This is the second of three blogs I am writing concerning 1/15/10. The following post will address the inside baseball after the event and my final post will discuss the event itself.
Over the last two months, one guy has tried to do the right thing for President Obama. His name is Manny Vasile. I heard the words he has been proclaiming: Come to Washington, D.C. in January to defend the change we earned in 2008.
I did what I could to promote Vasile's initiative and a handful of us got to DC.
The majority of people were hesitant to come to our nation's capital, but why?
I know this may be an easy question to answer. People had the choice of staying in the comfort of their homes or spending money and traveling to DC on a freezing January morning. Why would one make the trip if no one in the political realm was supporting this good idea?
Do I want to waste my time? Believe it or not, we did feel the spirit of those who wanted to be there, but did not come for whatever reason.
We know the demonstration idea wasn't favored by the mucky-mucks. They think they know what is best for winning campaigns in DC and essentially ignored us. When we approached Organizing For America (OFA) we got return calls saying they instead wanted us to make phone calls to other citizens to encourage them to hassle congress people on healthcare.
All we needed from OFA was a blast email saying what we were doing. Nothing radical, nothing off-the-wall, we just wanted an announcement that we were getting together to support President Obama.
When pressed we were told to our faces what we are doing here wasn't valued.
My next posts will offer reports on what actually happened at the Rally (Rally - Really!) and comments I would like to see as a main takeaway message (We are the Forgers); however, this post is about something different. It is about why the GOP has been let up off the mat. It is why we lost in Virginia and New Jersey. It is why the DNC, OFA and the White House's collective hair is on fire about the Massachusetts senate seat.
After our little rally there was a lawyer who said he volunteers for OFA. He did not deign to attend our rally or give us the time of day it would have taken him to listen to what we said or why we were saying it. He became a corporate shill for the DNC. It became amateur hour for spin.
We listened to him. We invited him to lunch. As we walked across DC, he held forth on how OFA was now part of the DNC and the legislative agenda. As we ate, we listened to lawyerly circular logic as he told us that the email list they possessed was the property of the OFA and we could make up our own email lists from scratch. I am not skilled enough to master the nuance of doublespeak we were being presented in order to recreate it for you here.
As he spoke, Novelette, another attendee, looked at him and related that this list belongs to all of us. We were the ones who set up the networks, entered the email addresses, and made the phone calls. It is also our list too.
Manny had to verbally pull me off the lawyer when I asked who the ... they were to act as gatekeepers of this list. I asked what the process or procedure was for a group like ours to gain access and to use OUR list for any event. Who determines what is important? We all agreed that there the OFA/DNC cannot turn this list over to the GOP, but there needs to be a facility to allow legitimate uses of this data. The lawyer knew of no procedures.
I looked at the table and quickly calculated that combined experience of those around it was well over a century in politics. We were being spoken down to by a bad suit. I asked lawyer exactly how much experience did he have in running or being involved in campaigns, you know, National, State, County, Local, even School Board. What do you have? The response was 2008 was his first experience in politics. I looked at the portion of the table to the left of the lawyer and realized my 19-year-old son, Nate, Novelette's 20-something daughter and her niece EACH had more real political experience that this representative of the national party. He was somehow thought to be more knowledgeable about politics because he had a law degree and lives near DC. On the way home, Nate looked at the lawyer as a dead man walking from that point on.
I think the lawyer knew it too. It dawned on him he was sitting with the grunts in the trenches. He is realizing we do not appreciate being condescended to. He kept his composure the best his training would allow, but, Nate took him apart quietly (that comes from his mom) when he started asking pointy-eared questions about the logic of his position, I leaned back and said to Val Burton, sitting next to me, she was looking at a proud father watching his son being fed a ration of you-know-what and not accepting it at face value. (It was better than watching him set a killer pick on the lax field or basketball court.)
My favorite question of Nate's: If OFA is a volunteer organization, why do they keep asking for money? It must have taken a good 10-15 seconds for the lawyer to break the noisy silence before Novelette backed-up Nate (thanks, Novelette) and went in for the kill.
At the end of lunch, I explained to the lawyer that I walked in your shoes over 20 years ago. You need to attempt to walk in our shoes. You need to carry the water for us and the next guy, the Teabusters Group, with your higher-ups.
Nate and I spent about 20 minutes walking across DC getting the car to head home. At the car, a call came in from the DNC. Another DNC functionary attempted to chide us for having the audacity to stage a march while the Kennedy Senate Seat was circling the drain. Nate drove as I realized these guys just don't get it.
I am beginning to see the logic and attitude of the DNC/OFA as the Audacity of Dopes (Confederacy of Dunces is already taken). The DNC contact told me how their hair was on fire because of the Kennedy seat is at risk and everything for healthcare depends on this senate race (we are not stupid - we get it). We were taking air out of the room with our march at the detriment of this race.
Fine, I said, but you are in this situation because you didn't fight the GOP last year when they were getting started. DNC/OFA allowed the Teabaggers to live when they were saying the Teabaggers are somehow below us and won't gain traction. This Frankenstein monster is on the loose and the Kennedy seat is at risk by the DNC/OFA miscalculations.
I finally started to get the respectable hearing for the DNC contact when I questioned who knew about this. I got the response that the White House was informed as to what we were doing. OK, so I guess the President has enough support to turn down people so determined to say he is doing a good job, that they can be turned away at every corner. I gotta say, this is unique political thought. (He probably guessed that I wasn't buying his circular CYA attitude.)
I got a double-clutch when I suggested that our rally should have dove-tailed with efforts to get Coakley elected. Since people generally don't do a lot of phone calls at 9 am on a workday, OFA could have sent a member of this campaign to our rally with the message - To Support Obama is to Support Coakley. We have box lunches for you to make calls this afternoon to keep our Senate Seat in Massachusetts."
- We would have gotten the credibility we needed from the email list blast.
- Obama would have gotten a bump with media stories about people coming to DC to say, "We got your back."
- Coakley would have gotten fresh motivated workers on a critical afternoon.
- The country would see a positive alternative to be Teabaggers being hatched.
Yeah, all that stuff is bad and should be shut down.
God forbid, that a small grass roots group of people stand up to the political establishment and say, Where are your clothes, and you are looking kinda funny...?"
The reason we are getting our heads handed to us is a small group of people think they know more than they really do. They are running the DNC/OFA. They are misusing the tools that we all built in 2008. We all believed we were building a grass-roots organization with Obama For America. The DNC has co-opted and corporatized the tools; squeezing the energy out of the movement to the point where making a simple political statement, such as, "We like you, President Obama," becomes a source of controversy and consternation.
If this outfit wants to do right by the people who built it, the people who still believe in what we did in 2008, they will need to allow access to the email list for organizations to use. They will need to get behind common sense methods to take the streets back from the Teabaggers that includes full support for the Teabuster Rally next week. We need to see a progression of activism to meet what the other side has done. They need to lead or find those who can.
Until there is a change of attitude towards these organizations that allow the grass roots to use what we put into place, we will lose.
Until there is a change of attitude towards these organizations to listen to the grass roots, we will lose.