Category Archives: Organizing

In Praise of Door to Door Canvassing!

New Orleans      In modern politics obsessions run hot and heavy as election day looms ahead.  One cycle it might be microtargeting with sophisticated databases categorizing voters and messages.  Another cycle it’s small donors and social media.   But for my money, there’s still nothing like the ground game even if it’s the old standby sitting on the back pages while the fashion this year gets the headline.

Seeing a column in The Economist entitled “Knock knock:  Old-fashioned canvassing can still make all the difference,” brings joy to an old door knocking fool.  In an aside, I have to admit I’m having a mini-crisis of sorts reading The Economist.  For years I have done so in a low-boil thinking it was my duty to read the global perspective of a conservative, business weekly.  Now suddenly a history is written with reviews everywhere claiming they are the voice of liberalism.  Liberals?!?  I’m at sea.  Who are these people?  Regardless, if someone burrowed deep in their number is going to praise door knocking, they must be related to me somehow.

And, praise Bagehot does in full measure, saying,

“…canvassing provides parties with local knowledge.  Banging on doors is not only the best way to identify your supporters.  It is also the best way to gauge degrees of warmth or hostility.  Waverers can be targeted for another visit.  Get-off-my-lawn types can be written off.  Old-fashioned canvassing works seamlessly with modern technology, as canvassers use apps like MiniVAN Touch that allow them to feed doorstep responses into a central database.  These data are then used for the get-out-the-vote effort on election day, when thousands of volunteers will make sure that ‘definites’ get to the polling station and ‘persuadables’ are given one last push.  Even more important is the fact that canvassing forces politicians to look voters in the eye – to deal with their constituents as individuals, rather than as concocted stereotypes….”

Ok, this is obviously a British take on the fine art, but he’s speaking to a global truth, and the appreciation for the classic arts and respected trades is welcomed, thank you.

In fact, even though the mainstream received wisdom is that the Labour Party has little hope in the mid-December election, and that the Conservatives and Brexiteers will carry the day, this columnist and his praise of canvassing is reminding one and all that the door-to-door work would be underestimated at the peril of the other parties and could still carry the day.  Polls reported most recently show them closely the gap after a slow start.

Their not-so-secret weapon, which the columnist freely acknowledges is the fact that “Labour has …done better at preserving the long-standing tradition of street politics while embracing innovations.  Labour has created a new class of three pound or $3.90 cent supporters in order to boost its numbers.”  Door knocking and membership, you have to love it.  At least, I should say, I love it!

Some of the lessons we are still having to learn are all the old ones that remain evergreen.

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JT Introduces the Documentary

KABF Documentary is a Winner

Little Rock      JT Tarpley approached us out of the blue three years ago with a wild and crazy idea.  He wanted to make a documentary about KABF, our 100,000-watt noncommercial radio station broadcasting throughout central Arkansas.  This was during the time of troubles in the wake of the mind-blowing election of Donald Trump to the presidency turning so many people’s world upside down.  Tarpley’s notion was that he would tell the story of the resistance, if you will, through the lens of a foundational community institution, KABF.

How in the world would he manage that?  We didn’t know, but of course we said, yes, what did we have to lose?  It was a documentary after all.  Many are called, and few are completed, so what’s to worry.  The ACORN documentary, “The Organizer” drug on for eight years.  JT swore his would be different.  He was going to do it on a shoestring, and he was going to do it quickly.  Famous last words.

We heard from him last year.  Would a couple of us be willing to take a look at what he had been doing the last two years?  Ok, sure.  He then told me it was 180 minutes long.  Holy-moly!  We’ll watch some of it, but….  So, Toney Orr, KABF’s board chairmen, and John Cain, the program director, and me sat down with him and watched a bit on a busy day.  Our advice?  What did we know?  He had some interesting stuff, but it was just too long.  JT said he wanted to keep it all.  Ok, good luck.

KABF hosts catching the documentary

A week ago, he reached out.  The documentary now had a name: “88.3 FM – The Voice of the People.”  It was down to 100 minutes, and darned close to finished.  He wanted to know when I was next in Little Rock to see if we could do a “sneak preview” screening for KABF hosts and friends.  What the heck, sure, that was going to be a hella-day anyway with stops in Greenville and Drew, Mississippi, but I could be there by 630 PM in Vino’s back room.

We had a good, solid crowd of thirty or more, mostly KABF hosts.  And, lo and behold, I’ll be honest, to my surprise, it was a great documentary on the station!  Good camera work.  Parts of it were actually funny, which captures the true heart of KABF.  The diversity of the programming – and its hosts – old and young, black, white and Latino, came through clearly.  Ok, it was still too long.  Some pieces were ten minutes that should have been two, like the King march.  Too many speeches without enough connection to the main themes in the women’s march and the school closings, but, hey, that’s just a matter of tightening everything down.

Props to JT Tarpley for a crazy idea and for making it happen.  I’m biased, but my verdict as a now experienced documentary veteran, is that once this is at a festival near you, or anywhere you can get your hands on it, grab a copy or a chair and enjoy.  Then, throw a couple of dollars towards Tarpley so he can get it finished and always remember to show some love to KABF and become a member and jump for your wallet during pledge drives.

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