Forward reporter Beth Schwartzapfel gives us a look at one cutting-edge organizing tool that could make a difference today:
In the runup to today’s election, the political action committee of the politically liberal grassroots internet phenom MoveOn.org launched its Call for Change program, in which volunteers use an internet tool from home to call likely progressive voters in tight races and encourage them to go to the polls. For the organization that pioneered using the internet as a tool for grassroots organizing – and raising serious campaign cash – the effort marks a new step in putting a fresh face on a tried-and-true political organizing tactic: the phone bank.
Phone banking typically requires volunteers to travel to a set location at a predetermined time. Call for Change turns this model on its head by allowing volunteers to make calls on their own schedule, in their pajamas. “It’s definitely a one-of-a-kind technology that was built from the ground up this year, with the goal of empowering regular people to make a difference from their home computers,” MoveOn’s Adam Green told the Forward. The online tool provides users with registered voters’ phone numbers and polling places, along with a script and buttons which allow users to move through a series of options depending on the outcome of the conversation. For those who prefer to be social, MoveOn organized calling parties in the homes of volunteers all over the country: BYO laptop and cell phone.
And it’s working. As of 12:45 today (a real-time count is available at moveon.org), over 86,000 volunteers had made some 6.1 million phone calls to voters in 60 targeted districts. The original goal had been to make 5 million calls by today.
Included on the list of candidates targeted for support were nine Jewish candidates in tight races, including Arizona’s Ellen Simon and Gabrielle Giffords, and Florida’s Ron Klein. Green said that about half a million phone calls have been made on behalf of the Jewish candidates. This fact may complicate a spat that erupted earlier in September when Jewish conservatives accused MoveOn of not adequately responding to antisemitic postings on its open internet forum. Jewish liberals, including former Democratic Congressman Sam Gejdenson and the liberal non-profit group Jewish Funds for Justice, have countered that MoveOn’s naysayers were using the charge of anti-Semitism for political gain.