Archive for July, 2008

Organizers Need A Lot of Space for DNC And Obama Platform Meetings

July 31, 2008

OffTheBus, a citizen-produced news site through the Huffington Post, organized its members to report back on the DNC and Obama Platform Meetings. This post reports back on some of our findings.

According to reports coming in from our Special Ops members, more than half of the Obama and DNC Platform Meetings were held in private residences, many of which were described as middle to upper-class homes. Maybe that’s because organizers need enough space for an average of 20 people to comfortably meet.

“It was a gorgeous restored barn made into an open floor plan home perched on a hill overlooking sweeping vistas of three river canyons. Very spectacular.” (California)

“Ms. [ ] called the meeting to order and we were ushered into a well lit great room that had a wall of windows with a Southern exposure. On one side of the room stood a grand piano.” (Kansas)

“The event was held in the pool house behind a private residence in a middle/upper middle class neighborhood. Those in attendance arranged themselves around a large oval table and the moderator stood at the head of the table. The party platform was projected onto a large screen across from the moderator so that specific sections could be referenced as the discussion ensued.” (Florida)

“A lovely home in a residential area, on the water, with living and dining rooms used to capacity.” (New York)

“This event took place at a gorgeous farm in the hills of Loudoun County overlooking several acres of green trees and vineyards and fields.” (Virginia)

“It was held on a wooden deck in the backyard of a private residence in coastal California, shaded by towering redwoods.” (California)

“Upscale residence in established neighborhood with wine and cheese tasting event.” (Arizona)

“A gorgeous Hancock Park home (mansion!)” (California)

“The home was in a section of the city that boasted many “retro” homes built in the 40’s and 50’s that were lovingly restored. Their home was cozy and restored to give guests a feeling of the style of that period.” (Florida)

“The meeting was held in the family room. The windows and French doors opened to a patio and lush woods in all directions.”(North Carolina)

Those who organized events in public places had their pick of Starbucks (or, if you’re in DC, Busy Boys and Poets), parks – including Strawberry Fields in Central Park and Freedom Park in Tucson Arizona, condo and community recreation rooms, pubs and Italian restaurants like Calitalia Restaurant, and the occasional TV station, like KCTU-TV in Wichita. A short drive west from Senator Hillary Clinton’s home in Chappaqua is Scott’s Corners, a hamlet of Pound Ridge New York. Ellen Kearns, Chair of the Pound Ridge Democrats, organized her local Platform Meeting around “a centrally located large stone water foundation positioned by the one block, no traffic light hamlet of Scott’s Corners that’s shaded by a really large tree.” (credit: Mary Ann West) That’s New England for you….


Women And Boomers Attend Platform Meetings In Higher Numbers

July 31, 2008

OffTheBus, a citizen-produced news site through the Huffington Post, organized its members to report back on the DNC and Obama Platform Meetings. This post reports back on some of our findings

Women appear to have outnumbered men at the DNC and Obama Platform Meetings but by no large margin. Old people generally dominated, with those in their 60s far presiding in significant numbers. Quite a few of our members reported diverse attendance, especially in states like North Carolina, California, Washington. In certain areas of the country, like Colorado, where the population is surging, a disproportionate number of attendees were in their 20-30s. The same held true for metropolitan areas like New York City and Los Angeles.

“The group was mostly white middle class boomers, aged around 40-60 . Self-described C-span viewers. Just three men joined nine women for the meeting. Only first names were used. One was a DNC delegate, another an Obama campaign team leader and precinct leader who had organized a similar platform party the weekend before down the road. There were two nurses, a dental technician, nursery school teacher, full-time moms, a paralegal, one woman living on disability and social security, and newly retired public workers and small business owners One was a former union activist for the Steelworkers. A handful had been active in party politics during college days (McGovern-era) but had been concerned with more local, family issues—nothing national til now. Eight years of Bush inc. has shaken them and they feel participatory democracy must be reasserted. ” (Boulder Creek, California)

“The attendees tended to be older (mostly in their 40’s and 50’s) while the gender demographics were pretty split–half men and half women. Most of the attendees were also registered Democrats although one attendee said he was an Independent and two attendees said they were Republicans (for Obama).” (New York, NY)

“Pretty balanced gender wise, Two under 40, rest 50+ (14 attendees)”
(Sonoma, California)

“Six women and six men. 20-30 years old–two. 30-40 years old–two. 40-50 years old–two. 50-60 years old–six.”
(Washington, D.C.)

“More people in 50/toward retirement age. Some young people. Equal men/women. Several former Hillary supporters and several who would like to see her as VP. Majority Dems with Independents and some Reps in attendance.”
(Columbus, Ohio)

Some Platform Meetings functioned like quasi-working professionals groups. Led by a teacher or social worker, these events attracted people working in the same industry. Oftentimes the group’s suggested platform reflected their bias toward related issues.

“There were 11 women and two men representing various age groups. The majority of the attendees ranged in age from 24-37. There were four middle aged attendees. No one in attendance was a delegate or otherwise involved in the Democratic Party. All attendees worked with trouble youth in some capacity as teachers, attorneys, counselors and advocates.”
(Baltimore, MD)

First Step In Drafting The Democratic Platform? Eat A Cookie.

July 31, 2008

OffTheBus, a citizen-produced news site through the Huffington Post, organized its members to report back on the DNC and Obama Platform Meetings. This post reports back on some of our findings.

Napoleon famously said that an army marches on its stomach. After reading more than 120 accounts of Obama and DNC Platform Meetings, the same appears to be true of our OffTheBus Special Ops.

Plunked in the middle of dense paragraphs elaborating voting procedures and debates were lavish descriptions of food. That’s right. It turns out that our members like to report on the food as much as they like to eat. A few choice bits:

“A table with instant coffee, decaf, hot water, cookies, hard candies and paper goods was also set up near the entrance.”

“On a sun-drenched Sunday afternoon, casually dressed people arrived at a wooden house in the redwoods toting dishes for a potluck lunch There were soft drinks, beer and California wine set out by the barbecue.”

“A very nice table of healthy-choice sandwich materials, veggie plates, and non-alcoholic punch. They had a nice gift of wrapped M&M’s for the attendees as they left.”

“Hosts provided snack foods and drinks (beer, wine, soft drinks).”

“The meeting organizer had her brother, who owns a restaurant, deliver pizzas.”

“We had tacos provided by the organizer and fruits brought by guests, including white, red and black currants from my garden.”

“Diet soft drinks were available in the kitchen refrigerator, with a modest buffet set up in the living room where attendees could snag pretzels, Cheddar cheese, sausage, celery sticks and chocolate.”

“The meeting was held in the family room. The windows and French doors opened to a patio and lush woods in all directions. Nearby, on an island in the middle of their kitchen, [the organizers] had spread an assortment of soft drinks, snacks and cookies.”

If forced to draw conclusions, I’d have to say that chocolate chip cookies and cheese & crackers are the preferred snacks on the left. On the right? We’ll have to see next week when we start tracking the McCain campaign.

Initial Platform Meeting Report

July 30, 2008

More than a hundred OffTheBus members have reported back on approximately 120 Platform Meetings in the last week (See a map depicting meeting locations here). The Platform Meetings are part of “Listening to America,” a new initiative announced by the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee to elicit supporters’ input for the Democratic Platform. Each party announces a platform of policy proposals at its convention prior to the general election, and this year the Obama campaign claims they will do it differently. Just like Obama’s planned speech in the 75,000-person stadium. There have been approximately 1300 of these meetings to date, according to the DNC.

Now we’re going to report back to our readers what we learned from these events, as well as a bit about our own process. Going forward we’ll blog out our investigations in real-time, occasionally keeping mum on our findings until we’ve got a story to publish.

Our most significant findings suggest that the Platform Meetings catered to a hefty number of “long-time” Obama supporters who are also recent additions to the Democratic Party. Obama’s 2004 Convention speech rallied many of the Platform Meeting hosts to his side almost four years ago, according to phone interviews conducted by our Special Ops members. Less than a quarter – 22% – of the Platform Meeting hosts interviewed by OffTheBus members backed another Democratic candidate during the primary race. Nine percent previously supported Senator Hillary Clinton, 7 percent backed John Edwards, and approximately three percent supported either Kucinich or had remained undecided through the primaries. Several members reported vocal and high attendance by Clinton supporters, who told our citizen journalists they participated out of respect for the Senator’s call that they unite the party. Most accounts describe mixed attendance — a handful of staunch and self-declared Democrats, some newcomers, and a slight majority of “long-time” Obama supporters. Madison, Wisconsin proved to be one exception. ” I’ve been politically active my whole adult life in Madison and all of these people were new,” reported Adam Young, a local activist who attended the meeting on OffTheBus’ behalf.

Based on a sample of 120 platform meetings scattered across the country, an average of about 19-20 participants attended each event. The largest event we observed was hosted at a local D.C. bar and cafe, Busboys and Poets, where 115 people showed up. Just two people showed up at the smallest event. Evidently smaller meetings make consensus-building – and platform writing – a near impossibility…. When reason reached an impasse attendees asked our citizen journalists to weigh in.

Some progressive activists have openly questioned how much influence Platform Meeting attendees would have over the official Platform Committee. Meeting attendees disagreed. Acknowledging that such a review may pose a tremendous logistical challenge they fully expect the campaign and the DNC to read their submissions. The meetings themselves received high reviews from attendees, who sometimes struggled to reach consensus. Obama supporters consistently named withdrawal from Iraq, strengthening the economy, protecting the environment, and universal health care as their top four issues. The Israel-Palestinian crisis oftentimes came up in debate at Platform Meetings, but attendees generally agreed not to submit it as a top issue.

This is not the first time the Democratic Party has opened up the platform process. In the past the Democratic Party hosted townhalls in select locations around the country. With the help of the web, the “Listening to America” initiative opens up the submission process. It remains unclear how the campaign and Democratic National Committee will process peoples’ ideas and ultimately fold them into the platform. To date no announcement has been made on what criteria will be used, and how the proposals will be weighed.

A lot of information came in from our Special Ops members, most of which we’ll publish on this blog tomorrow and Friday. That includes — details on platform proposals, meeting videos and photos, event articles written by our members, plus a bit on how this initiative worked. And some more.

Everyone who participated — see the ongoing project byline below — deserves credit for their hard work and reporting….

Heather Alarcon, Constance Bair-Thompson, Fai Borowiec, Beth Borzone, Stuart Brann, Harmon Brody, Carol Anne Burger, Kellie Cameron, Betsy Cazden, Natasha Chen, Denise Chiang, Thomas Cochrane, Ed Cohen, Donna Corey, Bill Dagg, Peter Daly, Cathlyn Daly, Bruce Daniels, Victoria DePaul, Timothy Dillenbeck, Dr. Art Donart, Esther Drew, Patrick Duncan, Joan Easley, Natalie Elmore, Ataa Elnaccash, Maiko Emi Adachi, Chad Ernest, Robyn Ewing, Taye Foster Bradshaw, Suzana Frasheri, Deb Gianola, Lynne Glasner, Anton Goustin, Andrea Graham, Janice Guider, Franklin Gurganus, Sara Haile-Mariam, Janet Hamilton, Cathy Harned, Susan Hass, Bill Hay,  Greg Hodur, M.E. Holden, Bette Holmes, Karen Hoving, Pamm Howard, LD Janakos, Cameron Johnson, Rosalyn Johnson, Christopher Johnston, Hazel Kahan, Mary Kenez, Saba Kennedy-Washington, Natasha Kotecki, Henryk Kowalczyk, Jonah Lalas, Chuck Lasker, Erik Lassi, Steve LeMay, Clara Listensprechen, Thyra Lowe, George Manos, Deanna Martin, Sandra Mayse, Nora McDonald, Jan McGirk, Darrell Miller, Sarah Moglewer, Browne Molyneux, Atia Moore, Greg Moran, Amanda Morris, MaryBeth Morrissey, Dean Mougianis, Jay Mucha, Sonya Myers, Marianna Nash, Trish Nater, Albert Nickerson, Daniel Nolte, Charmaine Nygaard, Michael O’Donnell, James O’Gallagher, Ahu Ozyurt, Roy Pearson, Brian Pendleton, Virgilio Perez Pascoe, Lisa Phelps, Marlene Phillips, Deborah Plummer, Rachel Port, Vidya Pradhan, Ted Radamaker, Daniel Raymond, Kristina Reaume, C Roebuck Reed, B.G. Rhule, Pax Riddle, Edward Rotchford, Nancy Ryle, Greg Schwartz, Merry Selk, Karen Sellars, Susana Short, Erica Slead, Rona Smith, Paul Solyn, Dr. Shauna Springer, Jeff Stepper, Jensea Storie, Ruth Stroud, Gale Teschendorf, Crystal Thompson, Garland Thompson Jr., R. Trecker, Sandra VanderVen, Craig Vaughan, John Walsh, Teddiye Walton, Theresa Weathers, Marie Weingarten, Mary Ann West, Joan Wile, Adrienne Williams, Kim Womantree, Jaime Yarbrough, Adam Young


July 30, 2008

Welcome to Under the Hood, our OffTheBus ground report blog. Here you’ll find a 24-7 round-up of on-the-ground intelligence and dispatches from inside and around the presidential campaign provided by our Special Ops members. Our focus is source and raw material. This is a log more than a blog, like a text version of radar. Of course, we’ll break news if we’ve got it, but our basic goal is to provide a more nuanced and realistic version of the presidential campaign from the ground up. That’s where distributed journalism comes in. And our thousands of members around the country. Intrigued? You can join us. Need more info first? Here’s recent coverage in the NYTimes.