Community Organizing: The Sequel

Posted by Bobbi Murray on November 7, 2008

Election Day’s over, we’ve already blown past “Yes We Can!” to “Yes We Did!”

Now we’re on to watching President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team and his potential appointees.

But can we please indulge one last fond backward glance to his victorious campaign?

The McCain-Palin camp dished up plenty of trash talk, but the gibe that really came back to bite ‘em in the butt: Sarah Palin’s snotty “community organizer” remark about Obama at the GOP convention.

You remember it: “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities,” Palin sneered to warm applause from the virtually all-white crowd, half of whose net worth topped a half-million dollars, according to a CBS Evening News report.

It would be ignoble here to say “ha ha!” or even “ha!” — but , face it GOP-ers, community organizing put Barack Obama in the White House.

The Obama campaign made a careful plan and carried it out, seemingly unruffled by all the “pallin’ around with terrorists” verbal grenades launched along the way.

Shout-out here to the labor movement — they mobilized people from all over the country to parachute into the swing states to canvass.

And here in Los Angeles, hundreds, if not thousands of local volunteers swarmed the offices of the LA County Federation of Labor for weeks to make out-of-state calls, to Nevada, Minnesota, Washington, Colorado.

Seems that the voters I called had already gotten so many phone calls and door-knocks that they had get-out-the-vote fatigue.

“You have to LOSE this number,” one Nevada voter said wearily.

A friend who had traveled from California to Nevada in the final days reported an initially hostile exchange with a Las Vegas woman (and Obama voter) who had gotten FIVE visits on Election Day.

When my pal, after some prompting, told the voter she was a California carpetbagger, the woman warmed up, apologized for being irritable and thanked my friend for coming from so far away.

Yeah, some of this organizing stuff was a little raggedy. What are you gonna do? It got ‘er done.

The barrage of voter contacts no doubt helped build the sense of urgency and history that led to long lines at polling places across the nation.

I got almost daily e-mails from Michelle Obama and Joe Biden and David Plouffe directing me to swing-state phoning locations in LA — bring your cell phone and some friends and we’ll hook you up.

A Kentucky-born friend told me she downloaded a list of Virginians to call from home to urge an Obama vote.

Word is that there were over 8,000 out-of-state volunteers in Nevada, in addition to the highly-mobilized Culinary Workers and other unions there. You remember John Kerry lost that state in 2004, but it went blue this time.

In Colorado — a state George Bush claimed in 2004 — out-of-staters mobilized by the national labor-community alliance, the Partnership for Working Families, joined with locals to defeat anti-labor ballot initiatives. And, oh, yeah, the anti-initiative voter-turnout efforts might have helped Obama win there, too.

These are just snap-shots, not a comprehensive survey of the grassroots work that went on. That would be pretty fascinating.

Meanwhile, John McCain, after a sudden attack of graciousness in his concession speech, has returned to his home (one of ‘em) amid the gorgeous red-rock canyons of Sedona, Ariz., there to sip his morning coffee beneath the sycamores and grill steaks at sunset.

That, my friends, is not a bad fate. As to his return to Washington —well, at least Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham will sit with him in the cafeteria at lunchtime, even if everybody else moves their trays to other tables when he sits down.

And Sarah Palin: Maybe she fancies herself a 2012 candidate, but it’s already been a nerve-wracking few weeks, so we’ll let that go for now. Meantime it’s back to Alaska for her and her new wardrobe.

Hope she’s tendin’ to her “actual responsibilities.”

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