Today, after a fine lunch together in the fabulous City Centre section of Houston, my friend and I took a drive over to The Heights area for a meeting. Saturday afternoon, at the local IBEW hall, Battleground Texas was holding its first organizational meeting in our city. Traffic was particularly bad but we made it about twenty-five minutes into the announced start time.
Why did two Republican women head over to a Democrat event? I decided to go to check out how they do organization and I asked my friend to go for some company. For me the reward was two-fold. I was able to spend extra time with a woman I've been friends with since our now 23 year old children were in fourth grade together and the bonus of hearing the thoughts of a woman who is Harvard educated and current on politics while not so active. She votes, don't get me wrong, but at the present time she isn't a member of a local club or organization. In other words, she's completely like most regular working people.
The first thing we both noticed was that the parking lot was full. Many car bumpers sported Obama stickers from the last election. Going into the building, we immediately noticed the signs pointing the way to the meeting room. As we approached the room, we saw the sign-in tables. More than one with more than one person signing people in as they arrived and distributing name tags and material.
Walking into the meeting - remember, it had already begun - we saw that it was full of about 300 people. That's just a rough guess. I saw on their Facebook page that they claim about 350 were there and that may be. We stayed in the back and watched. The woman in charge of training was sitting a bit back from the young woman speaking. She was the one charged with explaining grassroots organizing and how it has worked for the Obama organization. One example used was that of North Carolina. Now that North Carolina is a battleground state, the young woman said there is no reason for Texas to be any less of a success.
She was young and had long blonde hair and was just shy of breaking into a cheer as she involved the audience in her talk. My friend noted that she could easily picture her with pom-poms in hand.
This leads me to noting the crowd. The crowd was majority white and middle aged to older men and women. Surprised? That's how they characterize Republicans, right? There were some Latinos and a few black Americans but mostly white. There was the usual amount of elected officials at a gathering of this size and I read on Battleground Texas' site that Rep Sheila Jackson Lee was there, though she must have left before we got there. We didn't see her. There were lots of sixty's flower children holdovers and some twenty-somethings but not a notable amount of younger voters.
The people there, however, were fired up and ready to go......
The speaker enjoyed mocking Governor Perry's general unpopularity in the state and how bad Republicans are, of course. Fairly boilerplate stuff, frankly. The crowd enjoyed and welcomed every and all zingers.
There was the opportunity to register to vote. The sign-in people were taking everyone's info - phone numbers and email addresses. There were prominent displays of their website and twitter account.
I couldn't help but compare this event to the Harris County Republican Party's Outreach Committee's meeting a couple of weeks ago. There, as I wrote at the time, some candidates and committee members were in attendance with about a dozen regular voters. The sign-in process was experiencing difficulties and there was no noticeable press coverage.
Battleground Texas had press there.
After the cheerleading and basic training was over, the crowd was broken into groups to brainstorm. The questions were posed: 1. In order to turn Texas blue, I think we need to do the following in my area: and 2. My best advice for Battleground Texas:.
One piece of paper handed out was to provide more detailed information about yourself. If you wanted to be a member of the Launch Team, you were asked to state if you want to get deputized to register voters, take others to get deputized to register voters, spread the word about the Summer Fellowship Program, or help create the County Resource Roadmap.
On the volunteer side, the attendee was asked if he/she will knock on doors in the community to spread the word, call supporters to spread the word, host a Battleground House Party, receive text message about upcoming events, or enter data for them.
They asked for the names and info on three people in the person's network who might want to get involved.
And, the Summer Fellowship Program was announced. This is for educating on political organizing and the person can apply online or ask for more info. Also, the person was asked to check which applied: Latino, African American, Woman, Student, Asian American/Pacific Islander, Native American, LGBT, Educator, Union member, Small business owner, Veteran, Spanish speaker. See, they hit all the boxes to micro-target their coalition building. You may call it 'outreach' but it is coalition building that wins elections.
The County Resource Roadmap is "about building a stronger democratic community", according to the information provided. " ..you know the people, businesses, and needs of your community better than anyone else. Tell us about them. Tell us how we can make sure our efforts reflect your community". See, more targeting to specifics.
Information was provided for Harris County Tax Office and Brazoria County Clerk's Office, as well as Galveston, Fort Bend, Chambers County, Liberty County, Montgomery County, and Waller County. That's a lot of territory right here in the Houston area.
They are tapping into the pent-up frustration of Democrats who are tired of a state that is so Republican these past two decades. There is real opportunity for them here, however, and Republicans are foolish to act as though there is not. The last election, for instance, Barack Obama had more than 500 voters over Mitt Romney in Harris County. Obama also beat McCain in 2008. It is all about organization, and more importantly, get out the vote efforts. These folks are experts at that. They are training lots of others to be experts at that, too.
Harris County Republicans have to step up in a very real and strong way now. Otherwise, be prepared to be in the wilderness for a very long time.