We made history Tuesday.
A country created by slaveholders, that denied women the right to vote until 1920, and that needed a “second Reconstruction” in the 1960’s to guarantee the right to vote for Black Americans, elected the former community organizer and quintessentially American mixed-heritage Barack Hussein Obama to its Presidency.
We made history despite the ugly campaign of fear and lies run by John McCain, a central tactic of which was to demonize ACORN and, in classic guilt-by-association innuendo, raise questions about President-Election Obama’s fitness for office. We know that not only did that tactic fail, but that voters responded to a campaign that challenged us to be our better selves, to believe in the promise of America, and our resilience as Americans of countless backgrounds and strengths.
We know that this campaign went beyond the impressive organization built by Obama and his chief strategists to a vast array of organizations, affinity groups, and ordinary citizens who, together, made this day possible. Our collective accomplishments on Election Day serve to remind the country both that working families are ready to vote – and organize – for change, and that we have yet to solve the real crises facing ACORN members and the American public.
In 2008, ACORN set out to change America – by helping end the foreclosure crisis, by winning affordable, quality healthcare for all Americans, and by mobilizing low- and moderate-income voters in record numbers to push for these and other issues. Tuesday’s results provided a resounding affirmation for this agenda.
Our own contributions towards mobilizing low- and moderate-income voters included the largest non-partisan voter registration drive in U.S. history. We collected over 1.3 million voter registration applications from populations that are underrepresented in the electorate: people of color, low-income people, and young people. Approximately 900,000 people had a chance to vote in this election due to that effort. And when you add in the work that ACORN did over the previous two election cycles, we calculate that there were approximately 1.5 million more voters in the electorate from those constituencies than there were in 2002, simply due to our registration drives.
ACORN also engaged in a voter mobilization program that made 640,500 face-to-face voter contact attempts to new and infrequent voters in 10 states. This was augmented by a phone program that made approximately 311,000 live contact attempts.
But the election of 2008 ended up being deeply personal for the staff and members of ACORN. While we expected to weather assaults on the legitimacy of our work, based on our past experiences from 2004 and 2006, we were unprepared for the attack to be a nationally-coordinated assault that included the entire machinery of the Republican Party, from the RNC to the McCain Campaign to state and local GOP elected officials and the entire capacity of the conservative bamboozlement chorus.
Still reorganizing after a major staff leadership and Board transition that started over the summer, these attacks came at a time when our own internal capacity was still being rebuilt. So it was a profound and humbling experience to see an immense array of people and organizations step up and sacrifice their own priorities, time, and effort, to stand with us and fight back.
The list of organizations and individuals who need to be thanked by us is long and it is with trepidation that I even attempt to launch into it for fear of leaving someone out. But the plain fact is that the response was so generous that people deserved to be recognized by name. So here goes. If I left you out, feel free to let me know in the comments below.
Netroots and Progressive On-Line Media
Black Agenda Report
The Brad Blog
Center for Independent Media network
New Mexico Independent
Crooks and Liars
The DailyKos community
Jack and Jill Politics
Media Matters for America
My Left Nutmeg
Pam’s House Blend
The Public Record
Talking Points Media
American Federation of Teachers
Center for American Progress
Communications Workers of America
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
League of Women Voters
National Council of La Raza
National Education Association
People for the American Way
United Steelworkers of America
Working Families Party
Hon. John Conyers
Hon. Keith Ellison
Mark Winston Griffith
Hon. Jesse Jackson, Jr.
Hon. Jerold Nadler
Rev. Al Sharpton
Hon. Maxine Waters
And everyone who signed our letter of support.
If I could hug everyone at once, I would. Without everyone who stood with us it would have been impossible to fight back the way we did.And that’s critical because we have a progressive agenda to pursue and our members’ interests to defend. We are going to be fighting for:
- An end to the foreclosure and credit crises facing ordinary Americans;
- Quality affordable health insurance as part of HCAN;
- Strengthening the public education system;
- Closing the wage and wealth gap as part of Half in Ten;
- Quality affordable housing;
- Passage of the Employee Free Choice Act;
- Achieving comprehensive immigration reform; and
- Creating a Federal budget that reflects the priorities of working families.
To steal and paraphrase from our friends at MoveOn, thank you for all you did and all you do.
Follow Bertha Lewis on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@TheBlackInst