CHICAGO -- Jeremy Bird, a founding partner and CEO at 270 Strategies, joined Nathaniel Pearlman on The Great Battlefield, a leading #Resistance podcast, to discuss his organizing experiences, reflect on his work with President Obama’s campaigns, and dive into the 2016 election. He went into depth on his introduction to Obama and the core community organizing principles which led him to victory as the 2008 primary field director for South Carolina, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Bird discussed the impact of eschewing traditional paid organizing for a volunteer-based Neighborhood Team Leader model -- which mobilized millions to take action across the country -- and his experience as Obama's 2012 National Field Director and now at 270 Strategies. See some key excerpts below:
On his first organizing experience:
"It was the first time in my life, as someone who grew up in a trailer park, that I saw people who didn’t have power say, 'We’re going to create real power, and we’re going to change what’s happening in our communities.' For me, what I said at that moment was, whatever had just happened – whatever I had just been a part of – I want to do this."
On his introduction to then-Senator Obama:
"You know, when I was done with the two years losing to George W. Bush, I wasn’t sure if I was going to do that presidential campaign thing again – it was a rough two years. You sacrifice so much, you see so much less of your family, and it can be pretty brutal on your body and your soul, especially when you lose. I read his first book, Dreams from my Father, and I was just captivated. I just thought, 'This guy gets it. He knows what it’s like to sit around my trailer and think about healthcare costs. He knows what it’s like for my parents to worry about how they’re going to pay for the next meal, much less college for their kids. Reading the chapters about him organizing on the South Side of Chicago, that’s what I did in Boston – those were the same lessons I had. If this guy ever runs for president, I would love to work for him.'"
On the future of the progressive movement:
"It’s a huge moment for the progressive community. New people are saying, ‘You know what, I’m just going to do this thing because I want to do it’ – and I think it’s needed. And you see these incredible groups – Indivisible, Swing Left, Run For Something, The Arena Summit – there’s energy and young people and diversity, and it’s incredible! I mean, you go to these Arena Summits, and they are inspiring. Run For Something is doing incredible things. You’ve got these groups all over, there are a lot of political start-ups – they aren’t companies, they’re organizations, and some of them will make it, and some of them won’t. A big thing will be, are they able to raise money, and you’re able to raise money if you have a great story to tell, you’re winning, you’re creative, et cetera, and you’ll have a whole new crop of great organizations."
You can listen to the full podcast here.