Here are two absolutely outstanding pieces of writing about political organising, as relevant here in the UK as in America.
Zack Exley describes the grassroots, 'people's organisation' which the Obama campaign has built up.
'At the end of our meeting, my neighborhood team leader, Jennifer Robinson, totally unprompted, told me: "I'm a different person than I was six weeks ago." I asked her to elaborate later. She said, "Now, I'm really asking: how can I be most effective in my community? I've realized that these things I've been doing as a volunteer organizer—well, I'm really good at them, I have a passion for this. I want to continue to find ways to actively make this place, my community, a better place. There's so much more than a regular job in this—and once you've had this, it's hard to go back to a regular job. I'm asking now: Can I look for permanent work as an organizer in service of my community? And that's a question I had not asked myself before the campaign. It never occurred to me that I could even ask that question."'
Sean Quinn talks to the Chairman of the Albermale Republican Party in Virginia:
'Ten years of notes collected from door-to-door conversations with neighbors have given Republicans an incredible depth of knowledge about who their voters are, and even what's going on in their lives.
Modeled by Bell and adopted by the grassroots county volunteers, notes banked into the voter database and printed onto canvass walk sheets are extremely sophisticated. "Do they have a bumper sticker? Are they expanding their house? What signs are in the window? Are they repainting? Are their kids going to college?" When a Republican canvasser returns later to that same voter's door, he or she can ask, "'How's Sally doing at Virginia Tech?' Having that kind of database is a huge edge."
Schoenewald emphasized the value of literature drops at every single visit. "If you don't hand that person lit," he said, "you're only doing 10% of what you could have done." Comparing the local effort with the national campaign overlay during presidential years, Schoenewald contrasted the difference in control. "We always prefer doing it ourselves." The local lists are better and more detailed, and when there is more local control in the persuasion it's more effective voter contact.
This explains, in part, why Schoenewald would rather do away with the robocalls. They're just not high quality contacts. "Five to seven contacts to get a message through is the assumption. If we're only doing robocalls then the full seven is probably required." On the other hand, if contacts were simply a combo of personal door-to-door visits and direct mail, "only three touches" might be needed. Quality, quality, quality.'
If the Republican Party had more local parties like the one in Albermale, they wouldn't be facing a wipe out. And if the Democrats can keep building the local, grassroots organisation which has arisen this year after the elections for another ten years, who knows what they could achieve.
When we talk about modernisation and renewal of the Labour Party, we could do a lot worse than use these two examples as our inspiration.