Making an Impact

By TJ Cuddy

3:00 PM Sharp!

The notification posted at 11:00 AM on the Facebook group page. A call for volunteers; help wanted! Short notice and calls to action are common themes in activist circles. Bureaucracy may move as slowly as molasses, but the accelerated pace of politics seems to have only increased with each passing day of the Trump administration. Today’s event and corresponding call for volunteers is indicative of the continuing narrative of haste and help. This time, however, the call to action was mine.

During my Monday morning email catch-up, I skipped the emails from the Arizona Democratic Party with the intention to revisit them later. Monday evening ticked by and the email blasts remained unopened. Tuesday morning, while catching up on podcasts, I heard mention on the Rachel Maddow show of a Town Hall meeting being hosted in Tucson. Tucson!?! I scrambled back to my inbox to find the Arizona Democratic Party email from the prior day. An event with national press coverage would be an amazing opportunity to spread the message of AZ Blue 2020 and promote involvement in the Democratic Party.

Backstory: Arizona Congresswoman Martha McSally (R AZ-2) has received a lot of heat since the inauguration of #45. Her vote for repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act was upsetting, but her refusal to meet with constituents was a capstone on the frustration.  The Pima County Democratic Party asked Representative Ruben Gallego to stand in as a surrogate for the AWOL McSally by participating in a Town Hall meeting to discuss the vote cast by Representative McSally in favor of the AHCA. And I had found out about with about 24 hours notice.

The AZ Blue 2020 mission of engaging democratic voters and converting them into Precinct Committeepeople has found resonance in the activist movement in Arizona. The Women’s March, Tax March, Science March and May Day marches have proven to be effective recruiting grounds for expanding the Democratic Party. The Gallego event in Tucson would undoubtedly be an opportunity to engage with a new audience outside our usual area of activism. The call to action was necessary and immediate.

John Ainlay, AZ Blue 2020 Outreach Team Lead, is always excited to get involved in an effort and took no time to answer the call on this one. Sarah Meaney came along to handle media duties and engage in some face time with Tucson voters. And one final addition rounded out our road crew, AZ Blue 2020 Founder Richard Gooding, who literally showed up in the last minutes before our prompt 3:00 p.m. departure.

Being on the road, with this group, on this trip, provided the first real opportunity we had to get to know each other outside the confines of a large group or structured meeting. We were able to spend time strategizing and discussing the direction of the organization. The conversation meandered from training opportunities for Precinct Committeepeople, all the way to rural outreach efforts. Altogether, the drive leant itself well to productive conversation and the sharing of good ideas.

When we arrived at Rincon High School in Tucson, the event was filling up fast. Despite limited time, we were able to put stickers on several hundred of the attendees over the course of a half hour. We struck up conversations with a number of committed Democrats and were able to engage them in conversations about becoming Precinct Committeepeople.

The Arizona Democratic Party, the organizers of the event, ran out of sign-in sheets, a consequence of underestimating the people’s interest level in the event. Estimates floating around the venue indicate around 500 people were in attendance. Being a part of these events allows one to witness firsthand the unprecedented political engagement of ordinary people.

Prior to leaving Tucson, our makeshift road crew made a point to stop at La Salsa, a Mexican food restaurant.   We chatted with patrons and employees, sharing our enthusiasm at the event’s success. AZ Blue 2020 mounted up and headed back to the Phoenix metro area, tired but certain we had made an impact.

Making Social Media Social

By Danielle Pollett

I’m a new PC. I’m untrained. I’ve never canvased, never volunteered anything beyond my dollars to a campaign. I’ve lived in my neighborhood for nearly a decade, yet never been contacted by a local Democrat. I didn’t know my Congressional or Legislative District until a couple months ago. I certainly didn’t know the latter is split between two different counties. (Seriously, why? Isn’t the job hard enough without having to coordinate data from 2 different County Recorders?)

It’s common knowledge here in Arizona; many neighborhoods are missing the neighborly element. We go from house, to car, out the garage and back again. Everyone seems to be a transplant. People come and go; some are only here for half the year. No one talks to each other. We might give or receive a friendly wave, maybe discover our kids share a class, but that’s pretty rare.

Being the representative for my neighborhood in this climate is daunting. I’m not sure if this is part of the PC Handbook (told you I wasn’t trained) but I’d feel like an ass (no pun intended) pretending to speak for my precinct without getting to know the people in it.

 

Phase #1: Start small.

A lot of communities these days have Facebook groups. They are mainly used to announce yard sales, ask about lost pets, or warn of potential dangers lurking about…in my neighborhood’s case, mainly coyotes. So the other day, I found my community’s page and introduced myself.

 

I didn’t get very many responses, but I also didn’t get ANY negative backlash. Bonus!

 

 

 

I created a Group Page on Facebook for my Legislative District and anyone who ‘liked’ or commented on my Community Post Introduction, I added to the group for LD16. I haven’t looked up all 857 people in my precinct on Facebook, however, I did look up all my fellow PCs and add them to the LD16 Facebook Group. I even got my LD Chair to include it on the most recent flyer/newsletter… mainly because I designed it myself!

 

My goal is to be more active on my community’s Facebook page, and their Nextdoor page. Tip: If you have an HOA, chances are, your community has a Nextdoor group set up. If you haven’t gotten any emails or letters about it, you can search https://nextdoor.com/ using your street address.

 

Phase #2: Become neighborly.

Introducing myself and establishing an online presence isn’t enough. I want to SEE these peoples’ faces. Soon, I intend to mail out a PC Newsletter including a couple of meet up times at our local Panera Bread. With sports and school almost over, we’re about to see a lot of moms ready to spend a Saturday morning on adult conversation. Perhaps if I get a consistent turnout, we can have regularly scheduled brunches outside our Legislative District’s monthly meeting.

 

Phase #3: Start infiltrating.

If you’re up for the task, and it’s only for those hardcore organizers, start infiltrating the community pages surrounding your precinct. Introduce yourself. Tell them what you do as a PC. Invite them to one of your gatherings. You’ll be able to identify future PC candidates or, if nothing else, accumulate a few additional volunteers and attendees for your LD’s next monthly meeting.

 

As PCs, we’re organizers. But we can’t expect the same level of political activism from the Dems in our precincts. What we can do is form relationships and be their go-to person, so when it comes time to canvas, register new voters, phone bank, or just remind people to get out to the polls, our job should be much easier and well received.

Pajamas and All

By Jodie Galassi-Ainlay

I did it. I woke up yesterday, studied the repetitive ‘De La O’ street names and absent grid system of my neighborhood maps, highlighted my targets, ironed my jeans (it seemed appropriate at the time), loaded the dog and AZ-required water into the car, stealthily reconnoitered the gated communities which dominate my precinct, returned the dog back home (he’s a progressive but, this was a solo mission), deployed again, parked my car in the coveted shaded area and, finally, emerged – head high, shoulders back, the theme music in my head at a full crescendo.

“IT IS ME! THE DEMOCRATIC PC HAS ARRIVED!”

A man dutifully using the weekend to wash his car was the only one to register my arrival. His skeptical stare threw me into action and, as I squinted at my list, I immediately realized…I should have printed in a larger font. Squinting and staring and searching and squinting, I instantly found myself questioning, who in the world does the house numbering system in North Scottsdale? Why are the odds mixed with the evens? Why had I not reordered my Excel list in ascending or descending order? And most importantly, why had I not worn a hat?? I was definitely less “Patton taking a beach in Sicily” and more “Lucy working the assembly line in a chocolate factory.”

Regroup.

I walked up and down the street, got the numbering system in my head, marched my butt up to the first door, waved my newly printed official Maricopa County Democratic Party PC business card in front of me and confidently knocked. And knocked. Undeterred, I left behind a note printed for this exact scenario, attached to the aforementioned newly printed official Maricopa County Democratic Party PC business card: “Hello neighbor. I am so sorry I missed you today but I will be back again. In the meantime, if there is anything you need, please feel free to call or email me.”

Knock, knock, note. Knock, knock, note. Knock, knock, note. I continued down the street…

And then, it happened. Knock, knock…open door! Standing in front of me was a real, live, pajama-clad stranger and after my introduction, she said the most amazing thing, “Jodie, I received your letter and I have been wanting to meet you. Come on in!” Come on in. Cue the trumpets and choir of angels!

We sat down at her kitchen table and talked. We talked about Trump, because I have learned people need to vent before moving on to other topics. We talked about living in Trumpland and how, in the past, she had worked to help Dem’s get elected in Arizona. Her friend, visiting from New York and, yes, in her pajamas as well, talked about the sweetness of living in a liberal vestige. We could not relate to that comment yet, but someday, perhaps!

And then, my new acquaintance amazingly began to tell me about her Democrat neighbors, some who were not on my list. I asked if she would be willing to attend a get-together at my house this summer, to meet like-minded community members. “Of course,” she said, “and I will bring food and friends.” (Again with the singing angels echoing off Troon Mountain.) She told me how the woman across the street was newly married and her husband, Bruce, was a Democrat and I should absolutely get him on the list. She told me to tell Mr. and Mrs. Down-the-Street she said hello! She said she would help me in any way she could. She also told me she had my introductory letter hanging in her office and how pleased she was to receive it.

And then came the question I thought I was prepared to answer. “So Jodie, what are your plans? What are you going to do and what can I do to help?” It hit me! At that moment I realized the import of this role. We are the face of the party but also the hope that things can change. We have been told many times, the PCs are the backbone of the effort, the front line in the ground game. However, when sitting in the house of a person who 20-minutes prior was a total stranger, they ask you what are YOU going to do, what is the plan, it hits home. And it is awesome! I know not all my encounters will be like this, but if it happens once in a while, it is enough.

Be prepared for amazing moments like this. Be prepared for gated communities, weird entrances, snakes, bees, wary neighbors and strange streets which dead end and pick up again for no apparent reason. Be prepared to enjoy yourself, check out the great cactus in someone’s yard or meet a cute dog. But most of all, be prepared to answer the question, “What do we do next?” by good, kind, willing, welcoming people…pajamas and all.

 

 

What a Difference a Year Makes

By: Cassie Barbieri

Last week, thanks to Facebook memories, I was reminded of where I was after the close of the 2016 Democratic Primary. I won’t lie; I was disgusted with the Democratic Party. In fact, you can read my words yourself. Words I eat today.

I just ended a 17 year relationship with the Democratic party. I was loyal, I trusted them, and they let me down. If they expect me to fall in line like I always have & vote for someone they decided to crown queen before their people have spoken they are vastly mistaken. That relationship is over.

You might be calling me a hypocrite right now and if you did, you’d be 100% right. The fact is, I did go back. Not only did I go back, I became a PC for my Legislative District and now even sit on the board. I helped found AZ Blue 2020 and am working my tail off for the party by which I felt so betrayed.

But why? Well in one word, Trump.

I, like you probably, did not think it could happen. But happen it did. You see, by walking away from the Democratic Party, I did exactly what the GOP salivates over–I lessened the liberal vote. And to lessen a liberal voice in our current climate is not something my conscience will allow. My holding a grudge won’t secure my two daughters’ reproductive rights. My bitterness is not going to protect our planet from the vultures now in power. A protest vote won’t provide insurance for the millions of people from whom the GOP wishes to strip it.

So today I write to tell you I was wrong and implore you to also reconsider if you still harbor the feelings I did last year. Do I still lack trust in the party? I do. Have I forgotten why I walked away? Not at all. Am I hypocrite? Perhaps.

I can tell you, as a re-registered Democratic voter, I’m very much holding the party accountable. I am not a quiet woman and very much speak my mind. I do so now as an active participant and with a voice that better warrants a listen. I was shocked to find that listen they did. Many in the Maricopa Democratic Party actually shared my views.

While I can’t control the party at the national level, (Yes Obama, I see you and your $400,000 speeches, tisk, tisk.) I can control who is running my community. And now, I’m one of them.