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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Sunday, April 20, 2008

970 agents of change

I was sitting taking a break from phonebanking for Barack Obama today and had a great conversation with Fred Feller, a recently elected national delegate for Obama from CA-09.

Fred won election to go to Denver here in CA-09 last Sunday at a caucus held at Beebe Memorial Church on Telegraph Avenue about a mile from my house in Oakland.

970 of us showed up to vote in that caucus last Sunday. I was a volunteer working the line...giving out information and making sure things ran smoothly...and so I had the chance to speak with almost every last one of those voters.

Fred won enough votes to be an Obama delegate to Denver. Like the other delegates chosen, he will do Obama proud, and I was really pleased to see him taking his Saturday afternoon to call Pennsylvania with about thirty other volunteers at the campaign offices of Congresswoman Barbara Lee...


The line down Telegraph Avenue was long last Sunday.

The activists assembled to participate in the caucus included so many people I know.

Activists who worked to elect Jerry McNerney in 2006, activists who helped elect the millenial candidate Abel Guillen to Peralta School Board, long time supporters of Barbara Lee, and a host of candidates, progressive activists and elected officials well-known here in the East Bay. Professor George Lakoff was there, standing in line with friends like everyone else. Vicki Cosgrove who worked with me on the Chicago Voices program was there, too.

But the overwhelming impression you got last Sunday at Beebe Memorial Church was that here were 970 progressive activists of all ages, backgrounds and ethnicities drawn together by our support for Barack Obama.

That's a powerful thing.

It's not powerful just because it set a record for turnout to a delegate caucus in CA-09, it's powerful because of this fact:

Anytime you bring together like-minded people organized for change within a political map in the United States, you create the opportunity to change the balance of power inside of that map.

There are roughly 650,000 residents of CA-09. This is the same as every other Congressional district in the USA (except the few that represent the very smallest states).

What power do 1,000 Obama supporters have to make change in CA-09?

Huge power, if we choose to use it.

That's how politics works.

The most powerful thing you can do as an American citizen and grassroots activist is to locate, identify and collaborate with like-minded fellow citizens who live within the political maps that define your identity.

For me, that's the City of Oakland, Alameda County, California Congressional District 9, the Oakland Unified School District, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, California Assembly District 16, California State Senate District 9, Oakland City Council District 1, and the Peralta Community College and Bay Area Rapid Transit regional boards.

That sounds complicated. It is, at first, but the more you learn, the more empowered you become.

But what I'm getting at is this. We are most powerful when we connect with like-minded citizens who live within the same political boundaries as us.

In a nutshell, talking to 15 neighbors on a consistent basis about making change in your community, and then taking action to make that change, is the most powerful political thing most people can do.

When 970 people in one Congressional District get together and agree on anything, that is a very big deal.


what this means

Folks like Sean Hannity and George Stephanopoulos are agents of the status quo. Their job involves reinforcing the world view of the Corporate Media that defines the political life of our nation.

If we want to make change in this country we have to do two things at once.

First, we have to get together exactly like we do here in the blogosphere on DailyKos or at Netroots Nation. We have to organize with like-minded people nationally in opposition to folks in the media like Sean Hannity and George Stephanopoulos and Ben Smith and Jake Tapper and Chris Cillizza and Ana-Marie Cox, folks who sell and shape the status quo.

That national microphone of the blogosphere is a way we can coordinate and empower fellow netroots activists all over the USA. No matter how often folks belittle and attack the netroots, we should all remember that things were a lot different in American politics before we came on the scene. We are about substance and reform and transparency and change. We are about making progressive policies a reality.

The national corporate media are about reinforcing the status quo. Every time George Stephanopoulos talks about Rev. Wright or Flag Lapel Pins it means we aren't talking about the war in Iraq or how lobbyists killed Health Care Reform or the fact that California now has the third-highest unemployment rate in the nation. (Did you know that? Now you do.)


But the other, essential thing we have to do is to get organized locally.

For as important as coordinated national action is, that's not where the real change happens in the United States.

The real power is in folks like the 970 people who took time out on a Sunday afternoon in April to support Barack Obama here in Oakland.

Together we have enormous power. When we organize within our districts and within our maps, that is when we truly begin to overturn the power that folks like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh have on our political lives.

The place to change the status quo in the United States is at the local level. If you get 50 like-minded progressive activists together on an email listserv in your community, I absolutely guarantee you that your local elected officials will take notice.

If you choose to run a reform candidate with the support of those 50 local activists, I guarantee you that, win or lose, you will change politics in your area permanently for the better.

That's how American politics works.

If you want to make progressive change in the United States you've got to get organized and you've got to get local.


Fallon vs. Boswell

Take a look at this animated graphic making a progressive challenge against conservative Iowa Democrat, Leonard Boswell.

This is the kind of progressive challenge that gave us Congresswoman Donna Edwards.

We are powerful when we work locally for progressive change.

Will progressive Ed Fallon win his Iowa primary? We'll see. But his campaign has already made a huge difference.

That's what progressives can do when we work together. That is how we build a Progressive Majority.


don't believe the hype: get organized

Last Sunday I saw 970 activists who rallied because we support a candidate for President who moves us to get off our asses and work for change.

I also saw something else. I saw a powerful group of people ready to make a difference in California Congressional District 9.

What we need to do is to stick together.

Not two blocks from where we met on Telegraph Avenue to elect national delegates for Obama is one of the most tragically violent blocks in North Oakland. A five-year old child recently died as a result of an illegal handgun kept in a home. A postal worker died in an attempted car jacking on that same block three years ago and three young men were sentenced to life in prison without parole for that heinous and senseless crime.

We have so much work to do together. It is so easy to see Sean Hannity and George Stephanopolous on TV cynically talking about "gun issues" or red-baiting our candidates and think that there is no hope for progressive change in this country.

That is exactly what they want you to think. Don't believe the hype.

Get active. Get local. Get organized and stay organized. We've got work to do in the USA. Barack Obama is providing us with some inspiration and energy. It's up to us what we do with that.

The answer isn't out there. It's the person you see in the mirror every morning.

You aren't alone. I learned that last Sunday. Here in Oakland, there's 970 of me. And we're not going to let Sean Hannity run this country. Not by a long shot.




  • Hi,

    This is my video movie of last Sunday's event:

    Obama Delegate Convention

    By Blogger Zennie Abraham, at 12:36 PM  

  • Thanks for the reinforcement...that old saying, "All politics are local" rings true. Thanks for your activisim K / o !

    By OpenID abelguillen5, at 12:38 PM  

  • Thank you for perfectly capturing the spirit of the Obama caucus. Among the 102 candidates were folks of every progressive stripe, but I must admit that I was very pleased to see that real activists rather than old time politicos won the delegate slots. It's time to make room for new(er) people.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:09 PM  

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