Part III: Discussion and Analysis
Metrics and Impact
o clear consensus has emerged yet, among practitioners or observers, over the proper metrics to assess OFA’s work.
Thus far, the actual universe of governance volunteers is smaller than the list of active campaign volunteers, which is to be expected.136 Yet as an institution, OFA has an incentive to stoke the perception that it continues the huge, active network that it managed during the campaign. Then members of Congress are more likely to worry about OFA volunteers in their backyard, even before particular lobbying actions are taken, and media and political figures are more likely to treat OFA seriously, (or at least view it as a potential “sleeping giant”). At the same time, however, the notion that OFA is an active, 13-million-member organization can advance inaccurate metrics for its organizing work. Those metrics can, in turn, undermine the very perception of efficacy that drives OFA’s potential clout. This tension has been visible in OFA’s description of its work in 2009, and in outside commentary.
Independent observers, OFA officials and OFA allies have assessed OFA’s mobilization as a percentage of the entire campaign list. OFA’s delivery of 214,000 policy pledges in April, for example, was covered by one reporter as “a low percentage of OFA’s total number of supporters ... 1.65 percent.”137
Some former campaign staff hit a similar theme, citing volunteer estimates to ask what the “other 12.7 million” supporters are doing.138 David Plouffe touted OFA’s success in December 2009 by the same standard, presenting volunteer rates as a percentage of the entire email list. Pointing to the over two million people who took some action on health care for OFA, he said, “you basically have around 20 percent, a little under 20 percent of our entire list having volunteered on health care – that’s great.”139
It is not logical, however, to assess OFA participation as a percentage of the campaign’s peak engagement level.
In fact, given OFA’s focus on health care, the 2009 participation rates are likely constituted by two groups within the list – the super-activists, who would seize on most available volunteer opportunities, and health care activists, who have a strong or ongoing interest in health care reform. With that context in mind, OFA’s first year participation rates appear quite high. Contrary to the metrics that implicitly treat participation as a slice of campaign season peaks, OFA has galvanized significant policy and community volunteering in the campaign off-season.
From the outset, it was not assured that campaign supporters would choose to continue volunteer actions after the campaign ended. (The initial expectations and enthusiasm was present: Over 60 percent of Obama supporters said, when polled in December 2008, that they would ask others to support the administration’s agenda; 25 percent of supporters expected to do so by phone. Yet it is difficult to convert that interest into sustained volunteering.)140 OFA’s participation data suggests that substantial volunteering continued throughout 2009. In a year-end review, OFA estimated that over 2.5 million members took some action on health care, from signing on to petitions from home to taking offline action at rallies, phone banks and congressional offices.141 Within that universe, volunteers made over a million calls to Congress; over 230,000 people submitted health care stories; 250,000 letters to the editor were sent; 65,000 people attended Congressional lobbying events; and 37,000 local events were executed around the country.142 In all, OFA estimated that members spent a cumulative 200,000 hours volunteering in 2009.143
Apart from any questions about the efficacy and sustainability of OFA programs, it is clear that a large number of people were engaged by these new activism opportunities. OFA provided a new, national and local structure for governance activism within the Democratic Party, and a significant number of people participated in the first year of the experiment.
It is simply too early to tell whether these initial numbers reflect a floor for future growth, or a ceiling for activist engagement during a particularly intense governing period, coming after an unusually spirited and lengthy election. Future participation turns on several variables, from external conditions, like the political climate, to internal decisions, such as the range of issues and type of volunteer opportunities that OFA presents to members. Even beyond these broad, thinner types of participation, another potentially significant development is OFA’s cultivation of a new type of intense party activist during the governance period.
In a departure from most other presidential election cycles, when the Obama campaign ended, a very large share of its voter base was already primed to continue communicating with and working on behalf of the winning candidate.144 This unusual dynamic was often underappreciated by political observers and commentators.
After the election, a full third of Obama supporters said they expected Obama to contact them by email in the following year.145 And while OFA’s frequent emails set a new precedent for national party communications between elections, many Obama supporters were already anticipating such contact. Among the supporters who expected email from Obama, about a third said they anticipated it would come on a weekly basis.146 Many Obama supporters were not only ready to listen, but also to talk up the new administration’s agenda. The same post-election survey found that one out of four Obama supporters
said they planned to ask other citizens to support “Obama policies” by phone (as discussed above).147 The enthusiasm for such outreach was even higher among Obama supporters who were active online: 68 percent of online supporters said they “expect to press others to support the new administration’s policies in the coming year.”148
Furthermore, the economic and racial makeup of these online Obama supporters was striking. Immediately after the election, Obama’s engaged online supporters were more representative of the entire population149 than the traditional demographics of politically active Americans, or of wired Americans.150
During the transition phase, more black Obama voters were engaging politics online than white Obama voters. High school graduates engaged online at the same rate as college graduates, a reverse of typical trends. And voters from households making under $30,000 were more engaged than those from the wealthier bracket of $30,000 to $50,000.151 The campaign activated voting, volunteering and other political engagement that was both unusually deep and broad – the open question was whether such intensity could be maintained.152
Apart from public polling, Obama campaign staff also reported after the election that the campaign discovered and cultivated an essentially new class of hyperactive volunteers, or “super-volunteers,” as they were dubbed by Field Director Jon Carson.” He recounted the role of super volunteers at an election forum in December 2008:
The most important part of that massive group of people [doing volunteering] were the super-volunteers that we had. We figured out in the primary how to take advantage of them. What we really ended up having was an extra layer of staff out there. In Ohio, we had over 1,400 people who were putting in 20, 30, 40 hours a week – and we empowered them.... The scale of voter contact that we achieved was pretty enormous. What allowed us to grow exponentially at the end was the base of super-volunteers that we had. You can’t, with just a couple hundred staff in a state, put on the kind of operation we had...153
Carson also estimated that three out of four of the campaign volunteers “had never been involved in a campaign before.”154
In its first year, it appears that OFA has succeeded in providing another outlet for some of those highly engaged supporters, among those interviewed for the report. While national polling is not available for overall volunteering trends, the surveys of OFA members and anecdotal information about their activities suggests there is still a national corps of super- volunteers. They have shifted from campaign volunteering to OFA activism, lobbying for federal policy and operating in tandem with an incumbent President. In this report’s survey of OFA members,155 sizable pluralities say they still volunteer from several to more than ten hours a week.
At the structural level, OFA’s labor distribution also relies on these super-activists. The presidential campaign used a large paid staff and a national corps of “neighborhood team leaders” to run field and volunteer work. OFA, by contrast, uses a comparatively tiny paid staff156 and a national corps of “community organizers” to do governance organizing. OFA officials say “the defining characteristic” of its “organizational structure” is a system tapping volunteers willing to “dedicate 20 to 30 hours a week to OFA”157 between elections. Much of OFA’s work in 2009 would not have been possible without this volunteer corps, according to David Plouffe:
In the campaign, we were very reliant on volunteers, but we also had 6,000 staff. We have very few staff right now [in December 2009]. This is almost [an] all-volunteer enterprise. So we’re trying to surface people who choose to be community organizers -- to use a word Sarah Palin loves -- and they take responsibility...They might have a job -- they might have two jobs. But they’re also dong this. They’re recruiting the volunteers around health care, and next year, it’ll be around other issues.158
Much of the media and political discussion of OFA’s first year understandably focused on its political strategy and orientation towards Congress. Yet those discussions may overlook one of OFA’s most consequential contributions to civic life, the development of an active, national corps of volunteers focused on governance and federal policy. If these volunteers remain engaged on multiple policies and activities throughout President Obama’s first term, and transition effectively into a reelection field program, it may portend a new field model for both parties in American politics.
The President's Permanent Field Campaign
Most of OFA’s direct advocacy towards Congress operates in potential tension with the traditional role of the DNC, which reports to Democratic members of Congress. In fact, when the party does not control the White House, Congressional Democrats are the DNC’s main client and source of funding. That relationship is typically subsumed when a Democrat wins the presidency and takes the helm of the party, but members of Congress traditionally retain influence over the DNC. Thus one of the looming questions about OFA’s lobbying, in its first year, was whether it would somehow interfere with Congress’ independent role, and its representative relationship with constituents, and whether that could spark greater tensions between the party and the legislative branch.
At this juncture, these concerns do not appear to have found a significant voice among congressional staff.159 Even congressional offices that were interviewed because of a potentially adversarial relationship with the President’s legislative agenda – such as targeted Republicans in Obama districts and (non-targeted) Democrats who voted against Obama’s health care bill – do not generally raise or endorse the argument that OFA is interfering with the independent role reserved to Congress.
It is noteworthy that congressional staffers say they accept this unprecedented organizing and policy campaigning role, in the off-season, by a national political party. There are three key factors however, to interpreting such a legislative reaction to OFA in 2009.
First, of course, it is possible that Capitol Hill staff do resent OFA’s activities, but believe that voicing such sentiment would only make the organization appear even more influential. (If that is the case, official statements from congressional offices may be of limited value in this context.) It seems unlikely, however, that staff in a range of offices from both parties would adopt the same strategy of downplaying their genuine views on this score.
Second, it is possible that many congressional staff are content with OFA precisely because they do not consider OFA a major force on Capitol Hill. Most interviewees, for example, did not begin with the premise that OFA had a significant impact or presence in their daily routine on Capitol Hill. Furthermore, consider the matrix of legislators relevant to OFA and Obama’s agenda: Allied, progressive Democratic members have found OFA essentially supports them; Republicans in “Obama districts” say they do not think OFA has much policy- related leverage over their constituents; and Democratic members voting against the President’s agenda – the elected group most likely to worry about facing mobilized opposition from within the party – do not indicate that they have been aggressively targeted by OFA. Party officials have even publicly acknowledged that OFA largely avoids confronting Democratic members who vote against Obama; a DNC official told the Washington Post, for example, "we can't target individual [Democratic] members of Congress," since telling OFAmembers to “target certain Democrats puts the party in a weird position."160
Third, the particular political climate in Obama’s first year in office may have seriously reduced incumbent sensitivity to an overbearing executive branch. If anything, one of the top critiques of Obama in 2009 was that he should have used his power to intervene and pressure members of Congress more, within the legislative process. In this argument, both elected Democrats161 and commentators162suggested that the White House should use its mandate to dominate Congress. In a different political environment, there might have been consternation about the executive branch overriding the proper role of the legislative branch. (Indeed, prominent Democratic members of Congress used to warn of a mounting “plebiscitary presidency,” arguing that President Bush had systematically undermined the independent authority and proper role of the legislative branch.163) Yet the rancor and coverage associated with opposition to health reform may have overshadowed the novelty of OFA’s experiment. In other words, even as OFA launched the largest governance organizing effort by a national party in history, party insiders and commentators spent the summer worrying that Democrats and OFA were actually not doing “enough” field organizing to counter the tea party and town hall protests. As one liberal commentator noted, Democrats were struggling to contend with the first “right wing street protest movement” in modern history, a development widely reported and inflamed by the political press.164 Frustrations over the August events even led one prominent Democratic organization, led by former Clinton pollster Stan Greenberg, to advocate for a new, online, permanent field organization beyond OFA to counter conservatives.165 (The proposal for an “online social organization – a ‘Democratic Activist Corps,’” was proposed as a confrontational, sharp field presence that would compliment OFA, though the idea did not get much traction.) Meanwhile, leading conservative complains about an overbearing federal government under the Obama administration have focused on federal spending, taxes and economic policy, not on political outreach to pressure or undermine Congressional autonomy. Thus, in the unusually intense political environment that greeted the beginning of Obama’s tenure, political allies and independent commentators166 largely criticized OFA for not taking enough action to counter conservative pressure on Congress, not for doing too much.
While that dynamic might hurt morale for a new, experimental organization, it has provided the concomitant benefit of inoculating OFA against criticisms of improper congressional interference that might have otherwise surfaced. As the organization continues to establish itself as part of the national political landscape, it is less likely to face challenges to its legitimacy or proper role in congressional policymaking.
OFA’s legislative posture – not whether it runs a permanent field campaign, but who the program targets – cuts across most of the issues facing the organization.
The permanent campaign may be less controversial (as discussed above), if it is primarily waged on behalf of established allies. In turn, however, it becomes less effective when the most pivotal members of Congress receive the least contact and pressure from Obama supporters. And it may be less sustainable, if volunteers conclude that their primary role is to reinforce and thank incumbent allies, rather than actually change the pressure dynamics or voting patterns in Congress.
While OFA often glosses over this issue in its member emails and public statements, Obama is intuitively cognizant of the distinction. He raised it in his very first health care address to OFA members as President, when launching the grassroots lobbying effort:
Some of you are already in Democratic districts where your elected officials are strong allies, but some of you are in districts or in states that where, right now, politicians are resistant to bringing about change. And you need to help to mobilize these communities to say: It is not acceptable to preserve the status quo. [emphasis added]167
Obama’s remarks can be read as a simple call for indirect advocacy – mobilizing support among neighbors and “communities” for his agenda (mandate support). It also references, however, the conundrum facing a party organization that presses Congress to pass a particular agenda. It is precisely the legislators who are, in Obama’s telling, “resistant to bringing about change,” who require more pressure from grassroots mobilization. Yet in its first year, OFA’s greatest practical problem is that it focused least on the legislators that Obama needed most.
It is far too early to tell whether this approach will continue to define OFA’s legislative posture in the future, or whether this model will significantly impact membership and volunteerism. Interviews for this report, for example, suggest that former Obama campaign staff were more concerned about the impact on OFA members than the members themselves. While some members predictably reduced their volunteering after the election, and some voiced disagreement with OFA decisions, there was little indication that people were turned off or deeply upset with the available volunteer opportunities during Obama’s first year in office.
Health care was also a particularly vexing legislative challenge to tackle. The policy process ultimately lasted longer than the general election. The decision to mobilize OFA members primarily for the administration’s broad principles, rather than specific planks of a bill, led to a divergence between the organization’s lobbying message and the endgame on Capitol Hill. As the Senate debated specific compromises regarding the public option program and Medicare buy-in in December, for example, with significant media attention on those developments, OFA continued to urge people across the country to call their Senators and reach the milestone of one million calls. At that juncture, however, even people loosely following the Senate process knew that almost every Senate vote was established, pro or con, and the legislation hung on the filibuster threats of a handful of members.168 And apart from any decisions made by OFA, the remaining votes may have been unmoved, or resentful, of efforts to target them. Princeton public affairs professor Paul Starr, a longtime expert on congressional health care issues, touched on this problem in January 2010:
Obama’s success in using digital media during the election may have led some to expect that as president he would be able to do the same. The job, however, is different. Rallying your activist base may not be the best way to win marginal votes in Congress. What Obama needs to do to win those votes—for example, make concessions to moderate Democrats on health-care legislation—may, in fact, disappoint his most passionate supporters.169 [emphasis added.]
In the same vein, OFA communications diverged from the national conversation during the final stretch in December and January (as discussed in Section One). However, a more targeted program, or opportunities to mobilize different OFA members around multiple issues, might address some of those challenges.
Campaigning Versus Governing
Every type of stakeholder interviewed for this report agreed on OFA’s largest, most glaring challenge: Campaigning is clearer than governing.
It is clearer for organizing, because it is simpler, with a single goal and a clear finish line. It is clearer for inspiring and mobilizing, because it is competitive, with a unifying opponent to defeat. It is clearer for social outreach, because it is highly focused on people – from the intense identification with the candidate himself, to viewing his family and staff as characters in an important story, to joining that story as one of many people in a movement.
These motivations are evident in the big moments from the 2008 campaign that were most compelling to supporters. During two years of campaigning, for example, the most popular entries on the campaign blog were items that simply featured photos of Obama.170 This audience priority suggests that supporters were more drawn to content focusing on Obama as a person, rather than on any recitation of policy plans. Similarly, the Obama Campaign’s most effective email appeals were focused on competition -- such as the unusual, swift response to Sarah Palin’s convention speech, which sparked a record-breaking response raising over $10 million in one day,171 and when the campaign countered Palin it “reinvigorated” the base and increased “volunteer numbers.”172 (Even though Obama himself was not enthused about the tone of some of those efforts.173) Similarly, the campaign’s email sharing the (independently created) “Yes We Can” video was forwarded so many times that the open rate broke 100 percent.
Unlike the daily skirmishes of a campaign, the governance period provides fewer clear opportunities to organize around political competition. Furthermore, in Obama’s first year, OFA did not seize on salient, politically competitive moments to drive organizing.
To cite two specific examples, while OFA arranged events and communications in coordination with the President’s health care address to Congress, it declined to engage one of the most dramatic competitive moments in Obama’s first year in office – Rep. Joe Wilson’s “you lie” outburst from the House floor. While there may be overriding political and strategic reasons that The White House declined to engage the dispute,174 it is the kind of resonant, competitive moment that would provide an entry point for activism and volunteering. Indeed, the incident drove large online fundraising for Wilson’s previously unknown opponent,175 and captivated national discussions online.176
OFA also declined to engage in competitive efforts that were initiated by the White House. For several weeks in October, for example, the White House waged a high profile confrontation with Fox News over its coverage of The President, including the accuracy and treatment of administration policy priorities.177 The dispute received extensive attention from media and political leaders, and significant interest from rank and file Democrats, just as the Obama presidential campaign’s attacks on Fox drew interest during the general election.178 OFA did not send national emails about the issue, however, nor provide opportunities to link the battle with other media activism opportunities (such as OFA’s letters to the editor and “set the record straight” program). While such media activism may not be a priority for many activists, it could provide an arena for some supporters to support the administration with non-legislative actions. At the same time, both the media disputes and the Wilson incident included partisan baggage that some OFA members, especially independents and Republicans, might resent.
Going forward, OFA could explore politically viable ways to engage such national moments for organizing, fusing competitive energy with governance goals.
Overall, one year into OFA’s transition, it is understandable that converting the campaign network into a governing force remains an ongoing challenge. OFA management has a finite number of opportunities to sort out how volunteers can choose to participate in programs to advance Obama’s agenda, and how to develop a range of volunteer projects that are both instrumentally effective and personally meaningful. Volunteers, for their part, must decide first, whether it is worth their time to pay attention to OFA communications and opportunities; and second, whether those activism opportunities are worthwhile, either because they are personally fulfilling, or because volunteers simply have faith in the organization’s ability to direct their activities to impact Washington.
While this report focused on what OFA has actually done in its first year, and related reactions to that work, there is a broader conversation among Obama supporters and commentators about other programs and opportunities that OFA could theoretically embrace. While much of that discussion is beyond the scope of this report, this final section raises a few potential opportunities and areas for further inquiry and debate.
OFA has conducted two general surveys of its members’ interests, but in its first year, it did not offer any formal mechanism for group decision-making by members. OFA could empower members with authority over certain group decisions, through binding polls, like other membership organizations.179
While OFA is part of the DNC, it has not provided many opportunities for members to increase their access or power to the DNC’s formal membership, decision structure or superdelegate system.180 OFA could run programs encouraging members to democratize and run for formal DNC positions, such as members of the party’s Rules Committee, and the (election-year) platform committee, and the superdelegate roster. In 2010, the DNC is considering reforming the superdelegate system and their power over the presidential nomination process.181 Beyond limiting potential superdelegate interference with the primaries, however, reforms could also empower more grassroots party members to take formal positions commensurate with their volunteering and contributions to the national party. OFA could even empower members to pick their own representatives who would visit or work on site, at certain times, in party headquarters in Washington. While few expect an organization devoted to advancing the President’s agenda to become a completely bottom-up entity, there are several incremental ways to invite more people into the decision-making process.
While moving from campaigning to governing is difficult, as discussed, it is worth noting that OFA faced an even tougher transition by focusing so much on a single issue in its first year. The Obama campaign organization not only shifted to focus on governance, it essentially morphed into a single-issue pressure group. A simple but important question for the rest of Obama’s tenure is whether OFA moves methodically to tackle one big issue at time, or whether it moves from health care to engage a range of administration priorities for its members. (OFA’s 2010 survey queries members on six issues: health care, economy, green jobs, education, financial regulation, and immigration.182) Tackling several issues would be more difficult for limited staff and message coordination, to be sure, but it would give Obama supporters more entry points into volunteering and supporting his agenda. (To extend the analogy to single-issue groups, very few actually email their members with volunteer requests as frequently as OFA did on health care.) Furthermore, defining OFA through a single issue adds baggage that the group need not carry. While some supporters felt Obama “compromised too much” on health care, for example, campaigns on a range of policies could diversify OFA’s brand in advocating Obama policies. And while substantive domestic policy, like the economy, is obviously most important to many Americans, OFA could spark enthusiasm and renew some of the campaign’s spirit by giving members the opportunity to fight for procedural political reform – reforming lobbying rules, the filibuster, holds, the appropriations process, and campaign financing – to change how Washington works. (Political reform was not, however, on the six “issues” OFA provided members to choose from in the 2010 survey.)
On legislative strategy, it is likely untenable for OFA to run the same playbook for calling members of Congress over the entire course of Obama’s presidency. As an alternative, OFA could run more confrontational and targeted campaigns against members who are actually pivotal on a given issue – if the White House strategy evolved, as discussed – or, failing that, shift its tactical assignments beyond phone calls. For example, OFA members could more effectively impact Congressional activity by working on partisan information gathering projects, such as questioning and pressuring Congressional offices for open-source whip counts on specific provisions in legislation.183 Or members could be tapped to use lobbying and research to challenge undemocratic hurdles to reform in the Senate, such as the practice of secret holds184 – a process that could not only advance legislation and presidential nominees, but, like procedural political reform, could also reinforce Obama’s pledge of a new, open politics.
136 As discussed throughout the report, the available data on volunteer participation is lower than during the campaign, according to OFA, while web traffic and views of online videos are lower than during the campaign.
137 “Organizing for America Kicks Off Health Care Campaign,” Chris Good, TheAtlantic.com, June 6, 2009. http://politics.theatlantic.com/2009/06/ofa_kicks_off_health_care_campaign.php
138 See Section Two.
139 “The Nation’s Full Interview with David Plouffe,” YouTube, December 17, 2009. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCwgeRumlXk&feature=channel
140 On the receiving end, 17 percent of Obama supporters said they expected to receive phone calls from the new administration. “Post- Election Voter Engagement,” Aaron Smith, Pew Internet & American Life Project, December 30, 2008.
141 Organizing for America: Looking Back, Marching Ahead,” Jeremy Bird, Huffington Post, January 6, 2010. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeremy-bird/organizing-for-america-lo_b_413000.html
143 “2009,” Mitch Stewart, OFA email, December 30, 2009.
144 For example, these trends are reflected in one post-election survey focusing on political participation, “Post-Election Voter Engagement,” discussed throughout this section.
145 “Post-Election Voter Engagement,” Aaron Smith, Pew Internet & American Life Project, December 30, 2008. The polling asked Obama and McCain voters about hearing from their respective candidates in the future, though in Obama’s case, some questions included potential contact from the Obama administration, not simply his political operation. (Among McCain voters, 20 percent said they expected to hear from McCain by email.)
146 As discussed in Section One, outreach and email from the administration and the campaign list are distinct. Some Obama supporters quickly gathered that distinction; before Obama was sworn in; about 6 percent of Obama voters who were active online had already signed up to receive dedicated email updates from the government transition team. Id.
150 By contrast, see, e.g. “Online politics reserved for rich,” BBC News, September 2, 2009 (discussing 2009 Pew survey finding that “online political engagement such as contacting officials, signing petitions and making donations is skewed towards richer and better educated Americans.“) http://www.pewinternet.org/Media-Mentions/2009/Online-politics-reserved-for-rich.aspx
151 “Post-Election Voter Engagement,” Aaron Smith, Pew Internet & American Life Project, December 30, 2008.
152 As one commenter wrote in November 2008, “How the Obama campaign might affect the long-term civic culture of the United States is a very open question, however. Will the networks and contacts and relationships established during the campaign endure, and what shape will they take?” “What Next for the Obama Network? Four Critical Questions,” Thad Williamson, Social Capital Blog, Harvard Saguaro Seminar, November 14, 2008. http://socialcapital.wordpress.com/2008/11/14/what-next-for-the-obama-network-four-critical-questions/
153 “Electing The President, 2008; The Insider’s View,” Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Ed., at 44-5, University of Pennsylvania Press (2009) (transcript of Jon Carson on “Campaign Management and Field Operations,” quoted from December 2008 meetings convened by the Annenberg Public Policy Center).
154 Id. at 42.
155 Discussed further in Section Two.
156 The DNC employs more staff in the off-season than most precedents in national politics, as discussed in the Introduction, but it is still a tiny fraction of the 5,000 staffers on the Obama presidential campaign.
157 Organizing for America: Looking Back, Marching Ahead,” Jeremy Bird, Huffington Post, January 6, 2010. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeremy-bird/organizing-for-america-lo_b_413000.html
159 Even if Congress and the wider political establishment have accepted the model of a permanent, presidential field campaign, of course, that does not preclude independent analysts and citizens from raising the substantive concerns and flaws in this model of governing.
160 “An Army Untapped,” Harold Meyerson, Washington Post, July 8, 2009.
161 See, e.g., Russ Feingold criticizing Obama’s lack of intervention on specific provisions of the health care legislation. “Sen.RussFeingold (D-Wis.), among the most vocal supporters of the public option, said it would be unfair to blame Lieberman for its apparent demise. Feingold said that responsibility ultimately rests with President Barack Obama and he could have insisted on a higher standard for the legislation. ‘This bill appears to be legislation that the president wanted in the first place, so I don’t think focusing it on Lieberman really hits the truth,’ said Feingold. ‘I think they could have been higher...’” “Lieberman expresses regret to colleagues over healthcare tension,” Alexander Bolton, The Hill, December 15, 2009.
162 See, eg “White House as helpless victim on healthcare,” Glenn Greenwald, Salon, December 16, 2009. http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2009/12/16/white_house/index.html
163 See, e.g. “Bush’s Plebiscitary Presidency,” Rep. Barney Frank, Speech on the floor of the U.S. House, Congressional Record, PageH5212-H5216, July 13, 2006.
164 Political journalist Michael Tomasky argued that the summer protests against Obama were a highly unusual development in American politics: “We have never seen, at least in the modern history of the United States, a right-wing street-protest movement.” “Something New on the Mall,” Michael Tomasky, New York Review of Books, Volume 56, Number 16, October 22, 2009.
165 “Strategy Memo,” The Democratic Strategist, James Vega, September 16, 2009.
166 See, e.g. “An Army Untapped,” Harold Meyerson, Washington Post, July 8, 2009.
167 “Time is now on health care, Obama says,” Foon Rhee, Boston Globe, May 28, 2009 (with transcript of conference call).
168 Senators Lieberman, Nelson, Snowe were still threatening to join a filibuster of the bill, depending on its final form, that would deny cloture on a motion to proceed to a floor vote.
169 “Governing in the Age of Fox News,” Paul Starr, The Atlantic, January/February 2010.
170 The top three most popular entries, out of thousands, were photos of Obama in Texas, photos of Obama at Johny J’s, and a slideshow of Obama and Michelle. The most popular policy item came in tenth, when Obama wrote a response to supporters who criticized his vote on surveillance legislation. Aysu Kes-Erkul, R. Erdem Erkul, “Web 2.0 in the Process of e-participation: The Case of Organizing for America and the Obama Administration,” Aysu Kes-Erkul and R. Erdem Erkul, National Center for Digital Government Working Paper No. 09-001, October 6, 2009. (The paper’s title may be confusing, as some of the data from BarackObama.com was collected during the 2008 campaign, before “Organizing for America” existed as an organization.)
171 “Obama raises $10 million after Palin speech,” Associated Press, September 4, 2009. Also see “The Audacity to Win,” David Plouffe at 314, Viking (2009) (discussing supporters “venting via contribution”).
172 For an Obama campaign perspective on Palin’s impact on field, see Jon Carson’s recollection. “Electing The President, 2008; The Insider’s View,” Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Ed., at 52, University of Pennsylvania Press (2009)
173 See, e.g, “The Audacity to Win,” David Plouffe at 309-310, Viking (2009).
174 President Obama immediately sought to put the incident behind him, for example. “Obama Accepts Joe Wilson’s Apology,” Susan Davis, Wall Street Journal, September 10, 2009. http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2009/09/10/obama-accepts-joe-wilsons-apology/
175 Rob Miller, Wilson's Opponent, Raises Over $1 Million Off "YouLie," Rachel Weiner, Huffington Post, September 11, 2009. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/10/rob-miller-wilsons-oppone_n_281931.html
176 “'Joe Wilson' top trending topic on Twitter,” Jordan Fabian, The Hill, September 9, 2009.
177 See, e.g. “Behind the War Between White House and Fox,” Jim Rutenberg, New York Times, October 22, 2009.
178 See, e.g. “Obama Versus Fox News (Part 534),” Jake Tapper, ABC News, October 27, 2008. http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2008/10/obama-versus-fo.html
179 MoveOn.org, for example, enables members to issue group endorsements and take positions via supermajority in online polls. While OFA cannot (and should not) shape federal policy by vote, there are political activities, endorsements and strategic questions that could be informed by transparent member participation.
180 Some active OFA volunteers have been recognized for symbolic roles; one Arkansas volunteer who runs an OFA phone bank twice a week was invited to sit in the First Lady’s box at the President’s health care address to the joint session of Congress. “Guest List for the First Lady’s Box, 2009 Joint Session of Congress,” White House Press Office, September 9, 2009 http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Guest-List-for-the-First-Ladys-Box-at-tonights-Joint-Session-of-Congress
181 “DNC commission recommends end to superdelegate system,” Tony Romm, The Hill, December 30, 2009.
183 See, eg “Senate Whip Count: 45 Public Option Supporters!” Chris Bowers, OpenLeft, August 19, 2009. http://openleft.com/diary/14691/senate-whip-count-46-public-option-supporters
184 “Digitally Democratizing Congress? Technology and Political Accountability,” Jane Schacter, Boston University Law Review, 89 B.U.L. Rev. 641, April 2009 (discussing coordination between citizen groups, online activists and elected officials to pressure Senators to confess to “secret holds” placed on legislation).