During the election, I was a Volunteer Team Leader in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area. When I was recruited to do this, one of the things that intrigued me and got my attention most was the very deliberate focus on not only assembling a grassroots network to elect Barack Obama but to keep this network in place AFTER the election.
For many decades, the Republicans have had a palpable electoral advantage, due mostly to their ability to stay on message and, most importantly, to stay organized between elections.
Now the Democrats, under the direction of the Obama organization, are taking that to a new level and it will most certainly ensure that we retain control over our government for years and decades to come.
Shortly after the November election, I was privileged to be invited to a conference in Chicago called “The Organizing for Change Legacy Conference”. This conference was part of a four-pronged effort to get feedback from campaign staff, volunteers and American citizens on what the path forward should be for the Campaign for Change organization. Prior to the Conference, tens of thousands of campaign staffers were interviewed and debriefed, looking at what went wrong, what went right and what changes would be made to redirect the energies of the 1.4 million volunteers that helped elect our new president. This was the first prong.
The second prong was the Legacy Conference itself. Approximately 320 campaign workers from all over the country assembled to give more in-depth feedback and to solicit our ideas for the future of the organization that was unofficially called “Obama for America 2.0” or OFA 2.0. There were ~100 Field Directors and Regional Field Directors, another ~100 Field Officers and a final ~100 Volunteer Team Leaders like myself. We spent two intensive days interacting, debating and holding brain-storming breakout sessions to give our input.
The third prong were the online surveys that were on Change.gov. Hundreds of thousands of people sent in their ideas during this phase.
The final prong were the “Change is Coming” house parties. Over 5,000 of these parties took place across the nation, allowing citizens from across the spectrum to give their feedback and perspectives. A not-insignificant outcome of these parties were service projects that culminated on January 19th’s National Day of Service. In my area alone there were over 70 events within a 40-mile radius. Blood drives, food drives, clothing drives – all geared toward helping our neighbors. My group put on “Helping Michigan, Helping the Hungry”, a “food-drive with a twist”, focusing on feeding the hungry with food produced or processed in our own state.
All of this massive input has been reviewed and distilled by the OFA 2.0 staff culminating in what is now known as “Organizing For America” (notice that it’s still “OFA”?)
The goals of this massive grassroots network are four-fold:
1. Legislative Issue Organizing to help get the Obama administration’s agenda enacted.
2. Electoral Reform to ensure that well-trained, talented Democrats rise through the ranks are elected at every level of government.
3. Two-way Communication between grassroots networks and the administration.
4. Civic Engagement at the local level to help people help themselves and build stronger neighborhoods and communities. The service projects emanating from the “Change is Coming” house parties are the opening salvo toward this goal.
In addition to the powerful and effective leadership from David Plouffe and Jon Carson from the Campaign for Change, OFA 2.0 has now chosen a new Executive Director, Mitch Stewart (Iowa Caucus Director and Virginia General Election Director).
Here they are today, talking about the future of the movement:
The massive organization, developed using the community organizing skills Barack Obama learned during his days working with the Gamaliel Foundation in Chicago, is now poised to ensure that Democrats are no longer in the political backseat. Stay tuned for more information from OFA 2.0 and, by all means, get involved at the local level. There will be hundreds of paid staffers across the country along with training, tools, and resources to help people organize, get and stay connected and become effective voices for the change promised by Barack Obama during his campaign.
If the Republicans thought that they were hit by an electoral train during the general election, they ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.
I’m just sayin’…