On May 15th, I joined the “Dexter for Obama” group on My.BarackObama.com. A couple of weeks later, I received a message from a woman named MaryAnn. It read:
Hope Everyone Cann (sic) attend the Organizing Meeting on Thursday June 19 at 7 at Dexter Pub. See you there.
On June 19th, my wife and I plopped our kayaks into a nearby creek and floated down to the pub to see what the buzz was about.
Between that night and 7:45 p.m. on Tuesday, November 4th, I knocked on literally probably close to 4,000 doors, made probably about 800 phone calls and spoke to something like 1,000 voters, some of them more than once.
I’m not putting this out there to brag. On the contrary: I am not unique. There are people like me all over the country, people who were motivated and inspired enough to take dramatic steps to get Barack Obama elected.
And we’re not going away.
During that first meeting back in June, my wife and I learned something that made our ears perked up: while the primary purpose for the Campaign for Change was to get Senator Obama elected as president of the United States of America, a second very important purpose was to set up infrastructure at the grassroots level to activate citizens to get involved in politics and issues in their communities. In other words, we weren’t just organizing for the campaign, we were organizing for the future.
Now this is something that really appeals to me. I am extremely unhappy with the Democratic Party in Michigan right now after the shenanigans they pulled regarding the Primary, shenanigans that prevented me from being able to vote for Senator Obama last spring. However, unless something changes in a profound way, there’s little likelihood that an individual like me will ever have any impact on how things are done in Democratic politics in my state.
But what if suddenly Democratically-leaning citizens like me are mobilized in such a way that we can have an impact? We might run for Township Planning Commissions. We might become Precinct Delegates. Maybe we’ll help an aspiring neighbor get elected to the State House of Representatives. And, because the organizational framework is already in place with some community leaders already identified, the process becomes that much easier.
This really got my attention. THIS is how we not only change the face of politics and government and leadership at the local, state and federal level. THIS is how we make sure it stays changed.
So, now that the dust is settling and we’re finally on a glide path back to our “normal” lives, many of us are asking “what now?”. I literally have heard this very question asked by a half dozen people at parties I have attended over the past week. What now? How do we stay active? Where do we go from here?
Here are a few suggestions based on the fact that most of us now have a collection of names, addresses, email addresses and phone numbers of like-minded liberals in our communities with whom we have become close over the past few months:
1. Form local groups to meet once a month (or so) to discuss local issues and plan activities. The My.BarackObama website will stay online and all of the listservs that are part of it will stay active. Use this potent tool to put your group together, to stay connected and in communication.
2. Get involved with already-existing groups. For example the group Drinking Liberally has 312 chapters in 50 states that is…
…[a]n informal, inclusive progressive social group. Raise your spirits while you raise your glass, and share ideas while you share a pitcher. Drinking Liberally gives like-minded, left-leaning individuals a place to talk politics. You don’t need to be a policy expert and this isn’t a book club – just come and learn from peers, trade jokes, vent frustration and hang out in an environment where it’s not taboo to talk politics.
Bars are democratic spaces – you talk to strangers, you share booths, you feel the bond of common ground. Bring democratic discourse to your local democratic space – build democracy one drink at a time.
3. Get involved at the local level. Nearly every local municipality including villages, townships, and cities have decision-making groups comprised of local citizens. These are generally unpaid positions but you might be surprised how much impact you can make in your community. Look for Planning Commissions, Zoning Boards of Appeals, Steering Committees and groups set up to administer funds for things like greenspace projects and millage money expenditures.
It’s very important that we get qualified people into these positions. Why? Well, the obvious reason is that we want our communities to be led by good people. But the less obvious reason is that it is from these humble positions that we get our Township Board members or City Council members. And from Township Board members or City Council members we get County Commissioners. And from County Commissioners we get State Congress members. And from State Congress members we get mayors and Federal Congress members and from there we get presidents. It truly is that important.
The Campaign for Change has accomplished its primary purpose: We have a new Democratic president! Change is here.
Now it’s up to all of us to make sure things STAY changed.
I’m just sayin’…