Friday, May 07, 2010

A "teabagger" attends an Organizing for America training session

"The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea." Mao Zedong.

Three weeks ago I received an e-mail from Barack Obama's political arm, Organizing for America, inviting me to a Camp OFA training session in Evanston, Illinois, just a few miles from my home. I signed up, under my real name. I have an OFA online account.

A few days later I received a Monday phone bank call (more on that later) from an enthusiastic volunteer from the Democratic Party of Evanston (DPOE) confirming my interest, and asking me if instead of attending the May 5 session I signed up for, would I be interested in attending a second meeting, one week later? It seems that response was so overwhelming, that this training session would have to be moved to larger quarters, in this case the Firehouse Grill on Chicago Avenue. Originally, the meeting was to be held at DPOE headquarters.

I opted for my initial choice.

Evanston, which is the home of Northwestern University, is heavily Democratic. In the 2008 presidential election, the Obama/Biden ticket squeaked by with 87 percent of the vote.

"We've got it locked down, DPOE Secretary Brian Miller told us during the training, "we only elect Democrats." True, very true.

It's essentially a tea party-free zone, but there was room for one "teabagger" that night. More on that later too.

Luck was with me that evening. Because of the big turnout--about 90 people--the normally obligatory self-introduction portion of the training was truncated. I was able to take my copious notes obscured behind a table-top hockey game, which would not have been possible had just 10 people shown up. And because I wore a subtle disguise, no one recognized Morton Grove, Illinois' preeminent conservative blogger that night.

Each of the attendees was handed a blue "Advancing Change 2010" Training Manual, which now occupies an honored place in the Marathon Pundit library and will be a helpful source of material for future blog posts.

The aforementioned Miller spoke first. Miller told us that his organization has "a history of exporting our influence." And they certainly have. In 2008, Miller and Toni Gilpin, the executive director of the DPOE rattled off some numbers--they bused 500 volunteers to assist Obama's campaign efforts in Indianapolis, as well as hundreds of others to Iowa, Wisconsin, and other parts of Indiana--over 1,000 of them, Gilpin stated.

Just 75,000 people live in Evanston.

Throughout the two-hour long meeting, references were made to the Congressional district to the north of Evanston, the 10th, which is currently represented by Republican Mark Kirk, who is running for the US Senate seat held by Rod Blagojevich-appointee Roland Burris.

Just as Josef Stalin looked at the Baltic States in 1939, the Evanston Democrats gaze upon the 10th as their next conquest. Dan Seals, who lost to Kirk in 2006 and 2008, is once again the Democratic nominee, he faces Republican Robert Dold.

Brian begot Brian. Gorman...Brian Gorman. He's a regional field director for Organizing for America.

Obama was once a community organizer, and utilizing the jargon of the president, he presented a challenge for the attendees: "How can I use the tools to take ownership of the community?"

One tool is to focus on those voters new to the polling place in 2008. I knew this already, but an overwhelming majority of these first-time voters, and we're not just talking about 18 year-olds, voted for Obama. But midterms are more challenging for Democrats--Republicans always seem to show up to vote. Hooray for our side! OFA plans to zero in on those first-timers to get them back to the polls.

"Our plan is to mobilize another army of volunteers," Gilpin explained.

"Evanston," Gorman later explained, "is the strongest team we have." I was in the belly of the beast.

In my opinion, it won't be that easy this time around for the Democrats, and during the question and answer session, a few audience members seemed discouraged. The reason. Jobs, or lack of them. Illinois' unemployment rate is a point-and-a-half higher than the nationwide rate. Gilpin told the crowd to focus on their successes, such as the health care reform bill, charge card reform legislation, and The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

"In a way," an audience member opined, "it was much easier last time." True, very true.

But Gilpin said the best way to promote the Democratic Party was to relate their personal connection to its causes--and not getting stuck in the mud on policy stands. On one level that makes sense, my most effective blog posts involve my personal experiences. For instance, when I write about union greed in the trade show industry, I can bring in my recollections as a convention service manager at various downtown hotels. I can't do that while reporting on the British parliamentary elections.

"Personal stories make a difference" is an entry in the Advancing Change 2010 guide book. Gilpin phrased it more directly, "'Why did you come to their door?'--That inspires them!"

However, Gilpin exposed the vulnerable underbelly of the Democratic beast in the "Personal Stories Segment."

Here is my advice to my conservative readers: If one of these OFA volunteers starts selling the Obama "Hope and Change" buffet to you, throw that person off of their script. These are Illinois examples, but if you live in, let's say Michigan, you can easily come up with your own local ripostes.

  • "That's all great, but what about Rod Blagojevich and his running mate, Pat Quinn?"
  • "Why does Quinn want to raise the state income tax by 33 percent?"
  • "Broadway Bank...why did Democratic Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias approve $20 million in loans to felons?"
  • "Card check...why do the Democrats want to take away my right to a secret ballot if I'm asked to join a union?"
  • "Cap and trade...what's up with that? How come the Democrats want to add a national energy tax?
  • "Value-added tax...if the Democrats hold on to Congress, will they add a national sales tax?"
  • "Why is the unemployment rate at its highest level in 26 years?"
  • "Roland Burris?"

  • True, the names given to volunteers by OFA will be those first-time Obama voters, but I know quite a few people who voted for the Chosen One--Oh, I warned them--who swear they'll vote straight GOP in November.

    OFA will supply the tools to their dedicated volunteers, and perhaps some of the answers, but if enough of them get blindsided with questions like these, they'll get discouraged and quit. I work in sales, if people aren't buying, I move on.

    The volunteers in the room that night are being targeted to become "Team Leaders." Brian Miller made us take a pledge--he even had us raise our right hand while doing it, to find 10 more volunteers--who will of course be asked to find more volunteers. Where? In the usual places, work, Facebook, places of worship and the like. Family too.

    Yes, I took Miller's pledge. But when he said, "I, state your name," I repeated, "I, state your name." Yes, just like in the film "Animal House."

    Do Republicans operate this way? Not to this extent, but I like to think that we have facts and common sense on our side. Should we? I don't know. Do we want to drive our supporters crazy? One middle-aged attendee bemoaned the over-exuberant Mitch Stewart, the director of OFA and e-mail spammer, she passed on a comment from a younger person, "Mitch Stewart, leave me alone!"

    As for the prospective Team Leaders, most were over 40, about 80 percent of them were white. Not all of them were from Evanston, one man came from McHenry County, over 40 miles away. He lamented that a neighbor of his was flying an American flag upside down, a sign of distress. Several 10th District Democrats spoke up, and all of them acted as if they lived in Utah, as opposed to what I believe are simply slightly right-of-center pockets within Blue Illinois.

    Here is what the OFA wants from their volunteers: 10 hours a week, hosting house parties, and perhaps helping out with their phone bank. Hint: Keep a close eye on your caller ID on Mondays between 6:30pm and 8:30pm. And of course, as I mentioned earlier, they want more bodies.

    The next Evanston Team Leader meeting is May 26. Should I show up? There's a bigger event, details are scarce on that one, which will occur on June 5.

    Surprisingly, there weren't very many cheap shots against Republicans--only two.

    As a motivator to the faithful, Gorman suggested, "Fear--Imagine America under Sarah Palin."

    Uh, dude. She's not on the ballot this year. I thought Gilpin was a class act, albeit a misguided one, until, while not mentioning him by name, she called Illinois GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady, "A teabagger, a really bad guy."

    For the uninitiated, "teabagging" is a sexual practice that most of my readers will find vile. Brady, a downstate state senator who leads Quinn in public opinion polls, has spoken at tea parties. So have I. Neither of us are teabaggers.

    How about some civility, Organizing for America?

    OFA may seem impressive, but they make mistakes.

    Such as letting me into this meeting.

    There are OFA meetings planned all over the country.


    And there's another Evanston training next Wednesday.

    Tell ten friends.

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    Amusing Bunni said...

    That was an excellent report of their operations. Very brave of you to go there. I get OAF email too, because I made a Parody of their "Happy Holiday's card.

    You are braver than me, I wouldn't show up to one of their meetings if you paid me. Excellent notes here, will look forward to reading more, based on their manuel! Great oath saying "state your name", funny stuff.

    Publius said...

    Good report, but I think I'd have lost my mind in that den of iniquity! LOL

    Fuzzy Slippers said...

    Always good to learn what goes on over on the dark side. Thanks!

    Unknown said...

    I had planned to attend one in San Diego. I even bought a recording devise. However, a family member refused to allow me to go. Knowing I am a crappy liar, and outspoken... Denied permission by the family :(

    Thanks for going! Great report..

    Anonymous said...

    Teabagging is "vile"? Guess that depends on your perspective.

    Anonymous said...

    You. Rock. Go on, go to the next meeting!

    beaglescout said...

    So are you going to be posting the entirety of that manual online somewhere? It would be valuable information to have.

    Actually, I shouldn't encourage such activities. It would be a shame if someone were to post that manual somewhere where teabaggers can see what America's enemies are up to.

    Levois said...

    Is this the first time you got linked to Instapundit? :o

    L. E. said...

    Vote for Rich Whitney - Why vote Red or Blue when you can go Green!

    Steve said...

    I, on the other hand, AM a teabagger. And while walking away from the Utah Republican convention today, I walked past the Utah Democratic convention, also in the Salt Palace.

    I was asked very loudly if I were a teabagger.

    I responded even more loudly,

    Then I explained just as loudly what is involved in teabagging, my favorite techniques that I wish the teabaggee to employ and how throughly I enjoy them.

    Then I mentioned that by incredible coincidence that I was also a member of the Tea Party, and hence, was simultaneously a Tea Partier AND a teabagger.

    Never yell slurs at me in the middle of a crowd of democrats. I sure as hell won't be the embarassed one.

    Marathon Pundit said...

    Thanks for all of your comments. Levois, I've was linked a couple of other tiems by Instapundit. Maria, show your family my post--perhaps they will relent. BeagleScout, it will be hard to view some of the PowerPoint slides, but I will use it as a ref point.

    Karl said...

    I'm inspired! Great job getting into the meeting and for a great report!

    Unknown said...

    You said, "Surprisingly, there weren't very many cheap shots against Republicans--only two." It is sad that you think that politics always means cheap shots. Would that every training, rally, etc. were devoid of cheap shots! I think that more folks of every ilk would want to be involved.

    KBB said...

    Organizing For America = OFA = ofay. Think that name is a coincidence?? I don't!!

    Here's the definition of "ofay":
    o·fay (f)
    n. Offensive Slang
    Used as a disparaging term for a white person.
    Dictionary: o·fay (ō'fā')
    n. Offensive Slang
    Used as a disparaging term for a white person.
    ofay definition
    ofay (ō′fā′)
    Slang a white person: a term of contempt
    Webster's New World College Dictionary Copyright © 2010 by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Cleveland, Ohio.

    Gail said...

    Hmmm...I'm signed up with them too. I wonder how many people on their email list are conservatives just checking up on them.

    Best regards,
    Gail S

    Unknown said...

    You are talking to Mrs. James Bond here, 007. I did the same thing last fall. Here is my report:

    Carol Greenberg

    Bill Smith said...

    Thanks John for the great posts and going to the OFA meeting. I posted the following lead into your story to encourage others to join you in taking on the agenda of Obama's OFA.

    Illinois TEA Party Blogger Attends Obama's Organizing for America Training

    Michelle said...

    You say that the event was devoid of cheap shots. Kudos. At least you recognize that much!

    Your report, full of cheap shots, misrepresentations and slanted writing, is a perfect example of why I turned in my Republican voter registration and went independent over 12 years ago. How about YOU stop the name-calling and show that Republicans are working to bring the nation together and can at least appear as intelligent, thoughtful problem-solvers rather than ranting, name-calling hypocrites?

    I'm independent because I believe that the right PERSON for the job should be elected, not the right PARTY. I don't call EITHER side evil. I believe those who run for office believe that they truly want to do what's best for this country.

    I don't think Democrats are evil because they disagree with any of my positions, and I find I can have rational debates with most of my Democratic friends, who are well-informed and intelligent, and don't spout rhetoric for the sake of party affiliation. Most Republicans I know, even the well informed ones, seem to "toe the party line." And whenever confronted with facts to the contrary, they start hurling accusations of socialism and racism (which is ironic on sooo many levels).

    Here's my request. How about BOTH sides work to stop the culture of hatred and fear? How about BOTH sides start looking at what they DO find valuable in the other side's argument and use that to build consensus? Let's teach our children that working in a spirit of cooperation gets more done than hatred, subversion and distrust?