Last night was judgment day for Arnold Schwarzenegger. And California delivered the judgment in a lightening bolt: NO. He lost every single one of the intiatives he campaigned for: 74-77, and he also lost 73 and 78. But why was this defeat so resounding? Why couldn't his team get even a face saving proposition passed?
No, this is not the run of the mill TV analysis. There will be plenty of answers to those questions on TV and newspapers and radio and so forth. But here's why we really won: GRASSROOTS. Let me tell you some of my personal experiences.
Howard Dean said, "We are a campaign built from mouse pads and shoe leathers." That's what the Alliance for a Better California, California for Democracy, and our allies in every neighborhood put together. Over 12,000 volunteers up and down the state knocked on doors, made phone calls, recruited more volunteers, entered data, hung up door hangers, wrote to editors, and got out the vote. Planned Parenthood and the ACLU did much of the same things to turn down Proposition 73. I was privilaged to be a small part of both these campaigns: Alliance and the Campaign for Teen Safety. And it was an inspiring story of walking, phoning, blogging and being in it together.
In the final weekend, we had a rally with Speaker Nunez and we picked up our precinct material and went out knocking on doors. For me personally, it took me Saturday and Sunday to knock on all the doors in my designated precinct. I raved up my bad map reading skills, parked the car and went walking. I got to talk to some people, for others I left literature under the mat and a door hanger on the knob. Some of the people I saw were rude, but most were happy somebody was there to talk to them and answer their questions. It was a rewarding experience with countless "thank you for doing this"s, and a relatively few "it's none of your business"es. One man in particular engaged me in a debate about 77, and after a 20 minute conversation, he told me he had changed his mind and now will vote NO on 77. It was gratifying, satisfying, and those 20 minutes - at the end of the day and my legs were hurting - were the best 20 minutes of the time I walked in the last weekend.
I also phone banked with the Campaign for Teen Safety - NO on 73 campaign. That experience was also humbling. People on the other end sometimes were annoyed by the volume of phone calls they were receiving, but most were willing to hear me out. Because I was comfortable talking about teen pregnancy issues candidly with them, they were willing to listen and ask questions. I made as many phone calls as I could in a single night, yet I wasn't robo-calling.
I also got on my computer, blogged, exchanged ideas, sent emails, signed people up and got and as a webmasters, provided people with information and tools to get active, find out what's going on and where and who needs our help, and hit the ground running. A few clicks, and I knew what I needed to do that day, that weekend, that week.
But a bigger inspiration were the people around me. The other people - some of then union folks, some not - who went through shoes walkinh, who borke their phoning, ate cold pizzas (okay, they weren't always cold) for dinner, who gave far more time than I was able to. All of these people were ordinary Californians who cared about what happens to our society. And all of them believe in something simple: fairness, hard work, and the American dream. Not all of them had the same skill sets, not all of them even agreed on everything. Some were prolific phone bankers and others were outstanding precinct captains, yet others were experts at writing letters to the editor. But all of us were working toward the same goal: protecting and standing with hard working Californians, to make sure those who serve our state every day without thanks are not victimized by runaway political extremists.
And so we put together a campaign of epic, grassroots proportions where real people made a difference. Millions of phone calls and millions of walked miles later, we are victorious.
Of course all those propositions were bad ideas and bad policies, but Schwarzenegger has pushed bad policies on the ballot through before. This time though, the mouse pads and shoe leathers got in the way.