While I stood on a busy corner in Truckee (exercising my first amendment right to free speech and to assemble peaceably) supporting a presidential candidate in the California primary election, a young man in a pickup truck drove by and threw a snowball at me, yelling, ‘F__k our government!’

My point, exactly. I understand his frustration, but I am channeling my anger and using it in a productive way. Getting into the White House or the House of Representatives to pelt our elected officials with snowballs is highly improbable and I was an easy target for him. (Still, he missed.) He wasn’t that far off, though, because I am the government, because we (theoretically) have ‘a government by the people for the people.’ But, people have to actually participate in it for it to work.

The last thing I ever thought I’d be doing is getting involved in politics, but this January I suddenly found myself deeply planted in a grassroots campaign. It started by attending a Rally for Change where I was inspired into action by the candidate, Barack Obama. He has a vision of active engagement in our democracy by all Americans. He gave me hope for the future and I decided to see how I could help spread his message. I began by educating myself more about the candidate – his history, his work and his proposed solutions to the problems our country is facing.


Then, I learned more about our electoral process and went to the Nevada Caucus, where I met others who are fired up. I asked a lot of questions and found I could talk with Hillary Clinton supporters and learn from them, too.

It was easy to get active and once I did it was exhilarating. I just opened a website, added my name to a list of supporters, and was contacted by a campaign Precinct Captain from a neighboring town. They needed a presence in Truckee and would I like to be a Precinct Captain for Senator Obama’s grassroots campaign?

I had no experience, but I had enthusiasm, a computer, a phone and a desperate need to change the status quo.

A grassroots campaign is one voluntarily supported by the constituents of a community. Instead of being orchestrated by a traditional power structure its creation is more natural and spontaneous, one person sharing with the next. Grassroots campaigns traditionally organize and lobby by hosting house parties to build a sense of unity, put up posters, distribute informational literature, make phone calls and do door-to-door canvassing. They raise money from small donors, organize large demonstrations and ask individuals to write opinions to the media and to government officials. They also remind people to vote and help them to their polling locations.

In addition to all of these strategies, Obama’s grassroots campaign is thriving on the internet. The campaign created My.BarackObama.com, a social networking site like Facebook.com and MySpace.com, which has registered more than 70,000 users in less than a year. There, volunteers can learn about events, follow campaign stories and sign up to make phone calls. Members can even set up their own blogs. At the top of the home page is a quote from the Senator, ‘I am asking you to believe not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington…I am asking you to believe in yours.’
The grassroots organization MoveOn helped with a one-day Obama Endorse-O-Thon with a goal of 25,000 personal emails to friends and family about Obama. They sent nearly half a million. A video, ‘Yes We Can,’ by the Black Eyed Peas singer will.i.am had over 500,000 hits in two days on You Tube. Additional copies circulated and the estimate as of press time was that more than one million people had seen it within 24 to 48 hours. I know I received four copies within that time frame.

In 2004 Howard Dean was the first presidential candidate to truly bring the internet into play as a fundraising tool; an inexpensive method compared to fundraising galas and direct mail. Presidential campaigns traditionally obtain financing from wealthy, established political donors, Dean’s funds came over the internet in small donations (an average of $80) and because donors usually gave less than the legal limit of $2,000 per individual, the campaign could re-solicit them throughout the election season. Barack Obama’s online campaign donations are pouring in from ordinary citizens giving what they can. He is thrilled with the number of people giving to the campaign. He said, ‘This has never happened before. No one has ever built a campaign involving so many Americans as true stakeholders.’

In January Obama’s campaign raised $32 million from more than 250,000 individual voters. Hillary Clinton’s campaign raised $13.5 million in January, forcing her to loan her campaign $5 million of her personal assets.

In Truckee, members of Truckee for Obama made an estimated 200 calls in one day helping to make a world record of political outreach calls made in one state in one day. The goal was 100,000 calls. We made 200,000 calls. We stood on street corners waving signs in a snowstorm, we talked to our friends and families and we blasted emails.

One volunteer, Alan Redstone said, ‘I’ve never done anything for a candidate before. It feels really good.’

I know what he means. Two people told me they changed their minds and voted for Barack Obama because I persuaded them to do so; I know I had a part in his winning in Nevada County.

There are a lot of people out there feeling very good about the contributions they’ve made to the campaign. And more keep pouring in to help. So to the question, ‘Can we change our government with grassroots campaigns?’ My answer is, ‘Yes, We Can.’

The Democratic National Convention is August 25 through 28 in Denver, Colorado.


Play Online ‘Dating Game’ to Find Your Dream Candidate
New political matchmaking websites help voters determine find out which candidates’ views align with his/her own. Such sites as Digg, MySpace and YouTube typically reveal where the candidates stand, but one site, ontheissues.org, aims to bring together the politically compatible. A new version of an online dating service.

Here you weigh in on hot topics of the day: the war in Iraq, immigration, civil liberties, health care. In return, the website matches you with a candidate that aligns with those positions. In November 2007 another site, glassbooth.org, was launched to promising reviews with more than 700,000 people filling out its online test.


  • Kira Catanzaro

    Kira Catanzaro is a writer and renaissance woman deeply committed to connecting with spirit through meditation, creative arts, and the wonders of nature. She wrote for Moonshine Ink from 2006 to 2012.

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