Hanging out in kitchen.    
Hanging out in the kitchen afterwards.  
Relaxing after 500+ phone calls by 23 volunteers.  Mel, Tony, Donn the host who threw his house open, Nan, Karla & Joe (sitting) & Brian.    Click to enlarge.
MORE PHOTOS !!  (from Eliza's party)

Listen, it's pretty scary but you can do it.  

A group like moveon.org  asks for volunteers to host a party -- it can be a fund raiser or a party like this to phone citizens and urge them to vote.  Typically, MoveOn solicits volunteers with an emailed link to a signup page on the Web.  If you agree to host an event, you get all the supporting documents you need.  Signup at callforchange.org.  

Once a few hundred hosts are lined up nation-wide, MoveOn solicits everyone to attend.  Typically, MoveOn solicits attendees with an emailed link to all members offering them a Web page where they can type in their zipcode and get back a list parties near them --sorted from 2 to 20 miles away.   Host say a few words about how they're going to try to do it, and their facilities.  You can read between the lines and find an ambiance you'd probably like.  Same signup:  callforchange.org

Once you sign up, you'll never forget.  Besides taking care of your RSVP to the host, moveon.org sends an email reminding you that tomorrow is the big day, then comes the email telling you to get out of the house and go RIGHT NOW because today's the day, and afterwards you'll be asked what you thought of the whole thing.

It works!!  Our crowd of 23 guests were mostly first-time volunteers.  We didn't know each other, and the diversity of ages and backgrounds was obvious in a glance.  But guess what?  You didn't have to be afraid to keep your mouth shut for fear of offending anyone!   Everyone had shared concerns about the country's terribly wrong direction.  Everyone was the kind of person who cared enough to take a break from their own lives and get out and do something about it.  Great people!  Too bad we were there to work.


Phone number sheet
The host convenes class and passes out the papers, then we scattered all over the place with our cellphones to find a quiet corner to talk.  We were in Virginia, working a Congressional district in Florida.

NUMBER SHEET: The two most important sheets are the script and the phone number list.  Each phone number sheet (right) is unique -- those are your numbers, so write your name on the sheet.  I called 2 sheets (32 numbers) and then phoned a local number to punch in my results.  A lot of people didn't answer or had answering machines (I left a message.  Why not?).  I don't report them, they stay in the database and wind up on another call sheet on another day, another party.  Many numbers were disconnected or dead (e.g., the first one in the illustration).  By punching in "1" and "81", I get the first number removed from the database, never to be called again.  The other codes advance the number to "get out the vote" databases of known good numbers of people with known political sympathies . . . which brings us to the script sheet.       (click any image to enlarge)                      

SCRIPT SHEET:  There is no big survey here, no attempt to argue or commiserate.  This is a live body count -- does this phone number lead to any kind of warm political animal who might vote Democratic?   Script sheet    

When people make a political call to me, I go blank on what the elections or candidates are.  I probably sound totally brainless.  So I thought I'd start by telling them who the candidates are, then asking them to support our guy. The goal here is to sort the hostiles from the friendlies, not persuade anyone about anything.  If friendly, then we try to find a "button" for them -- which issue is  most important for them.


Here's what moveon.org is up to.  Democrats need a nation-wide phone list of their base, the people who resonate with Democratic party issues and are potentially persuadable to get out and VOTE.  Many people never vote and many people don't pay attention to civic affairs affecting their city, country and civilization.  Many people are unreachable mentally, not mentally ill, mind you, just inaccessible to rationality.  Don't worry, it's normal, but we need a list of other people who are reachable and might vote.  These MoveOn house parties, week after week, election cycle after election cycle, are an attempt to create such a national list thru the use of ordinary volunteers brought together with Internet technology and manning their own cellphones.  
Let's do the numbers.

The country has 100 million households, 435 Congressional Districts electing Representatives to the House or about 230,000 households/district.  Turning from households to individuals, there are supposed to be about the same number of people in each House of Representatives Congressional District (ask the National Census Bureau -- that's why they exist)  so you do the math.  300 million population / 435 districts = 680,000+ people per district.  Reality check: i
n one largely suburban district I know, there were 191,000 households with obtainable phone numbers, and the people in 30,000 of them had never voted, so you have about 161,000 targets.   Turning from households to individuals, there were 335,000 registered voters in that district, of which 266,00 had a phone number (perhaps shared with a spouse in a household).

Political operatives target households. Our house party did over 500 calls out of perhaps 200,000 households to canvass in the targeted election district.  Not great, but doable if MoveOn concentrates on very few key Congressional districts.  

MoveOn claims 14,000 volunteers attended parties and  made (I think they mean "reported into the database", not "dialed")  over 197,000 calls the weekend I participated.  The program is now up to 1.5 million total calls (mid-October, 2006).  On big pre-election weekends, MoveOn aims for 1000 simultaneous house parties (bar hopping in a private plane, anyone?).  


What do the Big Boys do?  Big Boys hold office and have Congressional franking privileges to send out nearly 1 million pieces of mail at taxpayer expense. (There are no matching grants for challengers.  Are you surprised?  You shouldn't be, because all this mail is to "keep the citizens informed about public issues," not to foster the re-election of the incumbent.  It would be unfair and pointless to give a challenger 1,000,000 pieces of free mail.  Now that we've cleared that up, . . . )  Incumbents can get mailing lists with phone numbers for their entire Congressional District from the government (the House Clerk's Office?).  Senators can get a list for the entire state.  The government voter lists also indicate which households have voted in the past several election cycles.  Fund raising and campaigning cannot be done on the Federal franking privilege, and can cost more money  than they take in.  Therefore, knowing which households are politically active is the first thing you can do to change a money-losing drive into a money-winner by profiling your targets. But there's more.  


The Big Boy parties are capitalizing on citizen's growing  loss of privacy and the growing volumes of data available from government and corporate marketing programs.  Information about the magazines you receive, your gun ownership, the church you attend, your income level, political and charitable contributions and voting history enable parties to find people who will respond -- the black Democrat opposed to abortion who might vote Republican, marriages where one partner disagrees and the other can be bent to political advantage.  As the election approaches, messages are targeted to  an individual's "anger point" issue, since anger is a powerful motivator for rising to strike a blow by voting.  

In response to GOP superiority in databasing and data mining, the Democratic National Committee has vowed to upgrade technology under Chairman Howard Dean.  Harold Ickes and several staffers from the Clinton/Terry Mcauliffe era is leading a parallel "for profit" effort called Catalist (Laura Quinn, CEO; initially called Data Warehouse).  The DNC and Catalist efforts cost about $10 million each; George Soros backs Catalist.


Volunteers + Internet technology + cell phones combine to offer all of us a chance to put political power back into the hands of the people.  Knowing your supporters and  their key issues is the key to effective fund raising and serious voting power.

Today, 90% of Congressional incumbents are re-elected.  Our democracy is non-competitive and our system is two-party in name only.  (Bet you hadn't noticed . . . but look at the policies and style of leaders it produces.  There had to be some explanation.  Don't criticize "democracy" as a political system if it isn't true democracy.)  

Election reform has starved national-party, "big tent" politics of money.  Challengers cannot get funding from them.  Sources of funding other than big tent national parties want narrow favors that incumbents are best at delivering.  Challengers starve.  Challengers lose.  The one challenger in ten who succeeds is usually a multi-millionaire. (For the gory details, see Rod Smith's Money, Power, & Elections: How Campaign Finance Reform Subverts American Democracy.)  The people have little access to audible free speech,  to public office or to political power.  

Bring your cellphone to the next house party and do something about it.     Sign up:  callforchange.org  

jerry-va at removethistext speakeasy dot net

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