Friday, February 12, 2010


In addition, with Plouffe providing less input in his inner circle, Obama began to pursue a more traditional, backroom approach to enacting his agenda. Rather than using OFA to engage millions of voters to turn up the heat on Congress, the president yoked his political fortunes to the unabashedly transactional style of politics advocated by his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. Health care reform — the centerpiece of his agenda — was no longer about mobilizing supporters to convince their friends, families and neighbors in all 50 states. It was about convincing 60 senators in Washington. It became about deals.

"There were two ways for Barack Obama to twist arms on Capitol Hill," says Trippi. "You can get the best arm-bender in town to be your chief of staff — and I don't think there'd be many people who would deny that Rahm is a pretty good pick. Or the American people can be your arm-bender. What I don't understand is why the White House looked at it as an either/or proposition. You could have had both."

The shift in tactics left OFA sitting on the sidelines. A far cry from the audacious movement that rose to the challenge of electing America's first black president, the group has performed like a flaccid, second-rate MoveOn, a weak counterweight to the mass protests and energetic street antics of the Tea Baggers. Rather than turning out thousands of voters at rallies for the "public option" in health care reform, the White House instructed OFA to adopt a toothless, almost invisible approach: asking followers to sign a generic "statement of support." In July, when OFA ran ads asking voters to call their senators and urge them to vote for health care reform, the effort was quickly slapped down by party leaders. "It's a waste of money to have Democrats running ads against Democrats," fumed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Read the whole thing. Its what we've all noticed--they absolutely dropped the populism and the effective grassroots organizing from the moment they got into the White House. I know there are people who are going to complain because people complain about the White House, Rahm, and the very notion of an overarching strategy to get things done but its pretty clear. The account of the Coakley debacle is exactly what I saw, on the ground, in MA. Now we just have the backstory.


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