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For three years now conventional political wisdom has got August all wrong.  In August of 2007 the Obama primary campaign was "done."  In August of 2008 Sarah Palin was a sensation who could deliver the Presidency to John McCain.  In August of 2009 the tea party killed healthcare for good.

And now it's August again.  Silly season.  We hear the Democrats are doomed, they have no game, and the on the ground enthusiasm that powered 2008 is gone.

Wrong again.

OFA hit its goal of over 200,000 attempts at the doors this weekend and another 168,000 on the phones for Democratic candidates. Seems a whole lot of folks didn't get that memo about the "enthusiasm gap."

Update:  DCCC is reporting an additional 200,000 doors!  


DCCC shout-out? (5+ / 0-)

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   Aexia, Femlaw, Day24Day7, Onomastic, sankofa

Thanks for posting this!  Can we get a shout-out to our DCCC organizers and volunteers that also hit 200,000 doors on Saturday?


by Brandon English DCCC on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 02:42:13 PM PDT

[ Parent | Reply to This | RecommendHide ]

Conventional wisdom has been wrong about August before.  Each time I saw the stories of failure, I was seeing things on the ground that ran counter to this dominant narrative.  Hints that Barack Obama's grassroots support was something different, and a field organization that was growing unnoticed into a powerful force.  Turns out Sarah Palin was an inspiration to us to work even harder.  And that healthcare was Not the Waterloo They Were Looking For.

The last weekend in August, when no one is supposed to even be paying attention yet, when vacations and summer's end and school starting are huge distractions to the critical volunteers that make good field campaigns hum, should have been a terrible time to make a big campaign push.

But we have only 9 weeks left until a very critical election day.  Our work is not done -- not by a long shot.  We need to preserve the gains we have made on health reform and make sure it is implemented properly.  We need to give our kids the schools they deserve.  We are just getting a new green economy rolling.  And most importantly, we still have a lot of unfinished business for the millions of Americans who are still suffering from the economic crisis.  

Yesterday was the first day of school for my kids, and amid the excitement there was anxiety.  The fellow parent who had lost a job at the beginning of the summer and was still looking.  The lists from teachers requesting donated supplies to fill the gap between what they have and what they need.  The parents who own small businesses in the community and are still struggling.  I can't turn my back on them because the last two years have been harder than we ever dreamed.  We are all in this together.

And I know that it was President Obama and the Democrats who passed health reform, who have been extending unemployment benefits, trying to help out small businesses, have taken on the foreclosure crisis, and I know who I want driving the car out of the ditch.  

Finally I know that it is the OFA Vote 2010 strategy of bringing out voters who usually don't vote in midterm elections, that could make the difference in close elections here in California and around the country.

So on Saturday I joined thousands of people across the country making sure the voters know this too.  I wrote about our big canvass day in Oakland, and casperr wrote about going out to Long Island.  Many people showed up in the comments to tell us about going door to door for Democrats in much tougher turf like Tennessee or Texas and post pictures.  

If you liked seeing and participating in those action diaries, or you plan on writing some, you can sign up for casperr's new email list here: the Vote 2010 Action Brigade.  I am hoping we can have roll call diaries every weekend for people to report on their experiences volunteering or working field.

And these are not just "feel good" diaries.  They are individual dispatches from the ground game.  Much like my earlier diaries on August, they are a counter-narrative that matters -- because this work talking to real voters on the phones and at the doors can have a profound effect on who wins or loses.  

There's plenty of research that suggests it is the sheer act of showing up at someone's door or calling them personally that can turn someone out to vote. That small act also has a multiplier effect - people you don't even talk to who live in that household become more likely to vote.  Here's what political scientists Gerber and Green who literally wrote the book on what kinds of GOTV tactics work conclude from years of research:

Political scientists have run dozens of such studies during the past few years, and the work has led to what you might call the central tenet of voter mobilization: Personal appeals work better than impersonal ones. Having campaign volunteers visit voters door-to-door is the "gold standard" of voter mobilization efforts, Green and Gerber write. On average, the tactic produces one vote for every 14 people contacted. The next-most-effective way to reach voters is to have live, human volunteers call them on the phone to chat: This tactic produces one new vote for every 38 people contacted. Other efforts are nearly worthless. Paying human telemarketers to call voters produces one vote for every 180 people contacted. Sending people nonpartisan get-out-the-vote mailers will yield one vote per 200 contacts. (A partisan mailer is even less effective.)

Meanwhile, pinning leaflets to doors, sending people e-mail, and running robo-calls produced no discernible effect on the electorate.

So I know I made a difference this past weeked, and I plan on continuing to do it basically 24/7 until election day.  Not just because it is so important, but because the work is also an antidote to despair.  Baratunde put it well when he described phonebanking with OFA volunteers in Brooklyn:  

   Last night I did something I haven't done in a long while in politics . . . I did SOMETHING.  I didn't blog something, I didn't think something, I didn't watch something, I didn't tweet something.

   I got up off my ass, and I DID something.

   I volunteered to make phone calls to citizens to call their Senators to encourage the Senate to pass this healthcare reform

And he felt his anger and despair turn around.

If you are out there doing the same, I hope you will write about what you are doing - diary, comment, tweet, post to your Facebook pages, tell your family and friends and total strangers.  Because the act of telling our stories is the most powerful organizing tool we have.  And because it is how I hold on to my motivation when it gets tough.

If you want to find a canvass or phonebank near you, there is no better place to start than  See you in the field, and look forward to hearing your stories back here.

I am a volunteer with Organizing for America in California.  This is my personal blog - when I write here I speak for myself.  My diaries and all the words in them are my own.

Originally posted to Femlaw on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 01:02 PM PDT.

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