Date

6-29-2020

Description

Grassroots organizing, as defined by Marshall Ganz, is “leadership that enables people to turn the resources they have into the power they need to make the change they want” (Ganz, 2014). The zenith of grassroots organizing was in the latter half of the twentieth century when nonprofessional organizations were able to push for significant social change like the passage of the Voting Rights Act, the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam, and even lowering of the voting age. However, following the 1970s, most claimed that grassroots organizing had reached its effective end (Stein, 1986).

However, years later, Barack Obama was elected President. He had begun campaigning as an incredible underdog. In 2016, Bernie Sanders fell short of the Democratic nomination. Yet, his success was far greater than most expected. Both leveraged their experience as community organizers into developing nationally competitive strategies. To better understand the success and the resurgence of grassroots organizing, I relied on internal organizing guides for left-leaning organizations from the 1960s and 1970s, Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders’ internal campaign strategies, and contemporaneous articles written about each. This paper addresses the following issues: What technologies have emerged that have facilitated the resurgence of grassroots organizing? How have Democrats been able to capitalize on specifically partisan technologies?

What outreach strategies evolved or stayed consistent from the mid-twentieth century to now? And most importantly, what past strategies can campaigns use today for electoral success?

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Jun 29th, 12:00 AM

Bluegrass Ain’t Just Music: Democratic Campaigning and the Resurgence of Grassroots Organizing

Grassroots organizing, as defined by Marshall Ganz, is “leadership that enables people to turn the resources they have into the power they need to make the change they want” (Ganz, 2014). The zenith of grassroots organizing was in the latter half of the twentieth century when nonprofessional organizations were able to push for significant social change like the passage of the Voting Rights Act, the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam, and even lowering of the voting age. However, following the 1970s, most claimed that grassroots organizing had reached its effective end (Stein, 1986).

However, years later, Barack Obama was elected President. He had begun campaigning as an incredible underdog. In 2016, Bernie Sanders fell short of the Democratic nomination. Yet, his success was far greater than most expected. Both leveraged their experience as community organizers into developing nationally competitive strategies. To better understand the success and the resurgence of grassroots organizing, I relied on internal organizing guides for left-leaning organizations from the 1960s and 1970s, Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders’ internal campaign strategies, and contemporaneous articles written about each. This paper addresses the following issues: What technologies have emerged that have facilitated the resurgence of grassroots organizing? How have Democrats been able to capitalize on specifically partisan technologies?

What outreach strategies evolved or stayed consistent from the mid-twentieth century to now? And most importantly, what past strategies can campaigns use today for electoral success?