A drink-up, a meetup, and now, my write-up

Election 2004 | Greater Boston | Access/Network
My campaign season has officially leapt from this virtual world onto the street. Here’s my write-up about my drink-up for Kerry, and my meetup for the Dems.

Last night I gave my first $25 to John Kerry, and got a swell party in return at the Bell in Hand Tavern by Faneuil Hall. I went with buddy Alex and sister Dana, and enjoyed a nice tall glass of Sam’s “Winter Lager” while watching the returns come in on the all-news shows. I ran into Jeff, who I remember back from my swing dancing days, and found a bunch of college students. It was finally nice to be at a party where you could talk politics all you want, even to members of the opposite sex. I didn’t get a feeling for the huzzahs and swooning over Kerry, but there were nonetheless positive outbursts each time the Wisconsin vote total swung our Senator’s way. Sort of like the Super Bowl, but just as it was getting fun (and the Sam’s was getting to my head), the news channels all called the election for Kerry.

Tonight I went to the Democratic Party Meetup and Trident Bookstore, the place on Newbury St which has an amazing selection of magazines, like Metropolis. I aimed to meet my sister there, and ended up meeting up with college friend Jamie on the train, and also found coworker Debbie and her husband there as well. A night of meetups indeed.

My previous experience with a meetup was back when the people-powered Howard Dean machine was a well-oiled operation. They got about twenty or so Bostonians into Beer Works to write letters to Iowans– this was in July. By comparison, the Dem meetup tonight had a bit of an Agatha Christie Ten Little Indians feel about it. As there was no host, there were times when people looked around with a “what are we doing here?” look on their face. But, we had around 25 people tucked around the back tables of Trident, mostly young professionals.

A few people were quite new to the whole campaign thing, bringing in completely wide-eyed questions. Are there web sites to join to find out things? Can we start making phone calls to people in swing states? I was happy to point out that yes, indeed, some efforts were underway. Though I got a sense that some people were a bit impatient with all of the catching up and the esoteric side discussions.

By the end, the big-time networkers started dominating the conversation. Jock Gill, one of the contributors to a Greater Democracy, is obviously very well-seasoned in politics and urged people to get involved locally. Stephen Sillari of Levelway volunteered to set up a web site and a mailing list. For my part, I pitched the 2020 Democrats as yet another Internet-based organization. Yet another– seemed like everybody suggested a different site! I did point out the reductio ad absurdum of the Dean micro-organizations, e.g. the “Howards for Howard” group (this was the observation from Times magazine’s December portrait of the Dean campaign), and I got some agreement on that.

One overriding theme of the evening was how much this work actually corresponded with the real campaign and real DNC. The party was happy to get the word out, but they didn’t have a rep present to actually speak with authority. True, a number of people did pitch the benefits of joining their local committees. Jock suggested we invite some elected officials the next time around.

Finally, the meeting also sought to answer, what does the Democratic Party stand for? Does it stand for anything other than “Anybody But Bush”? Certainly it’s up to the party’s future leader– likely John Kerry– to articulate the vision. Jock and Stephen seemed to hint at pure-liberal values. I offered some guidelines on deliberative poses in order to communicate with and learn from all types of people.

It wasn’t clear whether the same group of people were all sold on showing up the next time; Jock pointed out that it wasn’t necessary. I asked at the end whether people learned anything, whether they were inspired by tonight, whether they would organize in their own towns, whether they would recommend friends who simply wanted to learn more. There were some general nods in agreement, but nothing solid. Yet another thing to organize… more thoughts tomorrow.

Postscript: Jock sent out a link to the the Democratic Party Action Meetup Center. They want my address. I navigated through the DNC website to Mass Dems to find my town committee chair, and then emailed her. She wanted my address. I also signed up for the Dem Meetup Hosts. Guess what? They got my address, too.