"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 narconews@gmail.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.

Cheers, Elsie

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

and...

Geithner's Plans May Already Be Working by rweba

(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...)

 

Comments

92 Pledges

Peter said it best:  "It felt so good to be out in the community again."  Our group of 7, all volunteers from the campaign, worked in our STL, MO neighborhood's busy bus and Metro stops for about 2 1/2 hours.  92 signatures!!  I loved the conversations, especially encouraging folks to call their Reps. and Senators. We handed each person a basic script with phone numbers and encouraged them to speak with friends and family.  One woman said she felt guilty that she wasn't helping.  Because of the ongoing nature of OFA, I told her she would have many more opportunities to participate.  

I was able to renew my commitment to continue active citizen involvement via OFA by hitting the streets with the knowledge that we are all learning, while making history, together.   I know Pres. Obama needs us as much as we need him.  After all, his name is still attached to this OFA movement: www.barackobama.com

Hats Off

This is great work.  8 signatures from 46 doors is fabulous.  During the campaign it would be next to impossible to get that rate of people to say they'd vote for Obama, even when we were just working lists the campaign had already culled to make them productive. 

thanks for this followup

Your site is the bomb. I really wish i could have gotten back tot he streets. It's therapeutic and mentally sanitizing to step away from the keyboard/tv/ipod and LISTEN to real folks again. I've linked to this over at JJP. Keep up the great work, Al

Pledges

Hi Al,

A group of 15 of us in Chicago took to the streets yesterday.  We hit EL stations, local supermarkets and knocked on doors.  We spoke to over 150 people and collected over 100 pledges between all of us.  It was invigorating and a reminder that while the beltway is losing its mind, the rest of us are out here trying to push the budget through.  I spoke to a 70 year old woman in front of Dominicks supermaket yesterday.  She told me that she was thrilled to be signing the pledge.  She said that for her President Obama's success was a matter of life or death.  I think that many feel the same way.  Thanks for providing this forum for us to share our work.

 

AP, AIG and Obama's approval rating

This AP story, Obama the Candidate vs Obama the President, posted on MSNBC seems indicative of the disconnect between MSM, pundits and ordinary Americans.     http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29818063/

The article reports that Obama's "weeklong media blitz" to sell his budget was "overshadowed" by the "public furor" over AIG salaries.  But then the article acknowledges in somewhat begrudging and bewildered language that Obama's popularity is still high.

For now at least, Obama's deviations have served only to invite occasional cries of hypocrisy from some Republicans and infrequent grumbles of disappointment from some Democrats. He has popularity on his side, and it seems people mostly are chalking up his moves to much-needed flexibility at a difficult time.  And then it goes on to say with thinly veiled hope, "But the shifts could take a toll over time..."

I did, however, enjoy Rush's & Sirota et al's efforts reduced to "occasional cries of hypocrisy" and "infrequent grumbles of disappointment".

MSNBC online allows readers to rate stories.  This story was rating 1.5.  I've been following MSNBC long enough to devine a pattern.  A 1.5 rating out of 500 plus responders is a protest rating.  Normally stories are 3 for average and 4 or 5 for exceptional journalism.  I gave it the lowest possible rating of .5.

A Tale of Two Americas

There's no question - it's an absolutely extraordinary organizing environment out there.  Events (in conjunction with the outstanding work of the Organizer-In-Chief, his staff, and gigantic field organization) have unfolded in such a way that much of an organizer's basic work - instilling and cultivating in people a sense of anger, urgency and hope - has already been largely accomplished.  What remains is the plucking of the ripe fruit; handing people the keys to their own empowerment.  If you've never been directly involved before, now is a fantastic time to get your feet wet.  Or if, like me, you were too busy or burned-out to get involved during the election, now is as good as it may ever get to put your disused skills to work.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"

Ha

@ Nancy

That msnbc article is media self absorbtion defined.

Daily Kos

Al,

I too noticed the push back on the rec list over at Daily Kos (and I feel the need to state that I very rarely see the kind of reactionary crap that we are discussing on the front page articles over at Kos).

It's very heartening to see.

I wonder what the Poutrage

I wonder what the Poutrage Lobby make of the fact that Obama's poll numbers haven't budged despite a week of their best efforts to attack him. When they use the word "outrage", I want to tell them, I do not think that word means what you think it means.

Yes, the pushback is real...

but unfortunately, the poutrage continues at Dkos.  Somebody already felt threatened and decided to dump all over the idea that things MIGHT just get better someday (and it rockets to the top of the rec list, of course). I won't link to it, because it was juvenile, high school behavior. 

Anyway, much more important was the person you highlighted here, Al. I have more time than she, so I've been shamed into more action to the streets next time Obama calls - probably on health care. I'll contact my congresscritter and senator though, and make sure they vote the right way on this budget. This budget could set everything up, and make the actual passing of a universal health plan much easier.

Keep telling these stories, Al!

The attacks...

The attacks on Obama were predictable.  They are coming fast and furious from the right.  They are coming from the pundits and insiders.  What is surprising me, is the ferocity that they are coming from the "left".  I've stopped reading FDL and Open Left.  Actually, the Field and Booman took their place on my daily "list" of blogs. 

I still go to Kos.  Kos has always had its pie fights.  But by and large, I find a balance in the comments and excellent front pagers. 

 

 

Hitting the streets in NH

Our active grassroots network in Southern New Hampshire (Seacoast for Change, http://seacoastforchange.com) also turned out to support OFA's day of action. We opted for a high-traffic public square in tourist-friendly Portsmouth, NH rather than going door-to-door. I'm pleased to say the public reception was warmer than I had anticipated-- with five volunteers, we signed up 31 pledges in under an hour.

But... our normal volunteer turn-out for post-election events and organizing meetings ranges from 18 to 50 activists. Statewide, calls to action from the Obama transition team and OFA typically generate 16-18 house meetings; on Saturday, only four pledge canvass events were scheduled, and sign ups were in low single digits for all but one event. By the way, all the pledge canvass event organizers in NH happened to be women. In Portsmouth, the one volunteer who made contact exclusively through MyBo flaked. So, let's not get too worked up about all this OFA stuff. Results will vary. In our neck of the woods, we will will continue to focus on finding out what works in our community, and building productive relationships with other local groups who want to organize for change.

60 Minutes...and Thanks Al for your insight.

Wonderful interview from our President tonight on 60 Minutes.  Why people feel that he doesn't get the crisis is beyond me.  I just don't get why people feel like they are more "in the know" than him, or have a better handle on things than him.  People honestly make statements that he only listens to Geithner and Summers.  In tonight's interview - he acknowledged that he reads the paper.  He reads all the haters, including Krugman.  He's aware of the options out there.  His judgment has brought him to adopt this current plan.  We need to give the plan a chance.  From the juvenile behavior of most elected officials in our federal government, the thought of them having a lot of control in the running of banks is frightening.  That is my biggest problem with nationalization.  We don't have the adequate political climate.

60 Minutes was terrific. I

60 Minutes was terrific.

I think Geithner's plan has potential to do some good- it's an 'ABCs' of interesting/clever ideas. I'm not economist or a financial expert, but I'm trying to educate myself on these matters in an objective manner.

I'm not against temporary nationalization, but why are some assuming that the Federal Government has the expertise to clean and restructure banks and not the private sector? Or that the gov. has MORE expertise than those in the private sector? No one is answering these questions. 

It seems that some wanna take the mess on Wall-Street and use it as an excuse to overthrow Capitalism. That ain't gonna happen.

Contrary to popular belief President Obama is NOT a socialist.

Paducah Ky canvass

I'd like to echo the sentiment about it feeling good to be going door to door again yesterday.  We picked the Artist Relocation Program neighborhood in Paducah KY and also called some of our neighbors and friends that we knew were supporters and got their pledges by phone.  There was an open house going on in the neighborhood, so some people out walking around too.  Lots of the homes are studios where the artists live so we talked with quite a few of them.  There are regular apartments in the area too.

We had some very interesting conversations with the residents, particularly one woman who initially was not sure what she thought about Obama and his agenda.  But by the time we left, she was excited because we told her that one of the Obama volunteers wanted to start a community garden, and she had been wanting to do something like that too. Plus she was very interested in our opinions about all the issues we discussed that she had been very ambivalent about.

The Obama volunteer who had talked previously to me about the garden had been thinking about it for a long time but didn't want to do it all on her own and needed more people involved.  And after the one person on our walk yesterday got enthused about that, we started asking others if they were interested in volunteering for that specific project or for some local project like that, rather than just if they wanted to volunteer for Organizing for America.  And we got a lot more people to check that they'd like to volunteer.

We only did two streets in the neighborhood which each go about 4 blocks and spent about 4 hours and ended up with 33 signed pledges.   People were very curious about what we were doing and why, especially since it is different from what any previous administration has done, and with some explaining, most found it to be a very positive thing.  And of course we did hit the occasional "go away Obama is ruining our country" person, but the positive conversations more than balanced those out. 

On the downside, we didn't have many volunteers show up for the canvassing.  Just one other couple and me with a friend I met during the campaign.  The organizer tried to do some outside the Books-A-Million but only got a few positive responses out there. 

 

Expect a New Outbreak of Poutrage

today as the Geithner plan is unveiled (greedy capitalists might make a buck out of it), but hopefully the rise in the Dow and glimmerings of light at the end of the tunnel will compensate for it.

I want to be...

David Axelrod when I grow up.

“This is the kind of issue Washington chases like catnip,” David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, lamented in an interview. “What would be a mistake would be to get so distracted by the catnip-chasers that we lose our own path. We are not going to do that.”

http://theplumline.whorunsgov.com/economy/axelrod-we-wont-be-distracted-by-washington-obsession-with-aig/?ref=fp7

As we navigate through these stormy waters, it's great to know we've got such steady hands steering the ship.  Couple that with the organizing over the weekend, we're rapidly getting "all hands on deck."

Incredibly exciting time, and for those who were concerned about low turnout at their events, remember that we're starting from zero.  You've already improved the numbers greatly, and the key now is to keep increasing those numbers.  More reason that the Giordano-Axelrod-Obama messages of putting "feet on the ground," rather than much of the BigMedia and blogosphere's "holding feet to the fire," is so crucial right now.  We've got to grow our numbers more than anything, and we're already doing that to great success.  Full steam ahead!

The feigned indignation of an attention whore

Here in the mountains we were subjected to the “populist” ramblings of one of the Pouter Patrol on the radio waves, as he was filling in for one of his betters last week. And now I see he's flocked to the nightly news and network television to spout his pious outrage against the Obama administration, and I'm sure that said media outlets were just as happy to put him on. After all, the powers that be do love their poster children, and if it's coming from somebody on the left that just fits their needs even better.

To this person, who I know and share a beautiful state with, all I can say is: get over yourself. You're not “challenging” anyone or holding public officials accountable. You're not standing up for working people and you're not offering any solutions. In fact, the only thing you are doing successfully is promoting yourself, like you always do, at the expense (and with the help) of a true grassroots movement. There's a word for people like that. They're called parasites. You seem to really enjoy having dramatic public spats that accomplish nothing, and that is one of many reasons why a lot of people on the ground here don't like you. Seriously, this is getting completely ridiculous. I know you read these comments. Just stop.

Forgive me for the

Forgive me for the self-promotion, but I just wrote a diary at Kos that questions the Krugman reaction. 

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/3/23/711924/-Krugman-is-making-me-optimistic-(updated-2X)

Feel free to criticize, or tell me that I should not do such linking here.  I'm actually interested in comments, if anyone has a chance.

 

Erin: Can't open the Westword link

But that's probably my computer's fault. 

FOX loves to grab two different sorts of lefties:  The classic "FOX Democrat" type that can be counted on to backstab any Democrat that's spearheading something Rupert Murdoch or the RNC doesn't like (Jim Traficant used to be a favorite until he went to prison; Susan Estrich is another), and the folks they see as so wacky, off-putting, out of the mainstream, and incoherent (and blissfully unaware of same) that they are guaranteed to hurt the very causes they espouse (and which FOX seeks to undermine).

Poutrage antidote

Poutrage has broken out, just as bob h predicted.  One antidote, the always reliable Booman, who has this anti-Hamsher take at http://www.boomantribune.com/story/2009/3/23/133631/000

@Phoenix Woman

It works fine for me. But try clicking here.

Al you are on fire!!

Wow Al, your posts the last week have been fantastic!  I'm just catching up after a week away from  internet access.  Unfortunately I was away the week before Saturday's canvass helping my mom move in to a retirement facility so I was not able to host a canvass.  Instead our local OFA group (mostly volunteers from the campaign) are approaching this budget pledge like our voter registration efforts.  We will start on Wednesday gathering signatures and do a canvass of several neighborhoods next weekend.  We had a large group of jr high and high school volunteers and they are going to knock on doors with us.  I am really looking forward to talking with folks in my community.  We have also been calling our Senators and Representatives as we did during the stimulus process.

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About Al Giordano

Biography

Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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