Many OTDB members spent their weekends attending Camp Wellstone at College of DuPage. It was a tremendous event with incredible speakers and great students. We all had the opportunity to learn a new path being taken by the Progressive movement made both popular and successful by the late Sen. Paul Wellstone. This new grassroots strategy aims to win elections using a bottom-up strategy that empowers communities and activists. That being said, the whole weekend was based around the brilliant (however, often forgotten) idea that we have the ability to improve our community. Wellstone grads are taught that winning elections is only one step toward bringing better resources and better lives to our communities.
The size of the group was absolutely amazing, well over 100 people paid to give up their entire weekend in exchange for sitting in a classroom for 21 hours over 3 days. The whole group ate meals together and had a couple of sessions together but mainly we were split into three different groups. One group was a training for community activists, while I was not in this group I heard amazing stories about the enthusiasm in that room, not for electoral politics but for making the world a better place. I can tell you from personal experience that they were having a great time, walking by their classroom repeatedly taught me that they are one loud, fun-loving group. Honestly, these new activists are going to return to their communities ready to make change and I have little doubt they will do exactly that. The second track was for campaign workers, these are the people who willingly spend their own time and money just to get other people elected. That being said, the campaign worker group worked on many things from finance to media and everything in between. I can assure you that these newly trained campaign workers will go on and run and work for numerous successful campaigns around the country. If you are considering running for office anytime soon I urge you to go out and find these Wellstone graduates and beg them to work with you. If you have to, get down on your hands and knees and kiss their shoes because I can promise you it will pay off in the end. These newly trained campaign workers are a force to be reckoned with and I cannot wait to see what the have planned for all of us. Finally, I was in the candidates track with 25 of the most amazing people I have ever met. Remember that kid in 1st grade who talked too much and when asked explained that he/she wanted to be President? Well there were 26 of those kids in one room together all weekend. Our classes were mind blowing, the ideas that the presenters shared were so cutting edge that they directly contradicted what I learned in electoral politics in college just over a year ago. Just one example, they talked at length of the importance of basebuilding, going to our often-ignored supporters to ask for help, ideas, volunteers, everything one could imagine. That directly contradicts the idea that you should use all your resources to pay attention only to undecided voters. I loved the new ideas, because of course being elected means that you represent every member of your respective district and that if you only pay attention to 20% of that district you have failed (no matter if you win or lose the election), and done so in an ugly, disrespectful way. Our goal of being elected is really a goal of bringing, first hand, a better life to all Americans. This is a level of morality that few current politicians have and that they all must learn going into the future. If the fail to learn these lessons quickly they will all lose their jobs.
The Camp Wellstone experience is something that I will look back on as changing my life. We all learned theories of how we make the world a better place through the use of politics. Politics is not the engine of American life; rather it is a machine we must use to improve the lives of all Americans. Any use of the machine for any other reason is disgusting, politics will no longer be a corrupt system of selfishness. No, I can promise you, with the help of Wellstone graduates politics well have one purpose, and only one purpose, to improve the lives of every last American, no matter if they are blue or red, undecided or they don't even vote, male or female, immigrant or naturalized citizen, evangelical or agnostic. It doesn't matter, we are all Americans and we must all work together to reclaim the post of the most important hegemon in the history of the world.
Thank you to Camp Wellstone, the College of DuPage, Amy Tauchman, Adriana Barboza, Erik Peterson, Pam Costain and every other trainer or organizer involved in this amazing weekend. Additionally, I learned so many things from other students that I will look to for advice and support well into the future. If you ever have the chance to go to Wellstone training I strongly recommend you take that chance. Maybe we will even end up in the same classroom, I will certainly be back to learn even more from Wellstone Action, the students and the passion everyone shared all weekend.
“A politics that is not sensitive to the concerns and circumstances of people's lives, a politics that does not speak to and include people, is an intellectually arrogant politics that deserves to fail.”