October 10, 2010
By Joe Maniscalco
Already important to Barack Obama's re-election bid prior to his shockingly poor performance against Republican rival Mitt Romney at the first presidential debate, the MoveOn/AFL-CIO campaign partnership to help re-elect the president may have just gotten a whole lot more significant now that the race has morphed into a "turnout election."
"As November 6 approaches and the polls tighten, this has turned into a turnout election," MoveOn.org Political Action Director Adam Ruben said. "Whichever side can mobilize its base is going to win. That's why the MoveOn/Workers' Voice partnership is so important."
Cruising along in August when the partnership between the AFL-CIO's Workers' Voice and MoveOn.org was first announced, the incumbent now finds himself at best running neck-and-neck with a candidate even his own right-wing party hasn't been very excited about. A recent Pew poll even has the president trailing Romney by a few percentage points.
"People are very distressed," MoveOn/AFL-CIO volunteer Martha Rowan told LaborPress. "But if anything, I think it's made people even more determined to work to get the president re-elected."
Rowan, a retired teacher and member of the UFT, hosts weekend call parties at her home in Brooklyn Heights as part of the MoveOn/AFL-CIO partnership's grassroots effort to re-elect President Barack Obama. The coalition pools together both MoveOn and the AFL-CIO's massive reservoirs of potential volunteers and asks them to help specifically target on-the-ground campaign efforts in all-important swing states like Colorado, Florida and Ohio.
"MoveOn members are really eager to get out there and help," Rowan said. "And when I tell people that it's AFL-CIO, in some cases, that seems to motivate them even more. I think there's a strong feeling that we need to work for workers."
The Brooklyn volunteer estimates that the MoveOn/AFL-CIO partnership creates a pot of almost 20 million volunteers which can be called upon to help execute door-to-door voter canvassing drives ahead of the November 6 Presidential Election.
"We're hoping to make 1.5 million calls and get huge numbers of people out," Rowan said. "Our phone parties have been very successful."
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called the nationwide effort to mobilize volunteers on behalf of Barack Obama "kryptonite to the radical right wing agenda" when the MoveOn/AFL-CIO partnership was originally announced.
“We’ll be breaking through the noise of misleading ads paid for by wealthy special interests, and letting voters hear from the people they trust most on the economic issues they care about," Trumka said. "That’s how working families will win this election and lift up the middle class.”
Like Rowan, Ft. Worth, Texas psychoanalyst Kit Jones has also been hosting call parties in her hometown as part of the MoveOn/AFL-CIO partnership. And despite the president's lackluster debate performance and living in a so-called "red state," Jones remains enthusiastic.
"We are redoubling our efforts to keep the right man in office," Jones said. "And we do seem to get good results when we get hold of folks."
Rowan's "Voters Rising" call parties have been averaging between 17 and 20 participants each time they've been held. She also hosted similar parties in 2008, which ultimately helped make Senator Barack Obama the 44th President of the United States of America.
"I keep hearing about how people are not as motivated as they were in 2008, and that may be so," Rowan said. "But the people that I see are very motivated."
From the outset, Workers' Voice Executive Director Mike Podhorzer also promised that the coalition would combine "old fashioned energy with cutting edge technology" to help defeat Romney's billionaire-funded bid for the White House. That rhetoric is now being put to the test.
"We are the largest independent voter turnout operation in the country this year, pairing MoveOn's expertise in using technology to mobilize activists with the labor movement's grassroots presence and organizing know-how," Ruben said. "Together, we're organizing volunteers in key swing states to knock on doors and talk with voters about what's at stake in this election."
Unfortunately, the president's own debate performance, in which he somehow allowed Romney to backtrack previously held positions with impunity, hasn't helped the cause.
"I was absolutely stunned that the president didn't address any of that," Rowan said. "But I'm sure President Obama will do much better in the next debate [on October 16]."
But helping to keep President Barack Obama in the White House isn't the only thing that volunteers like Rowan and Jones hope the MoveOn/AFL-CIO partnership ultimately achieves.
"I think it's really important to be able to hold the president's feet to the fire," Rowan said. "The are areas where I am not 100-percent happy with this administration, and the Democratic Party in general. And I think the the Democratic Party has a history of disrespecting its base. So, I think it's really important to have a strong organization that will fight for workers' rights, for the poor, and for programs designed to bring people up into the middle class."