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Obama and His Organizers: An Emotional Farewell, or More to Come?

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, November 8 2012

There's a new video of President Obama talking to his campaign staff in Chicago yesterday that has just been posted to the Obama 2012 YouTube channel, in tandem with a thank-you email to supporters from campaign manager Jim Messina sent out tonight. It's already generating a powerful emotional response on Twitter, with people like Obama 2008 blogger Sam Graham-Felsen, who later turned into a sometime critic of Obama's presidency, gushing about its authenticity. And that is inarguable.

As I watched the video, I was struck by two things. First, how Obama still feels connected to his days as a community organizer, and draws sustenance from seeing young people dedicated to the same path of service. More than that; he believes in a life attached to some higher moral purpose, like making sure everyone gets a fair shot in life, or that no one should have to go to the emergency room for basic health care. When he chokes up in the video, I didn't just see the emotional strain of being President or campaigning for two years, I also saw someone who was allowing himself to remember what got him into politics in the first place.

The second thing that struck me was, I've seen this video before. Back in June 2008, after Hillary Clinton formally conceded the nomination to Obama, he also addressed his troops in Chicago. Here's that video:

It's also a tribute from Obama to the value of political organization, which back then made me think that he and his movement could change American politics. I'll note now what I noted back then.

Obama starts out his pep talk noting, "When I started this campaign, I wasn't sure I was going to be the best of candidates, but I was absolutely sure there was the possibility of creating the best organization." He then describes his "old organizing mindset" as the idea that "when people submerge their egos for a "larger goal" they can achieve enormous things.

"Even if we had lost," he tells the crowd,"I would be proud of what we've built....Collectively all of you, most of you whom are, I'm not sure, of drinking age (people laugh), you've created the best political organization in America, and probably the best political organization that we've seen in the last 30 40 years. That's a pretty big deal."

We don't have a choice. Now, If we screw this up, and all those people who really need help, they not going to get help. Those of you who care about global warming, I don't care what John McCain says, he's not going to push that agenda hard. Those of you who care about Darfur, I guarantee you, they're not going to spend any political capital on that. Those of you who are concerned about education, there will be a bunch of lip service, and then more of the same. Those of you who are concerned that there's a sense of fairness in our economy, it will be less fair. So, now everybody's counting on you, not just me. But what a magnificent position to be in: the whole country is counting on you to change it for the better...Here you are five months away from changing the country.

When Obama is talking to his campaign organizers, both then and now, he sounds and feels like a movement progressive. But as we now know, he didn't keep this amazing political organization going in the same way in his first term, and so when it came to issues like global warming or economic fairness, his Administration did much less than it might have. Is something different planned for this time?

These words from Messina's email are also worth noting:

You also proved that millions of ordinary people taking ownership of a cause is still the most powerful force in our political process. You showed that grassroots organizing and small donations are not only the right way to win, but also the most effective way.

How we got here must guide where we go. If we're going to accomplish the things America voted for on Tuesday, you've got to be even more involved in getting them done than you were in giving us all the chance.

We'll be in touch soon about how we can get started on some of the President's top priorities in his second term.

For now, I just want to say I am so proud of this team. And I can't wait to see where you take this incredible movement from here.

Thank you -- more to come,

Below Messina's signature there's a big red donate button, which one online political strategist friend of mine thought was incredibly "tacky."

Or, the sign of more to come.