By Al Giordano
Summer in the United States is a dreadful time to be a political candidate, consultant, ad-maker, press secretary, policy analyst, fundraiser - or for that matter political reporter or blogger - because the news cycles slow to comatose with the breezeless so-thick-you-can-cut-a-knife-through-it August air.
All those people are dependent on public attention to get anything done at all. But teachers and students are on summer vacation, as are so many members of the professional classes that feed media crises and scandals during the rest of the year. Their email accounts are on automatic response: "I will be out of the office until...." Every man and woman's life and property is safe, to paraphrase Mark Twain, because Congress is out of session. Even talk radio hosts are merely "phoning it in" this time of year, taking Fridays and Mondays off, grabbing those days of respite and calm that are so elusive for most of the rest of the year.
And for the many that can't afford a summer home or even a long weekend away - that struggling majority that the media doesn't care about anyway - the schools aren't available to baby-sit the kids, there's no air conditioner to help beat the heat, the pollen and the smog, those that live in tourist towns are working sunrise to sunset or waiting tables or bartending all night, there are weeds to be pulled and grass to be cut and arid fields to be irrigated: for the America that doesn't have a summer home, these months bring even harder work and longer hours.
As a result, it's impossible to focus national public attention on almost anything, no matter how prurient or scandalous: if you're going to get caught by tabloid stalkers with the mother of your love child in a Beverly Hills hotel, this is the perfect time of year to do it: nobody notices, and those few that notice don't give a damn. By Labor Day it will already be old news.
But there is one task that matters in US politics this time of year, the job done by volunteers and unsung professionals alike: field organizing. And this year, in 2008, as E.J. Dionne points out, registering new voters from the 56 million that are eligible and don't vote can put the calcified Electoral College map out of its misery and rebirth it anew:
...the evidence is overwhelming that this year, the young really will vote in large numbers -- and they just might tip the election.
The trend started four years ago. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, or CIRCLE, electoral participation among 18- to 24-year-olds rose from 36 percent in 2000 to 47 percent in 2004. For the larger 18 to 29 group, participation rose from 40 percent to 49 percent.
The 2006 midterm election saw a larger increase in off-year voting among the under-30s than any other age group.
Then came this year's primaries: According to CIRCLE, the turnout rate for the under-30s nearly doubled between 2000 and 2008, from 9 percent to 17 percent.
...on present trends, it's a near certainty that young people's overall share of the electorate will rise substantially this year.
Have you noticed how many of the political pundits are writing columns this season along the lines of "why aren't the polls moving?" and trying to squeeze some meaning out of it like one last drop of Budweiser from a US-made can? Well, its summer, dumbasses. Public opinion in presidential politics never moves until the conventions are held and herald the beginning of the fall, with its crisper brisk air, death-tolling school bells and the return of a well-rested scandal-mongering media corps to its cubicles and cauldrons of toil and trouble.
But while America has been on autopilot, the few (well, maybe not so few) and the proud (some might say "arrogant" or "uppity!") - those crazy and cocky field organizers - are the ones out there making history.
Last week, The Field brought you the scoop of how the Obama campaign plans to use the Democratic National Convention and the millions of viewers it will attract in late August as the stepping-off-point for a massive national voter registration drive.
Since then we have learned that it has plopped down $5 million dollars for a national television ad buy during the Olympic games: the messaging will surely be tied into the call for those 56 million missing voters to come home and overwhelm the system. The Denver Post broke some news yesterday: Anybody that wants one of 60,000+ available tickets for Obama's Mile High Stadium acceptance speech on August 28 (forty-five years to the day of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" oratory) can buy them only with sweat, by registering new voters.
In a half-hour interview Wednesday with The Denver Post, Obama's deputy campaign manager, Steve Hildebrand, said he wants to use the ticketing process as a massive recruitment tool meant to bring in supporters from all 50 states and energize them to carry the campaign into the final 60 days of the general election.
"We're going to ask those 80,000 people in that stadium to march out of there and go with very specific instructions and goals to register millions of new voters," Hildebrand said.
And this just came into my email box (and maybe yours, too). It's specific to the New York zip code I typed when they made me give one last year when I signed up to receive alerts from the Obama campaign:
If you're ready to take the next step, you are invited to attend a two-day Camp Obama training session near you.
Camp Obama is back: the summer camp for those that can't afford summer camp!
Camp Obama trainings offer a unique, in-depth look at the strategies and techniques that have driven this campaign.
These two-day sessions, to be held August 22nd - 23rd, are led by experienced Obama campaign staffers and other professional organizers who are eager to empower dedicated supporters like you.
After completing a camp session, attendees will be asked to fill essential volunteer positions in battleground states -- these are demanding roles, but they are a vital part of our election strategy.
Supporters with experience in community organizing or political campaigns are strongly encouraged to apply. But the only requirement is that you support Barack and be ready to turn your enthusiasm and energy into action.
Here are some of the skills you'll learn at Camp Obama:
- Tactics that will help you creatively and effectively organize voters
- Tips to increase the visibility of the campaign in your area
- Keys to mobilizing other volunteers to join our movement
(Don't dawdle, Field Hands: In other regions the training sessions will be held August 15 and 16.)
Yep, while you're out there complaining about the heat, swatting flies, and listening to pundits try to ruffle your Chicken Little feathers, there's an army forming over hill and dale. (Best of all, and bwahahaha, it is also training thousands with the skills to hammer and hold its candidate accountable after he's elected, something that complaining activist critics of all-things-electoral have failed to do, on this scale, for decades. How's that for irony?)
Anytime I speak to Obama Fellows or active volunteers (which is daily, and from all corners of the country; I'm their off-the-record pen pal and secret decoder ring buddy and I'll be yours, too: firstname.lastname@example.org) I ask how they are spending their days and nights. "Registering voters," is the universal response. Then I ask for numbers. Typically, no matter in what part of the United States they are organizing, they have already signed up an average of three times more new voters than signed up in all of 2004 in their counties or municipalities. This is the big untold story of the summer of 2008. (This autumn is going to bring a royal headache for political pollsters who, even for the very few that want to measure this X factor, will find it difficult to weight accurately in their numbers crunching activities.)
For all of you that have been asking me to tell you what is really happening in the presidential election, for once you haven't come to the best source: go to "camp" instead. In your town or city, people are forming up posses and knocking on doors by day and even trawling bars and clubs by night - how can that not be fun? - hunting down the 56 million missing American voters and signing them up. Those that have spent even just one day or night doing it are not worrying or fretting about November. They know more than the pundits and professionals have a clue.
You do not want to end this summer without being able to say that you went out there, even if just once or twice, and were one of the many that, outside of the media's radar screen, changed the game. After all, why stay home and watch the Olympics when you yourself can go for the gold? It's a medal you'll wear with pride for the rest of your days, being able to look in the mirror - at last! - and say: I made history.
By Al Giordano
I've just posted a news story over on the Narco News side of these pages:
Because this story mirrors a struggle going on throughout the United States as a new wave of change-agents confront the corporate wing of the Democratic Party, I've also cross-posted it to Daily Kos.
Spread the good word, Field Hands.
By Al Giordano
Obama is now on stage in Berlin at 1:23 p.m. ET, with roadblocked cable TV coverage and livestreaming at CNN.com.
Here's how it began:
I come to Berlin as so many of my countrymen have come before. Tonight, I speak to you not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen - a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world.
I know that I don't look like the Americans who've previously spoken in this great city. The journey that led me here is improbable. My mother was born in the heartland of America, but my father grew up herding goats in Kenya. His father - my grandfather - was a cook, a domestic servant to the British.
At the height of the Cold War, my father decided, like so many others in the forgotten corners of the world, that his yearning - his dream - required the freedom and opportunity promised by the West. And so he wrote letter after letter to universities all across America until somebody, somewhere answered his prayer for a better life.
That is why I'm here. And you are here because you too know that yearning. This city, of all cities, knows the dream of freedom. And you know that the only reason we stand here tonight is because men and women from both of our nations came together to work, and struggle, and sacrifice for that better life...
Add your comments and reactions here.
Update 1:30 p.m. ET: The message is pitched not at Berliners but, after praising the toppling of the Berlin Wall, at "People of the world: Look at Berlin!"
More at 1:36 p.m. ET:
The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.
We know they have fallen before. After centuries of strife, the people of Europe have formed a Union of promise and prosperity. Here, at the base of a column built to mark victory in war, we meet in the center of a Europe at peace. Not only have walls come down in Berlin, but they have come down in Belfast, where Protestant and Catholic found a way to live together; in the Balkans, where our Atlantic alliance ended wars and brought savage war criminals to justice; and in South Africa, where the struggle of a courageous people defeated apartheid.
So history reminds us that walls can be torn down. But the task is never easy. True partnership and true progress requires constant work and sustained sacrifice. They require sharing the burdens of development and diplomacy; of progress and peace. They require allies who will listen to each other, learn from each other and, most of all, trust each other...
Money Quote: "In this century - in this city of all cities - we must reject the Cold War mind-set of the past."
Post-Speech, 1:50 p.m. ET: Most of the paragraphs of the speech began with the words "This is the moment," a line he's used before, and also "this is our moment." Fox News commentators are having difficulty trying to criticize the speech.
I must offer a critique of the moral equivalency Obama drew between terrorists and poppy growing farmers in Afghanistan (for whom he used the drug-warrior language of "traffickers putting heroin on our streets") but on the other hand I thought the words overall were far more progressive, and shining light upon injustices throughout the world, than anything a US president has said abroad in recent decades. And as the Fox News commentators' stuttering response indicates, he didn't give an inch to those who wanted to portray giving a speech abroad as somehow un-American. That was the major risk of holding the speech there in Berlin, now a risk averted.
By Al Giordano
Jed has outdone himself with his new viral video (complete with soundtrack by Beethoven), which after half a day has been watched by more than 100,000 viewers:
My newest video features John McCain talking about the Iraq war from 2002 through the present, exposing -- in his own words -- the lie behind his claim that he was the war's "greatest critic." It demonstrates his chilling commitment to fighting this war no matter what the people of America -- or Iraq -- want.
Here's something to watch while waiting for the internationally-televised Obama speech in Berlin, to start in about an hour (and which we'll be liveblogging here):
Add your Digg the 5,828 who have "Dugg it" already.
By Al Giordano
I'm still formulating what I hope will be a meaningful wrap-up of a wonderful and productive long weekend at the Netroots Nation convention in Austin (which, in part, was a test-drive for our upcoming attendance at and reporting from the Democratic National Convention in Denver, a month from now). One of the successes in Austin was in our hosting the best convention-eve party there: we met a gigantic posse of friends, Field Hands, readers and colleagues to help us navigate the rest of the week.
Our party in Austin was free (well, for everyone else: we sprung for the food) and the trip overall cost us more dough. The expenses for the Denver coverage have already been met through so many of your donations last month, but we've also got to keep the labor, the hardware and the software of this project going: The Fund for Authentic Journalism, which supports our work, relies on your contributions.
And so with the help of some Colorado Field Hands - including Keith Howard, who has lent us his beautiful home on Sunday, August 24 - our garden party in Denver will also be a fundraising event.
And so, The Field and Narco News cordially invite you to:
A Sunday Afternoon Reception in Denver
Sunday, August 24 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.
At the home of Keith Howard
4303 Umatilla Street
(Seven minutes from downtown Denver)
A reception to benefit:
The Fund for Authentic Journalism
Minimum contribution: $50
Sponsors: $100, $250, $500, $1,000
Space limited. Make your reservation today by clicking this link.
Even if you can't be in Denver, we'd love to include your name among the sponsors.
And please consider making a $50 contribution (or a donation of any size) from afar even if you can't be there in person. In addition to the importance of your support to the work, we'd like to be able to announce impressive results to kick off that historic week in Colorado.
Press and other inquiries: email@example.com
Special guests and entertainment to be announced.
By Al Giordano
Salon.com writer Glenn Greenwald (whose got-up-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-bed correspondence with The Field got him featured here a couple of weeks ago) has written a post that I agree with. He says that the Democratic National Convention Committee isn't helping its candidates by selling ad space to telecom corporations on the convention swag bags to be doled out to delegates in Denver next month:
What's most striking about the Convention bag -- aside, of course, from its stunning design -- is how the parties no longer bother even trying to hide who it is who funds and sponsors them.
That's right, Glenn. Go get ‘em. Accepting paid advertising from big telecom companies is very damaging to anyone's credibility and reputation. It's a wonderful thing to have champions that eschew such conflicts as they make the people's case. They've taught us that absolute purity is very, very important in all political discourse.
Now, I'd like to read more from Glenn over at Salon.com, a place where I surely won't be assaulted by ads and logos from big telecom companies - like Verizon - to be able do so...
Oops. Never mind.