This weekend I had a chance to speak with Dan Grandone, the Director of Organizing for America (OFA) here in Wisconsin. During our conversation, we chatted about the 2010 midterm elections and how Organizing for America will be working to ensure good turnout among the Democratic base, as well as the challenges OFA will face in that respect.
When I asked Grandone what he saw as the biggest challenge for OFA this year, he was quick to note that what he saw as the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity was getting first time voters from 2008 (over 15 million nationwide and 300,000 here in Wisconsin) who were motivated and energized by the historic, once in a lifetime campaign of then-candidate Barack Obama motivated and reengaged for the midterm elections. Grandone noted midterm elections traditionally see decreased participation levels from voters, adding that’s why he believes there’s no more important time than now for voters from 2008 to get involved in the political process again. He also added that he’s read that first-time voters are likely to end up as lifetime voters if they vote in two more elections following their first, so getting those first time voters from 2008 – who overwhelmingly voted Democratic – to vote again this year would be significant, as they could be a powerful progressive voting block for the Democratic Party in years to come.
When I asked Dan how Organizing for America was going to get those first-time voters from 2008 reengaged and motivated, he said he wanted to get those voters reengaged and motivated the old-fashioned way – through what he called “people-powered politics.” He noted any effort to successfully reengage and motivate voters will need to involve going out to the voters, whether on their doorsteps, at farmers markets, or wherever else they might be and engaging and educating those voters, but most importantly, listening to them to find out what they think and where they want to see the nation head after this election. Grandone also added that he believes educating first time voters from 2008 on how their votes really impacted the country is critical, especially given the rhetoric and spin sources like Fox News and conservative personalities like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have used to attack Democratic legislative accomplishments like health care reform, the economic recovery act, and Wall Street reform.
As we wrapped up our conversation, I did ask Grandone for his thoughts on how Democrats in Wisconsin will fare in the upcoming elections, and he noted Wisconsin has solid Democratic candidates seeking reelection Sen. Russ Feingold and Rep. Steve Kagan, not to mention candidates seeking new offices like Mayor Tom Barrett and State Sen. Julie Lassa, and he added that having such a solid group of Democratic candidates “makes it easier to fire up the troops.” Dan acknowledged 2010 is going to be a challenging year for Democrats here in Wisconsin and nationwide, but he was quick to add that he’s still optimistic about Democrats’ chances in the upcoming elections. He explained that his optimism is a result of what he’s seen from volunteers, some of whom are working extremely hard – in some cases spending 20 or 30 hours a week – to help get Democrats elected in 2010, which keeps him hopeful that 2010 won’t be such a bad year for Democrats here in Wisconsin.