I spent last weekend at Camp Obama - a two- day orientation for the hardcore possible volunteers.
Arriving at the new Volunteer Headquarters, it's a peppy, Obama-positive space. There were 85 people there from the following states and countries:
Virginia, Ohio, California, North Carolina, Texas, Singapore, Massachusetts, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Iowa, Colorado, Rhode Island, Michigan, Connecticut, Washington, Mississippi, Arizona, The Balkans and, of course, Illinois.
There were at least 3 High School Students there, not old enough yet to vote, and the youngest participant was a young lady, 13, who was there because she wanted to go into politics, and wanted to find a way to convince her parents to vote for Obama.
Since it always comes up, I'll break down the numbers. Out of the 85 people there, Approximately 30 were from Illinois, and at least 20 were African-American. A good third of the people there were from Students for Barack Obama, and they were very motivated.
We went around, introduced ourselves and answered why we were there. Very interesting comments from the audience.
There were some technical difficulties, so we didn't get the usual first day training. There was a good third of the participants that had been involved in political campaigns previously, and those of us who had not had to go to them and ask what they did. A number of them had done phone banks, and canvassing, as well as the usual office work. I met a woman from Oak Park, Illinois, who had already been to Iowa twice to canvass...very enthusiastic.
There was a lot of discussion about campaigns, and what their purpose was. That we were not to consider ourselves volunteers, but ' organizers', and to that point, we had three Obama-centered articles which we had to read for the next day's activities.
We had a long presentation with one of the Deputy Directors of Students for Barack Obama - it was his responsibility to explain the website to us, and how to use it. I swear, I'm getting old, because he looked 12 (just kidding). But, he was very knowledgable, and he was very patient with us, as he took us through MyBarackObama.com, as well as facebook.com/BarackObama. I was quite impressed with how the website enables a group to organize and keep in contact with one another. I can definitely see how and why Obama's been able to use the web to break new ground fundraising.
We separated into groups according to region of the country, with the Illinois group being a separate group unto themselves. The MISSION of Obamans from Illinois is one:
Nothing else counts, and every effort you make in Illinois needs to be put towards that effort.
We had a session with two guys from the Policy Department, but more on that later.
We also had a session with someone from the Communications Staff, and my one complaint about him, though he was thorough, was that I didn't find his answer about reaching out to the blogging community satisfactory, but then again, I'm not the first person who has had issues with Obama and the blogging community.
Day #2 had a specific focus. The main lecturer for morning was man named Mike Krugler. Krugler worked with Obama when he was a Community Organizer.
I have to admit, he began slow, and I was like ' oh no, you gotta be kidding..I woke up on Sunday for THIS?'
But, then, Mr. Krugler hit his groove about 20 minutes in and didn't stop until he had been there THREE HOURS.
He was, in a word, AMAZING.
He spoke about the tools of community organizing. The disciplines that needed to be involved. The principles of power and politics, and how they could be brought to ordinary people. That relationships have to be built upon self-interest. That to be an organizer you have to be tough and agitate.
Power comes from organizes people and organized money - I have to admit, as he goes through his presentation, I am bringing it back to Obama and his campaign.
He challenged the group on words like power, powerlessness, ruthless, selfishness vs. selflessness.
What is a leader?
Connecting with people so that they'll follow with what you want to do.
Interesting concept, no?
Blunt, brutal and hilarious at times, he was damn good.
I definitely understand what I have been seeing come out of the Obama campaign after listening to this guy. The concepts of a campaign that I thought were happening, and what Obama is trying to do here.
We spent the rest of the time after lunch learning about the Iowa Caucus, by participating in a faux caucus. Then after the caucus, we were able to meet with the man who heads Obama Illinois and the Chicago Area Field Director. Their focus was getting us to see how important Iowa was, and that they need the bodies on the ground in Iowa, and the Chicago Area Field Director wanted us to know that she would work with any group for any time length to get people on the ground in Iowa.
After we signed up for volunteer time, we could go.
All in all, it was well worth going because of some of the people that I met, and definitely for the Krugler lecture because he was terrific.
Now, that was the positive for Camp Obama. What did I see as the negative?
It came up during the session with the gentlemen from the Policy Section. It was early into the session when the landmine came up:
Immigration is The Willie Horton Issue of 2008.
I sat in a room full of the hardcore Obama supporters, because nobody who pays money to come across the country to train is anything less than hardcore. And, this was THE most passionate, heated issue.
They wanted to know Obama's policies on it, and when the guys told them, the women from North Carolina were like - ' Amnesty?'
They rattled off all the problems with illegal immigration; those who had canvassed in Iowa before said that they had been asked questions about immigration. Some even brought up the Newark executions.
That's when the nightmare commercial came into my mind. Newark, The execution of that young girl in Los Angeles; the killing of the Black policeman in Texas...
There it is. There is the GOP commercial next time out - marrying illegal immigration with unfettered crime, and laying it on the feet of Democrats unwilling to 'secure our borders' or ' protect us' from illegal alien criminals.
Can you imagine the power a commercial using ALL BLACK VICTIMS with ALL HISPANIC ILLEGAL ALIEN CRIMINALS in its ability to undermine an Obama candidacy?
I understand it. And, it just upsets me. The commercial would hurt ANY Democrat, but Obama most of all.
And, this sort of tactic also has the possibility of derailing any substantive discussion on the Prison Industrial Complex, and possible reform.
The Democrats better wake up, and take away the immigration issue from the GOP. They better put forth GENUINE proposals to secure our border and ports, or they will lose again in 2008.