candidates and community organizing

Discussion list for COMM-ORG colist at
Thu Feb 7 09:25:29 CST 2008

From: "Peter Dreier" <dreier at>

In California,  Hillary Clinton's lead over Barack Obama is narrowing. 
The Los Angeles Times today even says the primary is now dead even.  The 
same is true in other states where Clinton was leading, but where now 
the race is very close. Although some of Obama's momentum no doubt comes 
from voters watching the debates and from high-profile endorsements 
(like Ted Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, Oprah Winfrey, and, yesterday, 
Maria Shriver), it is also due, in large measure, to Obama's grassroots 
campaign, which has recruited  organizers from community groups, enviro 
groups, unions, and other activist organizations. They, in turn, have 
enlisted tens of thousands of volunteers and trained them in the skills 
of community organizing. Kelly Candaele and I examine this phenomenon in 
our article, "The Year of the Organizer," in The American Prospect:
Obama was a community organizer in Chicago for three years.  Hillary 
Clinton wrote her senior thesis at Wellesley in 1969 on the legendary 
organizer, Saul Alinsky, even interviewing him several times.  John 
Edwards spend much of the past two years working with ACORN and labor 
unions to promote campaigns to raise state minimum wages and adopt local 
living wage laws. The mainstream media still doesn't understand how to 
report on grassroots community organizing, and the growing effectiveness 
and sophistication of the nation's community organizing groups.  
Hopefully, this election year will raise the visibility of community 
organizing and even inspire more young people to think about organizing 
as a career.  Just think what it would mean to have a former community 
organizer in the White House. As we write in our American Prospect 
article: "Obama knows that he will have to find balance between working 
inside the Beltway and encouraging Americans to organize and mobilize to 
battle powerful corporate interests and congressional in-fighting. But 
if Obama wants to be a champion of change, he'll need to redefine the 
role of president as organizer-in-chief."
Peter Dreier
Dr. E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics
Chair, Urban & Environmental Policy Program
Occidental College
1600 Campus Road
Los Angeles, CA 90041
Phone: (323) 259-2913
FAX: (323) 259-2734
"The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great 
moral crises maintain their neutrality" - Dante

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