Union campaigning laid foundations for Obama campaigning
I’ve just come across an interesting article in the US radical journal In These Times, by Randy Shaw, called Origins of the Obama Machine. It recounts some of the campaign history of the United Farm Workers (UFW) in the 60s and 70s in California, and shows how their campaigning work presaged the Obama campaign’s real innovation (for an explanation of why use of the web wasn’t Obama in 2008’s big idea, see Eric Lee here).
The UFW was of course inextricably linked with Cesar Chavez, and the article argues that grass roots organising was much more important in mobilising voters than the technique of lobbying, writing cheques and then sending a mailing out to members just ahead of the vote (although I can’t help feeling that no one would want to abandon those either!)
One interesting aspect of the successful approach which is highlighted is the need for really good record keeping – how many bumper stickers distributed, how many people saw billboards etc – which UK unions and the left have been traditionally appalling at and dismissive of. All power to the elbows of those annoying people who insist we record what we do, rather than just putting in the hours!