Obama's backers go to the Net for stimulus bill
At weekend house parties, his campaign supporters make a postelection foray into policy.
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Calling themselves “political compadres,” both say Obama’s election, and their role in it, helped change their sense of what it means to be a citizen in America. “We were homemakers in Ivoryton and we were starving for some moral leadership, some integrity in the highest office,” says Ms. Howard. “We were despondent, the public was despondent. Howard Dean laid the groundwork, opened the door for Obama.”Skip to next paragraph
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They say their work is just beginning. “When the battle cry is called, I will respond,” says Howard. “I know we’re trying to get the stimulus package passed, and I’ve talked it up to people.... But if it doesn’t pass, I’ll do more.”
That sentiment was universal in the colonial-era kitchen in rural Connecticut. Between the constant chatter and children running in and out, people said they were changed as a result of Obama’s election and felt they had their own role to play in the polity.
Howard and Matthiessen prefer going door-to-door when making their political pitch. But Henry Krempel, host of the event, says he prefers phone-banking. A computer programmer, he’d “never, ever, ever” been involved with politics until he heard Obama speak. He made 30,000 phone calls all over the US for Obama’s campaign and is ready to do it again.
“The phone call, at this time in our history, works. People are ... very segregated, they don’t see the middle of the road. The nuance is gone,” he says. “Somebody will say, ‘I heard this,’ and you can say, ‘That’s not quite true and you don’t have to listen to me, but here’s a reference ... you can look at.’ This kind of rich conversation is something that is very much missing in American politics today.”
Laurie Santos is using this evening to reconnect with people but also to pass around literature about local and state problems, including budget cuts proposed by Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell. “Some of her suggestions are anti-Obama, anti-stimulus,” says Ms. Santos, a retiree from Clinton, Conn.
Political analysts are watching all of this with interest. “This is a very powerful instrument Obama has at his disposal. It certainly worked during the campaign,” says John Zogby, president of Zogby International, a polling firm in Utica, N.Y. “It’s still early, but this could be momentous because no one’s been able to do it like this before.”
“Suddenly it’s become full court press [on the stimulus package], and so he’s using it. I don’t think there’s anything more to it than that.”