Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The political machine vs. the grassroots

Today the LA Times has a very interesting article about the contrast of the Clinton and Obama campaigns in California. I think this contrast is true nationally and it defiantly is true here in Minnesota. It's also a contrast that has lead me to support Senator Obama's campaign.

The contrast is how the Clinton campaign is mostly running a traditional campaign with the backing of big names and focus on big metro areas while the Obama campaign is focusing on empowering the grassroots and running everywhere.
Here are two excepts that I think overview it pretty well.

Dana Stewart, 54, spent more than two hours Wednesday night sitting on a folding chair in a private office-park conference room here learning how to become a "HillStar" -- part of a program Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign introduced last week to build a grass-roots get-out-the-vote organization ahead of California's Feb. 5 primary.


The next night, Roger Hu convened a similar gathering of volunteers for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama four miles away at the Lucie Stern Community Center -- the third weekly meeting of Obama's supporters in California's 14th Congressional District. But there were no bound playbooks -- just an agenda and a list of the committee coordinators, plus a suggested script to use when phoning other potential volunteers.

Read more about Camp Obama (A grassroots training program that Obama has been running over the summer) with these articles by Zack Exley who is one of the greatest new progressive organizers.

Now here is a except that provides insight to how closely the campaigns are following the 50 State Strategy.

The Clinton campaign has focused on high-density Democratic regions such as L.A. and the Bay Area. The Obama campaign is trying to build networks in each congressional district; most state Democratic delegates are awarded to candidates based on how well they do in each district, not statewide. So far Obama has committees in 40 of the 53 districts.

I think that pretty clearly shows Obama is more committed to having a 50 State Ground Game and would be the most committed to the 50 State Strategy.

Just one more excerpt now.

Marshall Ganz, who began his organizing career in the civil rights era and is now helping the Obama campaign create its grass-roots structure, believes the effort must be built person-to-person.

The campaign has begun a series of intensive "Camp Obama" weekend courses in which professional organizers like Ganz teach the novices how it's done, then send them home to build their own Obama organizations that report to, but are not controlled by, Obama staffers.

In Palo Alto, one of the trained volunteers' first tasks is to contact the more than 400 people in the district who have told the campaign they want to help. They, in turn, will be the core of the volunteer group to contact 180,000 voters in hopes of finding more volunteers and cementing 45,000 votes for Obama -- which the congressional district committee independently set as its goal.

Ganz hopes the strategy will return a sense of social movement to campaigns, offsetting the modern-marketing approach. "It goes back to the problem of money in politics and the way politics has been so commercialized," Ganz said. "Because of those factors, people don't do the kind of organizing they used to do in politics. I think that's changing. Close elections encourage more organizing."

There has been a lot of talk about Obama's campaign being a "movement" in the netroots. I have argued that while not a movement it is the most people-powered campaign. As Paul Rosenberg has said "Part of what makes a movement is when no one person or organization can control it anymore." I think Ganz proves my point that Obama's campaign is trying to incorporate as much from the social movements into the modern campaign as they can. That doesn't make it a movement, but it does make it the people-powered and progressive campaign of the presidential election, in my opinion at least.

This all plays into one thing. Are we, the progressive people-powered movement going to let part of the old guard win? I don't have anything against Hillary Clinton and I would devote a great amount of my time to make sure she gets elected in the general election. But the primary is about making a choice. And I think the choice comes down to the title of the article and this diary: The political machine vs. the grassroots. And that's why I think Barack Obama is the best candidate for the Democratic Party and America.

This is a long post already so I'm not going to do anything more but the campaign has been playing out in a very similar way here in Minnesota. I'll have more on that later.

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