Thursday, November 18, 2004

Blogging ITRW

Blogs are addicting. I first started reading and lurking in June of 2003. I started posting on DFA around August. DFA was a community that I found a home in and where I learned both good and bad blog habits. As a regular, you came to know other bloggers through their posts, and developed real friendships with them on the blog. It was wonderful to feel so full of hope in a time when Bush's popularity was still very high, and speaking ill of the president still not considered proper, especially in my Republican dominated area.

But the best experience I had was when many of the Chicago bloggers got together for a Dean House party just after Christmas. It seems years ago now. What was neat about the whole experience was that here was a bunch of people I thought I knew intimately, but had never met. I didn't know their peculiarities or their personalities. I didn't know their hobbies, or interests outside of Bush bashing. I had no idea who these people were other than their posts. Funny how on a blog, especially when one has been around a certain community for a long time, you think you know everyone like another one of you real world friends.

That night the group of us met on the north side of Chicago was really special. After the jitters wore off and we realized no one in the group was an axe murderer (sitting next to HBP I did get a close up look!), the conversation became quite familiar. We had schedule some DVD time watching an assortment of Dean inspiring and Bush-Iraq-Faux bashing material. But it quickly became apparent that we wanted to blog in the real world. I must say, as much as I like blogging, being able to see the body language and facial expressions (LOL is a poor substitute for laughter), plus having the group dynamic right in front of you, I found having an old fashion conversation to be really enjoyable (not to mention free of my trademark typos). The viewing materials were pushed back quite a while as we "posted" multiple comments for quite a while into the night.

Chris at MyDD has a great post about MeetUp, and how it was an oppotunity lost by the Kerry campaign. I must admit that I agree completely. MeetUps are the ultimate form of blogging ITRW. When I first started posting on DFA I loved the collaborative aspect of working on ideas or coming up with rapid response tactics with a large group. However, when I went to my first MeetUp I found that the ideas on the blog were often put into practice rather than just blogged about. It was when I went to my first MeetUp in October that I began writing letters, working with local candidates, and designing flyers and logos for any Democrat I could help. From Chris at MyDD:
The netroots is at its best when it creates an emotional connection with individual progressives, allows them to connect to other like-minded people, and provides them a forum where they can become active participants in the process. Frankly, this is politics at its best, and it is essential for us to do this if we are going to grow the party nationwide. Personally, beyond the fundraising insanity and strange ossification that began in the Dean campaign near the end of September 2003, the best experiences I had in this election cycle came from Dean Meetups from May to September of 2003. This is also the time period when Dean went from being more or less an asterisk to become the frontrunner.
MeetUp and house parties were very powerful in their role of decentralizing the campaign. By distributing instructions to the MeetUp coordinators, each group of Dean volunteers had a real way to be not only a donation source, but a source of outreach locally for the campaign. And since all politics is local, what a better source of campaign help than a bunch of inspired locals working for one candidate in thousands of small groups across the country.

This made us more than donors. We were a part of the Dean campaign. This involvement created an emotionally powerful and empowering phenomenon. The more we did for the campaign, the more we felt we were an important part of the campaign. The more we felt we were an important part of the campaign, the more the did for the campaign. It just spiraled up and up and up. People who had never even voted before were spending 10, 20 even 80 hours a week passing out flyers, tabling events, registering voters and even running for local offices. The more we did, the more we felt we had to do.

MeetUp was the driving force behind all of this. We could blog for a month, develop lots of ideas, then meet and actually do some of them. Single MeetUps split into two, then two into four. All with one focus: Getting Dean elected.

Kerry droped the ball on this one. But the model is still there. I firmly believe blogs have the ability to change politics. But until I read Chris' post today, I didn't realize just how integrated into the importance of blogs MeetUp is. Now I see. MeetUp is our outreach. It is where we can put our ideas into practice. Through MeetUp we can grow the type of Democratic Party we would like to see from the grassroots up. Through the blogs we can promote our new organizational strength, and put it to practice through MeetUp.

We do have the power. We just have to tie all the pieces together by tying our blogs on the Internets to MeetUp. So next time you think of MeetUp as another commitment, just think of it as blogging in the real world.