Crackling with new energy

Last Thursday night, Bay Area for Barack kicked off their grassroots push for the Senator’s 2008 campaign, organized through the campaign’s Meetup-on-steroids social networking tool. For those who were around to experience the Dean grassroots energy of 2003, the feel to this meeting was familiar to the grassroots push then – but with three particularly interesting new developments:

Interesting new development number one was urgency. In 2003, the grassroots campaign was always clouded by the understanding that the California primary wasn’t really going to matter. This year, with the California primary moved up to February 5th and the influence of the white, aging and less engaged populations of Iowa and New Hampshire finally on the wane, there’s a strong feeling that the stakes are a lot higher.
Interesting new development number two was organization. Meeting organizers Nick Short and Murray, and hosts Dee Ann and Dave of Hive Advertising, already had sharp California for Obama nametags ready to go along with the snacks, beer and great meeting space they arranged. Murray sketched out a very detailed early-stage visibility and volunteer recruitment strategy and circulated designs for handouts and bumperstickers. David Trotman, a veteran of the Draft Obama who had already started organizing San Francisco for Obama explained some of the work he’d done already. There were election law lawyers and framing experts and advertising and communications people.
Interesting new development number three was diversity. The Dean campaign always felt like it was struggling a bit to break out of its core demographic of educated, upper middle class white activists. Thursday’s meeting had what felt like a different and broader cross section of people: students, people of color, professionals, city folks, younger folks, older folks, suburban folks and a wonderfully surprising number of people who had never been involved in a campaign before. A diverse meeting has a much different feeling to it than one that lacks it; it feels as if the available potential energy for change is so much greater. It’s a sign that a campaign is on the right track. Working in a multiracial coalition creates new, important challenges, but the diversity at that meeting was an excellent starting point.
More urgency, organization and a good start at building a much more diverse coalition than last time? It’s going to be a fun year.