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Help me help him
August 29, 2008 7:48 AM   Subscribe

OK. Let's do this fucking thing. I want to help Obama get elected. How can I have the biggest impact in the immediate run-up to Election Day?

I'm in NYC, and I'd like to take, say, the five days leading up to November 4 to do whatever needs doing most. I'm willing to travel to a nearby swing state (PA, OH) where I would probably be more valuable.

I don't have much money. Do I contact a local campaign HQ? Ridesharing? Can I sleep on the floor of some field organizer? What nearby state/county/city needs some unskilled but enthusiastic support from, say, Nov. 1-Nov. 4?

I was thinking of something like bussing college kids to the polls on the Fourth--I guess it'll be too late to just canvas for him and go door to door touting his virtues.

Possible alternative: I understand that there are lots of documented cases of people (many black, or otherwise likely to vote Democratic) being turned away from polls for shady reasons--like their name is similar to that of a convicted felon. So I'd also be happy to do some kind of poll policing, with the understanding that it's A. allowing eligible voters vote is the right thing to do, and B. it'd help my man Barry O.

I haven't done this before, but dear God, if he loses I need to know that I did what I could and if he wins I want to have been part of it. Dig? Thanks a lot, all.
posted by andromache to Law & Government (20 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
Contact your local campaign hq.
posted by wfrgms at 7:54 AM on August 29, 2008


Phone banking! Direct voter contact! You can even do it directly from home now, which is amazing to me.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:58 AM on August 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


You can start small and work your way up. Got a lot of friends? In your neighborhood? Make it your personal business to make sure they get to the polls. Just by getting (read: pestering) the people you know (assuming your social base isn't the Astoria Young Democrats chapter or whatnot) to not space on showing up at the polls, you'll make a difference.
posted by griphus at 8:04 AM on August 29, 2008


Drive elderly to the polls. Drive teens to the polls like you suggested. This is the most beneficial thing an individual can do. Make arrangements with the local Democratic Ward Committee to offer your services.
posted by Gungho at 8:07 AM on August 29, 2008


Get in touch with the Obama people in NYC and say that you want to do Get Out The Vote work in either Ohio, New Hampshire or Virginia.

I see a lot of volunteers around Brooklyn signing people up to vote. While that's all well and good for maintaining the party's dominance in NY, the fact of the matter is, it's much, much less important than getting votes in other states.

We NEED to get people into the pink states and get them to swing blue. And nothing convinces someone like actual face time.

Also donate money. Encourage people in NYC to donate money. Getting more votes here won't help, but getting money will.
posted by Damn That Television at 8:09 AM on August 29, 2008


my.barckobama.com

set up an account and sign up to work wherever they need you. You can choose a nearby red/pink state or let them assign you.
posted by mmf at 8:15 AM on August 29, 2008


Absolutely find and contact the Obama people in your area. They'll be more suited to tell you exactly what needs to be done where than random citizens.

Personal opinion: the 35 and up set will need more campaigning than young voters...we seem excited enough about Obama as it is.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 8:28 AM on August 29, 2008


You should

A) sign up at my.barackobama.com. That will be your link to what's going on locally and nationally in terms of what's vitally important to the campaign.

B) Use the connections you make from signing up to get involved in the NYC Barack Obama campaign. They will undoubtedly have buses and ride-sharing programs available to take you to Pennsylvania and Ohio, your two nearest swing states. If they don't, e-mail me and I'll set you up with something.

C) Begin contacting voters through myBO (see above). You can phone-bank from your living room couch now. They give you the names, phone numbers and contact info for targeted swing voters along with a script. You get 20 names, you knock out 20 calls in an hour (speaking to about 6 actual people if you're lucky) and boom, you're done.

D) Don't give rides to the polls or do poll watching. These are important activities, but they are forms of generic non-threatening activism that LOTS of people are willing to do. If you really want to make the most difference, do the hard stuff. Recruit volunteers, make phone calls, knock on doors, register voters, organize weekend trips to battleground states, and stay up late with the campaign staff doing the work only the most dedicated activists dare to do.

You can do it. I did it and I've made a career out of it. Good luck and metafiltermail me if you have any questions or need some advice.

Si se puede!
posted by willie11 at 8:53 AM on August 29, 2008


There are a few mefites who work for the campaign. I've worked for a bunch of campaigns, including the Obama campaign in the primaries.

First, go sign up on MyBarackObama. You can wait till the five days before the election, and yeah, they will definitely need people then. But why wait? Start now! I imagine the campaign will be running car pools and/or buses to PA and NJ on the weekends. Or doing phonebanks from NYC. Or you could go to a two-day training put on by the campaign.

Basically, whatever the campaign tells you they need you to do is what they need you to do. Sometimes campaigns are disorganized and don't know how to use volunteers, but this one is not.

And seriously, it's all about doorknocking. That is the single most effective way you can help get Obama elected. Research shows that there is nothing more effective than face-to-face contact. Typically, campaigns do "persuasion" (basically, talking to undecided voters) until a week or so before the election. Then they do Get-Out-The-Vote, which is where they talk to identified supporters and make sure they're getting to the polls. Its also crazy amounts of fun. Typically the jobs during this period include doorknocking, literature drops, phonebanking and visibility (standing on a streetcorner holding a sign). Driving people to the polls is usually reserved for volunteers who can't or won't talk to voters directly.

If I were you, I'd "adopt" a community in PA now. Start going down on the weekends. Make a commitment to yourself that you'll go, say four Saturdays between now and Halloween. This way you'll get to know the organizers and star volunteers there, and they'll hook you up with a nicer place to crash. If you're a good, solid, reliable volunteer, they may even give you some responsibility during GOTV.

We've got a lot of work to do: get to it! If you have any questions, feel free to MetaMail me.
posted by lunasol at 9:24 AM on August 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


On non-preview, what willie said.
posted by lunasol at 9:29 AM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I drove from los angeles to nevada last weekend to help canvas and it was awesome.
posted by milinar at 10:54 AM on August 29, 2008


Let's do this fucking thing.

Well, for one thing, minimize use of foul-language. I realize you were being emphatic, and I'm as potty-mouthed as the next sailor, but civility is best if you want to win people over to a cause. And a great cause it is.
posted by randomstriker at 12:07 PM on August 29, 2008


pennsylvania, ohio, or virginia. don't waste time in NY, which is a lock.
posted by pinto at 12:15 PM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hit those doors. If you can go to New Hampshire or the Philly burbs on the weekends, that would be the most effective use of your time. When you're not canvassing, phone bank from home. I work for the campaign -- MeMail me if you want more information.
posted by fancypants at 12:39 PM on August 29, 2008


Voter (re)registration on college campuses in swing states. A lot of young voters, who are famously predisposed to Obama, are just returning to school and many many many of them are now moving into addresses different from where they are currently registered (if they're already registered); a lot won't think to update their voter reg and may not get their polling-place assignments or other ballot info.
posted by kittyprecious at 1:13 PM on August 29, 2008


Really? Do you want to know what you can do to help Obama win? OK…come up with an answer to this question: What has he done in his short political career that qualifies him to be President of the United States?

Are you seething now? Do you want to tell me how stupid Bush is? Do you want to sputter with indignation that a person can be so obtuse as to not "get it"? Do you feel like lapsing into obscentiy? Then you lose. Because those are emotional responses to a legitimate question that a lot of swing voters will want answered.

Mr. and/or Mrs. Undecided has just opened the door, or answered the phone, or sliced open a campaign letter. Start selling.
posted by dinger at 2:10 PM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks very much. These are helpful hints.

Make arrangements with the local Democratic Ward Committee to offer your services.

I'll do this, good idea.

D) Don't give rides to the polls or do poll watching. These are important activities, but they are forms of generic non-threatening activism that LOTS of people are willing to do. If you really want to make the most difference, do the hard stuff. Recruit volunteers, make phone calls, knock on doors, register voters, organize weekend trips to battleground states, and stay up late with the campaign staff doing the work only the most dedicated activists dare to do.

Also a good idea, and thanks for setting me straight on that.

minimize use of foul-language

Check. This is probably good advice in general, not just in relation to my query.

Really? Do you want to know what you can do to help Obama win? OK…come up with an answer to this question: What has he done in his short political career that qualifies him to be President of the United States?

Are you seething now? Do you want to tell me how stupid Bush is? Do you want to sputter with indignation that a person can be so obtuse as to not "get it"? Do you feel like lapsing into obscentiy? Then you lose. Because those are emotional responses to a legitimate question that a lot of swing voters will want answered.

Mr. and/or Mrs. Undecided has just opened the door, or answered the phone, or sliced open a campaign letter. Start selling.


Good point. The field organizers I know really on point with this. I remember back when I was gung-ho on Edwards, talking to an Obama campaigner who explained, patiently, why I should be an Obama person (and to his credit, he didn't slip into "you're an idiot" mode when I confessed that I wasn't as hot on his candidate).

I'll study up and get myself a short and long-form answer.

We've got a lot of work to do: get to it!
I drove from los angeles to nevada last weekend to help canvas and it was awesome.


Positivity! Yayuh!

Thanks again, everybody. Following your advice, I've got myself the beginnings of a scheme.
posted by andromache at 4:41 PM on August 29, 2008


I'm sure if you contact the headquarters, crash space can be arranged. I live in PA and during the primaries Obama's campaign called us to see if we could house a few volunteers for a few days leading up to the primary. We did not (I was a Clinton, my partner's an Obama, it would have been ugly), so I can't offer any details, but I'm sure they'll be doing the same thing for the general election.
posted by Stacey at 5:16 PM on August 29, 2008


Because a newer question that asked about how best to give both time and money was deleted, I'm going to veer a bit from this question and answer how one might strategically give money.

First, if you give straight to Obama's campaign, they will spend most of it in the swing states. So that is probably the easiest way to go. Even with the "50 state strategy" they will still spend much more in swing states.

What I did was gave to Obama, the DNC, to support not just Obama, but congresspeople up for election whose help he will need to promote his plans, as well as to a few congressional campaigns.

I donated to my congressman, Keith Ellison, MN 5, for two reasons. One, I support his progressive agenda. And two, because he is safe, and so most of his campaign will actually go to helping Obama by registering new democrats.

I gave to Cleaver and Clay in Missouri who are somewhat similar, urban reps in safe seats, for basically the same reasons, and because Missouri is also a swing state, but leans republican about as much as MN leans Dem, so they could use my help more. And I used to live there. Right now it's not looking too hopeful for the dems to pick up Missouri, so I wonder if it will make any difference in the presidential election, but at least it's going to congresspeople I support.

So my giving strategy mostly supported Obama, since the congressional campaigns I gave to really will mostly be trying to bring in Obama votes on THEIR coat tails. You could go with different strategies though, like giving to congressional campaigns that are in contention, to try to help Obama more indirectly, by ensuring a greater majority in congress supporting him. I did just a bit of that by giving to the DNC. Of course that will be split up among both Obama and congress, and other things. If you want to help all the congressional seats in contention, without researching and choosing specific ones yourself, you could give to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC, i.e. the house of reps campaign committee).
posted by gauchodaspampas at 6:39 AM on September 4, 2008


I've given money to the campaign. And just 10 minutes ago, I began donating gas cards to volunteers with the campaign that wanted to hit the ground running in the swing states.

Because of my 2 year old, I can't go myself. So, I am recruiting proxy campaigners. If they express interest, I tell them that if they can sign up with the campaign (I give them the link...which is here for Illinois), and fill their car with volunteers, I will pay for their gas to get there and back. If I can, I'll try to network for places for them to stay while they are there.

Then, they have to come have beers with me at my house when they get back and tell me about their adventures :)

Hey, it's way cheaper than therapy!
posted by jeanmari at 9:45 AM on September 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


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