Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Obama Disconnect: A Spirited Discussion

The past week or so, the Personal Democracy Forum web site published a series of fascinating articles that sparked a wide-ranging discussion on Organizing for America, the community-organizing wing of Obama's electoral operation that propelled him to victory in 2008.

Micah Sifry, in "The Obama Disconnect: What Happens When Myth Meets Reality," argues:

But the question raised by Plouffe's book is, given the grassroots base he helped develop in support of Obama and how powerful it became by the fall of 2008 (raising $150 million in the month of September alone, including more than $10 million the night of Sarah Palin's acceptance speech), why he didn't do more to keep that muscular organization going into Obama's presidency? To put it another way, why did Plouffe discount his own grassroots strategy in favor of the dusty old playbook used by White House insiders for decades? Why wasn't more done to extend that sense of ownership meaningfully into the life of the Administration? If you could trust your volunteers to carry the campaign in all sorts of important ways, why not also give them a real say in how they could shake up Washington?

The answer, ultimately, is that Plouffe and the rest of Obama's leadership team, wasn't really interested in grassroots empowerment. Instead, they think they've invented a 21st century version of list-building, and to some degree they're right. (It's for that reason that I think of the Obama campaign as the first 21st century top-down campaign, while McCain's was the last 20th century top-down version). For Plouffe, the gigantic Obama email list, its millions of donors and its vibrant online social network were essentially a new kind of top-down broadcast system, one even better than the old TV-dominated system.

His article generated quite a bit of controversy which resulted in an interesting set of follow-up articles and a flurry of comments and response blog posts:

The Obama Disconnect: What Could Have Been?

Responding to Karoli About Hope, Cynicism and the Obama Disconnect

One More Response to Karoli on the Obama Disconnect

The Right Gets the Obama Disconnect Wrong

Saul Alinsky on Barack Obama and OFA, via Ralph Benko

Respect, Empower, Include, Unfriend? The Story of One Disillusioned Obama Organizer

1 comment:

Citizen Ojo said...

Damn... don't tell my mama, she would be hurt by this. She loves Obama ha ha ha. I was waiting on this New Change in D.C. but it seems like business as usual. It seems like all you get now are emails talking about what the administration is doing but it doesn't match with what we are watching. When I watch politics I always hear that song "We Won't Get Fooled Again" ringing in my head.