Obama wants you to pledge loyalty to him tomorrow

They have taken a pledge of loyalty to Obama, and they say they are coming tomorrow for yours. Organizing for America, the Obama-for-President campaign morphed into Obama-for-Maximum-Leader army, will hit the streets for their "Pledge Project Canvass," knocking on doors and accosting folks in parking lots and sidewalks to ask them to sign a pledge to support Obama's policies for health care, energy and education reform.

Organizing for America, a project of the Democratic National Committee, is variously described in the media as [President Obama's] "own version of a lobbying firm", "a parallel organization to the Democratic National Committee" and "an independent force to lobby for Obama's goals" (Houston Chronicle); "an independent group" (Dayton Daily News); Obama's "citizen army," and a way of building public opinion" (The Bergen County Record); "a grass-roots lobbying group," (Roll Call), "Obama 2.0" (Newark Star-Ledger), "a joint partnership," (DNC press release), and as a "political bully," (AP).

According to Mitch Stewart, Director of OFA, the organization will be "getting out in front of Washington and asking our elected officials to lead the charge on energy, education and health care this year."

So one might suppose that all the names and emails collected this weekend will be sent to our lawmakers in Washington in the form of a petition. Except that David Plouffe, Obama's former campaign director and an "advisor" to OFA, has emphatically stated that they will do no such thing.

Plouffe "stressed that Organizing for America is not aimed at twisting the arms of members of Congress but meant to keep activists engaged on issues such as health care, energy and the economy."

Syndicated columnist Dick Polman reported on January 29 that:

"Mr. Obama's aides emphasized that the effort was not created to lobby directly or pressure members of Congress to support Mr. Obama's programs... ‘This is not a political campaign,'' Mr. Plouffe said. ''This is not a 'call or e-mail your member of Congress' organization.''"
Whoops! Looks like Plouffe is out of the loop on that one. The OFA website prominently asks people to call Congress and helps them look up their representative's name and number. It even provides a script.

Now, it is confusing to see the Democratic National Committee asking for help to persuade the Democrat-led Congress and the Democrat-led Senate.

But according to OFA Director Stewart, ordinary folks like you are needed to combat "a Washington establishment that doesn't welcome change.... It's up to you to show Washington that Americans are demanding this new direction."

Okay, so who in Washington, exactly? Is the DNC going to give the names and emails to lobbyists? To Washington bureaucrats? That's doubtful. The sign-up sheet to be used for the pledge drive does not mention any privacy policy.

It does reveal (at the very bottom) that OFA is a project of the DNC. This might come as a surprise to dedicated Obama supporter Janine Poppa, who told the Dayton Daily News, "It is a nonpartisan effort, and I hope people believe it's nonpartisan, because we truly do need each other to move it forward."

Poor Ms. Poppa might be disillusioned to learn that the Florida Democratic State machine unabashedly bragged to the St. Petersburg Times that they were "preparing to tap into Barack Obama's grass roots machine to build the biggest political operation ever seen from the state party."

"The million-dollar question is how to translate the activism and enthusiasm that Barack Obama was able to create and translate it down the line,'' said Steve Schale, a Democratic consultant who managed Obama's Florida campaign. "That's the challenge, but fundamentally the state is better for Democrats than ever before because of what Barack Obama was able to do. It's still up to candidates to have compelling messages and drive up enthusiasm."

No doubt the Florida Dems will be getting another memo from Plouffe to remind them that OFA a movement "not to win an election, but to change this country."

Phillip Elliott
reported in January that the extensive OFA email list is not even being shared with the DNC: "Party officials had hoped Obama would transfer his list of supporters to the party, a move that would put them in control of one of the most extensive campaign organizations in politics. Instead, Obama decided to keep ownership of that enormous campaign and install his own loyalists to run it."  This was done, Obama's aides insisted, in the name of being "post-partisan."

And Stewart and Plouffe, those idealistic grass-roots campaigners, stress that OFA is all about getting feedback from the Obama followers: "Mitch... believes so strongly in feedback, so we want to hear from you!"

The website is all about making "sure your voice is heard."

So tut-tut to Macon Phillips, the 30-year-old White House director of New Media, who told the New York Times that the OFA website "would give the White House another way to reach the public without having to rely on the mainstream news media." Doesn't he know that OFA is for people to communicate with their Leader, not for the Leader to send messages to his people?

Turns out even commenters at the Daily Kos are skeptical of the post-campaign uses of a campaign database.

"A small concern... again, small, but I need to voice it. I'd love to work like this to push for certain issues and policies I want to see enacted......however...I don't want to see this turn into some type of "permanent campaign". If anyone knows how the Obama administration is drawing that line I'd like to hear about it."
"There's no more campaigning to do. We won. Now it's up to us to usher in Obama's Age of Responsibility by working together to help fix America. The new goal is in service projects, not electioneering."

"I think it would be nice to include a smidge of something somewhere about the difference between governing and campaigning - it'd not only help answer any critics, but it would again draw another difference between the Obama administration and 8 years of Bush."

Whatever OFA is, David Plouffe at least thinks ''[t]his has obviously never been undertaken before. So it's going to be a little trial and error.'' As we noted on Wednesday, it seems as though OFA's organizers are ignorant of the lessons of history and of the sinister ambitions of leaders who created their own private organizations, loyal only to them.
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