Sadly, I think the term sounded corny for awhile but I really hope we take stock this year to emulate what this meant because the themes i hear more right now boil down to either “Yes I Can!” or “No, They Can’t!”
To me "Yes We Can" means….
we need to start by integrating a progressive vision and democratic values into our Leadership not just our Policy-making. As Simon Sinek discusses in his famous TED talk the methods of both Dr. Martin Luther King and Apple center on the “Why” not just the “Who” or “What” for our calls to action.
There are many great candidates and issues that we think are priorities but they will get more traction if we must remember our core principles in every step we take. Although many of our leaders lament our broken political discourse and the need for less money in politics or gerrymandering of congressional districts, before we “change the system” in our democracy we need to first “change the system” at home. By investing in forward-minded innovation in our engagement and a support system that expands the diversity and talent pool of activists by providing the same wages that we demand for workers in other industries.
And by investing more in THEM we will be able to ask them to invest more into US by utilizing more sophisticated leadership and relationship-building techniques where they spend more time listening and getting to know the voters we want to inspire and mobilize.
And this is a bi-partisan concept rooted in simple philosophies of the similar disciplines of both Marketing and Movement-building, as instead of embracing the values of innovation and open-ness in Government, Republicans embrace them in the conservative community where young people are groomed to be among the next generation of ambitious leaders that will demand to be heard and refuse to settle for the Kiddie Table Debate.
THAT is how we can overcome the deep-seeded cultural and ideological battles that have existed in America for centuries well before Super PACs or Koch Brothers roamed the Earth….like the LGBT Rights community has done with a more compelling rationale for change than arguing about which side is playing fair.
At minimum, it is about fighting for a movement infrastructure that won’t implode due to the outright betrayal of our values. Like rampant sexual harassment allegations against the owner of one of our top communications firms, charging rich foreigners to participate in American campaigns by working full-time for no pay, mass layoffs at a respect political journal and our top digital-savvy training organization due to gross mismanagement….or blatant arrogance and hypocrisy by national party officials ranging from a digital operative bragging about his prowess in areas where he statistically is far behind his GOP rival and his boss accusing young women of being “complacent” on their health issues without ever making the effort to inspire them herself.
To me "Yes We Can" means….
as the Obama For America mantra stated, we should “Respect, Empower and Include” anyone who would like to join our movement. We be rewarding results NOT lazily leaning on the status quo and titles and mindless, baggage-heavy labels in our organizing. Although they can work to pull some people closer to your cause….it is even worse when they push people away.
And EVERYONE needs to have a voice because if we care about everyone’s right to vote then we should care about every Democrats right to support the leaders of their choosing and not dismiss them.
Even though our party officials think they know who is the right candidate for us the process needs to remain the same in every election cycle….and we shouldn’t bury our message until we run out the clock on primary season at the expense of critical opportunities to break through the media noise machine for free exposure that can fuel our party's growth. Especially if you are going to mock these opportunities then turn around and ask for us to pay for you to buy less effective paid media in the same breath.
It can be pretty tough to win general elections when a significant share of your base has been alienated from enthusiastically donating, volunteering, sharing or otherwise supporting the party’s nominee.
Even across the river from our nation’s capitol in Arlington County, where every elected official was a Democrat, party leaders learned this lesson the hard way when in 2014 they ignored the fact that a sizable minority of Democrats opposed their expensive and complicated streetcar plan….and a Republican-leaning Independent won a County Board seat as a result.
To me "Yes We Can" means….
elevating what it means to be a 21st Century Community Organizer…..by actively encouraging activists to tell their personal stories and bring together their friends and neighbors online and offline to work for change and not just rely on door knocks and cold calls from strangers.
We need to tap into the potential of every one of us to inspire folks to get engaged... and instead of regurgitating the talking points of our enemies we should spend a majority of our time serving as an “Explainer-In-Chief” to share messages that emphasize our common beliefs and inform or persuade people with talking points for both the “head” and “heart” that can appeal to those in the Left and the Right.
Even if it is just a facebook like or retweet….we need to remember that there is no action that is too small.
But conversely, we should encourage activists to be creative and not be shy about an action being too big either….like developing new platforms that can break down the barriers for us to have a voice and build coalitions that strengthen our Movement from the bottom up.
If we look around there are so many great examples of people inspiring others to make a difference in America right now….from the Ice Bucket Challenge to what is probably the most successful grassroots movement in Washington right now: the civic-minded and community-focused DC startup scene.
By creating more interactive events that connect us better offline and reinvigorating the spirit of My.BarackObama.com online, we can build upon a social networking concepts that haven’t been improved on much since 2008 and develop tools like a “Yes We App” that instead of matching people for dates can match YOU with activists, organizations, events and actions by zip code that relate to our favorite campaigns or causes.
I’m going to conclude by practicing the Community Organizer philosophy of which i preach by explaining my inspiration to become active for Democratic causes...the Bush administration. Especially after 8:46am on September 11th when my Dad was on a train commuting to a meeting at World Trade Center 1.
Since that day I have joined millions of people who finally understood how important it was to fight for leaders who will truly make us stronger at home and abroad.
But I have become more and more concerned that, especially considering the devastating national, state and local elections results in 2014 and the Democratic National Committee’s tepid attempt at an “autopsy” of what happened, we have mostly forgotten our simple and sound 50-State Strategy for growing the movement. But we can’t just settle on inspiring people with fear of the other guy.
I hope you will join me in advocating for and building a “Yes We Can 2.0” strategy to bring together all of us who, as David Axelrod once said inspired him to work for Barack Obama, are the kind of people who care more about “Doing Something” than “Being Something.”
Now let’s go make America...greater.
ABOUT "FORWARD PROGRESSIVE" BLOG:
Jim McBride discusses forward-minded messaging, outreach and other grassroots organizing techniques. the former President of the award-winning Arlington Young Democrats, the 1st Volunteer Database Coordinator for Virginia for Obama, Founder of Generation of Obama-Washington, DC, the predecessor group to his current organization Network For Progress that brings together thousands of young professionals and grassroots activists both online and offline.