Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Alice Marie Marshall, on Interesting Times, wrote an excellent post all about real life precinct-level organizing for all the people who are gravitating towards the Dean campaign. It's an excellent encapsulation of on-the-ground politics and campaigning. Here's just part:

If you have the skills to be a volunteer webmaster for a campaign, or assistant webmaster for the local committee, that is the same as donating $1,000 to the candidate or committee. If you have data base skills, and can maintain the list of identified supporters, that is the same as donating $10,000 to the committee. That is how valuable such skills are and I encourage the digirati to donate their time and skill.

Local Democratic committees consist of precinct captains and at-large members. I want to talk about the work of precinct captains because no other individual has more impact on election results. Precinct work is year-round and driving up the Democratic vote begins months in advance. If you want to shift your precinct by November 2004, you need to begin now and devote not less than one hour a month to political work.

Study your precinct. Learn what the precise boundaries are, if necessary get a precinct map from the local board of elections. Study your precinct’s voting history. How did it vote in the last two elections? Does it have a high turnout? (Sadly in this country, any turnout of over 50% of the registered voters in a presidential election constitutes a high turnout.) You will quickly discover that precincts that vote 60% Democratic or better have low turnout. If you live in such a precinct you already know what your priorities are, voter registration and turnout.
This isn't all of it by a long shot, but it should be recommended reading for anybody that wants either Dean or another Democratic candidate to be able to handle the Bush machine.

That latter part about turnout is especially important. Why? One word: Money. McCain-Feingold, as it stands, does not ban soft money entirely- it still allows soft money for things like, yes, Get-Out-The-Vote efforts. There's no doubt that this money will be spent, but I can guarantee you that said money will be useless without the local knowledge, skills, and dedication that activists can bring to the table. Even if "hired guns" are used to bring up turnout, those professionals will be able to work much more effectively if they can count on local activists- and the more work that is done prior to the professionals being called in, the more effeciently their time (and the money that hires them) can be used. This is vital- even if national issues largely decide how people vote, the 10% or so that is determined by local activities may be enough to swing precincts, counties, and even states. If you care enough to blog (or comment on blogs), and if you care enough to go to a meetup, you should care enough to get involved where it really matters.

Alice pointed out that "volunteers win elections, not candidates." This isn't just a good idea, friends, it's Gospel.

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