NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

LIVE from Providence: Organizing Outside the Lines: Reaching Hard-to-Reach Communities On and Offline

“These are not the only peo­ple work­ing on these issues”, the mod­er­a­tor empha­sized at the begin­ning of the pan­el. In a packed ball­room hall, this pan­el attempt­ed to talk about ways to gen­uine­ly engaged groups that are not tra­di­tion­al­ly engaged. The mod­er­a­tor had to empha­size that “hard-to-reach” was in quotes, as com­mu­ni­ties which might be hard for some peo­ple are every­day friends and neigh­bors for oth­ers. This reminder was very per­ti­nent, as too often it is easy to take peo­ple as the voice of their com­mu­ni­ty and move­ment, and the tac­tics which worked for some may not for others.

The first pan­elist, work­ing with DREAM­ers, spoke to their vic­to­ries, and con­tin­u­ing strug­gles (with Pres­i­dent Oba­ma deport­ing more immi­grants in three years than Dubya in his entire term) and then showed a video about Unit­ed We Dream and their com­mu­ni­ty engagement.

The sec­ond pan­elist was from Planned Par­ent­hood, and talked about how they defeat­ed the per­son­hood amend­ment in Mis­sis­sip­pi, by accept­ing the reli­giousi­ty of the vot­ers (espe­cial­ly when vot­ers had to “pray on it”). By uti­liz­ing the faith and val­ues com­po­nent, they were able to win in Mis­sis­sip­pi while oth­er con­ser­v­a­tive issues passed on the same ballot.

The oth­er pan­elists talked about their cam­paigns with the Troy Davis case, the Trayvon Mar­tin case and rais­ing aware­ness of peo­ple who have been unjust­ly mur­dered by police and vigilantes.

The mod­er­a­tor opened up to the audi­ence and let us con­nect the themes of the sto­ries of the pan­elists. Dif­fer­ent themes includ­ed uncon­ven­tion­al polit­i­cal orga­niz­ing, focus­ing on the com­mu­ni­ty instead of a face and a leader, and the merg­ing of online and offline orga­niz­ing. A major focus was also increas­ing civic engage­ment through help­ing a com­mu­ni­ty real­ize its own power.

Audi­ence dis­cus­sion also includ­ed how to con­vert from respond­ing to a cri­sis to push­ing for a bet­ter world, which was devel­oped through the response which talked about the work which was done before­hand and devel­op­ing email lists after­wards, which includ­ed being sen­si­tive to how peo­ple came into con­tact with the orga­ni­za­tion and invit­ing them to join. Anoth­er response was to say that that you can’t push for bet­ter if the cri­sis is con­tin­u­ing to occur, such as high incar­cer­a­tion rates and the stop-and-frisk poli­cies which need to be dealt with lest it con­tin­ues that “the house is on fire”.

In the last round of ques­tions, impor­tance was place on tar­get­ing those deci­sion­mak­ers who will help an orga­ni­za­ton get what it wants, and also how to tar­get Oba­ma “with­out elect­ing Mitt Rom­ney”. The biggest answer was that by tar­get­ing Oba­ma the pro­gres­sive move­ment will actu­al­ly help the cam­paign because by get­ting the Admin­is­tra­tion to do what we want it will ener­gize the demor­al­ized base and get peo­ple out to vote, cit­ing the strate­gies used to get Oba­ma to sup­port mar­riage equality.

There is much to con­nect with the last com­ment, because many peo­ple have been dis­il­lu­sioned to Oba­ma the President,and much of what have been said in pre­vi­ous Net­roots Nations by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Admin­is­tra­tion was to hold their feet to the fire and ensure their account­abil­i­ty to pro­gres­sive pol­i­cy. The pan­elists made it clear that by not being over­cau­tious due to fears of a red Novem­ber we will reelect a Pres­i­dent of the cal­iber we need to make a bet­ter coun­try and world, because a non-pro­gres­sive Oba­ma will make the vot­ers stay home and ush­er in a Rom­ney Administration.

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