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About a week ago, I decided to take two days off of work in Chicago and go up to Milwaukee to help Sandy Pasch's campaign on Monday and Tuesday, election day.  My wife and two teenagers, 14 and 16, helped on Monday.  My mother in law was recovering from cancer surgery so they went to see her on Tuesday and I went back to Milwaukee alone.  These were pretty much the two most gratifying days I've spent in a long long time.  Highlights and observations below the squiggle.  

I grew up in Milwaukee and attended the University of Wisconsin in the early seventies.  Much of my family still lives there and I'm a Packer, Brewer and Badger fan, so my connection to the state is strong.  I was profoundly affected by the events of February and March, but our lives in Chicago are active, leaving little time to actually do stuff in support, beyond posting the occasional diary, commenting frequently and donating to ActBlue as well as I could.  As August 9 approached, though, I felt the opportunity to contribute to this effort in a meaningful way was slipping away.  I told my wife and kids that I wanted all of us to go and work on the campaign as a family, in part so they could experience activism firsthand, and also so they could see what their dad is ranting about when one Republican outrage or another gets his goat.  

We all worked Monday canvassing and I returned Tuesday to canvass during the day and phone bank later in the afternoon.  It was not hard work at all, especially compared to efforts of the the dozens of volunteers and staffers, to say nothing of the candidate, Sandy Pasch -- all of whom had been working tirelessly and selflessly for months.  But still I was gratified to contribute, and we were made to feel extraordinarily welcome.

No spoiler alert here.  Alberta Darling won by about 5,000 votes out of 73,000 votes cast.  In light of the energy unleashed, people inspired and organization enhanced, I do not consider it a defeat though.  We are still gearing up for the big fight -- recalling Scott Walker.  As most Kossacks keeping up with this know, these were six battles in largely red districts challenging state senators who had survived the 2008 tsunami.  Obama carried Wisconsin by double digits.  Random thoughts follow.

We Had the Right Candidate. Sandy Pasch is a nurse by training and it shows.  She was patient, optimistic, well spoken and fearless; none of the smarminees too many politicians develop as their public face.  She inspired her supporters, myself included.  Too many lawyers in politics.  It would be nice to have more humans - this is being said by a lawyer.  Hers was a well run, motivated, energetic campaign.

Wisconsin is Highly Polarized. Sandy carried her north suburban Milwaukee county precincts by 62% to 38%, just under 9,000 votes out of 36,000   cast.  In the other counties - more exurban, red meat places - Darling won by 14,000 out of 37,000 votes cast.  In one of these counties, the vote was 2900 to 8000.  Ugly. Craig Gilbert's blog in the Journal Sentinel argued that turnout was too good for the Dems.  I do not disagree.  Overall turnout was just under that from the 2010 election that gave us Walker.  Darling slightly underperformed Walker.  Still, they were as motivated as we were - but there were more of them in this senate district.  The GOP has redrawn the borders, so there will be no contest here in the future. There was a great segment on This American Life on this polarization in Wisconsin.  It is entirely true.  Much worse than in Illinois.

This Was Just the First Step. Tuesday was not a loss.  It was a beginning.  We cannot succomb to instant gratification impulses.  This has tee'd up the Walker recall.  Remember we only lost the Supreme Court race by 7,000 cheated votes and turnout in Milwaukee sucked.  The Walker recall will be statewide and if we repeat the Supreme Court performance, and boost Milwaukee, it will look good.  These recalls are building the muscle we need.  There are many battles and we cannot get discouraged.  Digby had a heartfelt post on this point last night.  

Technology Is Our Friend.  This is the closest thing to a critique of what I saw, and I could very well be wrong.  Hope I am.  I was surprised by the lack of technology I saw.  The humming networked laptops may have been behind the scenes, but I didn't see any substantial number throughout the headquarters.  That said, I haven't done any campaigning like this for, say, 25 years, so I am totally unfamiliar with how technology is used in campaigns these days. The computers may have been further up the food chain.  But I didn't really see social networking (or even email) used to reach voters, or remote communication with volunteers, or transmitting canvassing and voting results electronically, etc. No visible rapid transmittal of information.  Also, it may have been used in the other parallel campaigns (eg, We Are Wisconsin).  Nonetheless I had this sinking feeling that Darling had all these corporate-oids fiendishly manipulating data and deploying troops, while we relied on good old fashioned blocking and tackling, legwork and sweat.  I don't think it would have changed Tuesday's result, but I think strong implementation of tech better leverages our human and financial resources.  

That's it for now.  I am thankful for the opportunity I had to make this small contribution with my family.  I would encourage anyone reading this to do the same.  And I am so immensely proud of my fellow progressive Badgers, the marvelous people that I met, that words fail me.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Good For You! You Are A Better Person (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MrSandman, buckybadger1988

      than myself. Far better.

      I had the Ed Show on the other night. He had several firemen and EMTs from New York that came to Wisconsin to work on the campaigns.

      He asked one of them why he was here. He said after 9/11 he worked side-by-side with people from Wisconsin at Ground Zero. They came when they needed help, so he was there to help them.

      I got choked up .....

      We need, I need to do more of that. What you did!

      When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

      by webranding on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 06:53:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for helping out (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    webranding, buckybadger1988

    I might have seen you during the day on Tuesday.  Of course, the office was a buzz of activity the whole day, so probably not, but we appreciate your help.

    By the way, I seem to have the exact opposite background from you.  We just moved up to Milwaukee last summer after living in Chicago for over 20 years.  Lifelong Cubs fan and that won't change no matter how long we stay here.

  •  I'm curious about the money. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Will there be any way to track where the money went in these recall campaigns? Reports are $30-40 million went into this.

    Just like your question about the use (or nonuse) of social networking, did ad buys effect GOTV? Will we ever know so it could be extrapolated into future actions?

    It's only water. What could go wrong???

    by MrSandman on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 06:58:18 AM PDT

    •  This was the most expensive race (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MrSandman, buckybadger1988

      of all the recalls.  The number I heard was $8-9 million.  I don't know if that was Darling's piece or the total for the district.  Total recall expenditures were in the $35,000,000 range.  There was a lot of paid media - most of it negative.  I don't know how it drove GOTV.  My feeling is that it would have been driven opposing GOTV.  In other words, I'm so mad at her I'm going to be sure to vote against her.  My view on the money was we could have set aside $100,000, or 250,000 or even 500,000 out of the millions raised and bought some pretty decent software and hardware.  

      •  As someone said, there is no precedent for this. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        deanarms, buckybadger1988

        Nobody knows how to fight this particular fight but the best sources for where we go in the future are those that have had their "boots on the ground": people like you. Hope you responded to Chris Bowers request for thoughts.

        The dead tree and teevee media is not the progressives best friend. We need to put our money into new technologies to work for us.

        I was amazed that there isn't a database of progressive volunteers in here in NY state. I still get phone calls on the land line from canvassers here. Why, why are we wasting that time and money???

        But I digress. Thank you for all your work and your thoughts.

        It's inspiring. And makes me proud to be a progressive.

        It's only water. What could go wrong???

        by MrSandman on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 08:39:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  About Technology. Clearly I Wasn't There (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    minvis, churchlady, deanarms, petral

    so this is a general statement. I am a tech geek of a pretty high order. I've talked with people here and locally and well .... the level of or the use of technology is sad to say the least. In my conversations what I'd consider just the basics, well those would be a god sent to most campaigns.

    I get very mad about this, cause I am told again and again things like "I don't understand technology." Bull shit. I am self taught. Figuring out how to use technology doesn't take years and a 160+ IQ.

    When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

    by webranding on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 06:59:54 AM PDT

    •  I agree (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      webranding, deanarms

      I work in the technology field and it seems to me that both canvassing and GOTV could be streamlined so much better with smartphones, iPads, etc.  Why as a canvasser am I still manually writing notes down on a walk sheet that is then input into their database by a different person who didn't even meet the voter face to face like I did?

      Even simple things like using Facebook on election day to have people note where they voted, what number voter they were and the campaign monitoring that and seeing where the turnout is low and sending people out to those locations.

    •  I Am Sorry, I Can Rant About This All Day (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      minvis, deanarms

      so I am responding to my own comment. Working with a new client. He gives me the "I don't understand technology" line, I mean exactly saying that all the time.

      His call center people are using a software product from the dark ages. It is so bad it really might be useless. I keep telling him to evaluate a few other products.

      He keeps, I kid you not telling me he isn't good on computers. He doesn't understand.

      I said bull shit. When I email you and you respond from your Blackberry I know it is sent from your Blackberry. If you can figure out how to do that, what I am asking you to do is simple.

      When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

      by webranding on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 07:20:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Great Technology Comments (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        minvis, buckybadger1988

        It seems like electioneering is a natural for tech.  It's just database manipulation.  Here the universe of registered voters was around 150,000 and 73,000 voted.  And I think that the heavy lifting is done by the government when it creates the voter rolls.  There has to be some proprietary software to convert that data into a candidate friendly usable program.  Essentially contact management software in steroids.

  •  Thank you, deanarms, very much. n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Dream, that's the thing to do (Johnny Mercer)

    by plankbob on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 08:21:29 AM PDT

  •  Great diary, thanks n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  Thanks-nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I like your point that $$ can be used for technology, not TV ads. i keep wondering, do all our voters spend so much time watching TV?

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