By Al Giordano
Steve Hildebrand (in the photo above), deputy campaign manager for the Obama campaign, just announced at the Netroots Nation convention a "three-day massive voter registration drive for Labor Day weekend, after the Democratic National Convention."
"Thousands upon thousands of volunteers will go register millions of people that weekend alone," said Hildebrand, a key architect of the 2007 "Walk for Change" strategy that spurred the Obama organization in states throughout the country before the campaign had even a single staff member in most of them.
Hildebrand, speaking at the Organizing for Change: An Inside Look at Obama for America's Grassroots Strategy panel this morning at the Austin Convention Center, called 2008 "an historic opportunity to build a truly dominant Democratic Party and forget, once and for all, about this concept of red states and blue states."
Hildebrand said that the goal is to target "people who have been disenchanted" with electoral politics, and "people who thought their votes didn't make a difference."
The suggestion is that the "bully pulpit" of the widely televised Democratic National Convention August 25-28 will be used to prod viewers and supporters into participating in the registration drive the following weekend.
Update (from the panel, still going on): In response to a question by The Field, Ohio General Election Director for the Obama campaign, Jeremy Bird, noted that as the Obama Fellows program winds down next week, the campaign will be hiring many of those newly trained and field-tested community organizers as field staff, and that the campaign will hold "huge statewide and regional trainings" as the next step.
Volunteers will be trained to register voters and "to take ownership over your turf," said Bird, "giving people the skills to register, persuade and turn out voters, so when we go to doors and when we talk to people on the phone, it won't just be reading from script, but forming relationships."
Hildebrand added that he considers the grassroots field organization and bloggers to be vital in beating back rumors and smears: "Every single day there is an attack. In a 24-hour news cycle, we need immediate response, we need help, and we can't do it on our own. Make sure that people who are reading your sites know the truth."
By Al Giordano
Photo 2008 by Zachary Roberts.
Whew! The Netroots Nation convention never sleeps. It begins each morning by 9 a.m. and the sessions, workshops, trainings and caucuses go non-stop all morning and afternoon and into the evening. From there begin the parties, sponsored by a plethora of progressive blogs, organizations and candidates for office, replete with all the folks you've read for years but never knew the face behind the userid. I confess it's hard to get any writing done in between.
(The Democratic National Convention in Denver next month, by contrast, won't begin its sessions each day until 4 p.m., leaving more breathing room for us reporters to report back to you.)
But I am taking copious notes, and will tell you more as soon as I get the chance.
A couple of my favorite quotes so far from the event:
"The have-nots and the have-a-little-bits, to put it in Saul Alinsky terms, are very progressive on economic policy. The center for the have-nots and the have-a-little-bits is far more progressive than the center overall."
- David Sirota (at this morning's panel, "Middle Class Isn't Middle of the Road: Take Politicians' Populist Shpeil and Make It Real")
"This immigration debate is not an immigration debate, it's a racist one. It's a debate about who is American or not."
- Joe Garcia, congressional candidate, Florida's 25th Congressional District (at the Latino Bloggers' caucus yesterday).
Oh, and in that photo above: That's Markos Moulitsas (Kos) in the middle, Nate Silver (Poblano) of 538 on your right, with a random Field Hand and his brand new laptop bag after last night's plenary dinner, on the way out to the evening's memorable bar crawl.
Update: C-Span will rebroadcast last night's session with DNC chair Howard Dean tonight at 8 p.m. ET.
And: You can watch, right now, a livestream online broadcast from Netroots Nation, where Kos is debating former US Rep. Harold Ford (D-Kentucky Tennessee), chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council.
By Al Giordano
As I was heading home from tonight's Field Hands extravaganza in beautiful downtown Austin, where about one-out-of-every six Netroots Nations attendees (the ones that got here today) attended, ate, drank, and conspired together (I'm sure that some of the lucky Field Hands who were at the party tonight will weigh in and tell you how totally awesome the event was, and how proud we are to have co-hosted it), I was hauling a box of books past the Hilton Hotel, which is ground zero for the convention, and, lo' and behold, lookie what what is parked outside: The C-Span "Road to the White House" bus.
You heard it here first: Netroots Nation, which officially opens on Thursday, will hit the national cable airwaves, too.
Now I lay me down to sleep - on the road since three a.m. yesterday morning - and we'll see you in the a.m., bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
Thursday Morning Updates:
- Among the guests at the shindig that The Field co-hosted with Burnt Orange Report last night: Bloggers and communicators from Booman Tribune, Anand of the Bhatany Report, The Huffington Post, PoliticsTV.com, Justin Krebs of Drinking Liberally, The Political Carnival, Fire Dog Lake, National Public Radio, Alliance for Justice, Calitics.com, Adam Green of Moveon.org, Auditaz.org, Advocacy Digest, SquareState.net, Senator John Kerry's Internet outreach coordinator Terri Buchman, the Hon. Judge Susan Criss of Galveston, Texas, Democratic National Committewoman Debbie Marquez of Colorado, Ken Riley of Democrats Abroad, various DNC staffers, and a raft full 'o Daily Kos bloggers including such dignitaries as clammyc, teacherken, Odysseus, beachmom, Delaware Liberal, and ducktap... some very welcome Field Hands including Judy and Sheldon Zola, the legendary Ben Masel and Franco Bertacci, Narco News ace investigative reporter Bill Conroy, and many, many more that didn't make it to the sign-in table or slipped in the side door. I didn't get the chance to chat with every single one, and haven't been able to list every single blogger in attendance here, of course, but more to come in the days ahead...
- Special thanks to Texas Field Hands Matt and Joe, who staffed the sign in table so capably.
- This movie, Crawford, is going to be showing here on Friday at 3 p.m. The trailer works pretty good as a teaser (makes me want to see it) because it doesn't drop any spoilers as to the documentary's conclusions regarding the anti-war movement tactics and their impact on George W. Bush's purported hometown:
Thursday mid-day update: Lots of workshops and caucuses going on this morning at the Austin Convention Center (with the best stuff happening, as always, out on the smokers' decks). One of the troublemakers I keep bumping into there is Booman, who told an interesting story of the morning festivities.
Booman perused the conference schedule and saw that a "Lurkers' Caucus" would be taking place. "Lurkers," in blogspeak, are the readers that never comment online. That be most of you. (The whole concept of a lurkers' caucus invokes images of some kind of silent movie where everybody sits around and says nothing, but apparently in reality they're quite talkative outside of the screen.) So Booman sits down in the back of the caucus hall and starts typing into his laptop when one of the lurkers recognizes him as an outspoken blogger. And then it was "Hey, you're not a lurker! Get outta here!" So, lurking is fine - we love our lurkers, too - but no lurking at the lurkers' caucus!
Also, Joan McCarter (Daily Kos front-pager mcjoan) flagged me down in the hallway and introduced me to Larry LaRocco, Democratic candidate for US Senate in Idaho, running against Republican Jim Risch in a state considered safe GOP territory until Sen. Larry Craig got arrested in an airport men's room last year. Here's Larry's website (LaRocco's, that is, not Craig's). And he blogs, too, over at DKos. Very progressive man. Nice guy, too.
Thursday Afternoon Update: Hey, Field Hands. Remember that new Macbook so many of you chipped in to help us purchase? Well it's now in my hands, all fired up and ready to go.
Thursday Early Evening Update: The Latino blogger caucus this afternoon kicked ass. It was the first time many of us that were present had met and exchanged emails. More to come on that, but for now, just to say, let the anti-immigrant crazies try to trounce us in 2009 like they did in 2007, we'll be ready for them this time.
That was followed by a reception by the Center for Constitutional Rights, which respected our basic human right to cold beer and great food. Micah Sifrey was there from Tech President, as was Chris Bower of OpenLeft, Atrios, and lots of other smart people.
Now I'm in a big hall where Howard Dean is about to speak. C-Span and other networks are here. Baratude Thurston of Jack and Jill Politics blog is warming up the crowd splendidly, telling us what his names mean: "...Thurston is an old British name which means property of Massah Thurston."
I met up here with Nate Silver of 538, but we never got the chance to crunch numbers as then appeared Markos Moulitsas out of the crowd, who invited us to one of the front tables and here we are with SusanG and McJoan and those other DKos bloggers and, well, General Wesley Clark has just appeared on stage, on with the show and more to come soon...
By Al Giordano
The thought occurred to me today that lately I haven't posted much music here (an important staple of our primary coverage last spring). So here you go.
I'm heading off at dawn for the Netroots Nation convention in Austin, a city that invokes, for me, the soul of that great 75-years-young American philosopher Willie Nelson, and I thought that maybe I could find a decent online video of On the Road Again, or, even better, his Magnum Opus, Me and Paul, but, alas, none were up to our standards.
But since I'll be moderating the star-studded panel, on Saturday afternoon, on The New Orleans Resurgence: Netroots Innovation in the Citizen-Driven Recovery of New Orleans, (and you can watch it live at 3 p.m. Central Time, Saturday, via ustream.tv) I'll give you this glimpse of Willie, with an assist from some obscure studio musicians named Waylon, Kris and Johnny, and open this thread up for Wednesday absentee-Al-blogging.
Do try to entertain each other as I cross the border, hopefully without incident. I have a very hectic schedule in Austin for the next five days, but I'll be leaking all the secrets here, too, so stay tuned.
And if you're already there, don't miss the Field Hands party on Wednesday night - which is suddenly the event of the night - and make sure to find me and say hello in person.
Field Hands, Assemble!
By Al Giordano
Amanda Paulson of the Christian Science Monitor publishes a profile of Obama strategist David Axelrod today, but it's really more of a story about the power of staying on message and marching to one's own drummer:
...last fall, Sen. Obama was down 33 points in one national poll, Hillary Rodham Clinton was the presumptive nominee, and Obama's campaign staff was under enormous pressure to shake things up and try a different tactic.
...since Obama announced his candidacy on a frigid Saturday in February of last year - telling the crowd of an "unyielding faith that in the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it" - that core message has remained largely unchanged. Axelrod "had the initial vision of how this campaign might succeed," says John Kupper, a partner at Axelrod's firm...
Still, the success of that message was tested over the months, as Obama continued to trail in the polls and many pushed the campaign to increase attacks on Clinton or to shake up the campaign.
Both observers and those inside the campaign give much of the credit for resisting that pressure not just to Axelrod, but to the team that he and Obama built up...
Many credit... (Obama campaign manager David) Plouffe, who is a partner in Axelrod's firm and a longtime friend, with the ultimately successful decision to eschew traditional wisdom and focus on rural and caucus states.
The seamlessness of the operation bore a stark contrast to the constant bickering and shake-ups within the Clinton organization, a far more typical model for presidential campaigns.
"Oftentimes, presidential campaigns are organizations of ill-fitting pieces jammed together by competing power centers," says Mr. Claypool. "That results in rivalries, turf wars, backbiting, intrigue, and drama - all the things missing from this campaign."
In these Internet-driven political times, everybody, it seems, is an armchair campaign manager and strategist: TV news and newspaper pundits, talk radio hosts, bloggers, their readers, listeners, callers and commenters. And, no doubt, all the ebb and flow of free advice has its democratizing benefits for those capable of listening. An idea can shoot out of an unlikely corner and suddenly find itself embraced and implemented on a national scale. (Think of how the term "Chicken Little" has come to be so widely used in so short a time.) That's part of the narrative of our times: from your modem to God's ears.
But with the decentralization of analysis, some of the dysfunctions of traditional political campaigns - the aforementioned "rivalries, turf wars, backbiting, intrigue and drame" - have spread throughout the national coliseum, too. Everybody, it seems, knows best, or thinks he does, when it comes to how to elect a president of the United States. As part of that, ideological arguments are now so often framed as strategic ones.
Ariana Huffington today resurrects her June 30 "Memo to Obama: Moving to the Middle Is for Losers" - in which and notes that the media has taken an entirely different narrative from it:
[I've] looked at the Obama campaign not through the prism of my own progressive views and beliefs, but through the prism of a cold-eyed campaign strategist who has no principles except winning. From that point of view, and taking nothing else into consideration, I can unequivocally say: the Obama campaign is making a very serious mistake.
Fair enough, but she did title her first piece as a narrative about "moving to the middle." And what happened? The media added its own spin based on that (and her experience, having her message misinterpreted in the media, exactly parallels what has generated her misimpression, and that of others, that the candidate somehow has shifted toward the ideological center).
Yet if we look at the Obama message from a year ago through to the present, most of the matters that many have framed as a move or a change in stances merely involve the reiterations of things the nominee has been saying all along - about faith-based initiatives, about the responsibilities of fatherhood, about getting out of Iraq "as carefully as we were careless going in," and especially about process: the openly stated shift from a politics of permanent partisan confrontation to one of reaching out to adversaries and, gasp, even forging compromises. All these things were basic to the Obama message before the Democratic primaries and caucuses began - and had so much to do with why he won the Iowa caucuses and most of the contests that followed - and all of those things have remained unchanged.
In that context, the nominee has not "moved to the middle," and even his vote last week on the compromise FISA bill did not surprise those that paid close attention to the Obama candidacy since last year or earlier. A guy who talks so much about his willingness to listen to rivals, to meet with shunned foreign leaders, to not demonize members of the opposition party, and to seek workable compromises in governance - at such open contrast with two decades of Bush-on-Clinton-on-Bush-II polarization - doesn't shock the careful observers when he does exactly what he's repeatedly said he would do.
And so, just as a year ago, when Obama had not yet gained traction against an "inevitable" nominee and so many were shouting that he had to change his message and strategy, Rudyard Kipling's sage advice, titled "If...," comes to mind:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too...
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!
The narrative is, in fact, inverted: Those that try to prod the Obama campaign to "not move to the middle" (and such advice pours out daily from friend and foe alike) are in fact asking him to move off his original message. And those that try to pressure him to do so with public threats or pronouncements that they've withdrawn, or will withdraw, support, would, if his campaign followed such advice, cause him to do exactly what they are claiming he shouldn't do: shift off his original message, capitulating to pressures. (Some just want him to bow to their pressure, it seems, which is fine until they claim that they oppose bowing to pressure in general.)
It seems to me that Axelrod - the Christian Science Monitor story refers to him as "Keeper of the Message" - and team are keeping their heads when all about them are losing theirs and blaming it on them.
And that's why so many previous media-generated crises and outrages-of-the-day over the past seven months, especially - two Clintons, two reverends, some gaffes that were gaffes because they were errant, other that were called gaffes because they were not - so many millions of words on blogs and in the media that portrayed every moment as if history would be decided by that one loud distraction - floated back out to sea and aren't even remembered in much detail today.
To study the 2008 campaign is to receive an advanced course in how to keep one's head in a permanent media storm when all are losing theirs. For that's the main problem or weakness for aspiring leaders of today, on public and private stages, large and small. And best of all, this crash course is free to any and all of us that want to take that class.
By Al Giordano
I'm busy getting lots of things in order for Netroots Nation in Austin (and our unofficial welcoming reception, co-sponsored by The Field and Burnt Orange Report, on Wednesday evening), and I have nothing to add on today's controversy-du-jour regarding a certain magazine cover, but I did think this six-minute segment of TV news coverage by Channel 8, the CBS affiliate in San Diego, about Senator Obama's appearance this weekend at the National Council of La Raza was very well done and interesting:
Consider this an open thread.