Whenever there was a little break in the flow of an organizing meeting for Hillary Clinton Monday night, Scott Hogan, the only paid Clinton organizer in the state, would point to someone in the crowd.
“Why are you here?” he’d ask.
“I’m here because I have two daughters and it’s time they had a woman in the White House to look up to,” a man said.
There was a big round of applause from the roughly 150 people who showed up for the meeting, which was held at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.
“Why are you here?” Hogan asked, pointing to a woman.
“I also have two daughters at home,” the woman said, “but that’s not the only reason I’m for her. The way I see it she’s the most qualified person for the job.”
Another big round of applause.
Dayton, Smith backing Clinton
And they gave Gov. Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith a huge, standing ovation when they showed up.
“This is more fun than we’ve had all day,” Smith said to Dayton as they stood in front of the cheering people. The governor, who has been a Clinton supporter since sitting next to her in the U.S. Senate, agreed.
Dayton urged people to get involved now and stay involved. “You haven’t lived until you’ve gone door-knocking in Iowa in January,” he said.
He also warned the people that the campaign against “their” candidate will be harsh. “The character assassination, the money and the lies would knock down just about anybody so we’ve got to stand together,” he said.
(Republican legislators were miffed that Dayton and Smith would leave the Capitol to attend a political event in the midst of leadership negotiations. While scoffing at the governor for attending a political rally at such a crucial time, they managed to get off a few Clinton shots. For example, there was this from Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston: “Nixon goes down for 18 minutes of missing tape. She’s got four years of missing e-mails.”)
Growing the grassroots
In a way, this was a surprising gathering. It probably skewed a little younger than you might have expected. There were nearly as many men in the room as women. There weren’t many old-guard DFL feminists, or old-guard DFLers in general, on hand. There wasn’t much representation from the most progressive wings of the party. (Insiders believe that the progressive will, in the early stages of the campaigns, gravitate to Bernie Sanders.) And there didn’t appear to be anybody wearing a union jacket.
Who was at this gathering? Many seemed to have a political background similar to JoAnne Zaclow. She had been a Clinton supporter in 2008, though not an activist, and, in the end easily switched her loyalty to President Obama. But now, she’s “100 per cent on board” for Clinton and plans to do campaign work.
“That’s a big step for me,” she said. “The last time I campaigned for anybody, it was for George McGovern (1972). That was crushing. But not this time.”
The purpose of the meeting was to start the process of building up a “grassroots” operation. The campaign is building a roster of door knockers and party hosts and envelope stuffers. Similar sessions are being held throughout the country by the highly organized Clinton campaign, which is headquartered in Brooklyn.
But the Clinton campaign staff is wise enough to know that sign-up sheets do not a political event make. People want to get excited, do some cheering.
Former St. Paul City Council member (and current state Office of Early Learning director) Melvin Carter had no trouble revving the crowd.
“The question is not how much money the Koch brothers are going to spend to turn Minnesota red,” he said, his voice soaring. “It’s how much shoe leather you’re willing to expend.”
Carter’s fire had people laughing and cheering.
Names, addresses, e-mails were gathered. People sat in small groups to exchange ideas, get to know each other. Near the end of the meeting, Hogan, the paid staffer, asked how many people had signed up to hold “a house party” for Clinton’s campaign. Perhaps as many as 20 people raised their hands. How many will door knock, Hogan asked. All hands went up.
The 2016 presidential campaign is on.