It's great that the Obama campaign managers built a political machine partially by poaching volunteers and officers of local Democratic party organizations. We had elected precinct chairs claim they didn't have time to do the few things we ask of them - namely organize an election day team for their precincts - because they had to make calls and knock on doors for the Obama campaign. Of course the weird thing is - the state party told us that was the county's responsibility even though they were making excuses for the Obama campaign poaching our volunteers.
But why aren't they asking those 3 million campaign volunteers who are Democrats to get in touch with their county Democratic party (or to change party affiliation if they are not already Democrats) to make the change continue?
Does anyone remember Howard Dean's words (and I am paraphrasing here): If you want to take back your country, you first have to take back your party.
Why isn't the Obama campagin telling former workers to work for change within the Democratic party? Not just to follow the orders from the Obama campaign, but to take leadership roles in the Democratic party from precinct to the state level? We had people in Wake County who realized that the nomination might not be won without a floor fight at the convention, and the only way they could influence the vote was to become a delegate - and the only way to do that was to show up to a precinct meeting in February. These folks showed up at their precinct meetings, and some of them organized their previously unorganized precincts and got elected delegates to their county, district and state conventions and then got elected to go to Denver. So why does it seem that the Obama campaign is fighting like hell to avoid asking people to get more involved in the Democratic party?
And it sucks that paid staffers of some state political party organizations (perhaps some who hope to cash in during the new administration) say that the poaching is just "business as usual". But some of the same paid staffers have access to the volunteer lists and refuse to share them with county party organizations who could really make use of the new volunteer base. What can they do with those volunteer lists if not use them to build up the party with them?
I've gone to Obama volunteer offices and maybe out of 30 people I recognized 2 or 3. Some of the Obama people didn't really know what a precinct was (hint - it's the base of all grassroots GOTV efforts). Since the election, several of the Obama volunteers I've talked with wanted to get more involved in the local county party to continue the change, but they don't know how to go about doing it. I guess they are waiting for the Obama campaign to tell them to do it, and how to go about doing it.
Perhaps the paid staffers realized that Dean was onto something - people got involved to try and take their party back from the paid consultants and the lobbyists. Now perhaps some of these staffers realize that they can use the internet to get volunteers to take only the action they want them to take, and not ask for a seat at the table to direct the policy of the Democratic party?
Notice that the list of things to do doesn't say:
1). Run for office as a progressive state or local candidate, or run for precinct chair or for office in your local county party.
2). Help determine what the grassroots agenda ought to be and how best to implement it.
3). Train others not just to organize using Obama's grassroots methods, but how to be leaders who rise in the party to take on positions of greater responsibility - to determine the direction of the party.
4). Not just focus on local political issues, but help determine what those issues are and how best to win on those issues.
Obama shouldn't be focusing on building a political machine built around his own personality cult - he should be taking those people who are turned onto the political process and showing them how they can take that energy to help turn the Democratic party into a more progressive organization that is more responsible to the grassroots and not the big money people and the lobbyists.
Or does Obama really think that he can build an "Obama" party separate from the Democratic Party?
If so, he better not take the Democratic party for granted. Here in North Carolina, the Democratic Party is the biggest association in the state. Bigger than the Obama volunteers. It would be a lot easier for the Obama people to come in and take leadership positions in the party to move it forward (like many Deaniacs did in 2004) than to start up their own party.
If Obama really wants to ensure that the change he promised will come about, he'd do well to notify this 3 million volunteers to get involved in politics at the local level by becoming active in their local and state Democratic party.
Democrat from Wake County, NC
Published: Nov 21, 2008 12:30 AM
Modified: Nov 21, 2008 02:21 AM
Obama volunteers just starting
Frank Greve, McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON - President-elect Barack Obama's 3 million campaign volunteers got re-enlistment notices this week.
Campaign manager David Plouffe, in a mass e-mail message sent Wednesday to former workers, asked how much time they can spare for four missions integral to Obama's effort to transform his victory into a broader political movement.
The volunteers' options are, Plouffe wrote:
* Campaign for progressive state and local candidates.
* Undertake grassroots local efforts to advance Obama's agenda.
* Train others in Obama's organizing techniques.
* Focus on local political issues.
"Obama's building a political machine," said Stephen Hess, a presidential scholar at the Brookings Institution, a center-left Washington research group.
"These people have just opened up a new world for politics," added Hess, the author of "What Do We Do Now?: A Workbook for the President-Elect."
Pre-Internet presidents, he said, lacked the ability to communicate in real time with masses of their volunteers. In addition, the social networks such as MySpace and Facebook that link Obama's army together didn't exist.
The net effect was that pre-Obama political machines grew out of local politics and remained rooted there. Statewide or presidential candidates relied largely on local leaders' support.
Not so Obama, who, at least for now, has the allegiance of thousands of volunteers in most, if not all, congressional districts.
"Your hard work built this movement," Plouffe wrote them. "Now it's up to you to decide how we move forward."
His four-page questionnaire also asks respondents to name their top-priority issues out of 27 listed. The options include environment and global warming, civil rights and voting rights, war in Iraq, jobs and trade, or divisive politics and partisanship.
Plouffe also invited volunteers to identify their proudest campaign accomplishment and, separately, to name a fellow volunteer or field organizer who inspired them.
In the hallmark of a campaign that ran on small donations, volunteers are once again invited to make a financial contribution. This time it's to the Obama-Biden transition effort.