One Million Strong: this week’s “other” convention

facebook logoEven without corporate sponsorships or prime-time coverage, the One Million Strong for Barack Facebook group’s online convention this week is a fascinating complement to the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Denver.

Nobody’s quite sure how many of One Million Strong‘s 625,000 members are currently active, probably a few thousand. Unlike a lot of Facebook groups, there’s very active discussion: links to news, dissection of media and bias, and great real-time commentary during debates and speeches. There’s also plenty of socializing, off-topic Olympic threads, occasional trolling and rickrolling, and the longest-running group orgy I’ve ever been a part of — 2122 posts and counting!

The group’s main purpose, though, is action. During the primary campaign, the group focused on phonebanking, getting out the vote, and “know your rights” work. One of our most dramatic successes was during the confusing Texas primary/caucus where Monte got a call from somebody on the floor telling us how the information we had forwarded had saved the day. Another was when the group encouraged Matt, a 23-year-old, in a successful effort to become a delegate to the DNC, defeating a long-time party insider in the county caucuses.

Can the much larger One Million Strong take things to the next level, and give a resounding answer to the question Linnie Rawlinson asked in her May 2007 CNN article Will the 2008 USA election be won on Facebook? A couple of high-profile examples of social network activism illustrate what’s possible. The 23,000-member Get FISA Right movement, which started on, wrote an open letter to Barack — who replied, on myBO and the Huffington Post, and then tipped his hat to the group in his Netroots Nation video.* The 100,000 Strong Against Evan Bayh for VP Facebook group only reached 4,100 members or so, but generated a huge amount of coverage and was credited by several Washington insiders with changing the momentum of the Veepstakes.

One Million Strong is much larger than either of these groups, and we’ve got the advantage of having worked — and hung out — together for months and months. A lot of people looooove to mock Facebook-based activism efforts; I think we’ve got a chance to change some perceptions here. Oh, and help win the election too while we’re at it.

Without any major events (debates, primaries) to focus on, things have been fairly quiet for One Million Strong over the summer. The conventions typically signal the start of the campaign shifting into high gear, and so when Anwar Musa suggested we should have our own convention speeches, it didn’t take long for people to get fired up.

The convention’s schedule gives a good idea of the breadth of interests of the group. It’s fascinating to look at the differences and similarities from the topics and speakers at the DNC. One obvious difference: the One Million Strong convention’s speakers feature a lot of non-Anglo names, for example Khalid Ali talking about the Pakistani Government and Avinash Mantha discussing South Asia and Europe. And of course there are huge age differences — how many people under 30 are talking at the DNC?

Even more dramatic is the attitudes towards differences of opinion: the DNC features a “free speech zone” (cough), and metal cages and barbed wire at the “Gitmo on the Platte” holding cells for protesters, and the One Million Strong convention ends on Friday with a “Day of Dissent”, with speakers putting forward contrarian views.

Don’t get me wrong: the DNC is a great opportunity for the people attending to network, and as a multiday prime-time infomercial hugely important for the Obama/Biden campaign and the Democratic party in the November election.

That said, it seems to me the One MIllion Strong convention is much more in sync with the grassroots energy behind the Obama campaign.

See you there, hopefully!


* speaking of Get FISA Right, please check out our new John McCain would do the same ad, and help us get it on the air during the Republican Convention!