Why I'm Supporting Obama

I've been pretty quiet in this here blogosphere over the past 4 or 5 months, but today, on this Super-Duper-Fat-Tuesday, I've decided to end my self-imposed blog-exile and speak out in support of the candidate who I would vote for if I currently lived in one of the Super Tuesday States (I live in PA).

Now, in case you don't know me, I was very hopeful that Al Gore would jump in the race, as he had the boldest positions on the issues that matter most to me (the Environment, Health Care, media reform, getting money out of politics, defending "reason", etc). When it became apparent that Gore wasn't going to jump in, I decided I'd vote for Edwards, given that he campaigned on a populist message that included fighting corporations, lifting up the poor, and other issues that weren't far from Gore's positions.

But, now that we're left with only two candidates, I have decided to join the cult, er campaign, to support Barack Obama. Here are a few reasons why I'm supporting Obama, and I hope you'll agree that these reasons are so strong that you too will have no choice but to bow down to, er support, Obama:

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O Please! Obama and the Environment

Crossposted on Pennsylvania for Al Gore

Last week, during the runup to Live Earth, a few of the Democratic candidates for President did what they could to associate themselves with the event, in an effort to woo those Democratic voters who see the environment as their top priority (I count myself amongst this group). And while some of these efforts seem noble enough, others make me want to throw something. That "other" is none other than media darling, and vanguard of the "new" kind of politics: Barack Obama. On Obama's Live Earth page, which appears to be called "O Live Earth", Obama has this to say:

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Another reason we need to Draft Gore: Single-Payer National Health Care

Crossposted on Pennsylvania for Al Gore in 2008

Most of the people who talk about the need to draft Al Gore to run for President focus on the issues of Iraq, technology, and/or global warming, as well as his general leadership qualities. All of these are great reasons to draft and vote for Gore, but today I found yet another, buried in a post on Daily Kos about Michael Moore's new movie SiCKO. From the SiCKO production notes (emphasis added):

Q: Does any candidate have a solid health care plan at this point, or are they just making vague generalizations?

A: Yeah, they don't seem to want to grapple with the real issue. It's very sad. Even the well-intentioned people like John Edwards--his plan seems to be to take our tax dollars and put them into the pockets of the private insurance industry. That is not the solution. Obama hasn't put together his plan yet, though I'm hoping he'll come up with something good. And then, of course, there's always the candidate who hasn't entered the race yet, but who won the office back in 2000.  What he's been saying on this issue since 2003 is the best.

And what is it that Al Gore has been saying about our health care system? We need a single-payer national health insurance plan:

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The Candidate as Rock Star

Crossposted at Future Majority

Yesterday, Barack Obama came to Philadelphia for a series of fundraisers, including one at the city's biggest venue, the Electric Factory. The event was was seen by the event's promoters as proof that Obama is "a new kind of candidate," since the electric factory (Clear Channel's 2500-person venue) is certainly not the place that candidates typically hold rallies at, and since $25 for students or $50 for general admission is not the typical cost for 20 minutes in front of a Presidential hopeful (though it is more than a typical concert ticket).  I'm not an Obama supporter (yet) so I wasn't planning on throwing down $50 to see the Senetor from Illinois.  Obama also pissed off me and just about every other young activist in the city a few weeks back (as well as many of the city's donors, from small to large) when he butted his nose into the mayoral election by backing Congressman (and member of the Commission of Fellas With Unusual Names) Chaka Fattah, who ended up coming in fourth in a five person race, over reform candidate Michael Nutter (who will be our next Mayor).  I also am a little disturbed by the whole rock start persona that Obama seems to be cultivating, which feeds into my fears that his campaign is all image and hope over substance.

But, I received a few free tickets the night before the event, so I decided to check it out. Once I picked up the tickets I found out that the event was going to be held at 5pm, but that doors would open promptly at 4, an odd time to hold an event since most people don't get off work until after 5. I figured it was just like any other concert, and that 4pm doors meant that the event would really start at 6, and so I decided to wait for some of my friends to get off work (who I had tickets for) to go. When I got to the event at 4:50 the doors were already closed, and the Secret Service wasn't letting anyone else in. So, I was left to mill around in the parking lot outside, and while it wasn't anywhere near as fun as the Grateful Dead parking lots I used to stumble through as a teenager, it was certainly entertaining. First of all, it's always fun to watch State Representatives, Judges, and various other local "important people" argue with bouncers over admittance to a club, espescially when they paid between $50-100 for the chance to come within smelling distance of the future Vice President Presidential hopeful. Hell, I even got to talk for a minute with the new Democratic nominee to traffic court with the $11,000 in outstanding traffic tickets, the suspended license, and the warrant out for his arrest ("it's all a big, misunderstanding!)-- ah, only in Philadelphia. At some point my friend State Rep Tony Payton arrived, and when I went over to tell him not to bother paying for parking because the doors were closed (I didn't realize at the time that Tony was supposed to deliver the opening speech, but that he was stuck in Harrisburg) some female Obama staffer, who was in the passenger seat, opened his passenger side window and started screaming at me (note to the Obama campaign: you better learn the terrain of the places you go before hand. You don't want to get your staffers injured- this is Philly, not Kansas, scream at us an we'll make you eat your blackberry). I look forward to meeting this young woman again, I certainly won't forget her face or attitude.

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CIRCLE releases new report on youth in the 2006 election

Crossposted at Future MajorityLast week CIRCLE released a new fact sheet on youth voting in the 2006 election (PDF), and while many of the findings simply confirmed what earlier exit polling already revealed (i.e. increased youth voter turnout and a huge, about 2-1, advantage for Democrats in voting), the report contained one bit of information that really grabbed my attention:  
In addition to a shift in voting behavior, exit polls also indicate a change in political party identification among young voters. In 2004, regardless of age, voters were evenly split between the Republicans, Democrats and Independents. However, in 2006, young voters diverged from older voters with a sizable plurality of young voters reporting they were members of the Democratic Party. Forty-three percent of young voters identified as Democrats, 31% as Republican, and 26% as Independent
This six-percentage shift towards identification with the Democratic Party amongst young people is pretty significant, in my opinion.  This says to me that the cynical, and incorrect, notion that "there's no difference between the parties" is starting to subside, which could have huge long-term ramifications if Democrats were to focus on the issues facing this group and continue to push this idea into the dustbin of history. Given how little is being spent on the left to woo this demographic, let alone train members of the younger generation(s) to become political leaders, the number seems even more significant, but I can't help but think that more attention and a lot more financial resources would lead an even larger number of young people to identify as Dems. It appears to me, at this point and time, that we may never know. Despite all of the good news on the youth vote front, I haven't seen any evidence that the larger financial backers of progressive causes have taken notice.

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Help those who help us in Philly: PUNK ROCK FLEA MARKET!!!

As some of you may know, I did youth outreach for Philly Against Santorum in the last election, much of which was done at the concerts of Philly's premiere all-ages concert promoter: Sean Agnew's R5 Productions. Sean could not have been more supportive of the work that we did, and he not only let us in to shows to talk with kids and persuade them to vote, and vote liberal/progressive/Democratic, but he actively helped push kids our, and the polls, way by sending out e-mails on our behalf and by lending us a bit of his amazingly large cachet of cultural credibility.

And now, Sean and R5 need our help. Tomorrow is R5's HUGE annual Punk Rock Flea Market, where you can buy all sorts of goodies for the young, and young at heart, on your Christmas list. Don't let the name fool you, it's not all punk rock merch being sold- I bought my wife an amazing (and unbelievably cheap) handmade necklace and earring set, and there are items for people of every age and interest. Please consider coming out tomorrow to help R5 continue to throw amazing shows and enable groups like PAS to reach out to youth from all around Eastern PA!  Details are below the fold:

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RootsCampDC Rocked!

Crossposted at Future Majority

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending RootsCampDC (put on by the New Organizing Institute) along with Music for America founder and my co-blogger at Future Majority--Mike Connery-- and a few hundred of our friends/colleagues, and I thought I'd offer a few of my thoughts and experiences from, what I thought to be, a really great conference.

Mike and I drove down to DC from Philly on Saturday morning along with our friends Fred Dereau, from Living Liberally and Advomatic, and Franz Hartl, from outerspace (as well as Music for America and Advomatic). We arrived a little late--around 11am-- which meant no mimosas for us, though we did catch the first session- a huge introduction led by Zack Exley, where everyone in the room said their name, what they did during the campaign season, and something interesting they wanted to talk about. Zack also explained the ground rules of the conference--it was an Open Space Technology event, modeled after BarCamp, where anyone could host a short session (between 30 minutes and one hour), and where everybody was expected to participate. This had the potential, in my mind, to devolve quickly into a "feel good" event, where little of substance would emerge. But, this cynicism was short lived; given that most of the 400 or so people in attendance were organizers and leaders, almost all of the sessions I went to were interesting and informative.

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Philly Election Post Mortem :: Part 3 :: PAS' Youth Field Materials

Crossposted at Future Majority& Young Philly Politics

Once I knew that I would be doing outreach at concerts and on campus i started to pull together the materials that I would use to help with outreach and persuasion. When I first talked to Ray and Jen I had an idea of what types of materials would work in the environments that I'd find myself and towards the youth demographic that I was targeting. The main thing that I wanted was to make a series of youth oriented issue cards, similar to Music for America's issue cards (see below for some examples). These cards would have been co-branded between Philadelphians Against Santorum (PAS) and a few of organizations that we were either partnering with or that we felt exemplified the Left's stance on one or another issue. The idea would have been to have a series of cards that provided talking points for our volunteers, educated the people who read them, and gave a sense of the broad coalition that makes up the Left.

But once I got the job (in mid-September) and started to take a cold hard look at the calender, I realized that there was simply no time to create a series of my own materials, that I would have had to come up with the text and, given PAS' limited budget, either design them myself or find a designer that would do the work both quickly and cheaply/for free. And so, with only a month left to register people in PA, I decided to improvise, and I began to scrounge together whatever materials that I could from friends and allies around the state and nation to supplement the field materials that PAS had developed.  This post is a look at the materials that I ended up using at Concerts and on Campus during the 2006 Senate Race in PA.

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Philly Election Post Mortem :: Part 2 :: Culture Matters

As I noted in my first post-mortem piece, my plan for getting "the kids" to the polls centered around work at concerts and on campus. In my second in a series of post-mortem pieces I'll look specifically at the concerts we worked, including an introduction to Sean Agnew and R5 Productions, who made this work possible, and helped ensure it was a success.

Sean Agnew & R5 Productions

As you know by now, much of my outreach centered around working at concerts thrown by Philly's #1 independent promotions company- Sean Agnew's R5 Productions. Now, for those who don't know, or at least know of, Sean, he is, to use the scientific term, "The Man".  Sean has single-handedly kept the Philadelphia independent music scene fresh and available to kids of all ages, while going up against the two horrendous monopolies that dominate American concerts and events: Clear Channel (whose concert division has recently been "spun off" into Live Nation) & Ticketmaster. If you want an idea about what Sean does, and who he has to go up against, check out this Harper's Magazine cover story that looks at Sean and his much larger competitors, or just head to the First Unitarian Church (22nd and Chestnut), the Starlight Ballroom (9th & Spring Garden), or Johnny Brenda's (Girard & Fairmount) and check out one of the extremely well attended and almost always entertaining shows that R5 throws! He also recently had a stalker blog dedicated to spotting him, which I'm just assuming means that he is hot shit, and he shares Ed Rendell's love for politics and the Eagles (though I don't think he share's Ed's love affair with fast/junk food or yelling at little league umpires- which is my earliest memory of the Gov). And while Sean is definitely not the type of guy who most people would think of as political, and definitely not someone who politicians might look to for help and or advice, he is very passionate about politics and is exactly the type of cultural community leader whom democrats should be looking to work with. Here's Sean's current myspace picture:

Sean & Ed Agree! The Eagles should be 8-1!!!

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Philly Election Post Mortem :: Part 1

Crossposted at Young Philly Politics and Future Majority

A couple of months back I mentioned that I had proposed and accepted a job doing political outreach and organizing with Philly Against Santorum (PAS). Since then I have been completely overwhelmed with the work at hand and a big move back to Philly (I lived in Brooklyn for the past 8 years with my wife), so I wasn't able to write as much as I would have liked to (and lord knows I love to self-promote!). But now that things have come to an end (and what a sweet, sweet ending it was!) I wanted to tell you a bit about the program I ran through PAS, and give you some of my thoughts and experiences from this election cycle. Since I am still working to get my life back to a sense of normality, I still don't have a ton of time, so I am going to keep this post short, and expand on it over the next few days.

How it all started...

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