Democracy for America (DFA) training is 16 hours of intensive information overload for willing (i.e., rather strange) people traveling several miles when they could spend their invaluable time doing anything else. Yet, attendees take advantage of the opportunity to understand the nuances of building and networking with grassroots activists in the skills and strategies to take back the people's control of the democratic process in a republic. Every activist attending the training has the potential to manage a state senate, city council or U.S. Congressional campaign or even become a candidate.
Springfield, Illinois, during the weekend of September 29 and 30, 2007, was the 22nd DFA training weekend in the U. S. It was also the last session on the schedule for 2007.
The Springfield location originally was not part of the 2007 schedule. Pam Gronemeyer, founder of Downstate Democrats for Change, contacted DFA, encouraged the organization to add one more date, and locate the training at the Internation Union of Operating Engineers - Local 965 in Springfield, IL. Michael Ziri, Springfield Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority (SMEAA), District 1 Member, was the Springfield coordinator.
Anyone can download a bunch of how-to files on communications, building an activist base, fundraising, campaigns organization, voter targeting, and organizing methods and follow them word for word. Wise people attend 2 days of seminars listening to highly experienced trainers as they explain the material, tell their personal stories, and provide the answers to a myriad of questions. They spend that time inside large and small rooms regardless of the beautiful, perfect weather outside and countless community activities.
The DFA trainers use real examples of past campaigns in their lectures. They explain why which campaign methods become success stories, and others do not. Creating a message sounds simple. During the Springfield, IL, DFA training weekend, the trainers used the 2004 Election Cycle to prove how easy messages become distorted – if anyone ever hears them:
- Republican incumbent President George Bush’s campaign’s messages used flipflopper, no patriot, wimpy, elitist, etc., to describe Democratic candidate John Kerry. Few people remember what the Kerry campaign said about his opponent.
- Strong, trustworthy, moral, patriotic defined George Bush throughout 2004. JHOF (meaning unknown) described John Kerry.
- The correct response to the question Will you win the election is a vehement YES! John Kerry chose to answer with a I intend to try.
Activists can apply the DFA training material and lectures to any level of politics they choose. They can
- calculate Democratic performance for someone running for town clerk;
- hold any public official accountable;
- identify and organize Democrats between elections; and
- recruit, train, and staff enough volunteers in offices to support any campaign.
Scott Harper (IL-13) and Joe McMenamin (IL-19) are 2008 Democratic congressional candidates. They and members of their campaigns attended the seminars both days. They will use everything they learned to defeat Republican incumbents Judy Biggert and John Shimkus respectively. Other notable attendees included 2004 congressional candidate Tim Bagwell, PhD, one of the coordnators, and John Warner from Shelbyville, IL. John is heavily involved in politics and a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
While the two-day event is rather intense, there is room for fun. A Saturday night at a local establishment that serves good pizza and drinks can have creative results. One attendee traveled to the Springfield, IL, training from Independence, MO, the home of famous Democrat Harry S. Truman. Now the state is the home of such infamous Republicans as Congressman Roy Blunt (close ties to another infamous Republican, Tom DeLay), former senator John D. Ashcroft’s protégé and Governor Matt Blunt, his son. In short, the atmosphere was perfect to develop a clear, concise message to describe the unethical business practices of the Blunt Dynasty.
An exhausting 16 hours in 2 days during 1 weekend is all it takes. People learn to
- understand the realities of politics,
- empower the people,
- and organize for the present and the future.
They translate a little knowledge into tangible differences today and tomorrow. The training also continues with Night School and eventually, an advanced training curriculum. Learning never ends.
Labels: DFA, George Bush, Harry Truman, IL-13, IL-19, Illinois, Joe McMenamin, John Ashcroft, John Kerry, John Warner, Matt Blunt, Mike Ziri, Missouri, Pam Gronemeyer, Roy Blunt, Scott Harper, Tim Bagwell