Saturday, September 17, 2011

Opinion: Is this Heaven? No, its Organize4Palin's Field of Dreams

In Field of Dreams, the 1989 baseball movie starring Kevin Costner, we see an idealistic, transplanted city boy-turned-Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella, played by Kevin Costner, take a chance, listening to a distant voice. Standing in the midst of his cornfield, Kinsella repeatedly hears a voice informing him that "If you build it, he will come." Confused, but not scared, he sets about carving a baseball field from his corn crops. Nothing happens, and Ray soon faces ruin. Ray and his wife discuss replanting the corn, but their daughter, sees a man on the ballfield. Ray discovers that he is Shoeless Joe Jackson, a dead baseball player idolized by Ray's father. Thrilled to be able to play baseball again, Joe asks to bring others to play on the field. He later returns from the cornfield with the seven other players banned in the 1919 Black Sox Scandal.

To some Peter Singleton, Organize 4 Palin's Iowa State Coordinator may seem a lot like Ray Kinsella. He is taking a seemingly crazy, unconventional vision that is Organize 4 Palin and plowing under conventional thinking in a politically traditional Iowa. Peter along with other Organize 4 Palin volunteers are about the business of laying the ground work for a possible presidential campaign by former Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin. But like the Governor, they are doing things on their own terms and in their own way by building lasting relationships and making impressions across the politcally-savvy Hawkeye State.

Talking with Real Clear Politics' Scott Conroy after "The Undefeated" premiere in Pella in June, Singleton said "I've probably met with 1,000 people in this state in one-on-one meetings or a couple people at a time," he said. "The one-on-one meetings and the two- and three-people meetings are the heart and soul of what we're doing, and believe me, the other guys don't do that. They take a radically different approach." Iowa's branch of Organize 4 Palin, in large part to Peter and Michelle McCormick, his Iowa co-coordinator's efforts have a presence in a majority of Iowa's 99 counties. Iowa Secretary of State, Matt Schultz, when interviewed for that same article said of Organize 4 Palin, "When I've been around the state at different events, I've seen different volunteers for Organize4Palin where they've set up booths and have tried to get people interested." He also mentions he felt the event was well-organized. Volunteers go to Central Committee meetings, hand out palm cards, make phone calls to conservative minded voters, host screenings of "The Undefeated", and more importantly connect to people making certain they walk away with a knowledge of Sarah Palin and her record. Organize 4 Palin in Iowa also had a hand in the 2,000 or so people who braved the torrential rains in Indianola at the Restoring America Tea Party Rally in early September where Gov. Sarah Palin spoke of her plan to get America back on the right track. No doubt you saw the sea of O4P t-shirts on C-Span during the IA rally.

Throughout much of Field of Dreams, Ray's brother, Mark pesters him warning him that he will bankrupt the family unless he replants. In one exchange Mark admonishes Ray saying, "You don't know the first thing about farming" to which Ray responds "Yes I do. I know a lot about farming. I know more than you think I know." Mark answers back with, "Then how could you plow under your major crop?" Recently several original Organize 4 Palin volunteers in Iowa have broken ties with the boots on the ground organization citing lack or organization as the main reason for the split. In an interview with The Iowa Republican's Kevin Hall, former Organize 4 Palin volunteer Craig Bergman states "There is no Organize 4 Palin, there never was" He goes on to say, At no point in time has Organize 4 Palin put pen to title to do the 5X5 executable grassroots plan that you know has to be done. There is absolutely no organization. None." Bergman and other former members feel as though Peter Singleton and the rest of the O4P volunteers don't have the first clue about how to run a campaign here in the first in the nation Caucus state. As an Organize 4 Palin volunteer and Iowan myself, my answer back to them is Peter knows a lot more about what will work to get support and ultimately votes in this politically saturated potentially battleground state.

"Is this Heaven? No, it's Iowa." A place of fertile soil and traditional values. Iowa is informed, voting an citizens idea of paradise. Its a state where, if you want to, you can actually participate on quite a personal level with the election process. Whether it be at the Iowa State Fair or the Ames Straw Poll or the Polk County Republican's event you can vet the candidates face-to-face. Despite this level of access, Iowa has become a place of icy robo calling and cold calling cards in the mailbox by impersonal politicians and their operatives who treat voters more like a numbers than as sovereign rulers of this country. Iowans have grown battle weary and in large part unimpressed with conventional talking points campaigns. Near the end of the movie when Mark is again hounding Ray to rethink his moves, Tery Mann, played by James Earl Jones tells him, "Ray, people will come Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past." Like many Americans, Iowans are waiting on the doorstep for the past. They long for an America where their voices mattered. If you want to capture interest and votes in this state, you must be genuine, you must be unconventional, and you must do exactly what Peter and Michelle and their team in Iowa are doing. You need to build relationships that are authentic, valued, and viable.You need to plow under the crops of conventional campaign processes and build the baseball diamond of grassroots organization despite what the detractors say.

In Dyersville, Iowa that baseball diamond in the midst of the cornfield still stands as it did in the movie in a peaceful setting of hills, farmhouses, horses, and cattle. If you sit on the bleachers and watch the landscape, you can imagine the long row of headlights at the end of the film, the cars streaming in from the crisscross of farm roads. Someone once speaking of the field said that the best thing about it was what wasn't there. Its up to visitors to bring their own dreams. That is why the anthying but 'politics as usual' structure of Organize 4 Palin works so well. Its up to us Americans to bring our own dreams to it. Its up to us to build those relationships that hold us as valuable participants in the greatest nation on earth and to form lasting connections with other, like-minded citizens not by following a script of actions put forth by a rigid political machine.

At the end of the movie, Ray's brother-in-law, Mark can finally see what Ray saw all along, the players. Perhaps, once all is said and done those who thought Organize 4 Palin's strategy wouldn't work will too finally see what most of us already do - to paraphrase the voice in the cornfield "If you build relationships, they will vote".

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