Crush, Baby, Crush

By Al Giordano

Three weeks is still a long time in politics, but not as long as four.

And an Obama White House has moved even closer over the past seven days, as a parade of punishing battleground state polls have demonstrated (and some hints from states that were considered solid "red" Republican that they're the new "battlegrounds" as a previous swathe of swing states turns increasingly "blue").

Is it possible, for example, that North Dakota - a state from which the Obama campaign pulled its staff out and sent them to Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ohio - is back in play, as the Minnesota State University survey suggests? Next-door in Minnesota (the only swing state where McCain has significantly outspent Obama on the airwaves) the most recent Quinnipiac and Rasmussen polls show Obama's lead solidifying to nearly insurmountable status. Keep heading west, into Montana, where Governor Brian Schweitzer says that the inclusion of libertarian Republican Ron Paul's name on the ballot as an Independent option - in the state where Independent Ross Perot scored his highest tally of 26 percent in 1992 - makes the Obama-v-McCain race a "dead heat."

(Update and Correction: Mike Tipping of writes to correct that the state of Maine, in 1992, furnished an even bigger vote for Perot, 30 percent, and that he came in second there.)

If those "safe red" states (along with others - West Virginia? - that haven't had a serious poll in too long) are emerging as the new battlegrounds this close to Election Day, there is the distinct whiff of landslide in the air.

And in the major swing states - the ones with ten or more Electoral Votes - I can personally attest that in five of them Obama has eight to ten ads on television for every one that I saw on McCain's behalf. (The data suggests that the spending disparity is closer to three-to-one, but in terms of demographics, people with viewing tastes like mine are getting saturated with Obama messaging and can barely remember what, if anything, the pro-McCain ads wanted to tell us.) And that's reflecting in the state polling data, now, too.

Nobody knows what Obama's fundraising tally is going to be when the September results are due on October 20, but that his campaign is buying half-hour national network blocs on prime time for October 29, together with the documented advantage Obama enjoys in television spending, points to a staggering fundraising report six days from now.

A little over a year ago, I ended a long lapse in writing about US politics and published an essay in The Boston Phoenix explaining why Obama would win the Democratic nomination. It caused a sea of rolled eyeballs and "Al has finally lost it" commentary among my chums in the political and media establishments, and no small amount of cackling from those who are less than chummy.

Well, who's cackling now?

All I did was point out the obvious on two very basic points.

The first, how Obama's small-donor fundraising success had changed everything in American politics, and for years to come:

It's as if, after waiting for decades for reformers in Washington to get serious about public financing of electoral campaigns, a significant chunk of the public has moved out in front of the policy-makers and taken matters into its own hands.

Obama has not only out-raised the Clinton machine, but also each of the Republican candidates for president. The era of supremacy by the well-heeled "max out" donor is finally being chipped down to size, one small donation at a time... Win or lose, Obama - or, better said, his grassroots supporters - may have already brought a revolution in campaign financing that finally weans the process from it previous dependence on influence money...

The second - equally obvious to me at the moment, but scoffed at by the professionals - began with the letter "C" and ended with "ommunity organizing":

It is Obama's history as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago - and the application of that experience to organizing his campaign - that is making the 2008 cycle distinct from previous ones.

Today those statements seem as matter-of-fact as a comment on the weather. Oh, it's sunny outside. Oh, duh. And I confess that I'm not used to seeing my political observations shared by such a large number of people, certainly not an apparent majority of the nation.

Now I make the rounds through the swing states, read the press and blog coverage of the campaign, and find hundreds doing the work that used to be pretty exclusive to this site. I can barely get an original thought or idea in edgewise. Somebody else quickly gets to it before I do. Everybody's whitewashing the Twainian fence now! If there are Chicken Littles still to be inoculated, they're keeping it well hidden. In the multiple swing state regions I visited over the past three weeks - Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and North Carolina - an army of organizers has been raised.

Everybody is on message. Everybody believes. Drama is to a minimum. Everybody is working toward a common goal that comes to its biggest milestone yet on November 4. Attempts to make the slogan of the 2008 campaign "Drill, baby, drill," have fallen wayside to Kosian mantra of "Crush, baby, crush."

All signs point to an historic page-turning coming soon to an America near you.

DemConWatch (which has kept up great blogging after the Democratic National Convention it formed to chronicle) has an interesting observation:

Of the 27 newspapers that have endorsed Obama to date, five endorsements came from those that endorsed Bush in 2004.

Of the 10 newspapers that have endorsed McCain to date, zero came from papers that endorsed Kerry four years ago.

Newspaper endorsements don't generally move votes (although they can increase the "comfort factor" with a candidate, say, with a funny name and relatively new on the scene). Their significance is that, in this case, they are bellwethers for a shift in opinion, because the shift, so far, from 2004 party preferences is universally in one direction.

Again, buyer beware: three weeks is an eternity in politics. The Fox News and GOP obsession with new voter registration, particularly by ACORN, and their attempts to label it as "voter fraud" marks a simultaneous attempt to drum up the base to engage in willful sabotage of democracy on Election Day and also to de-legitimize an Obama presidency if that fails. It's the opening salvo in getting their jackboots marching to challenge legitimate voters, using the alleged "fraud" as their excuse. I'll offer more detailed thoughts on that - and how to combat it - shortly.

But overall - since we're known for thinking ahead of the curve around here - some of our attention is turning to that 800-pound gorilla in the room:

If Obama wins, what next?

What will become of 10,000-plus (mostly) young organizers earning their subsistence keep working on this campaign after Election Day?

They've been trained well in the resurrected art of community organizing. It would be a shame if they just up and went to grad school instead of applying their new trade. How do we help make sure they don't scatter to the wind and can instead continue harnessing it in harmony with the new political majority about to emerge?

What will become of millions of volunteers, many of whom haven't given a thought as to what comes next because they're so immersed in the present moment and the goal at hand?

"I can't go back to how I was before," one told me in Michigan, crystalizing into words how most soldiers in this army feel.

The truth is that a force has been created that nobody - not even Obama - can control, and that is how it should be in an authentic democracy.

But it can be organized.

In fact, it now lives to do just that.

And so here's the big question for you, Field Hands, regarding The Organizing of the President:

What's next for the Obama movement after Election Day?

I'm forming some pretty big thoughts about that, you might even call it an Action Plan, but the key ingredient of any thinking process is the part that involves listening to others. Some of you must have thought about this, at least in terms of what you'll be doing come November 5.

Let's make the question easier: What are you going to do when the election is over?

And where do you think America's first mass political movement in decades can and will go from here?

None of such forward thinking should - or needs to - replace the hours that must still be spent remaining at posts and complying with the organizing tasks at hand.

It's just another darn thing to think about, a new task for the check-list, in addition to, not instead of, the work of "Crush, baby, crush" that is the battle cry for the next three weeks.


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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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