Obama, Organizing and Getting Out The Vote

This is where we will most clearly see the influence of Obama’s community organizing background on his campaign. Obama has invested time, effort and money in creating a volunteer structure to do two things: register people to vote and then get them to the polls. Registration has been a whopping success with numbers that far outweigh Republican efforts–especially in key battleground states.

The Obama machine now moves into “get out the vote” drive. And make no mistake, this is a machine, but not your father’s GOTV machine. This is not a “flood the zone with orange hat college kids” type of door knocking. The canvass is staffed with local folks, managed by more local volunteers with advanced organizing training, overseen by regional organizers with specific goals for contacts. The whole operation is abetted by state of the art technology that allows the campaign to target specific voters, rapidly disseminate information and run a concurrent phone outreach program.

Two recent articles in the media have touched on this part of the campaign. The Washington Post looks at the nuts and bolts, while Zack Exley (one of the founders of MoveOn.org) in a piece on The Huffington Post entitled “The New Organizers” looks more in depth at how organizing principles animate both the operation and the participants–a force of volunteers that will power progressive movements for years to come:

Then, at the end of our meeting, my neighborhood team leader, Jennifer Robinson, totally unprompted, told me: “I’m a different person than I was six weeks ago.” I asked her to elaborate later. She said, “Now, I’m really asking: how can I be most effective in my community? I’ve realized that these things I’ve been doing as a volunteer organizer—well, I’m really good at them, I have a passion for this. I want to continue to find ways to actively make this place, my community, a better place. There’s so much more than a regular job in this—and once you’ve had this, it’s hard to go back to a regular job. I’m asking now: Can I look for permanent work as an organizer in service of my community? And that’s a question I had not asked myself before the campaign. It never occurred to me that I could even ask that question.”

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