Election Survival Tool Kit

On New Years Eve 2011 I witnessed tectonic shift in the blogosphere and twitterverse. The “Enthusiasm Gap” evaporated. It was as if we were all waiting for it to actually be 2012 to allow ourselves to become enthusiastic about re-electing the President. And wow, are people enthusiastic. It’s like a bright light turned on in a dark room. Everyone is awake now and definitely ready to go. So I thought I’d share some tips and tools for surviving the ten month and six day road ahead.


Breathless reporters reporting breathlessly. We’ve all seen it; reporters and pundits reporting on events like they’re covering the end of the world. The operative word is breathless. When we don’t breathe, we don’t think, we don’t reason, we don’t listen. We’re agitated and out of control and do not make good decisions or evaluate what we hear, read and see correctly. The media wants us in this state of mind so we don’t tune away. We’re waiting to catch our breath and see if the world really does end.

The first and most important tool in our toolkit is breathing. I suggest taking it a step beyond the simple reflexive action to actively take time to ‘exercise’ breathing. Take a walk and focus on the act of breathing. Practice yoga or T’ai Chi or meditation—anything that alters the breathing habits used during the day for at least 20 minutes. Even stopping what we do and inhaling deeply using the diaphragm a few times a day will help. I do yoga for 20 minutes 6 days a week and I believe it is the main reason why I am able to get through reading about politics without overreacting to every little thing that’s out there. Actively controlling breathing helps us relax and stay calm. Staying calm makes all of us better advocates for the President. Pay attention to how calm he is about everything. Calm works. Breathing produces calm.

Active Listening

We have no better mentor on how to actively listen than the President. He listens because he cares. We do more to help people remain open to voting for the President by listening to voters than we ever do by talking to voters. Actively listening means we pay attention to what a voter is telling us without jumping in to correct them, or defend a policy or the President. If voters feel like we actually heard what they were trying to say, then the contact becomes a positive one for them. Winning an argument is never the goal. Hear and validate the concerns; try to speak to the concerns calmly; leave the voter with a sense of satisfaction. We never argue with voters. Ever. We ask them if we can leave with them some literature, we ask for their votes but most importantly we leave them feeling like we listened and that what they said mattered. We are representing the President; when voters speak with us they are speaking to the President.

Ron Paul ≠ 270

Now that Far Left Reactionaries (PL, emoprogs) have begun to embrace Ron Paul, we need to reprogram ourselves to deal with this. Our first inclination is to try to confront people in our own circle of friends with what we believe to be true about Ron Paul: that he’s racist, homophobic, etc. I’m suggesting a new strategy because I believe that focusing on the individual and his beliefs is counter-productive, primarily because it isn’t the man these folks find attractive. It is his rhetoric that makes them swoon. Underneath it all the Far Left is really just a subgroup of Libertarians (yes, even the anarchists). This is all about being anti-government for them and no one is more anti-government than the Angry Southern White Male: Ron Paul.

When it comes to electing a President, there is only one thing that matters: The Electoral College. Those pesky 270 Electoral votes are all that matter to me. 48 of the 50 States have a winner-take-all policy for their electoral votes (exceptions are Maine and Nebraska). My goal is to do whatever is in my power and capability to make sure that all twelve electoral votes from the great State of Washington go to President Barack Obama. Period. How that gets done is by him winning the general election in Washington State on 6 Nov 2012. This is why I’m not concerned about Ron Paul’s name being on the ballot. The odds of him getting more votes than the President aren’t even worth calculating. Not gonna happen. All that matters is if the President gets more votes in my State than the Republican Nominee.

All Third Party Candidates (which Ron Paul would have to be since he is NOT going to win the Republican nod) are a non-factor. Will they take votes away from the President? Of course they will. Ron Paul, whoever gets the America Elects internet nomination, any Green Party candidate, etc. will all get votes. Which of those votes might have gone for the President can’t be known, but most of those votes are votes that would not have gone for him in the first place. We do know that most of those votes will be cast, for the most part, by white males.I’ve already covered chasing white male votes.

There are two important keys to dealing with a Ron Paul supporter. The first is finding out how they plan to vote on the down ticket. Get past their rhetoric and bombast and get to the heart of the matter by asking them about the other races. If you live in a Class I State, the first question should be, “For whom are you going to vote for the Senate?” This is where the rubber meets the road about how serious they are about politics. If they can’t answer simple questions about which candidate they support for the Senate, House or one of the 13 Governors races in 2012, they are not serious. The second key is asking them if they are registered to vote. This is where you find the people who are all rhetoric and no substance. The non-voters can support Ron Paul all they want, but if they’re not prepared to actually cast a vote for the guy, then you have your answer. They want to distract you from the hard work of re-electing the President and/or are attention seekers. Either way, keep that number of Electoral votes from your State in mind. For every Ron Paul supporter we find, we can pledge to find five new voters for the President to offset their naval-gazing foolishness. Ron Paul supporters are armed to the teeth with irrational reasons why their support is valid. Cut them off at the pass by pressing them on the down ticket.

All Politics Is Local

Every square inch of this country is being redistricted this year from the Congressional districts down to the precincts. It is our responsibility to learn and keep track of these changes especially in states that either lost or gained districts. People are going to suddenly find themselves represented by politicians they might not know at all, or find themselves suddenly represented by Republicans rather than Democrats. Districts that were once competitive may no longer be. In many cases politicians might not know what district they’re representing until a week before the deadline to file for candidacy. It’s a very strange time to be running for office. This hasn’t happened since Bill Clinton ran against GHW Bush. To give you an example of just how important I think this is, I took a map to the office of the County Auditor to demonstrate how I wanted to see my new precinct boundary drawn.

If we are to be truly helpful in the effort to re-elect the President and give him a Congress with which he can work, we must begin at the most basic political unit: the Precinct. Most precincts won’t be redrawn, but enough of them will that we’ll be required to learn not only the boundaries, but the demographic makeup of any newly drawn Precinct, Legislative District and Congressional District. Two sources for this information are from local Democratic Central Committees or Obama For America. Call your Dems office or go online to find your Legislative District or County Democrats organization to learn about the process. Know your Precinct.

Know your Voter registration and ID laws backwards and forwards. We cannot leave any of this to chance, not for a minute. What is critical here is to follow the law no matter how distasteful that law might be. If we focus on the inequities of the law by complaining about it, then we lose valuable time and energy that can be better spent complying with the law. It is all about education. We must first educate ourselves and then educate anyone who wants to vote for the President. OFA will be instrumental in facilitating the process of compliance. Making sure people can vote in certain states will be our biggest challenge, but it is a challenge I believe we are all able to meet.

Stay Inspired

One of the many amazing aspects of our President and the way he campaigns and governs are the speeches. So many of them stand up to the test of time because they are classically eloquent and speak to Americans like we’re adults. Lucky for us, there is a place where the best of the best can be found: The Obama Diary Speeches page. Great oration is a powerful tool. Use it on ourselves and others whenever possible. Nothing, however, is more inspirational to me than the Dipdive video featuring will.i.am singing the Yes We Can speech. The 2008 campaign was filled with moments like that; moments that can’t be replicated and probably won’t appear with much frequency this year, but I can live with that. We are awake again and ready to do this task of protecting the change for which we fought so hard.

Stay Informed (and lighten up)

What we did not have in 2008 that we have now are the array of pragmatic progressive blogs like The Obama Diary, The Only Adult in the Room (on hiatus), The People’s View, Angry Black Lady, Smartypants, what IS working and so many more. What we did have was the OFA blog and the life-saver: Al Giordano’s The Field. I would have gone stark raving mad were it not for Al’s take on election coverage. These are all valuable tools for staying informed, building community and even organizing.

We also didn’t have much in the way of a Facebook presence and no Twitter. These are great networking tools and I highly recommend folks learning Twitter. I get great links to articles from there, but more importantly, I get reliable good laughs from reading Twitter feeds. My all time favorite is @zandarVTS, especially when he’s been drinking. Nobody I follow is funnier. @LOLGOP cracks me up, too. We cannot afford to take ourselves too seriously in all this. The President doesn’t take himself too seriously. See: White House Correspondents’ Dinner 2011.

Toolkit accessories
  • This is a great video to use to explain Wall Street Reform
  • A very handy guide to the ACA Health Care Reform
  • For people who insist upon beating to death the poor horse on closing Gitmo: The Senate Vote
  • I’ve only seen people on the extreme left bring up the NDAA that the President signed on 12/31/11, but if you’re compelled to address it, forget the signing statement, all you need to say is Veto Proof Bill. But just in case they need help, check out this explanation.
  • Everybody needs a good list of accomplishments
  • Debt Increase: Reagan 186%, Bush 54%,Clinton41%, Bush II 72%, Obama 23% --Congressional Budget Office
  • Search features on Blogs. When looking for well-written information on most topics of interest, don’t overlook the search feature on your favorite blog. It’s surprising what we can find with just a little digging.
Let us not forget a very subtle, yet amazingly vital tool: Faith. I’m not religious at all, but I know faith because I never, not even for one moment, doubted that Candidate Obama would become President Obama. My unwavering belief was a source of strength for many of the volunteers with whom I worked. As organizers, probably the single thing we spend the most time doing is reassuring volunteers that the work they are doing will not be in vain. That we will prevail. That the garbage they listen to on television and radio and read online is just background noise. We must keep our eyes on the prize and never, ever let up for a moment. We can’t afford to.

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