Yes You Can: Who is Obama's Man on Lula's Team

Yes You Can: Who is Obama’s Man on Lula’s Team

a scene called the attention of those who participated in the act that brought together tens of thousands of people around former president and pre-candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva last Wednesday, August 3, in Teresina, capital of Piauí. Dozens of people were waiting in line to take selfies in front of an instagrammable banner with the image of Lula, properly dressed in a doublet and cowboy hat. Meanwhile, young people with clipboards in their hands wrote down on sheets of paper the name, WhatsApp number, e-mail and zip code of those waiting their turn.

It was the debut of one of the most innovative actions planned by Lula’s team for the formal start of the campaign for the presidency, starting on the 16th. of political participation, but who are willing to give up part of their time to help in the election of Lula.

Named #TimeLula, the campaign is inspired by similar initiatives carried out around the world, especially in the United States. Before reaching the final format, the former president’s team spoke with those responsible for the digital mobilization campaigns of Gabriel Boric, in Chile, and Gustavo Petro, in Colombia, as well as activists from Ecuador and Mexico.

But not only. Among those consulted is the American Ben Brandzel, who defines himself as a writer, instructor and international activist in the organization of digital militancy in the progressive field.

In 20 years of experience in the area, Brandzel participated in the beginning of MoveOn, in the USA, helped to found – linked to the Open Society Foundation, of the Hungarian billionaire George Soros – and the Online Progressive Engagement Network, or OPEN, an organization that brings together digital activism groups in 19 countries on five continents. Today, OPEN has branches in Hungary, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Canada, Israel and France, among others, bringing together more than 20 million employees.

In Brazil, the only organization associated with OPEN is Nossas, a non-partisan group based in Rio that works in digital activism in various areas, such as defending the Amazon and collecting warm clothing. Last month, Nossas published a photo of the team alongside Brandzel.

He has been meeting with members of the coordination of Lula’s campaign since February, and in recent months he began to replicate Twitter posts about the defense of the Amazon and democracy in Brazil from celebrities such as actors Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo DiCaprio.

American strategist Ben Brandzel.

Photo: Reproduction/Higher Ground Labs

I tried to talk to Brandzel about his collaboration with Lula’s campaign, but he didn’t respond to messages I sent via WhatsApp and Twitter.

What caught the attention of Lula’s campaign was Brandzel’s connection with former US President Barack Obama. He coordinated fundraising for Organizing for Action, the OFA, a community created by the Democratic politician, during the campaign to reform the public health system between 2009 and 2010.

OFA, now absorbed by the Democratic Party, succeeded Organizing for America, which emerged in the wake of Obama’s revolutionary 2008 presidential campaign. available at a time when social networks still did not have the strength and capillarity of today to segment voters through the CEP and mobilize crowds.

Throughout that year, Obama’s army of digital volunteers left the internet to act in the real world in actions – considered vital for the former president’s electoral victory – on topics such as encouraging voter turnout or the dispute with Hillary Clinton in the elections. Democratic Party caucuses.

In 36 hours, the mobilization inspired by Obama’s digital strategy attracted 7,000 volunteers to Lula’s campaign.

That’s more or less what Lula’s campaign wants to do, only meeting local needs and characteristics. “We are building a Brazilian, tropical volunteer policy, made for Brazil. It’s no use trying to imitate what was done by Boric in Chile,” Brunna Rosa, the coordinator of Lula’s digital campaign, told me.

She said that she decided to launch a form on the former president’s platforms shortly after the launch of the Lula-Geraldo Alckmin ticket, on May 7. There, people interested in helping with the campaign could send basic data and choose between four options for volunteer work: street actions and conversations with undecided people, combating fake news, coordinating groups on WhatsApp or publicizing the candidate’s proposals on the networks.

In just 36 hours, the mobilization attracted 7,000 entries. The success turned on the yellow light: the campaign was not yet ready to receive and organize the multitude of collaborators. Thus, a storage brake was made.

The proposal, previously lateral, was taken to the coordination of the campaign and gained support from Lula himself, who appointed Paulo Okamotto, president of the Lula Institute and one of the former president’s closest friends, to coordinate the initiative. In the coming days, the forms will be released in full force on the networks of the ex-president and the PT. The volunteer campaign is expected to gain traction from the 15th.

one vote a day

A digital booklet that intercept read it first hand opens the range of forms of participation. In addition to the four initial options, volunteers will also be able to produce their own content, share campaign material on networks and moderate and participate in chats and other online initiatives.

The groups, divided by geographic location and characteristics of each volunteer, will have mentors, called “technicians” (the language emulates that of football, much to Lula’s taste), who will distribute tasks, content and give strategic policy guidelines. To encourage participation, the “players” will receive stars and “symbolic rewards”. For example: sharing a campaign card on networks is worth five stars; wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Lula at the fair counts 10 stars; leafleting, 20 stars.

The objective now is to win votes. “Winning one vote a day is a great and noble mission. The election agenda will be more and more frequent in our daily lives. During a conversation on the bus, at work, at church, chatting with friends or even at Sunday lunch with the family, there are opportunities to act and win one more vote”, says the booklet.

“The idea is to open a space for people who want to help in the campaign spontaneously, without having to go through the bureaucratic and rigid structure of the parties”, Okamotto told me. “This will still force the party bureaucracy to review its practices. We need to bring everyone, the common people.”

Okamotto and Brunna Rosa assured that Ben Brandzel and other foreigners heard in the process of building #TimeLula do not have a formal relationship with the campaign. They said that the American activist offered to help spontaneously, as an individual, without the participation of the organizations to which he belongs and without any type of contract or financial remuneration.

“What we’ve been doing for some time now is trying to get to know the experiences of other countries. Ben is part of this initiative”, said Okamotto.

The question and answer area of ​​the digital booklet that I was able to read reveals that the objective of the action goes beyond the elections. “When the campaign ends, will I be able to continue helping? Yup. We are going to need a lot of noise on the streets and on the networks to ensure support and approval of the changes and laws necessary to improve the lives of our people. We count on you until the end.”

Although the text obviously does not mention the possibility of Lula’s defeat, people who participated in the process of formulating the campaign say that the maintenance of a digital army to oppose a possible second government of Jair Bolsonaro is also on the agenda.

The challenge is to create in a few months something that Bolsonarism has built over more than five years: an organic digital army, capable of supporting Lula’s and PT’s political initiatives in the digital environment.

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