I'd like to thank Jim for his very kind offer to guest post about Barack Obama. Greetings to all of you, and thanks for your patience!
I run an activist group (Obama London) with an associated blog and have been organising grassroots support and volunteer activity for Barack since September 2007. So what is it, you may ask, that inspired me to get involved for a candidate who was then considered a real long shot for the Democratic nomination? Well, call me weirdly idealistic but I was overcome by the possibility that in this extraordinary year, at this crucial time in world history, we could as a country potentially get behind someone who:
- Had the judgement to oppose this unneccesary war and to clearly foresee that it would harm our national security.
- Had the courage to declare that our official policy of non-engagement with hostile regimes does not serve our national interest – or that of the world community - and who is willing to stand against decades of cowardly received wisdom to insist, like John Kennedy, that "we will never negotiate out of fear, but we will never fear to negotiate."
- Has stood up his entire life for the underpriviledged and the disempowered, sacrificing lucrative corporate contracts to work as a community organiser in the poorest parts of the south side of Chicago.
Barack Obama's values and priorities match up with mine – and they match up generally with all of us across Europe who understand that health care is not a luxury but a basic right and necessity; that workers deserve protection, decent wages and reasonable benefits; that ending our addiction to fossil fuels is not a threat to our economy but our only hope of preserving prosperity in the long term.
Suffice it to say, I'm a fan. I not only believe he should be President because he is better than the alternative (although he is!); I believe he should be President because he is better than ANY major party alternative we have had to offer in my lifetime.
But enough with the gushing – what's this to do with you?
Well, the other element of Barack Obama's campaign is that he demands action from all of us. Remember, his slogan is not "Yes he can" or "He is the change you've been waiting for." It's "We can." "We are."
In other words, if you care about these issues, it's not going to be good enough to say so, approvingly over a pint or while watching the news. You're going to have to take action.
Fortunately, the campaign has made it incredibly easy to take action – even for those of us seemingly stranded overseas.
Here are just some of the ways you can help*:
1. Give money. This is a grassroots campaign with over 1.5 million donors so far. We value a $5 donation as much as a $500 donation because we are trying to maximise participation. But if you can afford it, I'd ask each of you to give $100 today – that's only about £50 – as an investment in the future. Use this page – it's been specifically designed for Americans in the UK.
2. Register on the Barack Obama website. The website is designed for social networking and is intended to help link up supporters with each other in a manner very similar to Facebook. Also, by registering you gain access to all the online activism opportunities – you can join and create groups, create a fundraising page of your own, write and read blogs by your fellow supporters etc. http://www.barackobama.com/
3. Phone Bank from home. Once you've registered on the site you will have the opportunity of actually calling potential voters and volunteers from your own home. The Phone bank tool is designed so that the campaign can identify the voters it most needs to contact and our volunteers, wherever in the world you are, can make the calls from the comfort of your homes, reporting back instantly to the campaign about the outcome of those conversations. It is, in short very cool. As we get closer to the election phone campaigns in critical states will be key to our victory.
4. Register Voters Here in London. We have an extensive voter registration and outreach program operating here in London. If you'd like to be trained to register voters here in the UK, drop me a line and I'll set you up with one of our forthcoming voter registration training sessions.
5. Call Your Friends and Family. It may sound simplistic, but actually one of the most effective things you can do for our campaign is to reach out to your Republican Great Aunt Gertrude, or your American dog-walker who doesn't vote, or your neighbor's daughter who is about to vote for the first time. It's far more effective for potential voters to hear about a candidate from someone they know than it is for the campaign to try to reach them. Don't believe me?
Let me tell you about a conversation I had with my Dad on the day of the New Hampshire primary.
It went like this:
Ring Ring Ring – start of voicemail. I begin to leave a message.
"Hi Dad, it's me just..."
"Dad, I thought you weren't home!"
"Actually, we're screening our calls. It's election day here and we keep getting these people calling asking us to vote."
"But Dad, you're going to vote for Barack Obama, right? Like we talked about?"
"Well what time do the polls close?"
"Good point – pretty soon actually. Tell you what, can I call you back later?"
Now THAT'S how you get out the vote.Thanks for listening!
All best wishes,
* By the way, the below all assumes that you are a US expat. If you're an interested non US citizen but want to get involved as a volunteer, do drop me a line and I'll send you some further suggestions.