Don’t stop believin’…
Back in February, I penned an essay titled Why I, as a dedicated and stalwart supporter of OFA, am asking you NOT to work with OFA in Michigan. In it, I implored Michigan Democratic activists to focus their attention solely on the task at hand: defeating Michigan Republicans at every juncture.
It’s not going to be easy. With gerrymandered districts and insane amounts of corporatist money flooding into our state, we have our work cut out for us. That’s why, in Washtenaw County, we have already started.
I am the co-Vice Chair for Precinct Organizing with an amazing organizer named Tad Wysor from Ypsilanti. Tad and I never truly stopped organizing in Washtenaw County after the 2008 election. We understand something that Congressman John Dingell tells Washtenaw Dems at every opportunity: our county has such a high concentration of Democrats that we have a duty to turn out as many of them as we can at every election. This, he says, can make up for poor Dem turnout elsewhere in the state in statewide races.
But it goes further than that. In Washtenaw County, we have the 52nd state House District. The seat was once held by Pam Byrnes. It was stolen from us in the 2010 wave election when Mark Ouimet succeeded in defeating Christine Green in a very ugly race dominated by Republican smear ads.
However, despite the fact that the 52nd leans very slightly Republican in a generic “would you vote for a generic Democrat or generic Republican” match-up, Gretchen Driskell still managed to defeat Ouimet in 2012. It was a devastating blow to Michigan Republicans and they are gunning for this seat. It is considered one of, if not the, highest priority races in the state in 2014. Democrats must retain this seat if they hope to gain a House majority and Republicans and their corporatist benefactors know this all too well.
Since January of this year, Tad and I have been assembling a team — the Washtenaw County Democratic Party Precinct Organizing Committee (POC) — and we have met nearly a dozen times. Our first task was to create a timeline of what we need to accomplish between now and Election Day 2014. We are well aware of the fact that we will not have the resources or organizational infrastructure of the Obama campaign, OFA, this time around. However, we also know that OFA left behind an army of trained organizers and Democrats unafraid of canvassing door-to-door and making phone calls. We also know that these person-to-person contacts are what makes the difference in close elections.
Starting in June, the POC has been holding a series of three Grassroots Empowerment Orientation sessions (GEOs). These sessions have been geared toward activating local precinct delegates and other precinct leaders around Washtenaw County. We have had elected officials speak and we presented our plan to have no fewer than 20 neighborhood/regional teams set up by November of this year so that when 2014 rolls around, we are ready to hit the ground running. Our work is being done in concert with the Michigan Democratic Party and we are considered a “pilot program” for their organizing efforts statewide.
Since we started in January, our POC has expanded to over 50 people, some more involved than others. We have a data team that is already analyzing data from 2008, 2010, and 2012, helping us to prioritize where we devote our resources. The data we glean from this analysis will help our team leaders to understand what they need to accomplish between now and November 2014.
Over the next 6-9 months, we will be using issue-based organizing to help identify and activate more and more participants and to help build and strength the neighborhood/precinct teams. The POC will function as a central organizing committee to provide teams with the necessary tools and resources they will need to organize effectively. We will use the Voter Activation Network database to be strategic in our approach and have every intent of not only holding on to Gretchen Driskell’s seat but ensuring that Pam Byrnes is elected to replace Congressman and tea party grandpa Tim Walberg, making sure that Gary Peters represents our state in the U.S. Senate to replace outgoing Carl Levin, and to send Rick Snyder back to his career making millions in the business sector by electing Mark Schauer as our state’s next governor.
All of these things are achievable if we work hard between now and the election putting our community organizing skills to work to organize our state. This is a truly grassroots effort run entirely by volunteers where individuals at the local level can have a profound impact on our path forward.
Our final GEO is in Chelsea this evening at 6:00 p.m. at the Chelsea Library. You can learn more about the event and RSVP at our event Facebook page. These meetings are only the first step to effectively organize Washtenaw County in preparation for 2014 If you’re in our area, we encourage you to stop by and be part of this exciting organizational effort..
Now, let’s go win this thing!
Photos by Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog.