Organizing for America was advertised as the nucleus of the progressive wave supposedly sweeping America. OFA was to have the capacity to organize, motivate, and deploy liberal drones throughout the country. They would utilize the passion stirred up from the 2008 presidential election, mobilizing campaign volunteers into policy advocates. Yet, everything we have seen is telling us that OFA is fading fast. When you build a system of spoils, there will always be those upset about not receiving their just reward. Support has not turned in to favors.
Obama put together an organizational structure built on the illusion that those at the bottom have the power. Yet, in his book “The Audacity to Win,” David Plouffe makes it very clear that power and decision making ultimately remained with a small group at the top. They worked to build a list, not a movement. This was their achilles heel. Once Plouffe, Axelrod, Obama and others transitioned from campaign mode to White House elitism, they forgot and abandoned those that put them in office: the progressive base promised a new America and the swing voters promised a new DC. The reality has set in that the people who voted for change were not organized in a new or powerful way. In fact, despite the extraordinary illusion that this campaign embodied the people from the ground up, it appears it was politics as usual:
In the end, the special interests sat first at the table and wrote the playbook, expecting OFA to follow. The top-down structure remained, yet the passion had flamed out. David Plouffe announced back in December of 2008 that more than half a million supporters had responded to an online survey of OFA’s future, with 86% saying they felt it was important to help the Obama administration pass legislation through grassroots support; 68% agreeing that it was important to help elect state and local candidates who share Obama’s vision; and a surprising 10% indicating that they would be interested in running for elected office. The desire to support the movement at a local level was there. People yearned for change in their communities, not just in Washington (sound familiar?). Yet, no actions was taken. Those at the top failed to realize this, focusing instead on demanding grassroots support for policy created behind closed doors and benefiting big corporations and bigger government. Now, after an historic loss in Massachusetts the myth is meeting reality and the American people on both sides of the political spectrum are getting restless. Organizing for America is seeing their passionate base shrink rapidly, interior structure deteriorate, and effectiveness diminish. This is undeniable proof of what architects already know: the world’s tallest buildings were built ground-up.
In a move that resembles MoveOn.org, OFA recently sent out an email asking its members to plan the course for 2010. While the strategy has worked in the past, this appears to fall under “too little too late:”
While progressives scramble to recreate the magic of the 2008 presidential election, a truly organic movement has been brewing in the union. A movement that I argue has done things right.
The tea party movement has been repeatedly attacked by those most afraid of its success, but this snake has no head. There is nobody calling the shots, no Plouffe controlling the message, no list to be bought and sold. This movement has no title, no political affiliation. This is about principle over party, the individual over the state. In this movement, the power rests with the people, and the people are growing restless.
Read a single post from CNN, Washington Post, or Fox News and it becomes clear that the tea party movement is becoming a legitimate force in American politics. Obama’s campaign has shown the people how to organize, what we as individuals can accomplish when passion and inspiration meet opportunity. Poll after poll has shown us that more Americans self-identify as conservative than any other political ideology. So when Obama and his campaign elite MovedOn (pun intended), it set the stage for a dramatic shift. Unlike the progressive nanny structure, our movement is based on the individual, on personal freedom and equality. The tea parties and 912 groups are evidence of this, of individuals banding together and self-organizing in their communities. We represent a true, grassroots movement in America. There are no campaign managers, no Axelrods to lead us and leave us. Because of this, we will be stronger, last longer, and bring more change to the political landscape. An opportunity like this comes along only once in a generation. For years we have chose the lesser of two evils, but for the first time in my lifetime, we as a nation are saying we don’t want whats on the menu, we demand more.
Ironically, both OFA and the new conservative movement can be said to embody the political style for which they fight. OFA shines light on the faulty premise that the state knows best, that an enlightened few knew best for their supporters. When they abandoned the wheel, the ship ran ashore. In contrast, our movement has no leader, at least not one in control of information and strategy. We have all decided the strategy, we have all shared power, and we will all share victory. 2010 will be a record year for the political organizations. We have written on this site before about leaderless organizations and the conservative surge in online media, but history has yet to be written.
We now have two very different political forces on the ground in America. A force from the liberal left of the country struggling to find focus in the shadow of an abandoned leader and a rising force from the conservative right struggling to find cohesion among the pull of individualism. Who will win? What is in store? Only time will tell.