Monday, November 3, 2008

What You Have Done

Dear RENObamans,

The battle ahead will be long. But always remember that no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change."

We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics who will only grow louder and more dissonant in the weeks to come. We've been asked to pause for a reality check. We've been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope.

But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. For when we have faced down impossible odds; when we've been told that we're not ready, or that we shouldn't try, or that we can't, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes we can.

-Barack Obama, 8 January, 2008

On the threshold of the 2008 presidential election, on a night when few of us will sleep soundly for the thrill and excitement of the final arrival of this day, let's take a look back over our nearly two years of the activism in which you have been engaged.

Reno was put on the national map of "draft Obama" sites in December of 2006. RENObama! began taking shape in the first week of 2007 as we joined the national movement to support Barack Obama for president. We held our first meetings in mid-February of 2007. By April we had weekly "Why Obama?" meetings at Washoe Dems HQ. On the summer solstice of 2007 you and I sponsored the first public mock caucus in Washoe County, at Washoe Dems. A few weeks later we ran the first mock caucus at Obama HQ in Reno where we introduced a down-and-dirty mock caucus style that got us in-and-out the door in 40 minutes with few questions called the "real-time mock caucus."

RENObama! members attended the the Washoe Dems Leadership Academy. We began walking our precincts as early as March 2007.

You sponsored booths at Cinco de Mayo and Riverfest. RENObama! members sat under the tent talking to folks about Obama, showing videos and signing hundreds of volunteers up. We took in hundreds of dollars over the six days across both events. Our engagement with the Senator was contagious.

We helped ignite a firestorm in Washoe County.

We raised funds, we knocked on doors, we became precinct captains, we canvassed, we called, we brought food to the staff and volunteers at HQ, we ran food drives, we attended meetings and special events, we met Michelle and we met Barack. We gave up the holiday season in 2007 to attend or lead mock caucuses. We learned the ropes and took the reins on 19 January as we lead precinct caucuses across northern Nevada as chairs, secretaries and support staff. In some precincts some of us performed all three roles.

Our activism paid off on 19 January 2007. By 1:00p it was clear that Barack Obama supporters had stormed Washoe County, beating Clinton supporters in the precinct caucus by 9%, the same number Barack had won in Iowa two primaries earlier. Northern Nevada counties swung strongly for Obama with the pinnacle in Elko and Esmerelda counties where Obama supporters in our sister group "ELKObama" turned the county out for Obama by 70%.

Obama won the state of Nevada on caucus day, though it took more than a month to get that across to the pundits. It was Northern Nevada that swung the state's national delegate count 12 for Clinton and 13 for Obama.

On January 19th, 2008, a northern Nevada myth was shattered: that Elko was a bastion of ultra-conservative racists. No longer.

Washoe County was now on the O map. Barack mentions Elko in speeches to this day.

For the next 4 months members of RENObama! worked hard making calls to other states and even traveling for the campaign and writing letters to the Sparks Trib, the Nevada Appeal and the RGJ. Lots of hand-wringing, nail biting and gnashing of teeth ensued in the spring, but we stayed together as a group and stayed engaged with the battle through the long primary season.

In February we were the organizers of the Obama presence at the Washoe County Democratic Convention. We developed an online collaborative space to get people organized for the convention while the campaign was off in other states.

At the county caucus Obama supporters swung his lead among Washoe County Dems by nearly 20% while Hillary's support in WaCo remained unchanged from the caucuses at 41%. Our movement was growing and our hard work over the previous year's time was paying off in a big way.

Because of record turnout for the Nevada State Democratic Party convention driven by the emergence of our movement for change, the Democratic Party moved the state convention from early April to May. This time we opened up our real-time collaboration of shared spreadsheets, docs and discussion lists to the grassroots members of the O campaign throughout the entire state of Nevada.

RENObama! members stepped up to the task of connecting hundreds from other counties to find homes in Washoe to stay in for the convention as gas prices spiked and transportation costs went through the roof. We opened our homes, and in some cases even our pantries to our rural and Clark County guests.

"Looks like all your hard work paid off," wrote Chris Wicker, the county Democratic chair and chair of the Dem state convention of RENObama! the day after the convention. "Washoe was the most pro Obama caucus in the state."

Over the spring, RENObama! members never let up. Breather? For whom? We put on an event in conjunction with UNR's Students for Obama, "OBAMA DAY in RENO!" with northern Nevada's best speakers, singers, elected officials, which ended in a shout out of "Yes we can!" heard round the country and a phonebank to states still in the primary phase.

While we waited for the campaign to return to the county we continued to keep engaged in lively discussion on strategies for the next steps. On our Website we created a compendium of photo and video galleries for all to share their images in one place. We created forums for further strategies, all the while our Website funneled people to and raised funds for the campaign. Our primary monetary goals were bested by nearly 20%.

As the primary season drew to an end, RENObama! members turned to new Democratic Party voter registrations. First lead by Amy Curtis-Webber of the Democratic Party and then taken over by members of the campaign staff as they trickled back to NV.

For the National convention, members planned trips as volunteers for the Obama campaign in Colorado. Through them and through RENObama! member and national delegate Xiomara Rodriguez, we were all there in Denver as she and other volunteers posted text and photos live from Denver to the RENObama! blog.

The next two short months were to see an unprecedented amount of grassroots activism in Washoe County resulting in more Democratic voter registrations for the first time in decades. The success of the registration campaign was overwhelming as the Registrar of Voters announced on 14 October that Washoe was now a blue county.

Since the close of voter registration two weeks ago, you and I turned to getting out the early vote. On the first day of early voting we created "the Vote of Your Lifetime" marches through downtown to deliver fliers to homes and proclaim to passers by along the way that early voting had begun. On that day many of us thrilled to cast our vote, finally, for the first President of the World, Barack Obama. Later that day we learned of the loss of one of Washoe Counties newest activists, Dewey Swensen, who passed away while pounding the pavement for Barack that day, his first day committed to acting for the change that we are all a part of.

And get out the vote we have. Nearly 60% of expected turnout has already voted. In my precinct it's 87% who have already voted.

Which brings us all to the threshold of this election. This very night, where within 24 hours our state director of the campaign, Terence Tolbert, and Barack's grandmother, Toot, passed from this world, we wait the will of the people of the United States. Though we have tasks tomorrow, we have done our work: you and I have witnessed to our belief in the movement for change set in motion by our leader and inspiration Barack Obama and his lovely family, especially Michelle who still brings tears to Mom's eyes after they spoke at length when she visited during Hot August Nights, 2007.

Thank you, all of you, you who are RENObama! for coming along on this journey with the rest of the people in this country and indeed the world who root for Obama's presidency. Our presidency.

Though we stand and metaphorically pause in this 24 hours, our hard work over these many months has given us none other than "hope" that in the next day's time Obama will be our president and we will soon see the closing of the calamitous mistake that is the illegal prison at Guantanamo Bay. We will soon see a statement of intent that disavows the use of waterboard torture at our national embarrassment in Iraq, the Abu Ghraib prison and those like it across that decimated land. We will see a drawing down of the war on Iraq and a building up the green energy economy, I, for one, have waited exactly 20 years to see come about. We hope to see a constitutional lawyer sitting in the Oval Office who will review all directives from the previous administration line by line and restore the rights of liberty that have been hampered by the failed Presidency of George W. Bush and his neocon cronies Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Scooter Libby, Perle, Wolfowitz and Card.

We, you and I, see great things coming. From our hands.

I expect a tsunami in favor of Barack Obama in the next 24 hours.

But if the tables and the tide turn against us we have this as our solace. The country and the world have changed around us. Our actions have allowed us to speak from the heart to hundreds of people: our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, grocery clerks, mail deliverers, pedicurists, dog shampooers and nearly everyone with whom we come in contact.

This movement for change has just begun. And there's no turning it off or back. It has only one trajectory: forward.

Whether we will continue our work under President Obama or we remain committed under Senator Obama: because of your actions over the past two years, life in these United States has forever altered. For the better. For the best. Because of you.

At the end of this general election we are 466 members. Cumulatively we hosted 1867 events, attended 6354 more, made 34,520 phone calls, knocked on 343 doors, posted 34,448 blog entries, and raised an astonishing $95,075.94.

These are the figures on the affinity group page, but we all know that they, if anything, are low. We knocked on more doors in the primary season alone.

Our hard work over these many months has paid off time and time again.

As my 88-year-old WWII ARMY Nurse Corps Veteran Mom wrote as her favorite motto on her profile on 3/15/07, after she excitedly switched from supporting Richardson after seeing an Obama interview on TV, "Be prepared. Then, forward!"

Peace, my RENObama family.


Dr King once said that the arc of a moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. It bends towards justice.

But here's the thing.

It does not bend on its own.

It bends because each of us, in our ways, put our hand on that arc and we bend it in the direction of justice. Because we organize and we mobilize, we march, we vote."

-Barack Obama, April 9, 2008. On the anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Of course he never went away, but the stirring speeches of the primary where we sometimes were reduced to deep sobbing at "OUR time for change has come," and "WE are the ones we've been waiting for," had given way over the summer to political speeches highlighting differences in issues of the day and, sadly, fighting back against the out-and-out fabrications and name calling from the McCain-Palin camp.

But today, in Canton, Ohio, the Barack of January 2008 is back. The memorable speech on the win of the Iowa caucus that began, "They said... They said... They said this day would never come" was harkened back to today. The even more powerful speech on the night of the second primary in New Hampshire which he narrowly lost was harkened back to today.

The campaign may be calling this the "closing argument," but many of us know this is just the beginning of the commitment all of us have made to our movement for change that Barack Obama is leading us into. Though people have been joining our movement in droves over the past two years and it seems like a lifetime time has passed, we must do all we can to have this movement continue to be lead from the White House. Even if Barack were to lose, we would continue the work to help each other, but how much more powerful to give ourselves the win we deserve by working these next 8 days as hard as we can to win the White House with a powerful mandate.

The fact of the matter is when races are close, Dems lose. You, each and every one of you reading these words at this moment, have the power within you to make our movement for change a tsunami that crashes on Washington, washing the status quo away in the rising tide of change from the bottom up. Change courtesy of you and me.

You have the power to tell DC: this country is about us, not the pharmaceuticals who are spending more on cute names and convincing patients to tell their doctors what drugs they need over research and development.

You have the power to tell DC we are not a warring people and we will not accept the bloody battle in the Middle East over their natural resources which has destroyed the lives of so many people whose only crime was having been born in Iraq.

You have the power to tell DC we are better than a country who is responsible for 1m innocent deaths in Iraq and hundreds of thousands more in Afghanistan. We are a country who will solve the tough issues of the world through peace and engagement and thoughtfulness and giving everyone a seat at the table to be heard and understood as Jimmy Carter so successfully negotiated in 1980 where the peace between Israel and Egypt is still strong.

You have the power to tell DC: Cronyism over professionalism will no longer be tolerated. No more Brownies. No more Gonzalezes. No more friends in high place but strong professionals who know how to run a government agency.

You have the power to tell DC: the lobbyists are no longer in charge. Energy policies will no longer be crafted solely by CEOs of powerful corporations but a roundtable that includes not only CEOs but activists, non-profit directors, legislators from across the spectrum with an eye not for profits but for the best way forward for the American people and therefore the people of the world.

It may look dark tonight, but if I hold on to hope, tomorrow may be brighter.

Don't think for a minute that power concedes. We have a lot of work to do. We have to work like our future depend on it in this last week because it does depend on it this week.

We are one week away from changing America. In one week's time... we can choose hope over fear and unity over division, the promise of change over the power of the status quo. In one week we can come together as one nation and one people and once more choose our better history. That's what's at stake. That's what we're fighting for. And if in this last week you'll knock on some doors for me and make some calls for me, and talk to your neighbors and convince your friends. If you'll stand with me and fight with me and give me your vote... together we'll change this country and we'll change the world.

Let's get to work!

-Barack Obama, 28 Oct 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

Palin Energizes Alaskan Obama Supporters

When Billy and I were in a rural Texas county for their primary/caucus last February/March, we were surprised one Saturday when a family from Alaska showed up to volunteer. Brian and Andromeda and their two kids helped us for four days. Billy just mentioned them today in the RENObama discussion group, and I've been wondering how they feel about the Sarah Palin pick, so I asked them. Here's the reply:

Hi Dave, Great to hear from you! If I don't answer this email right away, I'll lose it -- ever since Sarah was chosen VP, it's been nearly impossible to keep up with email, with all the anti-Palin, rally-organizing emails flying around up here. (Which is a good thing, of course.) I'm attaching a photo someone sent me of the big rally held here last weekend. We were out of town and missed this one, but we'll be at the next one, which we hope will be even bigger, and our family was on the local news last night because we attended an Obama letter-writing party and the news guys wanted to film our 10-year-old daughter Tziporah writing a letter. Anything pro- or anti-Palin makes the news up here.

When Palin was chosen, Obama campaigners seemed to lose hope in winning Alaska, but within a week or so the anti-Palin backlash had become so strong that I think it's too early to give up. I wasn't strongly against her as our governor (I didn't vote for her, of course, but once she was in, I thought she'd be better than the previous Republicans and wanted to give her a nonpartisan chance). But even those of us in the state who THOUGHT we knew about her learned a whole lot more once there was more investigative energy spent uncovering her religious background and right-wing actions as mayor of little Wasilla. She's not only very socially conservative, but more worrying to me, she seems like the ideal puppet, so eager to climb fast that she'll say and do anything. A perfect vehicle for a 3rd Bush Term.

But you know all that, no doubt. All I can add from the local view is that people are really energized up here, wanting to volunteer more than ever.

It was fun hearing from you. Keep up the good work!