Hanging out in the kitchen afterwards.
after 500+ phone calls by 23
volunteers. Mel, Tony, Donn the host who threw his house
open, Nan, Karla & Joe (sitting) &
Click to enlarge.
MoveOn.org HOUSE PARTY
Listen, it's pretty scary but
you can do it.
GET THE HOSTS
A group like moveon.org
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,
solicits volunteers with an emailed link to a signup page on
Web. If you agree to host an event, you get all
the supporting documents you need. Signup at callforchange.org.
ENTICE THE GUESTS
Once a few hundred hosts are lined up nation-wide, MoveOn solicits
everyone to attend. Typically, MoveOn solicits attendees with
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
going to try to do it, and their facilities. You can read
the lines and find an ambiance you'd probably like. Same
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
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
and backgrounds was obvious in a glance. But guess what?
You didn't have to be afraid to keep your mouth shut for fear
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
get out and do something about it. Great people!
Too bad we
were there to work.
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
numbers) and then phoned a local number to punch in my results.
lot of people didn't answer or had answering machines (I left a
message. Why not?). I don't report them, they stay
database and wind up on another call sheet on another day, another
party. Many numbers were disconnected or dead (e.g., the
one in the illustration). By punching in "1" and "81", I get
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
commiserate. This is a live body count -- does this phone
lead to any kind of warm political animal who might vote Democratic?
When people make a political call to me, I go blank on what the
elections or candidates are. I probably sound
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"
them -- which issue is most important for them.
BUILDING A NATIONAL LIST
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.
people never vote and many people don't pay attention to civic affairs
affecting their city, country and civilization. Many people
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
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
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
435 districts = 680,000+ people per district. Reality check: in
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,
335,000 registered voters in that district, of which 266,00 had a phone
shared with a spouse in a household).
Political operatives target households.
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")
197,000 calls the weekend I participated. The program is now
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?).
HANDING INCUMBENTS THE
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,
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, . . . )
can get mailing lists with phone numbers for their
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
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.
BUILDING A NATIONAL LIST WITH
10 MILLION DOLLARS
The Big Boy parties are capitalizing on citizen's growing
privacy and the growing
volumes of data available from government and
marketing programs. Information about the magazines
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
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
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;
Soros backs Catalist.
+ Internet technology + cell phones combine to offer all of us a chance
to put political power back into the hands of the people.
your supporters and their key issues is the key to effective
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
Election reform has starved national-party, "big tent"
of money. Challengers cannot get funding from them.
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
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
Bring your cellphone to the next house party and do something
about it. Sign up: callforchange.org
jerry-va at removethistext speakeasy dot net