Those on the left, who believe in an omnipotent, big government, have for decades understood that the secret to winning elections is through door-to-door precinct organizing. That is how, with just twenty-percent of registered voters versus seventy-six percent moderates and conservatives, they have been able to consistently win key state and federal House, Senate, and Governor / Presidential elections. With these wins, they have been able for decades to impact politics and policy consistent with their progressive ideology.
In 2008 the left conducted an impressive grassroots campaign to win the federal House, Senate, and the Presidency. In 2012 this grassroots effort will be expanded. Those of us, who believe in limited government, free markets, and individual liberties, must study these capabilities and replicate them for our side. It is for this reason TheVoicesOfAmerica.org conducted research of these 2008 and 2012 capabilities, which is shared below.
Progressive’s 2012 Grassroots Plans
Since 2004, liberal donors and independent progressive groups have focused on creating a permanent infrastructure of getting-out-the vote with efforts targeted on the different faction groups that comprise the left, such as young voters, single women, black voters, and Latinos. The NYT reports that instead attempting to match the GOP-aligned Super-PAC’s negative media, Soros and his liberal allies are focusing on grass-roots organizing, voter registration, and Democratic turn-out. Jim Messina, President Barack Obama's 2012 reelection campaign manager says: “We are going to build the biggest grass-roots effort in American political history.” As evidence that this approach is successful, turnout success rate for Democrats in 2008 was 74.6% compared to the 60.4% national average.
Current focus is on recruiting volunteers for the thousands of neighborhood “teams” the campaign is building across the nation. Ever since the Democrats’ 2004 campaign which emphasized paid canvassers, the focus has been on recruiting grass-root volunteers. As reported in the WSJ, “Voters know the difference between a personal appeal from a passionate volunteer and a pro-forma pitch from someone more interested in a check than a cause.” Additionally, thousands of unpaid Obama Organizing Fellows are being recruited across the country, whose duties include recruiting and training thousands of other volunteers to penetrate neighborhoods, run phone banks, organize and monitor campaign events, and go door-to-door talking with voters. These Fellows will play a big role in supporting the thousands of neighborhood volunteer “teams” the campaign is building across the nation. Some even receive college course credits for their unpaid summer- and fall-long political organizing. Bottom-line, despite much hype about the left’s campaign innovations, the focus continues to be on what has historically and statistically worked to win elections, i.e. grass-roots volunteers making calls, knocking on doors, holding neighborhood meetings, and asking for donations.
Progressive’s 2012 Grassroots Coalitions
Democrat campaign data and micro-targeting services in 2008 were provided to the Party and allied groups, totaling over 900 campaigns, committees, and organizations, like SEIU. This represents an increase of 80% over the Kerry campaign in 2004. Unions in 2012 will again be a key coalition partner of those advocating an omnipotent, big government. The AFL-CIO, alone, plans to spend $400 million on the election and plan to newly register 400,000 union members to vote. An AFL-CIO spokesperson indicated that most of the money will be spent on voter mobilization, as more union members now understand the importance of going door-to-door and making phone calls. As revealed in 2009, the AFL-CIO is directing more of its funding on building a permanent infrastructure as a foundation for year-round mobilization. Having been energized by union battles in states, such as Ohio and Wisconsin, they plan to use this infrastructure as a springboard for the 2014 governor races in all these states.
The SEIU at its 2012 convention revealed that they will recruit, train, and mobilize 100,000 of its members as leaders, who will in turn reach out to friends, neighbors, and co-workers. They also committed to engage in an unprecedented level of coordination with over fifty strategic partners, such as NAACP, Human Rights Campaign, and Sierra Club. In 2008 the SEIU spend in excess of $80 million to influence the election and, in fact, in a number of states SEIU unique contacts, not contacted by any other liberal organization, exceeded Obama’s margin of victory in those states. These include Indiana and Virginia. In addition to SEIU, the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees in 2012 plans to spend $100 million with a heavy focus on voter mobilization drives.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in coordination with its state affiliates, is pursuing a multimillion-dollar voter registration campaign to register hundreds of thousands of new women voters in seven states, including Nevada, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Similarly, the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund is pursuing its first voter registration drive, with focus on early voting and getting people to vote by mail. They expect to spend in excess of $5.5 million on these initiatives.
As documented by Judicial Watch, reconstituted ACORN affiliated organizations will focus on organizing low- and moderate-income voters in the following states: Arizona, Arkansas, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, New England, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington. In January, 2011, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) gave ACORN another $461,086.
Even blacks and black communities-of-faith are being rallied en masse and encouraged to volunteer for community organizing work, as part of the “African-Americans for Obama” initiative. The President himself in a video calls for the creation of “Congregation Captains”.
Progressive’s 2012 Role of Technology
All campaign neighborhood “teams”, including progressive coalition partner organizations, have access to the Voter Activation Network (VAN), down to the individual volunteer in a neighborhood precinct. With VAN’s impressive engineering, local neighborhood volunteers can create walk-lists for door-to-door canvassing, use the virtual phone-banking capabilities to make calls, and upload captured voter information and preferences obtained though surveys or individual discussions. VAN allows the campaign to take maximum advantage of the power of in-group, neighbor-to-neighbor organizing. Just in California alone in 2008, 10,000 volunteers signed-up to become “precinct captains”, more than 7,000 signed up for VAN accounts, and of these four to five thousand volunteers were very active.
Importantly, all voter data collected by neighborhood “teams and by over ninety progressive partner organizations is captured in just one database, called CATALYST. This unprecedented coalition and collaboration empowers progressives, such as AFL-CIO, EMILY's List, Human Rights Campaign, NARAL, NAACP, and the actual campaign organization, to build on each other’s work.
In late May, 2012, the campaign released DASHBOARD, which connects individual volunteers with their “neighborhood teams” and provides them VAN type capabilities, while allowing staffers the ability to organize and track volunteers progress. Similar to VAN, DASHBOARD is engineered on a hierarchy that provides access permissions based on a need-to-know basis. In essence, DASHBOARD is meant to replicate a campaign field office, allowing individual neighborhood volunteers access from anywhere and at any time. They can do this from their laptops or smartphones. In 2008, the Obama campaign had over 35,000 local support groups connected through his campaign website, MyBarackObama.
In contrast to the Left’s Voter Activation Network (VAN) technology capabilities, the GOP’s VOTER VAULT campaign software is antiquated and cannot be accessed by individual volunteers at the precinct level. It does not have the necessary permission-based engineering. Republicans also lack their equivalent data-consortium like CATALYST that can store and model all data. In response to the Left’s DASHBOARD, the GOP is pursuing an effort on Facebook, called Social Victory Center, with an attempt to organize supporters in the virtual world. Fortunately, the conservative movement can have access to the same, identical campaign software used by the Left. The lead programmer left the VAN organization and now offers the identical software to conservatives, calling it rVotes. It is already available and being used by conservatives in the following states: Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Iowa, Michigan, Arizona, Texas, and Rhode Island.
In 2008, 82% of Democrat’s organizing work occurred in 16 swing states, accounting for 37% of all votes cast in these states. Groups contacted 49 million adults more than 127 million times.
Ohio - as of March, 2012, the Left’s Presidential campaign has conducted five-thousand volunteer led events, including house parties, phone banking, and neighborhood canvassing. During the Republican primary in 2012, Democrats used the opportunity to recruit volunteers for “neighborhood teams”. The volunteers serve as messengers in their communities, attracting independents and first-time voters through neighbor-to-neighbor contact. In 2008 over 600,000 new Ohio voter registrations were obtained. New voters who were registered by progressives exceeded Obama’s margin of victory in four states: OH, FL, IN, and NC. As of March, 2012, nine Presidential campaign offices exist throughout the state, with plans to open several dozen more by mid-2012. Democrats say that battles in Ohio over labor unions and the state budget have energized its voters and will help them in 2012.
Virginia – In a state the GOP lost in 2008, as of March, 2012 the Left’s Presidential campaign has already conducted 6,500 events. Even volunteers from Maryland are helping with the campaign. In 2008, the SEIU was in regular contact with 1.2 million voters in Virginia. President Obama told the Richmond crowd: "We are going to win this thing,… door by door, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood." Democrats recognize that the key to winning Virginia is organization, i.e. the critical effort to find, motivate, and turn out voters one by one. Rallies focus on organizing efforts. For example, at one such rally prior to the President’s speech, for nearly an hour the program consisted of pleas for volunteer commitment. It included a video about the importance of voter registration, which was followed by testimony from two team leaders, followed by a video about the virtues of "the neighborhood team leader model," followed by a leader and four members of her team, followed by two field staffers talking up the grassroots campaign model. As of May, 2012, already thirteen field offices have been opened with a focus on mobilizing volunteers. In 2008, the Left’s Presidential campaign had seventy-five field offices throughout every corner of Virginia’s vast geography.
Iowa – Despite having no opposition in the 2012 primary, the Left’s Presidential campaign had more field offices (eight) than any of the GOP candidates. Volunteers are organizing in each of the 99 counties. As of November, 2011, the campaign had already conducted 700 training sessions and made more than 100,000 phone calls, since the campaign started in April, 2011.
Michigan – The intensity and focus of progressive organizing in Michigan can best be captured by comments from volunteers: "I will be donating money. I will be out there going door-to-door. I will do whatever it takes," says Stacie Steward, a 40-year-old United Auto Workers member…."We're teaching people how to organize like the president," says state director Garrett Arwa, noting Obama's early career as a community organizer in Chicago. Arwa calls it "people power that you can't put a price tag on." Obama's volunteers are well aware of their status as a crucial swing state, so they're working day and night on his behalf. “We're canvassing in neighborhoods that we know," says Wanda Black, a Warren field office volunteer, as another bell rings. "We're letting them know that the campaign is geared up."