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Organizing for America Will, and Should, Fail

BY Zephyr Teachout | Friday, January 30 2009

Organizing for America sent out a request for house parties today, asking people to watch a video about Obama's economic recovery plan, talk about it with their friends, and build support for it. While there will be tweaks, this is the kind of action we can anticipate from OFA.

I predict that there will be perhaps a thousand of such parties, then hundreds, then dozens. I think OFA will fail in its mission to directly engage Obama supporters in supporting Obama's executive actions. And I think this is a very good thing.

It will fail because Obama--suiting a President--is not oppositional, conflict-driven, and not likely to pick out particular targets to be won over--all things that are likely to engage people. It will fail because it is from OFA, not from Obama. And it will fail because OFA cannot be a new democratic party, but will have a hard time defining what it is, and what kind of real power ought exist at every level of the organization.

This is a good thing because it is not intended to be a representative organization, where people have real power.

The organization is openly and proudly propagandistic. The email today asks people to host a party at which they can watch a video which will "outline the basics of the plan and how it will impact working families. It will also include answers to questions from folks across the country. Invite your friends and family to watch the video, discuss the plan, and help build support for it."

The organization is proud of the runaround of other power centers (press, congress, etc...).

I support Obama wholeheartedly, and have been thrilled every day of his Presidency. But I support self-government even more, and a successful organization sharing uncritical media with 13 million citizens sounds spooky to me. I'm glad its going to fail.

This is not to say I think OFA should throw away its list and networks. If it were up to me, I would encourage OFA to throw all of its support and resources at local democratic parties and officials--to decentralize the data, and let local groups experiment. I believe Obama has largely done his job, by getting elected and by electrifying the country and showing people that they can have power; but for them to exercise it meaningfully, instead of simply acting as shills for Presidential policy, they will need to exercise it through our representative offices: Congress, and the state houses.

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