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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Friday, November 14, 2003


Janitors and computer jockies

posted by Amanda at Friday, November 14, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
This is a week old but it's an excellent read. Nathan Newman, one of the smartest bloggers out there (especially when it comes to economics and labor issues) -- and who, until recently, was a Kerry fan -- now says "it's over" since SEIU and AFSCME have endorsed Dean. So now we have a powerful coalition of, as he puts it, "janitors and computer jockies" (love the phrase, by the way).

Combining Dean's own Internet-driven organization with the on-the-ground power of SEIU and AFSCME, combined with his Internet-driven funding advantage, it's just hard to see any other candidate's organization having a chance to challenge him.

We will no doubt see an "anyone but Dean" consolidation, probably around Clark assuming AFSCME's help allows Dean to knock out Gephardt in Iowa. But with Lieberman and Edwards dividing up some of the pot of votes down South, the consolidation may not go far enough.

And one thing to expect from the SEIU/AFSCME endorsement-- it will also bring in a load of civil rights leaders' endorsements for Dean, since the progressive union endorsement will both be a seal of good housekeeping on those issues and encourage a message of consolidation around Dean as progressives' best vehicle for the nomination.


And for the fight against Bush -- I'm left a bit stunned at what could be a consolidation quite early of Dean's innovative online organizing with the powerhouse on-the-ground operations of SEIU and AFSCME (along with the other unions that will soon fall into place). Janitors and computer jockies organizing together is an amazingly powerful idea.

And we ain't seen nothing yet. We are a year from Election Day, yet Dean is starting with an online organization of over 500,000 people, while the SEIU, for example, has already held multiple national meetings of thousands of their top activist organizers to be sent back into the field to mount the largest political mobilization in history. Thousands of SEIU members will be taking a one-year leave of absence to go organize in swing states on the payroll of the union's political operations-- a cross-state organizing effort that's never been done and being started orders of magnitude earlier than any previous political year.

Nathan also highlights one of the key strengths of the Dean campaign (and anyone who, like myself, has spent any time volunteering for the campaign in Iowa or New Hampshire, can attest to this): the campaign has adopted a thoroughly grassroots organizing strategy based on one-to-one personal contact, house parties, door knocking, and continued expansion. The goal, at least in New Hampshire (where I've canvassed numerous times & will be freezing my a** off canvassing this weekend) is to literally have personal, targeted contact with as many voters as it will take to win the primary on January 27 (tens of thousands).

This has never been done in exactly this way before. It is revolutionary. And it is a powerful idea that has been proven to work in the past. Organizing at the personal, grassroots level, while enormously labor-intensive and time-consuming, yields huge dividends and, almost more importantly, offers a candidate the ability to bypass the pundits and the media and the "experts" and appeal directly to voters.

Having attended several organizing conventions for New Hampshire Dean supporters, I can attest to the strength of this operation. There is a veritable New Hampshire Dean Army. It's been built over many, many months. Hardworking DFA staff, New Hampshire volunteers and volunteer canvassers from surrounding states, and letter writers from across the nation, have all contributed to the expansion of that "army" and the ever-growing support for Dean in New Hampshire (and Iowa, although I don't know as much about the operation there since I'm in Boston and we've worked closest with NH).

Anyway, I'll let Brother Nathan bring this on home:

I believe in organization and if we see the welding of the union and Dean operations, combined with the civil rights, environmentalist and other movement groups that will join the mass dump-Bush effort, we will have the organization to make any media bias irrelevent. Bypassing the media filter, this organization will be able to have one-on-one conversations with much of the American people, by Internet, on the phone, knocking on their doors, and in the workplace -- real conversations that go beyond sound bites and engage the deep reasons why Bush and his policies are destroying this country.

And with that reality, I'm completely confident we will prevail.

Again, we cannot act like this is in any way a done deal. But I think we all deserve a hearty congratulations for helping to build this amazing grassroots machine. Bravo & Onward!


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.