Win, lose, or recount, Barack Obama's reelection campaign will have a lasting impact on thousands of neighborhoods around America.
I'm a neighborhood guy. I've loved living in cities like Boston, Cincinnati, and San Francisco that have distinctly different areas, with traditions and cultures, almost like a big giant family. And now living in DC annoys me because of a lack of real neighborhoods, with some exceptions. So even though I supported Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primary, I've loved working on the Obama field team because of its local empowerment focus.
To really understand it, you have to understand the neighborhood team model. It was launched by Obama Field Director Jeremy Bird in the 2008 South Carolina primary, and has now been shaped and molded as the model for the entire campaign. Instead of one big office servicing hundreds of volunteers (see: John Kerry), the Obama campaign now has over 5000 "staging locations" in swing states. This is a huge advantage for Obama and a big advantage for the country, and here's why:
I was in over half a dozen staging locations today — some houses, some church basements that were rented out, some local businesses. These are places where, according to campaign estimates, 700,000 volunteer shifts are being readied to pound the pavement for the votes likely to put Obama over the top on Tuesday. Each staging location has a core team of 4 neighborhood leaders. One directs the operation. Another manages a massive canvassing effort. A third person handles logistics, and the fourth runs the effort to ensure people can vote despite planned right-wing suppression efforts.
Here's where this gets interesting. In economically distressed areas like East Cleveland or Appalachian Virginia these leaders are local. They're rarely Harvard kids shipped in from Manhattan. And they've demonstrated success already, registering 1.8 million voters (double the 2008 numbers) and turning out huge early vote numbers letting Obama head into November 6 with a large lead.
So whether Obama pulls it off or not, Cleveland Ward 9 will have a team of community leaders trained to organize with a level of skill never before seen. Ironically, while conservatives rail against government and praise personal responsibility, the Obama campaign is actually building the foundation of community ownership across America through its neighborhood team model. These leaders can do more to rebuild American power than any minor change in tax policy or personnel at the Department of Homeland Security ever will.
It always frustrates me when people pin economic problems or success solely on the president. America's economy is a living organism of all 300 million of us. By building 5,000 staging locations and training this core of 20,000 leaders in PA, OH, VA, CO, FL and more, Team Obama is actually sewing the seeds of a very strong recovery. These teams aren't going away on Wednesday — they're going to keep fighting for the values of their neighborhood. Personally, I hope the president wins on Tuesday so his 5,000 teams get the credit they deserve for putting this country back on the right track.