It’s my firm belief that turning an entire state in a new political direction can’t be done by the media-driven methods which have been dominant in politics since radio ads (and later television ads) essentially took over political campaigning. The fight is going to be won on the ground, not on the airwaves or over the internet.
Progressives should not avoid television, the radio, and internet as means of campaigning or getting the word out, but in an ironic sort of way, Citizen’s United proved that there is a point of diminishing returns for campaigning by dumping money into ads. Karl Rove’s Crossroads group, and Sheldon Adelson poured enormous amounts of money into the 2012 campaign, and failed miserably.
Even if strategy and tactics are developed and coordinated at the statewide level, the best strategy for a progressive makeover in Georgia has to be based on an intimate knowledge of the voting precincts by a core group of activists on the ground. The precinct is the largest unit any individual activist can touch directly. It’s also a manageable unit for tailoring the progressive message for particular circumstances. The specific concerns of a person in the Grant Park neighborhood of Atlanta is going to be considerably different from a resident of Walker County, and even within the City of Atlanta or Walker County issues will be different on different sides of the city or county, and in different subgroups within each precinct.
Most people don’t know anything about their precinct beyond the physical location where they vote. That even applies to activists. Until I began thinking from the point of view of bottom-up organizing, I had no idea what the boundaries of my own precinct were, or what it was called.
Now I know that I’m in Cobb County precinct LI01 (which stands for Lindley 01). The boundaries of the precinct coincide roughly with census tract 313.13. The boundaries are Veteran’s Memorial to the south, the Chattahoochee River to the east, Cooper Lake Road to the west, and the City of Smyrna to the north. It’s a good, compact place for me to live politically. I can get to know most of the activists in the precinct (and I’ve already met a sizeable number of them).
Between census data available via the census bureau’s wonderful tool American Factfinder, and the election result data available at the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, I can put together a really good picture of my precinct.
There are times when the best strategy is to blanket one’s efforts state-wide or county-wide. But to build a permanent and lasting Democratic progressive movement in Georgia, with real political influence, we have to think of it as capturing ground on a map of Georgia. The most basic unit on the political map is the individual voting precinct.
Every progressive activist should know the name of the precinct he or she lives in, its boundaries, a little about the demographics and hot button issues within its boundaries, what census tracts it corresponds with, and should know a few other people within the precinct who work on various political issues. It’s amazing how many of us have a “bedroom community” view of our own immediate surroundings. We sleep in our precinct but our activism is concentrated elsewhere.