Yesterday, volunteers for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign held over 4,000 Unite for Change events across the country to lay the groundwork for the campaign ahead.  This emphasis of community organizing has become par for the course for the Obama campaign and stands out as one of the hallmarks of Obama’s entire career.  Focusing on grassroots development will not only help Obama win in November but will pay dividends for Democrats in down-ticket races across the country and will build the party’s base in a way that will pay off for years to come.

I attended the Ansonia for Obama event, and I was very pleased to see a lot of enthusiasm from the supporters I met.  Ansonia, Connecticut is a small city of approximately 20,000 people bordering my hometown of Seymour.  Like Seymour, it’s located in the region known as “the Valley”, a working class industrial area significantly poorer than the upper class Amity region to the immediate east.   As the factories leave, Ansonia has been unusually successful at revitalizing its downtown with small businesses, particularly antique stores.  Politically, Ansonia is influenced by nearby New Haven. a hotbed of progressive activism in the state.  Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 2.5-to-1.  However, this support has not historically translated to the national party.  In 2004, John Kerry only defeated George Bush by a margin of about 4,000-3,200, and the Democratic primary turnout of 47% was among the lowest rates in Connecticut (Hillary Clinton won the city by almost a 2-to-1 margin).

Only four other people were at the meeting; however, despite the low turnout, we were able to lay plans for action that could pay big dividends come November.  Most of the discussion centered around getting visibility in the local media and setting up voter registration drives at community events.  We hope to particularly focus our registration efforts on Ansonia’s substantial, largely poor African-American population, a group suffering from very low turnout rates and a lack of attention from area politicians.  Ansonia is exactly the type of city in which a strong voter outreach effort could provide incredible results.  If we can unify the party and reach out to the disenfranchised, the demographics are such that we could capture a huge groundswell of support for Obama.

I strongly encourage everyone to seek out their local Barack Obama groups and find out how you can get involved with the campaign.  These local efforts make a huge cumulative difference.  If you can’t find a group, then start your own; Ansonia for Obama is living proof that you don’t need many people at this se of the game to set the framework for an election season of effective activism.

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