Good Advice for Big Organizing from Sanders Campaign Innovators

New Orleans   Having already read a number of pieces about the guts of the Bernie Sanders campaign from different perspectives, when I saw that my friends and comrades Becky Bond, who I’ve known back when CREDO was Working Assets and I would run into her in their San Francisco office, and Zach Exley back to his early days at SEIU, had written a book, I made a mental note to put it on my long to-read-list, but I wasn’t in any hurry for another slog in the “look at me, I was there” campaign book genre. I was wrong. This is an organizing book and should be on the top of the pile for anyone who wants to see serious organizations and social movements built from the ground up to build power and make change. I mean it. This book will be required reading for our organizers meeting in January.

The book is entitled, Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything, which is a little tongue and cheek riff off of some of their slams at old school Alinsky organizers and precepts. I actually agree and embrace their critique of one-on-ones and the wrong-headed cult of paid and so-called “professional” organizers and the limits of its scalability, although some of their other shots miss the target, but “big organizing” as the title would have spread the net wider, and this book needs to be read by anyone who wants to organize for change. Having just spent months with a political party in the Netherlands devising a system to maximize their volunteers and go whole hog with phone auto-dialers, I read the book excitedly in the way scientists in different parts of the world might marvel at how parallel our work was without having any idea that others were on the same track. I found myself scrolling for their emails and excited to reach out for them.

This is not the Sanders model book. Becky and Zack are clear that they failed to convince the campaign to endorse their approaches as fully as they felt warranted by the results. Like all organizers running field operations, they rue the millions spent on sending television ads out into the void, rather than investing more in the field where the differences are real, immediate, and measurable. Of course a lot of the book is a thank you note to their colleagues and props for their stars, but the meat of the book is invaluable as an outline for their “barnstorms” and phone operations.

Importantly, for real-police organizers, the book is also refreshingly hard headed and pragmatic and aligns well with what so many of us do day to day. Here are some examples from the one chapter that specifically lists “rules” of a sort:

· Be outcome-focused
· Respect and learn from volunteers
· Practice “high input, low democracy” as a team
· Choose speed over perfection
· Embrace productive conflict but not yelling
· Keep out of email trouble
· Operate on East Coast time
· Don’t be defeated by meetings
· Eat your own dog food
· Take care of yourselves and each other
· Be grateful for your team

See what I mean. This is actually great, solid advice for any organization and organizing effort. I might add even for political campaigns. It’s not the Ten Commandments. For example you could pick any time zone, but picking one would help reduce confusion, but all of these “rules” are good examples of the kind of solid, nuts and bolts, no baloney advice that Zack and Becky provide in this book that, taken seriously, will advance all of our work.

Read this book!

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Clinton Wins, Sanders Sulks

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 10.05.44 AMNew Orleans   In the last major bout of voting, Hillary Clinton decisively sewed up the Democratic nomination for President to become the first woman nominee of a major party, and making history in the bargain, 95 years after women first won the vote. She prevailed in indisputable fashion, winning the California primary decisively at 56% with 94% of the vote tallied, as well as primaries in New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota.

Furthermore for all of the carping, Clinton “succeeded in winning a majority of pledged delegates, a majority of the states that have held primaries, and the popular vote.” There will be a lot said, though I bet little in real terms that will be done, about the status of superdelegates in the future, but this was not a “rigged” victory. Clinton won fair and square and California was a stake through the heart of the Sanders campaign.

I interviewed Sanders organizer and longtime organizer and activist, Pat DeTemple, on Wade’s World last week about a paper he had been circulating around the Sanders camp that is part of the edition of Social Policy now at the presses. He had confidently predicted victory in California for Sanders, and was arguing that even so, it was time for Sanders to take the next step, organize an independent expenditure committee, start going after Trump, and make sure that Clinton, (gulp, sneeze, and cough) wins in November. Sanders winning North Dakota and Montana doesn’t do the job. California was his Battle on the Little Bighorn, and he was massacred. It’s time for him to shift to a new battlefield and leave this one. The nomination is Clinton’s.

Reportedly, President Obama called Sanders over the weekend. They are supposedly meeting on Thursday. It may be the White House, but it could be the woodshed. Obama is stepping up as the leader of his party to give Sanders a chance to exit on the lawn, arm in arm with the President, with a huge measure of the kind of grace that Obama can bring to such an event. The clock has wound down and the opportunity is now gone for a Sanders scowl and sulk. He’s had the opportunity to watch one Republican princeling after another walk the plank, so he knows the walk, and this is the best path for him – and the rest of us — to take.

Revolutions are about sacrifice, and they start with knowing that’s it’s not about you, but about the people. Senator Sanders fought the good fight and now there are other fights that wait for him, when he’s ready and willing, so he needs to help lead in that direction. In the meantime it’s worth remembering, that in this situation even the Beatles gave good advice, singing….

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We’re all doing what we can
But if you want money
For people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait
You say you’ll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it’s the institution
Well, you know
You better free you mind instead

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