Grassroots Northshore was an idea hatched out of the jaws of defeat. Keith Schmitz, several other Milwaukeeans, an underground army and I stormed Iowa one weekend in February of 2004 to try to convince our fellow Democrats that Howard Dean was perhaps the best Progressive candidate this country had seen since McGovern. We and hundreds like us from all over the country took buses, stayed on hotel room floors and marched through the winter streets of Iowa and talked to our fellow Americans about fiscal responsibility, universal healthcare, getting out of an illegal war in Iraq and most importantly, the fact that Iowans had the ability to sway the country just by showing up at the caucuses. The largest Iowa caucus turnout in history followed in our wake even if our candidate didn't win in the actual caucus room, Americans all over the country found out something powerful. That a small committed group of people CAN make a difference.
On the way back to Wisconsin, that small group of Wisconsinites talked about how they were going to win Wisconsin in November come hell or high water for the eventual Democratic nominee. One set up a group of Ozaukee County Democrats who brought together over 300 people for a Dem party picnic to help organize for the election. One went back to Green Bay and is currently trying to remove their Republican congresisonal leader. Another set up a group of Racine dems that still holds reunions and get togethers, I became a delegate to the DNC National Convention and worked for the Democratic party through the election, and Keith Schmitz & I pooled my list of Democratic Shorewood soccer moms with his list of years of Shorewood collections and started a Yahoo group to help keep everyone informed of what was going on politically that affected them personally. Soon friends invited friends and Grassroots Shorewood became Grassroots Northshore...who knew?
I can't take any credit beyond that. Keith has taken Grassroots Northshore and grown it into a massive political force. During the Democratic election the Shorewood (and eventually Whitefish Bay, Glendale, Fox Point & Bayside) moms and dads were literally giving up their weekends and evenings to march up the Northshore and tell their peers that it was okay to be a Democrat. That's all it took.
When I worked in the Dem Party office, the group was considered the volunteer powerhouse in the state, and they brought snacks with them which was appreciated by young hard working staff more than they will ever really know.
Shorewood, Brown Deer, Whitefish Bay, Glendale, Fox Point and Bayside (River Hills was close) all became a Democratic stronghold for the state. Grassroots Northshore under Keith's leadership and the truly amazing dedication of the members is now a huge group of volunteers biting at the bit for a new challenge.
Iraq War resolution in Shorewood? No problem! They collected the signatures without breaking a sweat. How about Whitefish Bay? Done. Now others in the group are exploring it. It is truly a wonder to behold.
I was so busy working on my projects, that my only connection with GRNS in the last year was as a regular sounding board for new ideas and an occasional volunteer on a project. I hadn't been to a meeting in 8-10 months....until tonight.
Tonight GRNS had John Nichols, Editor at the Cap Times in Madison and regular journalist for The Nation as a guest speaker on the Iraq War. He was eloquent, funny and his insight was often disturbing. Truly a pleasure to listen to on a dreary Tuesday night.
This is what struck me most about the evening though. It is now a group of Progressive Democrats who can draw nearly 100 people on a Tuesday night in mid-January eleven months before a mid-term election!!!!!! This group is AWESOME!!!
All you Progressives out there take note. This is Milwaukee's upper-middle class suburban Northshore and they have taken a simple Dean message sent after he lost the WI primary and turned it into a reality. TAKE BACK YOUR COUNTRY!!! We can do it. We can band together and not only force wishy washy Dems to "Get a Backbone" like Sen Feingold is fond of saying, but also get rid of people like Jim Sensenbrenner who's seat may now be truly in jeopardy.
Don't give up, the battle for the people to take back control of our Government has just begun.
In the Iowa Dem Party office, the volunteers came up with a spontaneous chant that followed us through the weekend.
In the call and response format of my ancestors one group would yell:
Show me what Democracy looks like!
The other group would respond:
This is what Democracy looks like!
The TRUE PATRIOTISM AND LOVE FOR COUNTRY that drive the members of GRNS is enough to make me cry.
And to my brother-in-law We love you!