The worst thing that Barack Obama has done

ScreenHunter_05 Aug. 31 19.31I don’t think I’m naive about the inflexibility of the political system, as far as its congeniality towards progressive policies goes. I have worked in and around Washington, D.C. since 1980. Big, liberal projects require overwhelming political support. Small gains are vulnerable to reversal. No victories are permanent. Public opinion is usually lacking and requires time to come together, solidify, and sustain. That is one reason among others I was unjustifiably optimistic about an Obama presidency. Obama did not just have the right approach on some issues. He had a movement. It was called Obama for America, or OFA. It promised to be a force in the future for continued progress by shifting public opinion and electoral outcomes. Obama himself alluded to the function of such a movement.

What would a vibrant, effective movement look like? First of all, it would be a place for inquiring persons to go. It would be built to expand. There would be regular meetings everywhere, with public participation. It would provide a social outlet, not one solely devoted to political meetings. There would be democratic discussion of social problems and remedies. There would be plans to mobilize ever-wider circles of people in a coordinated way. The gatherings would not resemble so-called “town meetings” routinely staged by politicians, which meetings consist of Numero Uno controlling the microphone and batting away serial remarks from the bleachers, to the cheers of his supplicants.

After the 2008 triumph OFA morphed into Organizing for Action. And just what is that? It’s an email-address-gathering machine for fund-raising. Visit the website. Sign a petition to raise the minimum wage, provide your email address, and sure as shooting you will start to get emails urging you to donate money to OFA, ostensibly to further that objective. Browse all the Administration propaganda. My favorite, the economy section. Boosts for the minimum wage and unemployment insurance. That’s it.

How about an event? Is there somewhere we can go, to do something? Under “attend an event,” I search for what’s happening within 100 miles of my zip code (just outside Washington, D.C.). Between today and the end of this year, there are two events. (Both proposed, neither set.) One is a voting rally in October, the other is a symposium on women in the arts. Organizing For America is organizing squat. OFA is big on voting, but on political participation, not so much.

merchFor all practical purposes, OFA is just another letterhead plus perpetual money vacuum. For a feeling for what real movements are like, read Mike Kazin on The Populist Persuasion, or Lawrence Goodwyn on The Populist Moment.

There is sad precedent for this demobilization. Jesse Jackson ran for president a couple of times. He too had the makings of a movement, and he too demobilized it. A fellow named Ron Daniels could tell you about that. Bill Clinton had the makings of a movement too. His administration launched a half-hearted bus tour to promote Hillary’s health care reform. The tour was viciously attacked, failed to organize serious support, and fizzled along with HillaryCare.

Why can’t leaders mobilize people on a sustained basis? Why is the Democratic Party just a shell run by elites? They don’t want people mobilized.

They’re afraid of you.



The worst thing that Barack Obama has done — 5 Comments

  1. It’s an old story. Bob Strauss saw to it that the McGovern lists were destroyed, after they were naively handed to the DNC (via Jon Schwarz; will find link if anyone’s interested).

  2. The Tea Partiers didn’t have much difficulty organizing, but they didn’t wait for orders from on high. Perhaps there is something to dependency theory?

  3. You are wrong. You say,”For all practical purposes, OFA is just another letterhead plus perpetual money vacuum.
    In fact, OFA has hundreds of political operativesand volunteers working in out in the precincts right now. They are actively recruiting for more to join them. ActBlue also is heavily involved in midterm election campaigns in congressional districts. You’ve been inside the beltway too long.

  4. Then why, when you go to the website, are there NO EVENTS scheduled, within 100 miles of D.C., for the rest of the year? I’m sure at some point there will be electoral rallies. Sure, vote for us, then you can go home. That’s not what we need.

  5. “They’re afraid of you.”

    Maybe. If so, they’re hiding it well. I rather think they’re contemptuous of us.

    Can we forget Rahm calling MoveOn “fucking retarded” for attacking Blue Dogs who didn’t support health care reform.

    Then there was the memorable press conference in which Robert Gibbs said Obama’s critics should “be drug-tested,” that we were “crazy” and any criticisms should be dismissed as the ravings of “the professional left.”

    Of course, they would be right to be afraid. The intransigence of those in power in Washington will be their undoing — eventually.

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