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.