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The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin) Get-Together Aims to Send Message to Obama

Samara Kalk Derby

With the election in the rear view mirror, the progressive political action committee wants to make sure the candidates it worked to help get into office support a truly progressive agenda.

To that end, it held more than 500 "Fired Up and Ready to Go" gatherings throughout the country Thursday night. A meeting held at the Dardanelles restaurant on Monroe Street drew 15 people, all white and over 50.

About 350 members registered for get-togethers in 18 locations throughout Wisconsin, said Paul Otto, state coordinator for

The local group wants to send a message to members of Congress as well as the nascent Barack Obama administration. Some members are worried that Obama as president will move to the center and not fulfill some of the promises he made during the campaign.

"So far it's disappointing who he's appointed to his Cabinet," said Margaret Welke, 54, a market researcher. "I don't want another Republican lite in office."

Welke told the group she doesn't trust Obama to do what he said he would do. "If you look back in history, few presidents became more progressive once they got into office," she said.

"I don't want to say that I stand with Obama because I don't know where he stands," Welke said. is coordinating a photo-gathering campaign, called "Real Voices for Change," in which members take digital photos of their friends, neighbors, colleagues, family members and even strangers holding signs or white boards that say "I stand with Obama for xxxx," with participants filling in the blank. For instance, "I stand with Obama on health care," or "I stand with Obama for ending the war in Iraq," or "I stand with Obama on energy independence."

Participants will also add their name to a petition acknowledging that they stand with Obama for change in Washington.

The organization hopes to get 300,000 to 500,000 photos to deliver to Congress. The names and photos will be organized by congressional district and be delivered to individual members of Congress in Washington, D.C., in January just before Inauguration Day. The photos will be available online and posted in the subway stations and other public spaces in D.C., visible to the millions of people converging on the city for the inauguration.

(To post photos, go to

"It puts a personal face on the issues that are important to people," said Otto, of Madison, the Wisconsin coordinator for

Petitions aren't good enough anymore, Otto said.

"It's getting to the point where you bring five or six bankers boxes of signatures and you drop them off on somebody's desk and they aren't read -- they are just put into the recyclables. This puts a personal face on issues," he said.

When members of Congress see the pictures coupled with the issues that the person cares about, they will see the passion in the person's face, Otto said.

"This is a mechanism to let (government) see that there are large numbers of people interested in these issues. These are individuals, not some amorphous group," he said.

James Frankel, a book editor who has been active with for two and a half years, said the photo campaign will be a visual representation of many people all subscribing to the kind of change that Obama has promised.

"People perceive that this is such an important moment in history -- not just American history but world history because there are so many issues that have been neglected by the previous two administrations: climate change, reform of the economic system, health care, the war, energy independence," Frankel said.

He added that people who had never voted before joined with Democrats, Republicans and independents to elect Obama and other candidates who represent change "because we are profoundly tired of a government that lies to us and serves the interests of a very small group of privileged and powerful people against the interests of the vast majority of the country."

George Bush undermined every democratic institution in the United States, from the Constitution on down, Frankel said. "People don't want to believe that he could be as craven and corrupt as he really is," he said.

Frankel canvassed for Obama, and the advocacy organization Advancing Wisconsin. When he talked to people -- other than John McCain supporters -- he said they were enormously excited about the idea of getting a government that will listen to the people for a change.

"Because we haven't had that in a long time," he said.

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