The List Is Coming! The List Is Coming!
The buzzing of excitement at the concept of Barack Obama awakening the sleeping giant of "the list" to help him pass his budget seems like a Washington-centric read of things. First of all, Barack Obama isn't doing anything. Organizing for America has a separate organization, and they are making their determinations separately. Second, this isn't the "first" deployment of the sacred list - there were stimulus meetings last month. Third, the idea that off-cycle organizing is novel and interesting is an example of why Washington consultants shouldn't be trusted to run anybody's campaign. Let's look at what the ask is here:
The campaign, which will be run under the aegis of the Democratic National Committee, will rely heavily on the 13 million-strong e-mail list put together during the campaign and now under the control of Organizing for America (OFA), a group overseen by the DNC. Aides familiar with the plan said it is an unprecedented attempt to transfer the grass-roots energy built during the presidential campaign into an effort to sway Congress [...]
(David) Plouffe, who passed up a formal role in the White House but remains a conduit to the army of Obama volunteers, sent an e-mail to the OFA mailing list over the weekend signaling the ramping up of the campaign for the president's budget. "In the next few weeks we'll be asking you to do some of the same things we asked of you during the campaign -- talking directly to people in your communities about the President's ideas for long-term prosperity," he wrote.
That push begins today with an e-mail asking volunteers to go door to door Saturday to urge their neighbors to sign a pledge in support of Obama's budget plan.
Hey idiots, THAT'S WHAT YOU DO in an off-election year, or at least it's what you should do. Keeping in touch with neighbors and having what amounts to precinct captains in every corner of America is standard political organizing, and it's shameful that it has taken until now to get around to it. A pre-cursor to increasing political engagement nationwide is building up trusted networks in communities, so that individuals know where to go to get information and steps for action. This is not transformational, it's righting a grave wrong. Furthermore, the OFA/DNC effort is being asinine by re-starting this process over again and not retaining the on-the-ground organizers that were already implementing the 50-state strategy under Howard Dean. In addition, there are already email and Web-based campaigns that are very sharp, applying pressure on Democrats and Republicans alike - a good example is the Color of Change action to flood South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford with phone calls today for rejecting stimulus money (this enhances a DNC on-air effort to call out Sanford).
The lack of off-cycle organizing that is targeted on principles and explanations for policy is WHY there are so many wayward corporate Democrats talking about defying the President on his mostly progressive budget. The Party has long lost touch with the people who support it at the ballot. And the other side of this is that people who are energized by being instruments of change in the election are not necessarily going to hop to answer the call on whatever issue some folks in Washington decide is the most important. Here in California, I can tell you there is about four times as much energy and organizing going into marriage equality than there is on national priorities. And that focus is different depending on the regional area.
That OFA is deploying its list should not be a cause for joy; it should be a cause for embarrassment.