Monday, September 08, 2008

Unsung Heroes Carry the Winning Message for the Democrats

Hey people. Every time you freak out at the ever-changing poll numbers, Andrea Mitchell gets her wings. So don't make Andrea happy. Let's wipe that smile off her face. Settle down, and know the boots on the ground are out there, carrying the message that will win us this election.

A story about the growing number of registered Democrats, as well as the decline in the number of Republicans, holds the key to victory - the untold number of dedicated volunteers, the sacrifice they make, and the message they spread, all still boils down to one simple thing.

It's the economy, stupid.

Five days a week, Linda Graham trolls tattered neighborhoods of this once thriving steel city outside Pittsburgh for unregistered voters she can sign up as Democrats — one of thousands of unknown volunteers whose work outside the limelight has already altered the basic arithmetic of the November election.

The epic nomination battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton helped put millions more Democrats on the voter rolls while Republican registration declined. Now Graham, 45, has taken three months of unpaid leave from her job at Pittsburgh's Central Blood Bank in the hope of adding to those gains before the presidential vote.

She's encouraged by the response here. "They're all feeling the crunch" of lost jobs and a sagging economy, Graham said. "But people are feeling empowered. They're feeling like, you know what, I hold a little bit of power in this."

While the Republicans scramble to target their own people who have moved, etc. and so on, basically shoring up the base, Democrats are reaching out to independents and people who have never voted before - with great results. According to the AP, the Dems added 2 million to the rolls while the Pubs lost 344,000 during the primaries, and the number of registered Democrats now outweighs the Republicans, 42 million to 31 million. Nearly 1 million "unaffiliated" voters now identify with a party, and "many" of them became Democrats.

Thank Howard Dean and the Obama campaign for this great effort. Obama's campaign worked with the unions, and Dean ran around the convention spreading the "boots on the ground outreach" message wherever he went, every group he spoke to. If the AP numbers are right, all this effort already is paying off.

The Obama campaign is taking the lead among the party organizations and labor unions that traditionally work on voter registration efforts.

Because party organizations and unions, like the Service Employees International Union to which Graham belongs, can raise unrestricted amounts of money, presidential campaigns typically rely on them to handle the bulk of voter registration drives, Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean said in an interview.

"This is the first campaign I've seen where the voter registration is done by the campaign," Dean said.

Back to the word those unsung heroes carry. This little tidbit at the end, in its own simple way, shows Democrats how they will win the election, if they stick to what is important and not let themselves be distracted by the media hype and Republican hijinks of late.

Graham, the SEIU member, works the neighborhoods of Clairton, where the steel industry's decline has left more downtown storefronts boarded up than occupied.

Graham finds a potential voter at the first house she stops at. Justin Webb, a father of two, is unregistered, but tells Graham he has serious concerns about the economy.

"We need more jobs," said Webb, 28. "If we had more jobs, we would have more opportunities to better ourselves."

It takes Graham less than five minutes to register Webb as a Democrat.

Are you better off now than you were eight years ago?

Big thanks to all those who are out there, everyday, carrying that simple message to those that need to hear it. It's the winner, because it's the truth.