CT-Sen: Another report from the ground

bumped - Matt

(cross-posted at Deny My Freedom and Daily Kos)

Yesterday, I did some phonebanking for Ned Lamont's campaign. Today, it was time to hit the streets once again, going door to door to find out what prospective Democratic primary voters thought about the primary in 9 days. Last week, a group of us did canvassing in what I'd describe as a middle-class neighborhood in Stamford, Joe Lieberman's hometown. This week, we headed back to Stamford again, but this time, we were canvassing in a more upscale neighborhood of Stamford - as you can see, the area we covered was close enough to the Long Island Sound to smell the aroma of seawater. The area was smothered with signs for Dan Malloy, the mayor of Stamford who is running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. At first, we had trouble figuring out where we were going, as none of us were familiar with the Stamford area. However, once we found a place to park, Keith, my canvassing partner-in-crime today, and I set out on a 3-hour trek that yielded some surprising results.

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100 Days Canvas -- Open Thread

As Chris notes over in Breaking Blue, today marks 100 days until the election and the Democratic Party held canvases for candidates all over the country. Did you participate in one? Where did you canvas? Who were you canvassing for? How did it go?

One quick anecdote from my canvas today for Mike Caudle, Kurt Schrader and Lynn Peterson out in Clackamas County in Oregon. I stopped by one house and introduced myself as a volunteer for Democratic candidates in the area and the gentleman who replied to me thusly:

"Well, I'm not a registered Democrat. But I guess with the way things are going in the country, maybe I should be."

It is so great to hear things like that when you go out canvassing, particularly in a purplish area of a purplish state.

Anyway, consider this an open thread...

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More Responses to 'Strip-Mining the Grassroots'

[I'm experiencing computer failures and various setbacks, so the next part of Grassroots Campaigns, Inc's Great War of 2004 is a few days away. In the meantime, there has been a very interesting discussion going on in the past few days, way at the bottom of the last post's thread. Brings me back to the days of Game Theory class in college. Also, check out the unexpected turn of events at the MoveOn Minute Taker -- let's hope that the MINUTE TAKER can get back into the Operation Democracy campaign!]

Over the last two months, I've been getting several emails a week in response to the Strip-Mining the Grassroots series, from people who came across the series while working for Grassroots Campaigns, Inc's Democratic National Committee fundraising canvass campaign. I'll post several of them here -- they suggest that the problems in GCI's 2004 campaign seem to be still-present, and also that there is a good amount of negative feedback out there that the DNC might not be getting from this campaign. DNC, are you listening?

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Grassroots Campaigns Inc's Great War of 2004: Fool MoveOn Once, Shame On GCI. Fool MoveOn Twice...

"Working hard for the right side--how could it not be the right thing? That question never came up. Now it has."

The first order of business in this series is to direct those who followed my previous series to a postscript of sorts: if you haven't already, please read Lockse's 'In Response to Strip-mining the Grassroots.' Lockse was an upper-level director for Grassroots Campaigns, Inc's 2004 Democratic National Committee fundraising canvass, and 'In Response...' seems in retrospect to be an essential counterpoint to 'Strip-Mining the Grassroots.'

Lockse's personal perspective is thoughtful and empathetic. Though the post doesn't come to any conclusions on its own, it does corroborate the fundamental critique made by myself and others: this canvass fundraise model might be a cost-effective way to fatten the 'membership' rolls of its clients, but its hidden costs are anathema for the progressive movement. Rather than cultivate the grassroots, it burns through the grassroots like cheap fuel. (This critique is specific to GCI's DNC campaign, but it has much wider implications--as GCI is merely the newest branch of the Public Interest Research Groups/Fund for Public Interest Research network, a corporate family that dominates the bottom-most level of the activist industry.)

I want thank Lockse for providing a voice that speaks with both experience and a willingness to engage with criticism from below. I also want to take this as a cue to change hats.

A number of times in the course of the series, defenders of the GCI/PIRG/Fund model tried to dismiss my posts as the axe-grinding rants of an ex-employee who 'had a bad experience'. Now, it is true that 'Strip-Mining the Grassroots' was born of my experience working for GCI. And yet, I only raised money for the DNC for three weeks -- they were intense weeks, but ultimately not enough to leave a lucid impression of systemic failure. Rather, my 'bad' experience with GCI and the PIRG/Fund model was in Get Out the Vote for MoveOn PAC.

Now, as I take off my calm, methodical armchair-analyst hat and put on the hat of a young, idealistic progressive who is telling the story of his first intensive experience with political activism, I hope (perhaps in vain) that the impact of the following qualification is not lost amid the din of the blogosphere: the 2004 MoveOn PAC Leave No Voter Behind was not just a 'bad' experience. It was a soul-crushing experience.

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In response to 'Strip-mining the Grassroots'

I've been frustrated with Greg's series, at first because it seemed to me that he was out to `take down' something that I've put a lot of myself into. I worked in the PIRG world for many years--all my adult life. I was one of the people who built Grassroots Campaigns. I've since moved on from GCI, into a new life; but it still means a lot to me. I've had the kind of experiences that simply can't be nailed down in a few blog posts; Greg, on the other hand, worked for us for ten weeks.

But I'm also frustrated because as he pieced together his critique, I knew that it was something that essentially rings true. And the period of time that Greg worked for us was one of the most intense phases in all my experience with this model. It was intense enough to burn me out almost entirely. In the course of an extended, heated off-blog discussion with Greg, I decided that I would try to help this discussion by providing some context from above. (This is cross-posted from Kos.)

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