So, what is this Bus they keep talking about?

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Spend any time here at BlueOregon, and you're liable to hear someone make mention of a Bus that makes things happen in politics. Or, perhaps you've been asked at a political event, "Hey, are you on the Bus?"

So, to clarify things for you, let's just say this one thing: The Bus has nothing to do with mass transit. (Well, OK, they're in favor of it - but that's not the point.)

The Oregon Bus Project is about remaking our democracy here in Oregon and changing the world. Now, that sounds a bit hokey, I know.

So, rather than blather on further, I'll just let you catch the BlueOregon premiere of the 5 minute film about The Bus.

The Political Engine That Could (quicktime movie)


  • Brian Wagner (unverified)

    For anyone who is interested, Bus trip to the Coast on Saturday June 25, to go door-to-door talking with voters. Word on the street is that there's a BBQ on the beach afterwards!

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    Kari -- thanks for posting the video! I've become used to referring to the Bus Project in the short-hand (the Bus) and assuming that everyone's heard of it by now. This week I was down in the Capitol and mentioned "the Bus" and a young person said, "What's that?" I got over my shocked dismay and explained the project to her. So there's still work to do. Thanks for helping to spread the word. OK, the rest of you out there in Blue Oregon: Get on the Bus!

  • karynn (unverified)

    Funny, I was at a party in DC yesterday & spoke to a young woman from North Carolina who knew all about the Bus. Then it turned out she's Joel's sister! :)

  • NoCoors (unverified)

    I'm out here in the Mountain West--Colorado actually, and I'm a big fan of the Bus Project. A blonde guy spoke about it at a conference I attended, and he wowed the group. Great project (and great speaker).

    Blue Oregon readers should check out That's the main progressive website out here in Colorado.

    And cool video!

    Thanks for spreading the word. I wish there was a Bus Project in more states, and more things like BlueOregon and ProgressNow.

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    Hey NoCoolrs:

    That blunde guy you heard speak about the Bus is Jefferson Smith (chair of the Project).

    I'm glad you liked the idea because we'd love to have a presence in Colorado. We even have a snazzy handbook on how to set one up (we call it the 'Build a Bus' toolkit). :)

    If you're truly interested, e-mail me at the address above. Or talk to Garrett Downen ([email protected]) at the Bus office. I know some other folks in your state who share your enthusiasm for the idea & have grassroots experience. You guys should def connect & get something rollin!

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    I'm tickled that the term snazzy has been resurrected.

    Not content with being an agent of change and an incubator for young activist attorneys (and others) bent on public service, The Bus is also a guardian of pop culture.

    Watch out for that blonde guy though. he has those crazy eyes and stuff.......

  • Pete (unverified)

    In my experience, the Bus Project picks easy races to gain notches on their belt and does not live the values it espouses. Pretty faces, production values, and sound bites do not make a movement. The Bus does draw people to politics, and I commend them for that, but the substance is fluff and filled with too much blind reverence for Jefferson Smith. The Bus Project has so much potential and is such a great idea. Let's learn something from the Dean presidential campaign. Please put some real muscle behind the flash and flutter.

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    Pete - would you care to expand a bit on your experiences with the Bus? How much time have you actually spent hanging around the Bus?

    Have you been on a bus trip? Have you participated in any actual projects - like Onward Oregon, the Community Media Initiative, the Trick-or-Vote canvass, the Engage Oregon conference, Zephyr, PolitiCorps, the Third Thursday policy forums, etc.?

    Contrary to the hype (er, "counter-hype"?) I suspect with some serious time investment you'd find a whole lot of folks who don't give a damn about Jefferson Smith - and are working pretty hard to make serious change. Sure, they have a fun annual party, but that's a celebration of a lot of work done all year long.

    Don't get me wrong. I started out a serious skeptic; as I've seen a lot of all-flash-no-substance political personality cults. I have zero tolerance for them.

    There are a lot of reasons to dislike the Bus, but lack of substance and personality-cult are not among them. They're got their challenges as a young organization, but lack of muscle isn't one of them.

  • LT (unverified)

    I would suggest looking at the win-loss ratio. As far as I am concerned, the Bus Project was a major factor in changing the Senate Majority over 2 election cycles, incl. their efforts on behalf of Sens. Ringo, Devlin and Bates. Not sure what the win/loss ratio was in 2004, but as I recall in 2002 they won half their races and came close in one or 2 more.

    Name any other group (party, caucus, or indep. group like the Bus)and their win/ loss record. Seems like most groups don't want to make such information public.

    If that isn't real muscle, then Pete should explain specifically what he means by that term. Dean is a great guy, but aside from Tom Potter (someone else who did the hard grass roots campaign work rather than relying on money and soundbites) which Dean endorsed candidates won in Oregon?

  • Jennifer Yocom (unverified)

    Hey there Pete,

    Jennifer from the Bus Project here. Saw your post - totally understand that we all have our opinions, and believe me, I work here and still work hard on a daily basis on how to strike the balance between socially fun and politically effective.

    I came from a marketing background so some of that flash and is a group of us creative folks wanting to make life more entertaining. Would love to sit and talk seriously about what we do and how we can do it better. If you are interested, I invite you to swing by the office.

    -Also- tried your email and it just bounced.

    THANKS FOR THE SUCCESS OF THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS 2005. See for more. Check out the launch of Politicorps – Igniting the Leaders of Tomorrow – Jennifer Yocom Managing/Organizing Director, Bus Project 333 SE 2nd Avenue, Second Floor Portland, OR 97214 503.233.3018 / 503.459.1292 Get on the Bus – Exact Change.

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    Karyn-- that's great that you ran into Joel's sister. I worked with her on some issues during the presidential primary season. I'd worked with her for months before finding out she was Joel's sister.

    Pete-- while I have some criticisms about the Bus Project (and that's natural-- you're not going to find an organization that is perfect), it is still a great organization. They've really done some great work over the past few years to get people involved in politics. They've also trained a lot of people in a variety of areas, including canvassing.

    I don't think they always pick easy races-- Laurie Monnes Anderson's race wasn't easy. She put up a hard fight to win that district and the win was in large part because of the amount of canvassing done in her district by her, PCPs, the Bus Project, and other organizations.

    If they were picking easy races, you would see them picking more races in Portland and less in other areas of the state. If I remember correctly, this last cycle included their first Multnomah County candidates-- all of whom were in eastern county which has more registered Dems, but Republicans win (home of Karen Minnis).

    There are races I wish they'd get involved in, though. But then again, no one else got involved in those races either.

    The Bus Project is a great organization and I'd love to see it spread to other states, particularly my home state of Texas.

    Maybe you should sit through some of the board meetings, project meetings, etc. that we've had and see how much "fluff" there is-- you're not likely to find much, unless you include the ice breaker.


    The Dean Dozen picked two candidates here in Oregon-- Tom Potter for mayor and Peter Buckley for the State House. Both candidates won.

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    I don't think they always pick easy races-- Laurie Monnes Anderson's race wasn't easy.

    Megadittos on that one Jenni, I told anyone who would listen what a crazy idea it was for Monnes Anderson to make the move she did.

    Turns out I was wrong, although that does still leave Rod Park dangling out there.........

    Maybe he'll continue to be available for future efforts in your neck of the woods.

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    Easy races?

    Hardly. Having helped do the targeting for the Bus, I can assure you that each key targeted district selected was not a walk in the park by any means for the candidate we backed.

    Perhaps there is a confusion here between easy &^ ridiclous. The Bus does not waste their time, their donors money, or other resources by going after seats that are simply unwinnable from a mathematical perspective.

    This formula makes the Bus both accountable and effective!


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