The foot soldiers of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, organized to go into action when key elements of his agenda are at stake, aren’t universally enthusiastic about fighting for the health care compromise now before the Senate.
On Wednesday morning, Organizing for America, as Obama’s reconstituted campaign organization is now known, emailed its list of 13 million Obama supporters asking them to “call your senators now and help us ‘ring in reform.’”
The campaign yielded 150k calls – less than half the number of a similar effort in October – and it prompted a backlash among online and local activists who had logged countless volunteer supporting Obama’s campaign and legislative agenda, but who felt betrayed by recent Democratic concessions in the healthcare reform fight….
One leading OFA volunteer in FL blasted an email to a statewide listserv urging activists to “just say no” to the phone-banking effort – uncorking a torrent of frustration from FL Democrats – while some OFA subscribers replied directly to the call-to-action email with angry messages [see message at top of this post] and others asked to be removed from the list entirely.
Still others said they would indeed call their senators – but would urge them to oppose the bill. And the liberal blogosphere registered its dissatisfaction with the call to action, with one prominent blogger on MyDD predicting that “OFA will get a rude awakening when they try to round up canvassers and phone bankers.”…
Dave Hearn, a Ft. Dodge, IA optician who helped organize Obama’s campaign in Webster County and has volunteered for OFA by sending emails and organizing a local healthcare “vigil,” said Obama “is taking for granted that the volunteers who worked so hard for him were going to buy in to whatever strategy he chose to pass his major legislative initiative.”…
Tanya Keith, a small business owner from Des Moines who was a precinct captain for Obama’s IA campaign, replied to the OFA email, writing “Why should I devote my valuable time to volunteer for a bill that has no teeth left in it? We’ve sold our souls to 4 Senators instead of sitting down and convincing them that a public option or at the very LEAST medicare is included in the bill.”
Joe Trippi, a Democratic operative who ran former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s unsuccessful bid for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, said OFA didn’t effectively “do the groundwork to get their on-ground supporters to buy in” to the reform plan before asking them to advocate for it….
That kind of disappointment has already diminished the power of OFA, asserted Adam Green, a former official with the liberal online juggernaut MoveOn.org, who now helps run the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which supports the public option.
In September, the group collected signatures from more than 100k former Obama campaign staffers, volunteers and donors on a letter urging him to support the public option.
“We heard story after story from current Organizing for America volunteers about how they were getting disillusioned with Obama because he wasn’t fighting for the public option,” Green said. “Obama’s email list may soon become a hallow shell if he does not fight Joe Lieberman and insist that there be a public option.”
[Photo via the Associated Press]