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I've written a blog post mostly directed at activists in Georgia and other red states, but which I think is applicable to most areas, called Turn Georgia Blue precinct by precinct

I think an approach that starts geographically close to where you sleep is a good strategy for building a lasting movement, whether you are trying to win an election,  fight poverty, build an anti-war movement, or achieve universal health care.  The rest is below the fold ...

I think that post-WWII sprawl has had the effect of creating a geographically neutral approach to politics, and a counterproductive psychology to go along with it.  Just as I can drive to work twenty miles from where I live, I can also go to a meeting to a place with like-minded people.  I may or may not see those same people in other contexts, but we've self-sorted.  The internet makes it even a bit more Balkanized.

Now there are good things about this.  Progressives living in a conservative suburb, or in a solidly red north Georgia county, can break their isolation  by either going online or driving to a meeting elsewhere.
It has other advantages as well.  The old ward boss system in northern cities, or county unit systems in the south, were fertile grounds for corruption and fiefdoms run by petty dictators.

I think at this point the progressive movement should embrace a modern version of ward politics though.  In red states I think it's the only way progressives are going to dig in and build lasting movements for change.  We can wait around for demographics to do our work for us, but there's no guarantee even that will work for us.  Eventually the right is going to start seriously contesting for votes in segments of the population it's been ignoring, and progressives and democrats don't have any birthright to anyone's support or votes.  We have to work for it like anyone else.

I've laid out some of the specifics in my blog post, but my basic premise is that the precinct is the largest unit an individual activist can really know intimately.  I can make generalizations about my county, state, or region, but there are only so many people I can actually talk to, and the precinct keeps it manageable.  

One thing I didn't cover was some of the arguments I've heard for why people aren't doing work in their own precinct.  "Everyone here is a conservative",  or "There are too many other progressives in my area, so I should be focusing somewhere else".  I look over election results a lot, and in the case of the 2012 election there wasn't a single district in my majority conservative county which didn't have a substantial number of Obama votes.  Not one.  Not even in overwhelmingly white and affluent East Cobb.  And Romney got a surprising number of votes in my Democratic south Cobb precinct.  So there are always people to reach.  As for the "too many progressives" argument, great,  do an intense GOTV campaign, then raise money to send to people in areas organizing in less receptive districts.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Texas precinct chair here (10+ / 0-)

    Thanks for the diary.  I'm spending my money and time here at home 'til we get some changes around this place.  When we energize liberals, others will follow, and I'm sick of funding out of state races only to be ignored by the national party.

    •  I absolutely agree with you (6+ / 0-)

      We're going to have to do most of the grunt work ourselves.  When TX and GA begin to achieve swing state status, the national party will start paying attention.

      I've been doing more general neighborhood activist work here over the past few years, and haven't been involved in the county party, but I'm correcting that at this point.

      And while I might send a little money to an important out-of-state campaign, my hierarchy of contribution is Georgia->other southern states->non-southern red states-> everywhere else.  And none of my money will go to the national party until they start focusing on expanding their presence into red states.

  •  This is exactly what we need to do. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    grrr, ban nock, LinSea, CoolOnion, sboucher

    I've seen it work in Indiana in 2008, and in 2010 and 2012 I've seen what happens when it is not done, or not done well enough.  Everyone that is physically able to canvass or believes that they can motivate others to canvass should be appointed  to these precinctward positions(which are often vacant) or run for them in the primaries if necessary or applicable.  

    Direct voter contact is the best and in the current climate likely the only way to motivate people to register and vote.  It really means something to a lot of people to be personally contacted by a representative of the party.  

    It has also been my experience that the game is not about persuading the potential voter to vote Democratic, but to motivate them to simply vote, as they will vote Democratic if motivated to vote in the first place.  I don't waste more than a "Thank you for your time" on the R voters unless they have questions.

    The most common comment I get, even in very blue areas, is "This is a very Republican neighborhood."  Sometimes this is true, sometimes it is debatable, and often it is flat out wrong.

    Good luck to you.

    Speaker Boehner, where are the jobs?

    by Carlo on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 11:54:00 AM PST

    •  Thanks, Carlo (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      grrr, ban nock, LinSea

      I think canvassing, and having a personal Democratic Party presence at community meeting, festivals, and other local events is critical.

      I don't yet know whether my county is filling the precinct slots (I've volunteered to do some membership work at the county Democratic office in a couple of weeks, and will find out then), but if there is a current precinct chair or captain, I'll work with them on setting up consistent canvassing, if not, I'll volunteer.  I've knocked on a lot of doors in the past, but it was usually in neighborhoods I didn't live in.

      Good luck in Indiana!  Your results in 2008 were very encouraging for those of us in Georgia.

      •  I spent a lot of time in MARTA stations (0+ / 0-)

        campaigning for Obama's first campaign. Personal contact is the best way to get people to vote, and to vote for our guys.

        Definitely the way to go.

        It's not just a zip code, it's an attitude.

        by sboucher on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 09:48:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  In a suburban area, yes... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock, LinSea, HeyMikey, sboucher

    for rural counties, its still mostly a county thing. I live in one of those rural north GA counties, and myself and other north Georgia Democrats are starting an initiative to strengthen Democratic numbers here. Of course, we do precinct level data analysis, but its still going to be a county-wide thing in rural counties.

    Good luck on those "east Cobb snobs"! {joking}

    •  County versus precincts (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ban nock, LinSea, sboucher

      I could see how in a sparsely populated county just drawing together enough Democrats to create critical mass would take a wider net.

      As for East Cobb, I was a little surprised at some of the precinct results.  The sort of blowout precincts I expected just weren't there.

      A real surprise to me was Vinings.  It isn't technically East Cobb (or at least I've never condsidered it to be) but it's really sort of "Buckhead West", an affluent area adjoining Buckhead.  Obama and Romney split the precincts there, and none of them were blowouts for either candidate.

      I'll pop you a PM here later in the day.  I think those of us doing work in GA should at least keep in some touch with each other & give support when feasible.

      •  I'm SO frustrated with the admin of Kos Georgia (0+ / 0-)

        which was started precisely for that purpose, and for some reason I wasn't entered as a founder. If I don't get an answer in a day or so, I suggest creating a new Georgia group, we can transfer Kos Georgia's followers to the new one.

        I've been asking people for their locations as well, to map where our clusters are, so we can plan meet-ups. Please keep me in the circle?
         Thanks so much, Sage.

        It's not just a zip code, it's an attitude.

        by sboucher on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 09:54:15 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Location (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          sboucher

          If you're keeping a list, I'm in Mableton in South Cobb.  My precinct is Cobb LI01, census tract 313.13, zip 30126.  There's at least one other regular on DailyKos who's in the same commission district with me, which is District 4, the only Democratic commission district in Cobb County.  

  •  This has the added advantage (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock, LinSea

    of helping to build a strong Democratic bench.  When a R candidate self-destructs, he or she shouldn't get a free ride, even in a red district.  We need to have good candidates, with grassroots support, up and down the ballot.
    Thanks for a well-reasoned analysis.

    •  Bench depth (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ban nock, LinSea

      Yes, this is very true.  We're not even contesting a lot of races here, even in some areas where we have potential.  

      I went to a frustrating candidates forum here a few months ago.  I live in a Democratic section of a Republican county, and all the local slot candidates on the stage were Democrats, and all the countywide candidates were Republican.  It was just plain crazy.  There was no overlap.  We need to be able to field people at every level, from school board to governor.

  •  I like the precinct level a lot (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LinSea

    I became everything in our precinct because I showed up. This election I found a kindred soul and she did hundreds of phone calls a week, with others of us canvasing we really turned out the votes. Our portion of the county had some of the highest Dem turnout of registered Dems in the state.

    All this arguing on the internet is fine, and I enjoy it, but at it's most basic getting the most progressive Democrat elected moves legislation. I'll work for and volunteer for any Dem if they are the best we have, the first thing is to win.

    We are what used to be a red state, turned purple, often called blue.

    How big is your personal carbon footprint?

    by ban nock on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 12:53:00 PM PST

    •  Hi ban nock (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ban nock

      I don't know if you saw the apology I posted to you on another thread a few days ago.  I was getting irritable over the trajectory of the discussion on a diary, and took it out on you.  I wrote an apology, but if you didn't see it, I'll just apologize here :-)

      Showing up is the thing I do best, and I suspect I'll have enough to do.  My goal is for our precinct to increase its registered voters noticably, and to get the voter turnout here comparable to the turnout in the more Republican northern and eastern portions of the county.

      As for arguing on the internet, yeah, it's largely just entertainment.  Where I'm really finding it useful though, is as a sounding board for ideas on more practical organizing work.  

      •  Missed the whole argument :-) (0+ / 0-)

        so no apology needed. Probably about guns or hunting, I'm less into guns but love hunting, or maybe it was someone else. I remembered your username because I come from a very red area also. Nothing between us and Kansas but a few wheat fields and a whole bunch of prairie. I told myself at the time of your last post, this guy is going to get things done.

        I really liked the tools OFA gave me to use. Dashboard allowed me to connect to others locally.

        How big is your personal carbon footprint?

        by ban nock on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 01:25:52 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Found it, I think you confused me with someone (0+ / 0-)

        upthread who said they didn't like white southerners. I still thought you wrote a good post that time. Always happy to see more rural, or south, on DK, feels like a club for the very affluent form big cities mostly east or west, geographic diversity is a good thing.

        How big is your personal carbon footprint?

        by ban nock on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 01:35:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The south and rural areas (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ban nock

          Normally I don't get bent out of shape over some of the blanket anti-southern bigotry I see on these sites, for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes it's because the southern politicians do stuff which makes it understandable (every Georgia legislative session I wonder what crazy stuff they're going to do to either nationally embarrass us, or sink our own economy).  More often I think it's better for me to focus on organizing here than to spend energy arguing with people who should know better.

          But the realities in red states are a lot different than the stereotypes, and progressives, of all people, should be working to bring their attitudes in sync with realities.

          The non-Hispanic white population in Georgia is 55% and dropping.  It wouldn't take a very big shift in the voting patterns of white southerners to make Georgia a blue state, even if the minority population stayed static.  So when some right wing doofus circulates a petition calling for secession, and hundreds of progressives chime in with "Go ahead and secede"  I have to wonder if the progressives include the minority population plus the substantial number of progressive whites in the people they'd like to see leave the Union.

          All in all, though, it doesn't matter much.  The national Democratic Party is unlikely to do anything for us until we start winning on our own.  So that's the first step.

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