Friday, November 14, 2008

What Happens to the Obama Grassroots?

from the Los Angeles Times
Reporting from Washington -- It is the biggest and broadest American political force ever created -- a vast, electronically linked network of activists, neighborhood organizers and volunteers who raised record amounts of money and propelled Barack Obama to the White House.

Now, as Obama turns from campaigning to governing, his advisors are struggling to harness this potent web of supporters to help him move his agenda over the next four years.

But it is no simple task to convert an insurgency into a standing army.

That challenge has sparked rare discord among Obama advisors who ran a highly disciplined operation with no public disagreements throughout the long campaign.

Traditionally, the new president would blend his campaign operation with his party's national committee. Some of Obama's closest advisors lean toward that pragmatic view.

But others, who built the grass-roots organization, worry that linking it too closely to the party could cause the unusual network to unravel -- and squander an extraordinary resource.

The Obama machinery relied heavily on idealistic political outsiders committed to breaking free from old ways of doing politics. The worry is that these enthusiastic activists might drift away if they are turned over to the Democratic National Committee, where the party might ask them to support Democrats and target Republicans.

Full article at the Los Angeles Times

The key quote in the article was how do you transform an insurgency into a standing army? I would bet that many of the people who supported and voted for Obama are independents and non-ideological voters who do not have a particular affinity towards nor loyalty to the Democratic Party as exemplified by the DNC.

I agree that attempts to turn these followers into a partisan organization would only serve to alienate them (hell, it would alienate me! I consider myself an independent voter who voted for Obama). I would urge Obama's team to encourage models of political and civic participation that is not designed solely for the benefit of the Democratic Party but to model its efforts along pragmatic and realistic solutions to the country's problems based on a core set of Progressive principles. The focus should be on problem-solving. Not party politics.

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