimes I just like to sit back and enjoy the show - and the emergence of new and better blogging voices - while still adding a "rec" or a comment here and there to nudge it along. If past is prologue, at a certain point a critical mass of sanity rebounds and I jump in to give it some extra narrative. Meanwhile, the comments section is so great here in this laboratory where we invent the new vaccines and memes that one doesn't even have to leave home base to be able to send the hysteria back to sea with the rest of the flotsam and jetsam...)