Monday, September 15, 2008

It's the Money....

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

I read with interest the comments on Blasting the Ceiling, and it warms my heart that so many of you are donating time and money to the Obama campaign.

For those of you who said "I couldn't give much" - don't be hard on yourselves. One of the major things that separates the Obama campaign from every other national campaign in history is the shear number of people who have donated to the campaign. And while the total number of dollars is certainly important to run a campaign, the tone of a campaign is made much different if that money actually comes from the constituency than from the big donors.

The Washington Post put up a chart showing taxpayer income in America, and pointed out that 60% of American taxpayers make less than $66,354. This means that the majority of Americans cannot actually make those $28,400 contributions to the National parties, nor the $4,600 to the Presidential primary and general campaigns.

Think about it: until this year, the vast majority of income to presidential campaigns came from "not-regular-people". Sure, people of modest means contributed, but the campaigns RAN on money from the few. THIS is what true campaign finance reform is about -- the idea that millions of Americans "own" a piece of the campaign. Not "own" in terms of "can have an audience with" nor "can get access to" nor "can force policy changes" -- but "own" in terms of saying "this is my candidate, this is my message, this is the change I want." Read it again: it's a powerful thought.

If you say "I can't give more", that's okay. You may well have 20 friends who are good for $5 each. You can then mail in that $100. Consider yourself a "mini-bundler". Or ask everyone you know to go to the Obama site and give $5. You can go to and set up a personal fundraising page. And yes, $5 is fine. Imagine if a million more people gave just $5 each, and then they each got 2 friends to give $5.

You may wonder what costs campaigns so much. Sure, there are the planes, and hotel bills, and advertising (that last one can burn a million a day by itself) - but also the money you don't think about. Each local office pays rent, electricity, phone/cell phone, and then they need printers, printer cartridges, and paper. Remember all that canvassing? To know where to go, and which doors to knock requires reams of paper with lists and maps. Same with the call centers. Lists of names and phone numbers.

Those campaign offices, and the volunteers they launch, need basic things that the campaign does not pay for, and relies on the locals for: bottles of water, toilet paper, office supplies, snacks, etc.

There are incredible numbers of "paid" campaign workers. They need to be housed and fed. I have a "campaign kid" living in my house. A nice young man who took the year off from college to work the campaign. He gets up every day around 8, goes to the office, and doesn't get home most days until midnight. He, and thousands like him make calls, line up volunteers, register voters, coordinate unpaid workers, coordinate with the locals, set up events, and everything else that needs to be accomplished on a micro basis for the campaign.

Have no money? Maybe you have one hour a week. Just one hour to help save the world. You give someone like me 4 hours over the course of a month, and you WILL bring back a voter, and (you know this is coming) elections are won one voter at a time.

What does that mean? Many people are low-information voters. If you stand at a voter registration drive, or knock on doors, or make calls, there is always that person who honestly doesn't know the facts, and legitimately wants to. That person who has never really cared about an election before, but cares this year, and doesn't know where to go to get legitimate information. They may be too shy to walk into the local office, they may lack good investigative computer skills (they may not even have a computer). They may not even know how to register to vote until you offer to help them.

I never go anywhere without voter registration forms, I don't just run voter drives, I AM a voter drive. When you walk into a restaurant to get something to eat, check with your order taker, or your waiter/waitress -- sign them up. Likewise, the people at the gas stations, convenience stores, dry cleaners, shops and every other place you go every day. All you need to do is stop by your local campaign office and ask for 10 forms. They'll show you how to fill them out, and then all you need to do is drop the filled-out forms back at the office.

When I was in Texas last week, I brought 10 forms, and signed up 5 voters - 4 when I stopped for directions at a construction site (my directions were really, really bad, and this was FAR out in the country) and a waitress one night at dinner. Five Obama votes Texas might not have had otherwise. And yes, it even matters in a red state.

So get out there -- give that other $5. Give that hour. This is YOUR campaign and YOUR country. And this is how we win.