Full disclosure: I am an Obama supporter. Despite some character flaws that make him less effective than I would like to see in a President, I am glad he is in the White House, and I intend to vote for him again this November, whoever is his GOP opponent.
That said, I had an opportunity on March 31 to witness a remarkable session in the East Bay that struck me as having its roots in the days that the President was a community organizer in Chicago some years ago. I was invited to attend as an Obama supporter, but I quickly tried to shift to more of a reporter role of the event.
I will not disclose things that could be viewed as internal matters for those who support the Obama re-election effort, but I have some observations about the event and what implications it may have for us here locally in the coming months before the November election.
The 6 hour session was called 'Camp Obama,' and was intended for people who wish to get more actively involved with the President's re-election campaign, especially in roles beyond 'worker bees.' Nearly 50 people carved out their Saturday to attend. It was very well run, with several people leading it who were connected with the campaign and the White House. One had attended the event the previous evening in SF at which Michelle Obama was the keynoter. Another met the President at (what is now the ill-fated) Solyndra visit to Fremont in 2010.
The morning involved discussions around how at the local level the campaign was organizing and recruiting. There were clearly defined roles and tasks. It was clear from the presentations and discussions that the Obama campaign is taking full advantage of the 'Cloud,' and data gathering, analysis and feedback is going back and forth between local groups like this one in the East Bay and the HQ in Chicago.
The sessions after lunch focused more on 'messaging.' How to talk to people, what to say what not to say, some drill down on the whole ObamaCare issue. There was a lead at each table (tables set up by different parts of the East Bay) to get people to sign up for further training and participation going forward. This was a leadership recruiting event, and people were clearly engaged, nobody over the top, but genuinely interested in doing more than just showing up at the voting booth this November.
1. The grass roots organizing by the Obama campaign is formidable. What I saw on Saturday is going on all over the country. Blue states like California are harnessing supporters to work on swing states, such as Nevada, with personal visits and phone calls to prospective voters, not just Obama supporters, but also independents and the like who vote differently each election cycle.
2. The people in the room I was in on Saturday were Americans of every stripe you can imagine. They were in different circumstances, from homeless to very comfortable. Nobody was strident, nobody was angry, nobody was PollyAnniish. They were there because they want the President re-elected, and were willing to do some work as volunteers to accomplish that objective. I contrast this with 'Tea Partiers' who come across to me as in a perpetual state of anger.
3. I could not help but wonder what the counterpoint is in the Republican Party. As a marketing guy, I was thinking that this deep grass roots effort by the Obama campaign is juxtaposed with robo-phone calls, huge media spending, spewing by the likes of Fox and Limbaugh, but little personal contact with real people, be it phone or face to face. Both candidates will make personal appearances as the election approaches. The question is what's behind their curtains?
4. This session spent a great deal of time discussing ObamaCare. Talking points were fine, it is clear that there is a great deal of mis-understanding about the law. The crowd was too polite. From my point of view, the matter cannot be discussed until after we hear from the Supreme Court later this June. This did not seem to be something that the people leading this session understood.
Regardless of who runs against the President this fall, and even who wins, the grass roots effort by the Obama campaign is a very impressive machine. More goes into winning an election than such an effort, things like substance come into play, some of the time. Strategically, what wins elections in this day and age? Time will tell.
Do get involved, whatever your inclinations. It is not that difficult to do so, it can be an enjoyable social experience. That's what I am doing this year.