What Occupiers Learned From Obama – and What We Should Learn From Them

The actual title of the article on Truth Out is What Occupiers Learned From Obama – and What He Should Learn From Them.  However, I started thinking about what I could learn for use in Sturbridge.

Working together is a pleasure in itself – that’s been one of the tenets of Occupy’s reclamations of public space, that being with other people is in a way its own reward. And that, too, was something that people organizing for the first time with Obama learned. “Human beings were meant to work together,” Packard said. “[The Obama campaign] really brought people together, which is maybe why the hope crashed us so.”

Evry, too, noticed this, that giving people positive feedback on the campaign (including, ultimately, the victory) kept them coming back. “They start forming community, you start forming these relationships that go beyond the political,” she said.

As we organize around getting Elizabeth Warren elected as Senator, I have noted the above effect.

The Obama campaign was a strangely open place; anyone could walk into a campaign office, be handed a walk list or a phone list, given cursory training and put to work. Volunteers were given personal logins to the voter database, demonstrating an extreme amount of trust in people whose backgrounds had not been vetted at all. Given that sort of freedom and responsibility, many were dismayed when Organizing for America (OFA) turned out very differently.

Evry was active with OFA during the battle for health care reform, but was disappointed by the organization’s refusal to let activists pressure Democratic lawmakers who weren’t supporting the bill. So instead, she and her group did their own organizing to target local Democrats. “I would not have thought to do that four years ago,” she said.

I have been feeling this way at some of the inaction or slow action from the Warren campaign.  If they are not going to take actions that I think are necessary, then I can just do it myself.  I switched logos from “Elizabeth Warren for Massachusetts” to “Elizabeth Warren for Senate” long before the campaign did.  They are still slowly making the transition.  The ads and some badges have transitioned, but the official web site logo and campaign email have not.  They are waiting for a rebranding campaign of some sort.  My attitude was “Why Wait?  Every day you stick with the old logo, you miss thousands of opportunities to change people’s minds.  The campaign only lives until the November election.  There is no time to waste.”

That’s what the Obama campaign empowered her to do, she noted, and it did so for a lot of young people, who immediately saw an outlet in Occupy for those skills they’d honed with the confidence they felt from winning.

Technology was an important part of the Obama campaign – tools like MyBarackObama.com gave activists experience in self-organizing, so putting together protests on Facebook became second nature.

This is some of what I am hoping to learn from our efforts. I was hoping that www.ElizabethWarren.com would be like MyBarackObama.com.  Unfortunately it is not. I have been using Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and this blog to try to do some of the things the campaign is not doing.  The campaign does not use the event scheduling feature of their Facebook page.  I have used that feature on the SturbridgeForElizabethWarren Facebook page.

I am still left wondering if our organizing in the Sturbridge area will make a difference, and what will our organization be able to do after the election is over.


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