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The Machinery of Hope

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Inside the grass-roots field operation of Barack Obama, who is transforming the way political campaigns are run

Posted Mar 20, 2008 3:00 PM

It's Presidents day, two weeks before the Texas primary, and Adam Ukman has come to the small city of San Marcos to train precinct captains for Barack Obama. A soft-spoken native of Houston, Ukman has served on the campaign's front lines in Iowa and Utah, organizing grass-roots supporters to secure decisive victories in both states. This evening, more than eighty residents of San Marcos have crammed into a yellow clapboard recreation center on a street dotted with shacks that date from the Jim Crow era. "Our job is not to run in here to tell you how it's going to be," Ukman tells them. "This is your campaign. Not our campaign."

Anyone who has spent time around Democratic politics has heard this kind of rhetoric before. Most often, it's pure horseshit. But Ukman is not here to break in a batch of untrained organizers. He knows that there is literally hundreds of years of organizing experience in the room — all he needs to do is set it loose. There's Michael Collins, an old-school politico in a tan Stetson who chaired John F. Kennedy's campaign in West Texas in 1960. A few seats over is Sandra Tenorio, who oversaw immigration issues for Gov. Ann Richards in the 1990s. And there's "Big Bob" Barton, a fixture of local party races since he worked as a volunteer for Gene McCarthy in '68. "I first voted for a Democrat more than fifty years ago," he barks out in his dry baritone. "I try not to fall in love with too many men, but this is the best damn one we've had since John Kennedy."...(Click here for remainder of Rolling Stone© article).


A New Hope

Posted Mar 20, 2008 3:00 PM

The tides of history are rising higher and faster these days. Read them right and ride them, or be crushed. And then along comes Barack Obama, with the kinds of gifts that appear in politics but once every few generations. There is a sense of dignity, even majesty, about him, and underneath that ease lies a resolute discipline. It's not just that he is eloquent — with that ability to speak both to you and to speak for you — it's that he has a quality of thinking and intellectual and emotional honesty that is extraordinary.

I first learned of Barack Obama from a man who was at the highest level of George W. Bush's political organization through two presidential campaigns. He described the first-term senator from Illinois as "a walking hope machine" and told me that he would not work for any Republican candidate in 2008 if Obama was nominated. He challenged me to read Obama's autobiography, Dreams From My Father....(Click here for remainder of Rolling Stone© article).


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