Posts Tagged ‘Elections ’08’

Canvassing in CD6:

Corte Madera, CA. October 13. It is 2pm on a sun-drenched Saturday afternoon and CD 6 coordinator Lance Iuoye is sitting at a picnic table in the town park, checking over canvassing forms with the last returning teams of Barack Obama volunteers. “Turn the Page on Iraq,” a national canvassing day, is drawing to a close.

But this local Obama team was obviously thinking big when they chose this locale to host their event. Since 10 am, their launch pad, highly visible under a festive white canopy and a colorful cache of Blue & White Obama signs, has been set up mid-center on the grass alongside the town’s main parking lot; and thus it has attracted heavy foot traffic and garnered huge interest throughout the day: ongoing soccer games on the adjacent fields, at all-day Open House at the Firehouse next door, and just down the block a community fair chocked full of hundreds of attendees.

Amidst the music and balloons, the Saturday bikers and the family dogs, this pint-sized Obama camp seems a perfectly synchronized slice of a vroomed-up, vitalized community.

Lance is really excited about talking to the team who inspired a teenager he had just registered to drive down and sign up.

“That’s just amazing,” he says. “What did you say to get him to do it?”

“He said Barack Obama was his man but that he was only 17,” says volunteer Sandy Grant “But then his mom walked into the room and said “No, your 18, You can register right now.’ She must have taken him down here. “

Indeed she did, says Lance (big smile). “She said some very nice ladies told him where to go to register right now and after they left he said ‘lets do it.”

Sandy, a busy Mill Valley physician who doesn’t have much spare time for hobbies, is so determined to elect Barack Obama she’s become active in politics for the first time.

“I can’t believe I’m so excited about one kid when there are millions of people all over the country …” her voice trails off. “Next week I’m going to start canvassing in my neighborhood.”

CD6 is reportedly one of the best organized districts in the California campaign, with 56 registered volunteers and a schedule that includes regularly weekly tabling, phone calling, outreach to high schools and colleges and a growing voter registration drive. Volunteers are encouraged to ‘think out of the box’ and meld their personal skills and talents with the campaign’s mission.

The efficiency of today’s volunteer team coordinators rivals the proficiency of any professionally designed event. Before setting out in seven teams, with assignments in three towns, participants are guided through a short tutorial on the do’s and don’t of canvassing (don’t knock on a door more than once, don’t force campaign literature on someone who’s clearly not interested, leave flyers tucked under outdoor mats so they’re not too visible from the street, and be prepared to tell your own story about why you support Obama). Folders are distributed with maps and print outs of the 50 families on each teams’ itinerary, along with clear instructions on how to fill in data on each location. A ‘cheat sheet,’ explaining the goal of the day’s event is provided as an example of how to introduce yourself. Each team receives handfuls of official campaign “Turn the Page in Iraq” handouts and small yellow flyers offering tips to new recruits on how they can become involved in the Obama campaign NOW.

“There are more canvassing events happening here in California today than in any other state,” says Canvassing Coordinator Ben Ludke, a student at College of Marin. “We’re the first campaign to be canvassing in California. This is just the beginning.”

Conversation around the table shifts as Lance asks volunteers for feedback. What can we improve upon next time?

“I didn’t feel that I was informed enough about all the issues,” says Sandy. “I was really nervous someone would ask me something that I couldn’t answer. We need talking points next time.”

“Right now you are your own talking points,” says Lance,“ acknowledging that talking point memos are in the works and should be available by the next canvas.

For every issue mentioned in this discussion, however, (“I’m not sure on his stand on education …. on immigration … on Blackwater … on tax breaks … “) someone in the group has a well researched answer and can offer resources: listen to his speeches, read the blogs, visit the website, join the listservs.

By all accounts, Marin County’s first official Obama canvassing event succeeded in much more than registering another Democrat to vote in the Feb. 5 Primary. Over 500 homes were contacted, resulting in conversations with over 140 local democrats about Obama’s position on ending the war in Iraq and whether or not they had made a decision on which candidate they were leaning towards.

Currently, based on this narrow sampling, it appears that most people in the section of County are still undecided; with 21% strongly supporting Barack Obama, 38% undecided, and less than 10% committed to another candidate.

Undoubtedly, the most encouraging outcome was the unanimous consent among participants that people are just aching to talk about what’s happened to America and discuss how Obama can set things straight.

“It was strange,” says one volunteer. “You’d knock on someone’s door, feeling really apologetic about interrupting them, but when they saw who you were they were just so happy to have a chance to talk about things. It was like they’ve felt so isolated for so long and now all of the sudden here was somebody on their porch inviting them to talk about it.

From another: “I didn’t meet anyone who wasn’t willing to listen to me, who didn’t want to know why I was backing Barack. Everybody seems really ready for change, really ready to believe in someone again.”

One volunteer recounts a story of a conversation she had with a woman who opened her front door with a huge bottle of Tropicana orange juice in her hand and a tense ‘why are you bothering me now?’ look on her face.

“Right away, you knew how busy she was. You could see right through the house to the backyard where three or four little girls were sitting down for lunch under this big striped umbrella. It was really bad timing. But when she saw my Obama hat and heard why we were there, she forgot everything else. She said she wasn’t ‘plugged in yet” but she wanted us to tell her why we were supporting Obama. She asked questions. We must have talked to her for ten minutes. If she was leaning towards Hillary when we arrived, I don’t think she was when we left. You could just feel how hungry she was to talk about things: Iraq and Iran, Healthcare, education, the war. The need for big change in America. Wow, that was an amazing experience.”

In this small corner of Marin, at least, the battle is strictly between Obama and his main rival, New York Senator Hillary Clinton. But, say volunteers, people who were leaning toward Hillary said they are just now starting to do their research. Hillary is what they know; Obama is who they what to discover.

“People still think it’s really early in the campaign,” says Ludke. “A lot of Californians don’t realize yet that the Democrat’s Primary is Feb. 5. That’s why now is the ideal time for us to start canvassing. Hillary hasn’t started yet. We’re the only campaign actively canvassing in California right now.”

A conversation ensues between Ludke and a couple of volunteers about the ‘grassroots’ organization of the campaign, with Ludke drawing a flow chart outlining the chain of command.

“But that’s not grassroots,” someone says. “That’s a traditional hierarchical business model. We want people organizing right where they live, working out of their cars. People should have access to Obama materials so they can just hand things out.

“But they can,” says Ludke. “They can just download things off the internet. They can purchase supplies online at the Obama store. You’ve got to understand that California right now has only one paid employee. We can’t afford to supply everyone with free materials.”

Jasper Goldberg, a student at nearby Branson high school and a member of Students for Barack Obama saunters over to the table.

“I have boxes of Obama stickers I can give you,” he says, approaching a group of women who are discussing investing in a stockpile of gear for CD6 volunteers. “How many do you want now?”

He plops a plastic bag of stickers on the table. Wallets emerge. None of these Obama supporters want something for nothing. They all want the same thing: something promoting Obama to give away for nothing. Goldberg shrugs, accepts proffered donations. Says he’ll use the money to purchase more Obama gear.

It’s after three and everybody’s tired, has places to go, but seems reticent to leave. Opinions start flying on Obama’s best speech.

Riverside Church. The Foreign Policy address at Des Moines. Selma. New York (Washington Square Park). Springfield.  San Francisco, last month when he introduced what instataneously became the infectious rallying cry of the campaign, “Fired up, Ready to Go.”

But as is always the case in these talks, someone always brings up where it all began, for most of us. And this time it’s Ludke who reminds us.

“For me it’s still the 2004 convention. I watched that speech and said ‘That man’s my president.”


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Is it just me? An illusion? Or are some of you also sensing an ever so slight shift in the political current; dare I suggest detecting a miniscule tear in the tightly constructed, intricately oiled veneer of the sheer perfection of the Hillary Clinton roll out?

Have you noticed anything? Tidbits here, there, trickling into media where just a few weeks back there was naught.

Am I the only observor who detected a hint of distaste over Clinton key-strategist Mark Penn’s association with Blackwater? A slightly rised eyebrow over the influx of cash from Billy’s buddies at his nonprofit Global Initiative? An illusion to impropriety over that nefarious Hsu’s $850,000 bundle? What about the near comic reappearance of the rabidly robotic Hill&Co. attack dogs, frothing and straining at the bit when questions surfaced over Clinton’s judgement in supporting the Kyle Lieberman amendment.

Then all that flack about ‘the pin!’ At last, they had him! Obama, squirming against the wall. Yet what ensured was an open discussion of the post-911-world partisan-ization of patriotism, with informed sources noting the frequency with which Mrs. Clinton substitutes haute couture accessories for the red, white and blue emblem on her suit ensembles. Color coordination, you know.

I mean, like overnight, the doubting Thomases among Obama supporters were barely recovering their footing when MSM pundits began questioning the veracity of the latest WaPo/AP poll which trumpeted a massive Clinton lead. Suddenly, pundits were asking the right questions. “What about what’s happening on the ground? How DO you account for this incredibe groundswell of support for Obama?”

Well, I have a suggestion. I think perhaps we are witnessing the re-emergence of dormant patterns of communication, a type of low frequency vibration which is slipping under the radar of corporate media watchdogs and their enmeshed special interest groups. Somehow, despite MSMs prediliction to play down information on when and where Senator Obama plans to speak, to distort or ignore his message, news of the Obama phenomena is spreading like a rumor of the next iPod release.

Perhaps the first inklings of a potential sea change emerged back in California last month when, just days before the Petraus hearings. Kos predicted the Senator from Illinois had missed his opportunity to launch a pre-emptive strike on the truthfulness of the General’s upcoming testimony. He called yet another set for our former first lady. Well, the outcry was near immediate. We knew beter. No way supporters was going to let this opp slide by. (The Obama team was planning something extraordinary on Petraeus, and a knock out punch came that Tusday in the form of a foriegn policy speech outlining a daring and innovative evolutionary approach to America’s role in theaters of conflict abroad. Chaulk a big one up for our side.)

This was also the weekend which will forever be remembered for the launch of the infectious “Fired up, Ready to Go” mantra, a rallying cry already as potent as “You gotta believe” in the New York Mets miraculous ascent to the World Series in the ’69 season.

But then there was Obama in New York City. Ten days of preparation. Phone banks coast to coast. 24,000 in Washington Square Park. Now as I’ve said before, 24,000 people gathering in any spot at one time in NYC is in itself news. But MSM, in its sheer audacity, strategically downplayed the event. I think that decision backfired.

It appears to me as if little by little since that evening, the stuffing seems to be leaking from the mannequin. Mind you, right now only recalcitrant threads are visible but nonetheless, the pattern is not rock steady.

Since New York, it appears as if the surefire policies of message control are becoming less effective. Barely perceptible glitches are surfacing in standard playbook protocol. It’s kinda like watching a run of Bill Walsh-Joe Montana 2 minute drills falling just short of the goal line because a new, unexpected variable has everybody a tad off center. Expertly executing ‘X’ no longer necessarily means that ‘Y’ will follow. Now Joe and Bill aren’t even mindful enough to recognize anything’s gone asunder, so they’re continuing with the same drill; maybe they sense they’ve lost flow but damned if it matters anyway. It’s no contest.

What I’m suggesting is that more and more of us are no longer sitting speechless in the stands observing The Champions making mincemeat of the underdogs. We’re starting to question the calls, to doubt the tally on the scoreboard. America is beginning to pause and say “Now wait a minute. Something’s just not kosher here.” In essence, we are no longer counting on the refs or instant replay. We’re starting to throw down our own flags.

In and of itself, this variable, this deviation, is so inconseqential that it is not perceivable as a factor. But the factor, nonetheless, is there. And it is multiplying.

To take the football analogy a tad farther, let’s revisit the Kyle Lieberman amendment. Hillary emerges from the huddle and makes the call “We’re voting yes on this one.” But in the bleachers, people are asking “What’d she do that for? Why’d she call for that play again? Makes no sense, unless she’s not aiming for the same goal we are.”

Do they really want to trust this lady with the football?

Now it’s not like the Hillary campaign is actually aware of this, but I think a growing number of us are aware of the vast disparity between what our eyes and ears and intuition are telling us and what’s being force fed to us. No, the Hillary Team right now is just too busy snipping stray threads off the mannequin to even consider the pattern might just be fatally flawed.

There is a limit to how long you can contain the facts on the ground, but ignoring 12,000 in Oakland, 15,000 in Phoenix and 20,000 in Austin, doesn’t quite match up to deeming as a “nonevent” 24,000 New Yorkers jammed into an historic small Greenwich Village park to see and listen to a candidate for the 2008 Democratic Presidential Nomination.

No, that particular crowd created an energy so intense it surpassed the need for media coverage. It ‘outed’ them, revealed their true colors.

In this new inter-connected world of jet travel and blogs and text messaging and youtube videos, something like this happening in New York is viral; it’s all over facebook and flick’r and youtube and myspace and twitter and technorati. Somebody tells somebody else on a bus or a subway or a commuter flight and then they’re telling their friend who is telling their friend whose friend saw Obama at a rally in New Hampshire and has been talking about nothing else since. Has her whole family and neighorhood excited. She’s converted her teenagers and Uncle Charlie and the guy from Triple A who jump starts her Dodge Dart every two months

The Obama Campaign and the Rainforest: Communication Theory

Experts in the field of animal communications assert that animals are adept at using their physical environment to ensure the maximum audibility of their signals. The Bornean tree frog, for example, communicates within its species by slithering into a tree hole and adjusting the frequency of its call until it hits the one note that makes the hole and the tree resonate. It plays the tree, like a musical instrument.

It appears that tropical rainforests are like symphonies, where each particular species communicates on its own unique frequency, aware of timing, spacing and tone to insure communication.

The survival of the New Guinean Cassowary, a colorful, large, and flightless bird, is directly related to its remoteness. Recently, a scientist decided that the only way to find cassowaries was to listen for them. But capturing the cassowary call wasn’t all that easy. Not only do they call infrequently, but they speak within a spectrum that is below the range of human hearing. Frequently, humans feel a cassowary’s call rather than hearing it. In fact, the cassowary’s call has been compared to a mini earthquake.

This strategy for communicating works for the cassowary because the low-frequency of its vibrations enable it to remain incognito to prey accustomed to operating in the worlds of sounds and images. Not only that, but low-frequency communications travel farther, so cassowaries regularly chat long distance.

In another study relating to animal communications, a Stanford scientist discovered that elephants use foot stomping to communicate with each other over distances as far away as 20 miles. In 2002, Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell, a Stanford biologist, traveled to Namibia, Africa, to investigate her theory that elephants communicate via an outflow of low-frequency seismic vibrations. They signal to one another when they are in danger, seeking a mate, or passing on information about food and water.

Apparently, the human brain has adapted over time, converting most of the space once used for sensing vibration for use by the more immediately powerful senses of sight and sound. Yet O’Connell-Rodwell notes that “traditional instruments such as the didgeridoo of Australia, talking drums of West Africa, and the stomping dances of Native Americans all produce signals that have the potential to be carried through the ground over long distances.

“These instruments could have been important communication mechanisms similar to smoke signals, but at much greater distances than smoke signals could be detected,” she says.

Just recently, reporter Bryan Miller journeyed on a triple-deckered tugboat down the Congo from Kinshasa. Some 700 kilometers and seven days later, he arrived at Mbandaka to transfer to a large barge en route to Ndobo. Describing the barge as a floating refuge camp, he recounts how hundreds of villagers had already crowded aboard and set up camps, anticipating the tugboat’s arrival.

“How did they know we were coming,” he asked the captain.

“The neighboring village told them,” the captain replied. “With drums.”


So, how do you explain the momentum of the Obama campaign? True, virtual communication networks are a big part of it, but I can’t tell you how many Obama supporters I’ve met who don’t read blogs, have only logged in once to barackobama.com and have no idea how to navigate the site, let alone join a discussion group or listserv.

And, of course, the message also isn’t getting out by drumbeat or smoke signals or foot stomping. But there is no doubt that a sizeable chunk of Americans sense something’s happening. They feel it in their blood, sense it on their skin, understand it in their soul. They are finding nourishment. They are communicating.

There’s synchrnoicity at work in the appearances of huge numbers of people at Obama events across the country. An energy is being unleashed which seems to know no boundaries and resonate between and beyond people. It is an energy that is allowing us to reconnect with one another, to celebrate, to hope. To commit to do extraordinary things.

You don’t find this type of communication in newspapers and cable news and magazines.

But if you’re an Obama supporter, you recognize it innately, because it’s pure. It’s a core element, non-negotiated. Right now, at this point we are communicating with a man who is going somewhere and asking us to come along.

No doubt about it. The message is out there. It’s being picked up, interpreted and implemented by hundreds of thousands of Americans.

It has the markings of a veritable symphony. Find your niche. Sing your song. It’s not going to be easy. But you gotta put on your marching shoes and get to work. As Simon and Garfunkle once said, “We’re all playing in the same band.”

We’re all tuning in to that Middle “C.”

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