The Power of Organizing

By Andrew Brown

Today, maybe more than ever, anyone who has had the frightening experience of watching a White House press briefing is probably wondering what they can do to fix our broken political system.

How do we meaningfully and effectively engage our neighbors? How do we bring back voters who were hoodwinked by what now appears to be blatant lies intended on gaining their vote? How do we increase turnout when so many in Ohio simply want to tune out? How do we get people involved in local elections? And why should we even try?

I’ve been passionately involved in organizing since I first stepped foot in Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign office in Cincinnati at the tender age of 16. Worried about my family’s healthcare and inspired by a message of hope, I began what now is my passion: Organizing.

Formerly known as “field”, organizing is the voter contact strategy any political campaign uses to turnout the vote and win. Knocking on doors, calling and texting voters, throwing house and watch parties, writing postcards, and recruiting volunteers are all a part of organizing.

Organizing strategy is often the deciding factor in close races. Rapidly advancing between 2004–2008, organizing played a huge role in Barack Obama’s historic 2008 victories in the Iowa primary, as well as the general election in Hamilton County. Many will tell you that the power of organizing is a data-driven campaign with all of its targeting and technology. Few know that the secret of it’s success is community empowerment.

I’ve worked on ten campaigns in an organizing capacity and have found that the secret of our success was not only data, but empowerment of volunteers and voters in the community.

Have you ever wondered how campaigns start with zero volunteers, but end up with hundreds in the end? This doesn’t happen organically. It takes a clear executed plan by a passionate person who’s willing to work 12+ hours a day, eat terribly, and endure the wrath of voters who usually blame all of the world’s problems on them.

What could be more powerful to earning someone’s vote than an honest-to-God conversation with them? I have stood at doorsteps across the country talking about poverty, equality, and human rights. If I was to post online that we need background checks for guns, I would get shouted down from the right. But I’ve never had a single republican tell me it was a bad idea on their doorstep in across eight states and over 50,000 doors. That’s because the way Democrats win or lose voters, no matter the community or demographic, depends on their commitment to authentic conversations.

By knocking on doors, I have filled entire offices with people wanting to knock more doors and talk to more people. People who had never voted, let alone volunteered on a campaign before.

Empowerment comes in many forms. Our conversations on the doors and phones restores a tiny fraction of hope in our political system. Sharing mutual experiences with someone who is struggling to make ends meet brings about some comfort. I’ve sat in living rooms and at kitchen tables from Cincinnati to Phoenix, listening to heartbreaking stories about health care and violence.

I’ve met too many people living in poverty who work multiple jobs, still unable to make ends meet. I’ve heard horror stories about a lack of accessibility for persons with disabilities. I’ve shed tears with families devastated by the greed of insurance companies and big banks — families sold a false bill of goods only to be told that it was somehow their fault. These are our neighbors and friends. They deserve more, from Cincinnati, to Columbus, to Washington.

We deserve to be heard.

I’m supporting Tamaya because she hears and listens to those voices so often neglected by elected officials. Tamaya is the change I want to see in government. She believes in the power of organizing. I want someone who is genuinely authentic. I want my vote to go to a leader concerned with creating thoughtful policy that includes all perspectives, rather than accommodating personal agendas and egos. I care about my community and my neighbors. I want to engage my community in a way that is authentic and I want to empower those disengaged to get back into the arena.

I’m also voting for Tamaya because I believe one of the largest problems in our government is the lack of representation of women. Women make up over 50% of the population, but only 19% to 25% of elected office. If we don’t organize behind women when they’re running for office, how do we achieve the goals we marched for in January?

Let’s make sure it’s a relic of the past that women make up only 2 of 9 City Council seats in Cincinnati. I’m voting for Tamaya Dennard because she’s the change we need at City Hall.

Here at Tamaya For Cincinnati, we’re engaging people in unorthodox ways because we recognize the value of relationships and listening. We engage in all of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods because that’s what the community deserves from someone asking for their vote. For too long, people have said that parts of the city are “unwinnable” — that our efforts are only needed in spaces that already align with our platform. I say, to hell with that! Many parts of the city never get involved because they are not engaged.

Politics can be exhausting. Day by day, it seems things can only get worse in Washington. That’s why it’s so important to get involved now at the local level. Organizing is the path forward to elect leaders who represent the values we want to see in government. If we want more women in politics, if we want more accessible and transparent government, we must organize.

We must empower our friends and neighbors to do the same. If you’re going to RESIST, resist apathy. Resist the temptation to do nothing.

Organizing takes time and effort. Calling voters, writing letters, and knocking on doors can be hard. Democracy always is. But if you want to create change, start with local elections. What we do now is the foundation for the future.

Organizing has made me the person I am today. Who would’ve thought I would find my voice in helping others find theirs? I remember a younger me — 16 years old, young and scared, seeing so much injustice. But a man from Chicago preaching hope came to town to teach me that it was about something bigger than myself. He taught me that it’s about fighting for change we may never see ourselves. It’s about people I may never know, but share a common humanity with.

I realize that this moment I share with you is the same so many saw in a woman from New York and a man from Vermont. Our work does not end after a campaign. We are here to serve a larger purpose.

We’re lifted by the people we organize. Our success is measured in the lasting impact we have on the communities we are privileged to serve. And at a time when hope seems lost, when news is consuming, and ideals come packaged in 140 characters, I remember I’m not alone. I remember to hope, pick up a clipboard, and check myself back into the arena.

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