Bringing 10 people, all from out of state to Florida, to work on an ambitious political campaign for 3 weeks is a rich logistical tapestry. On the day after the election, GPaul (who was the flawless finance minster for the team) reminded me by text that I needed to send thank-you letters to our donors.
Shortly after this my cell phone started buzzing like crazy. “We are heading for a recount. We need to contact all the people who submitted votes by mail or provisional ballots and confirm these were received,” was the message we got from Organize Florida, the organization for which we had been volunteering.
Now it was not just Senator Nelson facing a close election needing a recount, but the Gillum/DeSantes governor’s race as well. And we were back to phone-banking. Our team, now spread across the country, were phone-banking from airports in California and collectives in Oregon, and folks at the Virginia communes also started calling. We helped burn through two lists of over 7,000 people in a few hours.
Normally, one would not know who had voted by mail, because one would not have their phone numbers. Hard Knocks was the group we canvassed with and it was set up by the very politically active labor-union SEIU. In the Tampa Bay area our canvass knocked on over 1.5 million doors. We helped thousands of people get their vote by mail ballots. We brought people to the polls for early voting and educated them on a number of down-ballot items, including those for the State Senator Janet Cruz and the initiative to restore felon voting rights. In the end our 10 volunteers, mostly from income sharing intentional communities, hit more than 7000 doors.
At each door that answered, we gathered information about whom they were planning to vote for, including what method they would use. When the recall became imminent that same database gathered in the months leading up to the midterms could now be employed to reach back to those voters and see if they were actually being counted.
At this writing both the Senate and Governor elections are being recounted. There is some chance that either of these Democrats will win, and if either does it will be further proof that we made the right choice to go to Florida to work on these elections. A couple of my anarchist comrades have written long essays about how it is wrong to be involved in these or any elections. Most of the crew in Florida self identifies as anarchists and is doing this work because the threat of staying on the sidelines is too large.
What of course would be grand would be for us to be the titanium feather which tips the balance. But even if we don’t I certainly feel good about trying.
There is something especially reckless about making forecasts on close elections.
Florida has better than average voter suppression techniques. Current Governor Rick Scott has been an effective advocate of blocking poor people and especially people of color from being able to vote.
Thus betting that a charismatic young black first term mayor of the seventh largest city in the state would become Governor instead of the Trump protégé is especially dicey. But if Tampa is any indication the enthusiasm with Andrew Gillum is impressive. Every neighborhood I visit has Gillum signs up. Suspicious faces break into smiles when I mention I am campaigning door to door for him. And then I ask “And Democrats all the way down?”
And they often concur, democrats all the way down. And this maybe the most important legacy of the Gillum run. Bill Nelson is the current effective three term (that is 18 years) Democratic Senator from Florida. Why have you never heard of him (unless you are one of the wonk/political hack readers of this blog)? Because he is deathly boring.
Due to term limits, current Governor Rick Scott is making a bid for Bill Nelson’s Senate seat and it is quite close (FiveThirtyEight.Com predicts shows Nelson up 51.3% to 48.7). If Nelson prevails quite some credit should go to Gillum who has helped breaking early voting turn out records, overwhelming both the states racist history and powerful voter suppression techniques.
When I lived in Czechoslovakia I learned of the Slavic month naming convention that is different from the English language one. This has been hybridized by a number of people I know into a personalized month naming convention, either on a regular basis, or where an extraordinary event determines the month name.
People keep asking us how to volunteer to phone bank.
Schedule to Phone Bank for Florida
This will hook you up to the collection for group we are working with on Florida’s critical candidates and referendums.
Nationally, these are the groups we think are doing some of the more accessible organizing for phone banking:
After weeks of being asked to take pictures with inspired citizens getting out to vote, Thumbs had only compiled a photo collage of garden gnomes and copulating dragon flies. However, when Karen challenged him to put this tiny hat on a stray neighborhood cat, he delivered with this Fred Astaire feline putting on the ritz.
Yesterdays challenge action was Karen asked Thumbs to put this tiny hat on a stray cat and take a picture. Our man was up to the challenge
Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis are running for Governor of Florida and had a debate last night. Gillum pointed out that his Republican challenger DeSantis was attending racists groups meetings to drum up support for his campaign.
“I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist,” Gillum added. “I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist.”
When he said this our team of organizers laughed because it was such a good zinger.
We are canvassing or phone banking or both everyday. Mostly door to door canvassing, since that is what is most desired by the local organizers. While the heat is breaking a bit, it is still hot on the streets of Tampa Florida.
Here is a quick Canvassers Flow Chart:
- Voter is supporting Gillum and Nelson: Promote State Senator Janet Cruz
- Voter is Republican: Push amendment 4 restoring voting rights
- Voter is apathetic: Talk about Trump
- Voted has already voted all democratic and for Amendment 4: Give them a button (and ask if they want to volunteer).
It is an amazing group assembled here in Tampa. Almost all of us have commune experience, which makes a number of things flow easier: meetings, meals and logistics specifically. And while there have been some bumpy spots, overwhelmingly everyone gets along with everyone else and is pretty excited to be here. We have created a temporary autonomous magical zone.
We also compare notes. We track the number of doors we knock on and the number of people we talk to. A high success rate for most canvassers is talking to 20% of the doors we knock on. I knocked on 83 doors this evening and was pretty stoked to get 17 real conversations out of them.
But Thumbs does better. Much better. Every day he has canvassed so far he has been getting over 50% of people whose doors he knocks on to answer. We wanted to know his secret. He shared it with us and fortunately Jenny caught it on video.
He sings. It is brilliant. It also proves that there are many more people home than we think and just this novel and clever approach will get us connected with them. We will see how many canvassers can pull this off. I am certainly willing to try.
But what i love most is that Thumbs developed it in the first place and the thought that in the next election canvass organizers will be asking their volunteers if they are willing to sing.
Our group is expanding. Kelpie and Skylar from Twin Oaks arrive on Friday to join Thumbs, Karen, GPaul, Jenny, Calico, Carlos and myself.
Want to come and join this merry band? Here is the check list:
- Can you drop everything right now ?
- Can you walk 5 hours a day for 6 days in a week?
- Can you live in a tight highly collective house?
- Can you get to Tampa?
- Can you sing?
Then drop me an email.
“Are you sure Florida is the best place for us to be campaigning?” GPaul understandably asked me several weeks ago.
“No.” I replied honestly. “But I do believe it is the best place stop Trump in 2020.”
Some months ago I learned about Amendment 4. There are 1.5 million adult Florida citizens who can not vote because they were in prison. Florida is unusual for blocking citizens who have paid their debt to society from voting. Only 4 states (sadly including Virginia) maintain this racist policy, because a disproportionate number of incarcerated persons are people of color, especially African Americans. Amendment 4 to the Florida Constitution would restore these voting rights.
We trained yesterday with the Hard Knocks/SEIU crew in Tampa. Kevin lived in Venezuela until 18 months ago and had not spoken English in his life. Now he is a trainer and office manager for SEIU, getting crews ready to hit the streets or phone bank for these elections as needed. Clearly a quick study, his English was certainly strong enough to train us on the script, throw some curve balls at us, teach us how to use our tablets and the MiniVan program and get us dressed in our bright blue canvass shirts.
While I was not sure two months ago Florida was the best place to campaign, now I am.
While we are fairly confident the Democrats can wrestle control of the US House of Representatives from the Republicans, flipping the Senate is much less likely. The Florida race for the US Senate this year is one of the most critical ones.
One of the most contentious Senate races pits incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson against outgoing Florida Governor Rick Scott. While the most recent polls show Nelson’s lead shrinking, increased spending and GOTV efforts appear to be holding Nelson’s thin lead. While this race does not bring the Democrats closer to taking control, because it is already held, losing this seat would virtually guarantee the Republicans would maintain control. Scott is a kleptocratic Trump Republican, famous for slashing VA benefits while enriching himself. He reversed his campaign promise and cut 750K people from Medicaid and then privatized it for significant profit for himself and his friends.
Gillum was elected Mayor of Tallahassee in 2014, at the age of 35. This summer, he won an upset victory where he was seriously outspent in the Democratic primary for Governor this year and is narrowly favored to beat Trump Republican DeSantos. He is a self-described progressive and has a platform similar to that of Bernie Sanders. Sanders has campaigned for Gillum.
While we were canvassing, Gillum was clearly the most popular personality we spoke with voters about. Charismatic, progressive, young, and good looking, Gillum has drawn support from many corners of this diverse state. He holds a narrow lead in the state polls for this race.
With a referendum which may well decide the 2020 presidential election, a hotly contested must-win Senate seat for the Democrats and a Sanders Governor’s candidate running against a terrible Trump clone, Florida is the place to be right now!
We are trying to grow our team and your generous contribution would make that be possible. If you think these races and rights are important, but can’t make it to Florida, please help these gifted organizers and activists be the hands knocking on doors for you.
“You live in a bubble, I could never do it. I need to be more connected to the real world.” People visiting the communes often say things like this. Often with praise for what they perceive as our prosaic and even idyllic life style. It is a completely understandable criticism and it still rubs me the wrong way.
But communards are often quite connected to the “real world” and some are working actively to influence local and national politics. I am proud to say many more communards have stepped up during the time of Trump.
I am happy to be traveling with a group of capable organizers all of who hail from intentional communities from across the country which are supporting this campaign to restore ex-con voting rights in Florida, to help maintain the Democratic Senate seat and elect the states first black Governor. Here is some of the key information:
If Florida Amendment 4 passes, it will restore voting rights to 1.5 million Florida residents. This represents over 10% of the states total population and over 20% of the African American voters. As a voting group, ex-cons are most commonly Democratic, African American voters are overwhelmingly Democratic voters. If this amendment passes it becomes extremely difficult for Trump to take Florida in the 2020 election. Without Florida, it is extremely difficult for the Republicans to win the Electoral College. Florida is one of only 4 states which basically permanently restricts ex-cons from voting.
If you want to support such an effort, please visit our GoFundMe page and donate to help cover our travel and living costs. Stay tuned to this blog for regular reports from Tampa and Orlando.
Just when you think you know all about your “area of expertise” something new surprises you.
During a recent visit to Crafts House at Tufts someone said, “You should go visit Riot Bayit; they are an income sharing community, right here in Somerville.” I was surprised to hear of an income sharing community we did not know about in an urban region in the North East. What a surprise!
As it turns out, this ambitious group of former Tufts students created a collective house a couple of years back. And after living together that way, they decided they could practice their anti-capitalist politics and support each other better through income sharing. What a reasonable thing to do, which very few folks do in the US.
We spent a lovely evening chatting with them, listening to their origin story and what they were working on as a group. Like most start up income sharing communities, they are not currently participating in a cottage industry. Instead, like Compersia in DC, they all have day jobs and pool their income to cover their expenses and give each member some personal savings each month.
The word Bayit in their name comes from the Hebrew word for “home” and they like the rhyme that Riot Bayit creates. Most of the members identify themselves as Jewish but it is not a requirement. There is a desire to observe Jewish practices such as shabat, and the holidays and celebrations which are not observed in the mainstream are much more actively a part of the life and discussions here. Some members more actively study Jewish history and philosophy and bring their discoveries back the the larger group. As with the name of the house, some Hebrew words are part of the regular vocabulary.
They are activists, organizers, fundraisers, and public advocates. Their politics are on both sides of the front door: at home and in their workplaces. Posters on the stair well wall invite refugees, while conversations recognize their relative privilege. It is also clear that they are already doing things about this unfairness and have intention and momentum to do more.
One of the core values of the collective is addressing income inequality with redistribution. To this end, they give 1/10th of the collective income to organizations who are doing political and cultural work they support. This tithing money is not going to religious organizations; it goes to political non-profit organizations which align with their greater values.
Riot Bayit enjoyed the Point A propaganda and stories and when they encouraged us to return to do workshops with them in the future. My surprise quickly shifted to joy.
Photo Credits: Riot_Bayit@instagram
We are lucky to have some very talented folks presenting at this years Communities Conference. In the coming days there will be several workshop highlighted on this blog.
If we are going to change the way relate to our environment, we are going to need to build new types of buildings and entire ecovillages. Fred Oesch has been doing exactly this for years now.
This is the workshop Fred is offering at this years Communities Conference.
Ecovillage Design – Principles and Practices
We now have significant experience designing ecovillages both in rural and urban settings and this workshop will take stock of what has been learned over the last 30 years. There are sustainability elements, aesthetic aspects and design components connected with high degrees of sharing which all go into making a high functioning ecovillage. In many cases these are not elements which are taught in architecture school. We will explore conversions of existing non-ecovillages as well as designed from scratch solutions. The workshop will start with presentation and then go into question and answer.
Fred Oesch is a licensed architect who designed the seed building at Acorn and lives in Schuyler VA. He has also been involved in several ecovillage projects, both urban and rural as well as new builds and conversions. He serves on the Ecovillage Charlottesville Board and throws a mean quarry party.
Some of what is covered in the workshop is Principles of Regenerative Environmental Design:
1] Design as a Way of Life.
2] Reflection of Evolving Regional Society, Tradition, Culture, and Religion
3] Utilization of Indigenous Technology, Materials, and Labor Skills
4] Direct Response to Microclimate / Seamless Site Integration
5] Minimum Inventory / Maximum Diversity Systems
6] Direct Designer / Builder / Inhabitant Participation
7] Net Resource and Energy Production
8] Self-Regenerating ‘Living’ Systems
I have written here about Shooting Stars, members of community who come through for a while on their way to other adventures. The trick with shooting stars, is that you need to appreciate them when you have them close, and let them go gracefully, because you never really could hold them anywhere.
It was just this last winter that Thumbs joined Cambia and updated our notions of astrophysics. Thumbs is a peripatetic communard. A person with a mission (in his case the promotion and construction of yurts) who travels from place to place educating and demonstrating. When i told him he was a shooting star, he corrected me and said he was more like a comet, swinging back to the places he loves.
And he is coming back. To do two workshops for the Twin Oaks Communities Conference and the Cambia Labor Day workshops. At the Twin Oaks event, he is presenting on being a traveling communard and the sacred economics of it. Here is a description of that workshop:
I live a vibrant life of travel, adventure, and spend copious amounts of time working on my invigorating passions, yet I make almost no money and am figuring ways to move money out of my bank account. I would like to host a workshop educating others on how to use the unorthodox wealth of communities to liberate themselves from the drain of personal expenses and dedicate more of their time to their passion projects. Communities are a unique place to explore gift economics, MOU’s that don’t entail USD exchange, and alternate currencies. In doing this people will not only benefit themselves but may serve the communities movement by connecting communities and finding out in what ways each of them are abundantly wealthy and how they are in need. Movement Games, heart shares, and intellectual discussion will be involved.
At Cambia on Labor Day he will be doing his yurt thing, which is describe as such:
Forget everything you know about conventional western architecture, and prepare to learn the genius of ancient nomadic design. The lifestyle of traditional peripatetic cultures demanded the invention of structures that could endure the harshest climates in the world, both barren deserts and -40 degree winters, yet still be packed up on livestock and transported thousands of miles! The Mongol Empire, the world’s most prolific nomad culture once spanning the largest land empire in the world, designed the ingenious collapsible home known in the west as a Yurt.
This workshop is a comprehensive and experiential study of yurt building that you will walk away from with the skills needed to build beautiful yurts for any climate and out of any materials you have access to. The skills you’ll be learning to build these artistic structures like wood bending, mortise and tenon, dynamic knotwork, and textile pattern design will also unlock new creative potential in your other building projects. We will also be talking about how these structures are part of modern culture, from the current state of nomadic Mongolians, to how you can avoid building codes with small, collapsible yurts.
For many people in the West, who value sedentary homes that sit in place for hundreds of years and private ownership of small plots of land, the lifestyle and architecture of nomadic people is an invigorating new perspective on what it means to call a place “home”.
There is still time to register for both of these events. We may have lost some shooting stars, but this comet is coming back and shining bright.