Monday, March 12, 2007

Obama for Change

A friend of mine just recently asked if I wanted to take part in an Obama for President fundraiser. I immediately replied via email "Yes" and couldn't help but add the famous "And". Yes, I want to help, And here's how I want to do it.

I want to get right to changing the things that I know (and Obama elucidates so eloquently) need to be changed here in America. I think we can do much much more than simply become a fundraising arm for Obama. I know we can actually start the process of bringing about the Change that Obama espouses.

Back before the 2004 election, I had become jaded about political fundraising. Yes, I know that people watch TV and that ads on TV are expensive. I know that sending out flyers and paying for canvassers isn't free. But I couldn't help but wonder why we weren't doing more. Why we were accepting the current state of candidate shilling as if it was the only way to get someone elected. Cash can't be the only factor.

I watched in horror as my theory was proven in the 2004 presidential election. John Kerry had plenty of money. He had his own millions as well as his wife's, and of course he also had our millions. Instead of making use of that huge wad of money, he spent it doing the same things that had always been done. Proving that he likely would do the same things that had always been done as president. The sad truth is that money does not buy elections outright. Money can help, but it has to be used in innovative and progressive ways, mimicking the innovative and progressive ways that the candidate will use the entire country's money during his or her tenure in office.

After discussing it with my wife Elise, I realized that what we needed to do for America was pretty clear: we needed to rebuild it from the ground up, starting with the places that need it the most. Don't just trickle down the money, flood it down with intent, wisdom, and action. We needed to rebuild a city, starting with a neighborhood.

Yes, it sounds expensive and perhaps risky, but it would be the most clear statement of what it is that progressive Democrats need to do. It's what America needs to do. I figured that we could do it like a miniature CCC project, or even better, a huge Habitat for Humanity project. We could go to a section of a big city (ideally, one with some previously disenfranchised voters...) that needed some serious community building, and we could organize the people in that section of the city to help put a permanent community center, or rebuild one that was in need of repair.

The money spent would go directly into a project that progressive Democrats want to do writ large. The thing would be architected properly, permits gathered, teams organized, foremen and forewomen chosen, environmental impact studies done, and the entire thing would be exhaustively documented.

Clearly, this would be a large task and it would take a lot of effort to do it in a short amount of time, but isn't that the task at hand for America? Don't we have an emergency to deal with and precious little time to spare? Don't we want to change things? Don't we want to lead the way? Don't we want to show our core values in a tangible way? Don't we want to dig ditches instead of sling mud?

The metaphor would not be lost on Americans. They love to see their neighbors pitch in when people are in need. We do it all the time, but usually only right after natural disasters. It's inspiring, it's hear-warming, it's community building at its core.
It would show what we will do for the country on a small scale, but it would matter on a large scale for the community we do it with and for. The publicity alone would be enough, but it would be something we could point to as a direct change of course for the election process. My guess is that we could make it work once, and then with that boilerplate we could repeat the process in other communities. Use the strategies and fundraising techniques for other projects around the country. Prove that we can spend money the right way while gathering up people and communities that will not just vote for our candidate, but grab hammers and work for the country itself.

To that end, I would definitely like some feedback on this post. If you would like to do a project like this as an Obama fundraiser (community raiser?), I'd love to hear about it and try to make it happen. We've got some time before the election and I think this kind of thing would make a huge difference. Even if we don't win the election, we'd be doing something that would reinforce what we want to do in this world: Change it for the better.

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