Today I met up with about 100 Obama supporters in Chico, California for a campaign strategy session. This was my first political strategy session (and this is my first diary), so follow me after the fold to see what this political newbie saw and learned today.
The Chico Obama headquarters originally planned on meeting up with about a dozen supporters after the Republican convention to plan strategies for the home stretch of the campaign.
Instead, as a direct result of the negativity and nastiness of the Republican convention, along with the infuriating nomination of Sarah Palin, some 90-100 fired-up supporters, many of them political newcomers like myself, crowded together on a sunny Sunday afternoon to find out what they could do. The session was everything you'd expect from an Obama event: High-spirited, well-organized and highly focused.
After a few introductory remarks about the importance of this election we were randomly broken into small groups of 7-8 people where we each spoke personally about how we came to support Obama. Now, I am not a "group" person. I prefer working alone and have done phone-banking from home, but I found myself getting fired up all over again listening to other people's reasons for supporting Obama. I was particularly impressed with a young black educator in my break-out group who spoke quietly but passionately about not getting caught up in all the distractions the Republicans are throwing at the electorate, and the need for staying focused on the issues. We can win on the issues, so do not get diverted by the outrageousness of Republican lies and attacks. After all, Obama isn't getting distracted!
I heard many people there say they had never gotten involved in a campaign before but were so furious and personally insulted by Sarah Palin's nomination that they simply had to take action now.
Sarah Palin has been a great fundraiser....for the Democrats. Democrats raised $10 million in the 24 hours after her speech, while Republicans raised $1 million.
Sarah Palin has energized the base... OURS. In my husband's break-out group, five women were former Hillary supporters who had never shown up for a political meeting in their lives, and they were on fire.
We returned to the large group where action options were laid out. There was good-natured competition as each team leader tried to convince us to join their action group. The person in charge of canvassing outlined plans for both local canvassing and groups traveling to Nevada to work in sister precincts, where each person would be paired with a local volunteer to go door to door. The woman in charge of voter registration laid out the case for why we should register as many new voters as possible, as well as the best places to set up booths in Chico. The man in charge of phone-banking argued his case for the importance of making calls to Nevada. I learned that people are 60% more likely to actually vote if they have told a volunteer they will do so. We were encouraged to sign up with the group and the actions we were most comfortable with.
I met with the phone-banking group where I learned how to talk from the heart and without a script, moving as quickly as possible to finding out what that person on the other end of the phone is most concerned about and giving them the facts they need to make a reasoned decision. Well-prepared fact sheets were handed out and potential voter questions were role-played. I signed up for 2 hours of phone banking a week at headquarters from now until the election, and I'm going to knock myself out to put in more time than that. I bring my lap top; they provide the phones and the voter lists.
I saw people turning their frustration and anger into action, not apathy. There was no armchair quarterbacking going on here. Here on DailyKos it's all too easy to get caught up in the "concerns" and the attacks and the distractions.
But I have never felt better about Obama's chances than I do today. Obama is right: It's not about him.
It's about us.