OBAMA DELEGATE: CAMPAIGN USED SATURDAY EVENT AS A FOCUS GROUP
As a registered Republican, Catherine Kavasch never imagined hosting over two dozen strangers in her San Lorenzo home for a liberal candidate like Barack Obama.
But, there she was espousing the phenomenon of Obamamania as a self-proclaimed moderate, Schwarzenegger conservative who has since changed her affiliation to a Democrat.
Across the country last Saturday, this scene was played out in thousands of living rooms as the Obama campaign capitalizes on enthusiasm unheard of at this point in a presidential election.
Obama house parties were held locally in Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco to name just a few.
Supporters already registered by the campaign were notified of the event by email and steered to the nearest meeting.
Many in attendance at Kavasch’s home indicated dismay over the presidency of George W. Bush and his policies regarding the war and his leadership coupled with a strong feeling of admiration for Obama.
For Kavasch the transformation began shortly after 9/11 when her innate sense to personally help the situation was stymied by a president who simply told the country to go shopping.
“After 9/11, I felt the need to help, but the Bush administration had nothing for me to do,” said Kavasch, who is an alumnus of Cal State, East Bay and former Pioneer staff writer in the early 1980s, “With Barack Obama I found a candidate who said, ‘We need you’.”
The event Saturday was the first time Kavasch has hosted a political event.
Kavasch recently campaigned door-to-door around her neighborhood attempting to persuade neighbors she knew and many she met for the first time with apprehension.
“You go up to their house and you don’t know if their adamant about Clinton or unhappy about Obama winning [the primaries],” said Kavasch, “but everyone was polite to me for whatever reason.”
The old bromide that all politics is local is an Obama tenet and certainly true for Kavasch and others who have encountered crime in their neighborhoods and successfully handled it through community involvement.
Long time Hayward resident, Jodie Gordon, has kept tabs on local government for years and believes people can change things if they desire it.
“It depends on how loud your voice will be to effect change,” said Gordon, who retired from the Communications department at CSUEB eight years ago.
Gordon vacationed in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina and was shocked to see parts of the city still destroyed.
“Nothing has been done for these people,” said Gordon, “People from other countries were asking, ‘Why isn’t America taking care of its people?’”
Patti Meagher of San Leandro said the “beginning of the end of my faith in government” started after the 2000 presidential election. She almost didn’t vote in 2004.
She has not been this “jazzed” about a presidential candidate since Eugene McCarthy’s anti-war campaign in 1968.
Meagher donated $50 at a time to the Obama campaign, but decided she would get more out of volunteering rather than giving contributions.
She believes many minorities that live in her neighborhood are not registered and hopes to knock on doors to sign them up.
An attendee who lives in Washington, D.C., but grew up in the area speaks Spanish and volunteered to help Meagher in her effort.
At this particular house party, attendees were not specifically asked to make firm volunteering pledges, but some like Joe Anderson plan on traveling to battleground states like Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio as the November election nears.
“[Obama] is going to need people the most in those states,” said Anderson.
Matt Freeman, who is an Obama delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Denver this August and the 13th Congressional district coordinator for the Obama campaign says California is a “lock” for Obama, but also says that nearby Nevada is not and is right in California’s backyard
Freeman, a political science instructor at Ohlone College and San Francisco State, has participated in elections going back to 2000, but the impetus this time around is more personal.
He is a father of two young children who says he worries about their future. He also has a father, who after 36 years at AC Transit, is unable to retire because of the high cost of health care insurance.
Freeman also lost a cousin last year during fighting in Fallujah.
“His last letter to us ended by saying, ‘I’m not sure why we’re still here’”, said Freeman, “That’s not political spin or red state, blue state, that’s from the front lines.”
He says the Obama campaign has “hitched itself to the grassroots.”
He told the group, “You know your neighborhoods. That’s grassroots and we’re relying on you to tell us what needs to be done.”
Freeman is unequivocal when he says, “California is going to go Democratic. I’m not going to lie to you, there’s not going to be a lot of money spent here, but there are still things people can do to help.”
Kavasch has already taken advantage of the Obama campaign’s downloadable phone lists to call voters in Indiana during their primary last May.
“I called the phone company and I learned that calling long-distance was actually cheaper than calling my sister in Elk Grove,” said Kavasch.
In just three hours earlier in June, the Obama campaign registered 252 voters who have never participated in an election, but Freeman cautions that registered voters don’t necessarily translate into votes at the ballot box.
Said Freeman, “It’s meaningless if people don’t show up at the polls,” said Freeman, “That’s where elections are won and lost.”