A couple of months back I learned of the shadowy plan in which the Louisa county supervisors had purchased options for several large tracks of land within the county for a proposed mega development.
Local citizens from across the county (not just the ones from the affected areas) started organizing, specifically bringing people to the supervisors meeting and demanding public input on this proposed plan. It was clear that the supervisors were expecting this proposal to not get much public attention and that they could simply pass it while no one was paying much attention. The supervisors, who normally have little public interest in their work, were surprised to find over 100 locals at their meeting upset about their proposal and decision making.
When pressed about why they were advancing this proposal, the answers the supervisors gave were contradictory and thin. They promised jobs, they promised the $50 million city funded water and sewage system would not raise taxes, they promised this would not be like the several other Louisa industrial park development projects.
These contradictory promises hurt the case for this development and the locals continued to organize and opposition to the development grew. At the same time the supervisor position on it seemed to harden. At the first vote on the project, 3 of the 7 supervisors voted in favor of the development and 3 against, and one was not in attendance that evening, but appeared to be in favor of the plan.
Cambia and some of the other local communities got involved. Cambia set up the Facebook page and made calls to the supervisors. One supervisor got 347 different people calling them and only 7 were in favor of the project.
This time, despite the odds, the good guys won. The county supervisors hearing for the fourth straight meeting how locals were furious about this proposal reversed themselves and voted unanimously to kill their own project. Now it is time to get locals together to talk about what type of development we do want, to help the supervisors do the right thing.
Bringing 10 people, all from out of state to Florida, to work on an ambitious political campaign for 3 weeks is a rich logistical tapestry. On the day after the election, GPaul (who was the flawless finance minster for the team) reminded me by text that I needed to send thank-you letters to our donors.
Shortly after this my cell phone started buzzing like crazy. “We are heading for a recount. We need to contact all the people who submitted votes by mail or provisional ballots and confirm these were received,” was the message we got from Organize Florida, the organization for which we had been volunteering.
Now it was not just Senator Nelson facing a close election needing a recount, but the Gillum/DeSantes governor’s race as well. And we were back to phone-banking. Our team, now spread across the country, were phone-banking from airports in California and collectives in Oregon, and folks at the Virginia communes also started calling. We helped burn through two lists of over 7,000 people in a few hours.
Normally, one would not know who had voted by mail, because one would not have their phone numbers. Hard Knocks was the group we canvassed with and it was set up by the very politically active labor-union SEIU. In the Tampa Bay area our canvass knocked on over 1.5 million doors. We helped thousands of people get their vote by mail ballots. We brought people to the polls for early voting and educated them on a number of down-ballot items, including those for the State Senator Janet Cruz and the initiative to restore felon voting rights. In the end our 10 volunteers, mostly from income sharing intentional communities, hit more than 7000 doors.
At each door that answered, we gathered information about whom they were planning to vote for, including what method they would use. When the recall became imminent that same database gathered in the months leading up to the midterms could now be employed to reach back to those voters and see if they were actually being counted.
At this writing both the Senate and Governor elections are being recounted. There is some chance that either of these Democrats will win, and if either does it will be further proof that we made the right choice to go to Florida to work on these elections. A couple of my anarchist comrades have written long essays about how it is wrong to be involved in these or any elections. Most of the crew in Florida self identifies as anarchists and is doing this work because the threat of staying on the sidelines is too large.
What of course would be grand would be for us to be the titanium feather which tips the balance. But even if we don’t I certainly feel good about trying.
There is something especially reckless about making forecasts on close elections.
Florida has better than average voter suppression techniques. Current Governor Rick Scott has been an effective advocate of blocking poor people and especially people of color from being able to vote.
Thus betting that a charismatic young black first term mayor of the seventh largest city in the state would become Governor instead of the Trump protégé is especially dicey. But if Tampa is any indication the enthusiasm with Andrew Gillum is impressive. Every neighborhood I visit has Gillum signs up. Suspicious faces break into smiles when I mention I am campaigning door to door for him. And then I ask “And Democrats all the way down?”
And they often concur, democrats all the way down. And this maybe the most important legacy of the Gillum run. Bill Nelson is the current effective three term (that is 18 years) Democratic Senator from Florida. Why have you never heard of him (unless you are one of the wonk/political hack readers of this blog)? Because he is deathly boring.
Due to term limits, current Governor Rick Scott is making a bid for Bill Nelson’s Senate seat and it is quite close (FiveThirtyEight.Com predicts shows Nelson up 51.3% to 48.7). If Nelson prevails quite some credit should go to Gillum who has helped breaking early voting turn out records, overwhelming both the states racist history and powerful voter suppression techniques.
When I lived in Czechoslovakia I learned of the Slavic month naming convention that is different from the English language one. This has been hybridized by a number of people I know into a personalized month naming convention, either on a regular basis, or where an extraordinary event determines the month name.
People keep asking us how to volunteer to phone bank.
Schedule to Phone Bank for Florida
This will hook you up to the collection for group we are working with on Florida’s critical candidates and referendums.
Nationally, these are the groups we think are doing some of the more accessible organizing for phone banking:
After weeks of being asked to take pictures with inspired citizens getting out to vote, Thumbs had only compiled a photo collage of garden gnomes and copulating dragon flies. However, when Karen challenged him to put this tiny hat on a stray neighborhood cat, he delivered with this Fred Astaire feline putting on the ritz.
Yesterdays challenge action was Karen asked Thumbs to put this tiny hat on a stray cat and take a picture. Our man was up to the challenge
Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis are running for Governor of Florida and had a debate last night. Gillum pointed out that his Republican challenger DeSantis was attending racists groups meetings to drum up support for his campaign.
“I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist,” Gillum added. “I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist.”
When he said this our team of organizers laughed because it was such a good zinger.
We are canvassing or phone banking or both everyday. Mostly door to door canvassing, since that is what is most desired by the local organizers. While the heat is breaking a bit, it is still hot on the streets of Tampa Florida.
Here is a quick Canvassers Flow Chart:
- Voter is supporting Gillum and Nelson: Promote State Senator Janet Cruz
- Voter is Republican: Push amendment 4 restoring voting rights
- Voter is apathetic: Talk about Trump
- Voted has already voted all democratic and for Amendment 4: Give them a button (and ask if they want to volunteer).
It is an amazing group assembled here in Tampa. Almost all of us have commune experience, which makes a number of things flow easier: meetings, meals and logistics specifically. And while there have been some bumpy spots, overwhelmingly everyone gets along with everyone else and is pretty excited to be here. We have created a temporary autonomous magical zone.
We also compare notes. We track the number of doors we knock on and the number of people we talk to. A high success rate for most canvassers is talking to 20% of the doors we knock on. I knocked on 83 doors this evening and was pretty stoked to get 17 real conversations out of them.
But Thumbs does better. Much better. Every day he has canvassed so far he has been getting over 50% of people whose doors he knocks on to answer. We wanted to know his secret. He shared it with us and fortunately Jenny caught it on video.
He sings. It is brilliant. It also proves that there are many more people home than we think and just this novel and clever approach will get us connected with them. We will see how many canvassers can pull this off. I am certainly willing to try.
But what i love most is that Thumbs developed it in the first place and the thought that in the next election canvass organizers will be asking their volunteers if they are willing to sing.
Our group is expanding. Kelpie and Skylar from Twin Oaks arrive on Friday to join Thumbs, Karen, GPaul, Jenny, Calico, Carlos and myself.
Want to come and join this merry band? Here is the check list:
- Can you drop everything right now ?
- Can you walk 5 hours a day for 6 days in a week?
- Can you live in a tight highly collective house?
- Can you get to Tampa?
- Can you sing?
Then drop me an email.
“Are you sure Florida is the best place for us to be campaigning?” GPaul understandably asked me several weeks ago.
“No.” I replied honestly. “But I do believe it is the best place stop Trump in 2020.”
Some months ago I learned about Amendment 4. There are 1.5 million adult Florida citizens who can not vote because they were in prison. Florida is unusual for blocking citizens who have paid their debt to society from voting. Only 4 states (sadly including Virginia) maintain this racist policy, because a disproportionate number of incarcerated persons are people of color, especially African Americans. Amendment 4 to the Florida Constitution would restore these voting rights.
We trained yesterday with the Hard Knocks/SEIU crew in Tampa. Kevin lived in Venezuela until 18 months ago and had not spoken English in his life. Now he is a trainer and office manager for SEIU, getting crews ready to hit the streets or phone bank for these elections as needed. Clearly a quick study, his English was certainly strong enough to train us on the script, throw some curve balls at us, teach us how to use our tablets and the MiniVan program and get us dressed in our bright blue canvass shirts.
While I was not sure two months ago Florida was the best place to campaign, now I am.
While we are fairly confident the Democrats can wrestle control of the US House of Representatives from the Republicans, flipping the Senate is much less likely. The Florida race for the US Senate this year is one of the most critical ones.
One of the most contentious Senate races pits incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson against outgoing Florida Governor Rick Scott. While the most recent polls show Nelson’s lead shrinking, increased spending and GOTV efforts appear to be holding Nelson’s thin lead. While this race does not bring the Democrats closer to taking control, because it is already held, losing this seat would virtually guarantee the Republicans would maintain control. Scott is a kleptocratic Trump Republican, famous for slashing VA benefits while enriching himself. He reversed his campaign promise and cut 750K people from Medicaid and then privatized it for significant profit for himself and his friends.
Gillum was elected Mayor of Tallahassee in 2014, at the age of 35. This summer, he won an upset victory where he was seriously outspent in the Democratic primary for Governor this year and is narrowly favored to beat Trump Republican DeSantos. He is a self-described progressive and has a platform similar to that of Bernie Sanders. Sanders has campaigned for Gillum.
While we were canvassing, Gillum was clearly the most popular personality we spoke with voters about. Charismatic, progressive, young, and good looking, Gillum has drawn support from many corners of this diverse state. He holds a narrow lead in the state polls for this race.
With a referendum which may well decide the 2020 presidential election, a hotly contested must-win Senate seat for the Democrats and a Sanders Governor’s candidate running against a terrible Trump clone, Florida is the place to be right now!
We are trying to grow our team and your generous contribution would make that be possible. If you think these races and rights are important, but can’t make it to Florida, please help these gifted organizers and activists be the hands knocking on doors for you.
“You live in a bubble, I could never do it. I need to be more connected to the real world.” People visiting the communes often say things like this. Often with praise for what they perceive as our prosaic and even idyllic life style. It is a completely understandable criticism and it still rubs me the wrong way.
But communards are often quite connected to the “real world” and some are working actively to influence local and national politics. I am proud to say many more communards have stepped up during the time of Trump.
I am happy to be traveling with a group of capable organizers all of who hail from intentional communities from across the country which are supporting this campaign to restore ex-con voting rights in Florida, to help maintain the Democratic Senate seat and elect the states first black Governor. Here is some of the key information:
If Florida Amendment 4 passes, it will restore voting rights to 1.5 million Florida residents. This represents over 10% of the states total population and over 20% of the African American voters. As a voting group, ex-cons are most commonly Democratic, African American voters are overwhelmingly Democratic voters. If this amendment passes it becomes extremely difficult for Trump to take Florida in the 2020 election. Without Florida, it is extremely difficult for the Republicans to win the Electoral College. Florida is one of only 4 states which basically permanently restricts ex-cons from voting.
If you want to support such an effort, please visit our GoFundMe page and donate to help cover our travel and living costs. Stay tuned to this blog for regular reports from Tampa and Orlando.