Snohomish County, North of Seattle and, practically speaking, containing a good deal of what matters as Seattle, is still not a region of big time politics. That has now changed a bit.
Attending an Obama precinct organizing meeting here is like witnessing Prometheus bringing fire to man.
Democrats in Snohomish County, a county like in so many of the northern tier state's cities and counties being named for or by Native American tribes, are a well intentioned lot. They work hard, are earnest, and show up. They canvas, they rely on registration rolls to identify Democrats, they canvas on issues and then canvas and call to get out the vote. The Republicans do the same.
As far back as I can remember retail politics has been the same, in any of four states over fifty years. People make up their minds on their own on a leaning, a philosophy, and the parties simply point out proper alignments on an issue or candidate and then urge on the act of voting.
Obama brings, his campaign brings, as revealed in the Obama campaign meeting I attended, a more aggressive talent. It is simple enough in theory, but it is a gamble and subtle revolution in execution. What Obama's campaign does that is different is to ask canvassers and callers to personally take a stake in making a difference in the leanings of voters. Quite simply it is predicated on the very questionable statistical significance of one human influencing another.
Practically, Obama's campaign identifies, through government statistics, voters who are committed, voters who are uncommitted and voter who are marginally committed. The campaign supplies targeting, persuasion scripting and moral support for anyone with the notion to try and move the minds of anyone, anyone in from the category of opposition to the category of Yellow Dog Democrat.
It is soft and subtle. If you are not a committed political zealot, there is no pressure. If you are committed a little or a lot, there are tools, accessible from home on the internet, to help identify target markets and people, to help set goals, make arguments, and even support you if you become discouraged.
Backing it all up is a simple testamentary video of people doing campaigning and in their own words why. It is a young girl, now a woman, who told her struggling mother she liked mustard and relish sandwiches because that was all that was in the house. Simple things. Simple steps. Simple and modest goals. These are the keys to organizing because these small things are the only commitments that most of us can afford. Together these small bits and pieces seem to make a movement, a tide like the molecules of an ocean. They may not all move far at once, but if they all move a little at once, the sea moves.
It is as professional a thing as I have seen, the Obama campaign, but not a hard sell, not a threat, not even an entreaty, just a how to. And I can see the potential for this low key, do what you can, campaign to pick off or punch up participation yielding a half dozen points in votes in a given market.
At the end of the day though, the veracity of the message and candidate is the determining factor. Still, the message and method of the Obama campaign promises to transcend the outcome of the current contest. Or so it seems to me in Snohomish County.