But after I called a few Democrats who know a lot about grass-roots organizing, I started to feel more sanguine. Some of the state leaders who helped rebuild the party after 2016 say Biden’s campaign is far more responsive than Clinton’s was. They’d like to be talking to voters in person but think what’s happening on the phone and online is enough, even if it’s not visible to outside observers.
Four years ago, Lavora Barnes, then the chief operating officer of the Michigan Democratic Party, was, as she said, “one of the folks trying to raise alarms up the chain” about Clinton’s weakness in the state. “It did not feel right on the ground here in Michigan,” she told me. “We could tell that we were in trouble.” The Clinton campaign, she said, would respond, “The model said we look good.”
Barnes, who is now the state Democratic Party chair, said there’s no similar disconnect with the Biden campaign. “We feel very good about where we are,” she said. “Yes, we would love a world where we could be out on the doors, unmasked, the way we would have been in 2016 had we had an operation like the one we have right now. But we can’t, because of this pandemic. So we are doing everything we can do and more.”