Meetups are our churches!
Over on MyDD.com, several commentators have continued the discussion of the important role meetups played in the early Dean efforts and how they can continue to play that role in the future. One poster, camilow, came up with a great description of this: "Meetups are our churches":
As Jakob Nielsen pointed out, it was a great failure not to use the net for organizing. I went to several meetups and enjoyed the electric atmosphere.
The Bushies enjoyed the ground organization of their churches. Democrats need their own church. Meetup meetings, combining local and national themes, are the way to give our Movement the physical presence it so badly needs. Properly done, they would have tipped the election our way.
It occurs to me, when thinking about the strength of the local Oregon organization, that we may have benefited from a lack of national attention in the early phases of the campaign. This forced us to identify our own strengths and put together the local campaign that was needed to turn Oregon into one of the shining jewels of both the Dean and Kerry campaigns.
This is in contrast to what happened in Iowa and New Hampshire (for Dean) and Ohio and Florida (for Kerry). The national campaigns focused a lot of attention on those "important states" from the beginning, sending in their own outside organizers to set up the campaigns in those states. The result may have been "local" organizations that weren't local but were instead just reflections of the national campaigns. Many in the Democratic leadership appear clueless about how to run local campaigns in those states. They win only in those areas in which they actually live. But when they come to the "red states" they are the outsiders. And outsiders don't know how to best use the local tools available to them.
This may be an important clue for future Democratic success: the national leadership needs to surrender some of their control over the local campaigns and trust that the local people are the best ones to figure out how to organize themselves. We need leaders in the red states, not professional campaign consultants working from a blue state playbook.
Meetups are the key to the whole approach. They are the closest thing we have to the Republican's network of evangelical churches. They are the best vehicle the Democrats have to grow new leaders. But in order for them to grow to their full potential they have to be allowed to do so. The national leadership can provide guidance and resources. But it is the local leadership that ultimately has to lead.