I’ve given many reasons for my support of Barack Obama, but the most meaningful and consistent has been his understanding of, respect for and use of community organizing. He has promised and demonstrated increased access, transparency and tools for the average citizen to do more than just donate money to his campaign. On his website, those tools were even used to oppose his FISA vote, forcing him to engage with and explain himself to his supporters in a way previously unheard of.
For me, that is the crucial difference in this election. America may have its first president who knows grassroots organizing actually is. This, and not Obama’s race or age, is the real potential for revolution. Last week, many of us watched in horror as Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin ridiculed the very idea of pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps community organizing that Republicans have long upheld as the key to social progress.
In one night, McCain’s party revealed its ignorance of its own platform and its disdain for empowering all but the already empowered. Jack and Jill Politics is delighted to join a coordinated day of blogging among the Afrosphere to highlight the contributions of community organizers.
Here’s the release:
The AfroSpear notes that many heed the call for community organizing within the Black community, both online and in the ‘real world’, as teachers, church deacons, and non-profit volunteers. We condemn statements that criticize community organizing – statements that challenge the value of the “one thousand points of light” volunteerism, non-profit and charitable work that President George H.W. Bush made a centerpiece of his social programs.
Rather than attempt to score political points by attacking charitable and non-profit sector efforts, those who seek to lead America should join those community organizers in churches, schools, PTAs, Girls and Boys Clubs, and all those who work tirelessly to make America a better place, every day of the week.
Some relevant background:
Obama On Community Organizing after last week’s Republican Party comments
Some of the backlash against Palin and Giuliani for dissing community organizing.
Labor organizer Marshall Ganz on Barack Obama
Back to the election.
It’s really pathetic to see McCain’s Republican Party fall even farther from grace. The pettiness and cynicism that was on display serves only to tear the country down and not build it up.
It was a display not without purpose, however. For we saw clearly how out of touch and threatened by the people McCain’s Republican Party really is. The dismissive attitude toward women’s suffrage, the civil rights movement, parent teacher groups and labor organizing was no accident. McCain’s Party is not interested in empowering the average citizen. It is not interested in opening up the actions of government, much less its levers. A truly engaged citizenry scares McCain’s party much more than “Radical Islamic Fundamentalism” because a truly engaged citizenry would redistribute power within this country. McCain may have discovered the motto of change but he hasn’t discovered its meaning.
I know Obama has faults and is not perfect, but I also know that this his campaign is the best chance in quite a long time for we the people to take our country back.
Back in February, I wrote the following in a post about how to canvass for Obama:
Experience goes beyond holding public office, and here is where I think Obama has unique advantages over Hillary. He worked as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago. It’s important to understand what that means. A community organizer’s first job is to listen. He went door to door, often rejected by people who thought it was a waste of time to try to change things, and he listened to what their problems were, identified common concerns and helped mobilize them to improve their situation. The spirit of his community organizing days lives on in his campaign and would also exist in his administration. Imagine the benefits of having someone with such respect for grassroots organizing sitting in the White House
Bringing it back to our choice in November even further, I wrote the following
My faith in his presidency is not merely in him as a smart, decent and exceptional person, but in his ability to galvanize the American people into doing more to reclaim their society and their government. He not only talks about this but offers to the tools to realize increased civic engagement with a revolutionary plan for government transparency and technology innovation. If you follow the money behind him, it’s increasingly clear that he is backed less by corporate interests (although they still exist) and more by a massive base of ordinary citizens.
If he gets elected, it will be because of us. If his administration is successful, it will be because we picked up the tools he planted for us and used them both to hold him accountable — what politician directly offers voters tools to hold him accountable?? — and to better this country and collectively get about the business of solving our problems.
If we fail to do so, then so be it, and it wasn’t meant to be. But I’m standing here now because I believe we can find common ground, because I believe citizens who ignore their government lock themselves out of the process at their peril and because I believe we can make a difference. In this election, we are being offered a rare opportunity to play a significant role in the way our country is run. In most elections, it’s the politician who is being tested, over their knowledge, positions on issues, etc. In this election, I think we are the ones being tested.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
Are you a community organizer? Have you witnessed the work that individuals do across society to improve it? Please share your stories and links below.
Update: The Obama campaign has released a community organizing tool for this election on its website called Neighbor To Neighbor
Cheryl Contee aka "Jill Tubman", Baratunde Thurston aka "Jack Turner", rikyrah, Leutisha Stills aka "The Christian Progressive Liberal", B-Serious, Casey Gane-McCalla, Jonathan Pitts-Wiley aka "Marcus Toussaint," Fredric Mitchell
Special Contributors: James Rucker, Rinku Sen, Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Adam Luna, Kamala Harris
Technical Contributor: Brandon Sheats