Wednesday, June 04, 2008

This is the House that Dean Built

Maybe Atrios is right that this should be filed under "duh" but its still a fascinating look at the nuts and bolts of a truly insurgent, ground breaking, piece of retail politicking in the age of mass marketing and the internet.

As someone who came into politics with Dean and with Meetup for the first time in her adult life--that is, I had protested and voted before but I'd never worked for a candidate, given a fundraiser, or gone door to door--my hat is off to the Obama people. The idea of breaking the country up into its congressional districts and making yourself master of their arcane rules and populations is just staggering in its sheer competence. Its not about brilliance, and its not about name recognition, and its not about the campaign and the cult of personality (though the article rather implies that it is) its about looking at the structures under which people vote, and what turns them out, and then turning them out. I have high hopes for Obama and for the Democratic party if it grasps that *people have to be asked for their votes* and their desire to work for a better future has to be respected. Up until now Democrats, at least in my lifetime, have been very hands off in their approach to national politics. Rove et al showed them how its done and Dean showed them how it could be done. Obama has brought the party into the 21st century and updated Saul Alinsky for modern times. I really look forward to working with Obama's crew this election season. I know its going to be way more effective than the voter groups I worked for for Dean or Kerry.

I went up to New Hampshire for Kerry, having been blooded by Dean, and I found it incredibly frustrating. For example, with all the free labor they had we were sent up to knock on the doors only of independent or uncommitted voters. We had lists of specific people to go to instead of blanketing whole neighborhoods. In other words, at great expense they printed up lists of uncommitted or independent voters and ordered us to drive around rural and suburban neighborhoods trying to locate specific doors and specific voters. Then we were to get back in our cars and go locate the next single individual. Absurd. Since we were *already there* in these suburban or rural neighborhoods it cost us more in time, money, and contacts to keep locating individual houses and then driving away to find the next mark. We ought, of course, to have blanketed whole neighborhoods and hung our doorknockers and talked to as many people as we could talk to. It would have been a show of strength, created the illusion that there were more Kerry voters and Democrats than there were, and it would have enabled us to give some emotional and structural support to weak or elderly democrats--the kind who are actually home during the day and who needed encouragement. I occasionally bumped into those people when the target voter was out but their mother was in. Those people were incredibly important even though the Kerry people thought their votes were a shoe in. Often they needed reassurance about how important their vote was, or help getting to the polls.

At any rate I really look forward to working with the Obama people this time around. I have a lot to learn and I'm eager to get cracking.