Friday, October 27, 2006

"The Myth of Karl versus 'Home Team'"

Matt Stoller takes 'Turdblossom' down a few notches:
Speaking abstractly, the right has a top-down centralized infrastructure that's more mature than ours. We have a legacy of political disagreements that translate into less efficient yet equally centralized infrastructure. They have little capacity for locally based decision-making, we have a great capacity for local organizing when we decided to use it. They own the media. We are building our own media. They are more experienced and have more savvy about how to manipulate the political system. We are smarter, younger, newer to politics, and we have the passion and energy of a new movement instead of the vicious cynicism of a dying movement.
In other words, they are just not that good, and we are just not that bad. And we are getting better at a far faster rate than they are. In fact, there's good reason to think that in lots of pockets all over the country, there's some incredibly innovative work going on with progressive organizing and campaigning. First of all, let's take the internet. We are so much better than they are it's not even funny. We have almost no investment relative to them, and yet, we have Actblue. Ben Rahn, a physicist from Caltech, is a progressive, and he's building our that site (along with MIT genius Matt Debergalis). We have Dailykos. We have Moveon. We have ColorofChange. What do they have? GOPUSA? Um, that kind of sucks. Church email lists? Yeah, those are valuable, but that's not new infrastructure for them. They are squeezing water from a rock. We are beating them badly on the internet organizing front. Badly. And they know it. We have a lot more talent and it's our medium.
But that's not all. On the 72 hour program front, have we forgotten that the RNC learned it from labor?!? I mean come on. This came from us. We can do it better, and in some places, we are doing it better. Take the New York 19th district, where John Hall is running hard against Sue Kelly in New York State. Tate Hausman is the architect of Hall's impressive field campaign called 'Home Team'. They have a thousand plus volunteers from all over the country that use a web-based popvox call system to phone bank. I've used one of these in Connecticut, and they change the phone-banking experience dramatically. Traditionally, phone-banking consists of dialing a number, asking questions, and filling out paper to record the answers, which then must be rekeyed later with more volunteer work (and errors). The popvox system works with your phone. You open the browser, and the program asks you for your phone number. About ten seconds later, the system calls you and places you on hold. A name, a script and a phone number appears on the browser, with several buttons that you can press. Once you press the call button on your browser, the system automatically dials the person's number on the screen, and you have the script laid out for you. If you get an answering machine, you can click a button and the system will automatically leave a pre-recorded message. When you're done talking, you classify them according to the script responses, click 'end' and a new script and person's name comes up on the screen.

I know it's sexy to say 'microtargeting Karl Rove boogeyman BOO' and we'll get all 'Diebold is scary'. And there's a lot of work to do. But Karl Rove doesn't control the world. Each of us, with our individuals actions and behavior, have our own part to play. We can convince America to be better than its worst instincts. As Wesley Clark says, we can do it, because we are doing it.

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