Sunday, March 07, 2004

Grassroots sending out rhizomes in AZ

Here is part of an article that I stumbled across from Mike Moore, a reporter from the Journal Times in Milwaukee, WI

"OK, here's a quick math problem. You've got 183,000 people, a Web site and a presidential candidate. Take away the candidate and what've you got left? The answer came Wednesday night, as about three dozen Howard Dean supporters showed up at Milwaukee's Bean Head Cafe for the monthly session organized through something called meetup.com.

Since their beloved candidate stopped chasing the ultimate bone a couple of weeks ago, I figured the answer to the problem would be easy: You've got squat. Well, for a wake, this gathering seemed pretty dang chipper. The noises emanating from the cafe's back room were whistles and cheers, not uncontrolled sobs.

All right, so maybe you've got some good memories. A few people spoke up and expressed their disappointment that the campaign fell short. They got a little dark humor out of the fact Dean won his only state, his home state of Vermont, after he'd dropped out. Still, this didn't have the feel of a wrapup event, especially since some came for the first time.

Everybody wanted to fight on, either through local elections or by
continuing to push their guy's positions. The real answer, then, is you take away the candidate and you've still got a boatload of motivated people."


The reason why I quoted that article was that it so nicely echoed what I saw at my Meetup at the Northwest Neighborhood Center in Tucson. I arrived late, as I got out of class that night at seven and had to drive over.

People were already working diligently on what's next, not crying over what might have been. There was a sense of purpose; a desire to build something, to create new opportunities, and to work for change locally.

After we selected a parlimentarian to avoid the excited cross-talk, it became apparent that people were bursting with energy and ideas. These people weren't beaten - they were ready to take a bite out of the GOP's hold on the legislature and the AZ Congressional delegation. They were circulating petitions, working for Democratic candidates and causes and looking for places to put their shoulder and push.

Many had become or were becoming PCs or had been elected to positions within the party. Most were going to the party delegate selection caucus that happened today. In fact, I saw many of them there today, true to their word.

We discussed the future of our Meetup further. Everyone was determined to continue it and even expand it, even with Dean gone. Few wanted to join the Kerry campaign, though we agreed that we must help Kerry in November.

We also discussed how much we had admired the people from other campaigns that we had met while working the primary. We agreed that we had to reach out to the supporters of other candidates, and invite them to continue to take part in the
grassroots movement that our Meetups will eventually become. With our candidates out of the picture, maybe now we could step back and see what we all had in common.

In some ways, I think that having Burlington no longer running the show is a relief for many of us. Now we can take our Meetups and our politics local, and we can set our own agenda for change. We are all looking forward to what Dean wants to accomplish, and we all expect that DFA2 will continue to be a guiding light for the grassroots.

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