Tuesday, March 17, 2009

An Open Letter to the DNC's "Organizing for America"

Dear DNC:

Why should I participate in "Organizing for America?"

That isn't a rhetorical question. My spouse received an Organizing for America pitch in the mail today, and I've read it. It tells me that the organization's mission will be to advance President Obama's legislative agenda, and to continue building the grassroots organization started during the Obama campaign.

But Obama's legislative agenda appears to be on its way towards success or failure without me. Specifically, health care reform and global climate change have both had a small group of "centrist" Democratic Senators write that they are unwilling to let them be attached to vehicles that require only 50 votes, and instead wish to let them be filibustered. If so, that means that they are almost certain not to become law. Is "Organizing for America" going to be a vehicle towards enforcing party discipline on those Senators? If not, what good is it?

President Obama has often said that he wants bipartisan solutions. I am a partisan. I do not want bipartisan solutions, not when one side is still fully committed to the failed beliefs of the Bush years. Why should I participate?

Or, to put it another way, President Obama made all sorts of concessions to the right and to the center on the recent stimulus bill. These concessions weakened the bill to the point where it will probably be ineffective as stimulus, and did not succeed politically in getting any GOP votes in the House, and only three in the Senate. Would my work be wasted and go towards similarly ineffective concessions?

If so, bluntly, what's in it for the liberals and the left? The centrists and the right held up laws that would be good for the country in order to pursue their own petty interests. As a result, their concerns were not ignored. The liberals and the left went along, and were ignored. What is President Obama going to do for his base? Is he going to announce an investigation into Bush-era war crimes? Go ahead and nationalize AIG? Perhaps reverse his shameful opinion that detainees at Bagram have no right to challenge their detention? Stop allowing his deputies to try to preserve the existing, dysfunctional banking system? Support a stronger push against climate change, rather than a relatively ineffective and easily gamed market-ideology cap-and-trade scheme?

And why is the pitch so one-way in an organizational sense? The mail that I saw didn't try to pull people into any genuinely netroots-style peer-to-peer effort. There was a pro forma URL listed -- www.democrats.org -- and a request for an Email address. The program mentioned was one of house meetings and gathering stories -- the sort of thing easily controlled centrally by the DNC. The materials repeat the false, Republican-framed claim that "Change doesn't come from Washington"': if people are supposed to take that seriously, why is this being controlled from Washington?

I invite anyone to answer. There's not much at stake: only a hundred or so dollars from me, and whatever volunteer efforts I can muster. But that's proportionally more than I've seen I've seen the DNC or the Obama administration put into this effort. Why does this deserve my support?


Rich Puchalsky


  1. I don't think that anyone should ever work with the national Democratic Party unless the agree with them about everything. Give money and time to candidates selected by yourself, and give money to primary challengers.

    I was all ready to support or propose a primary run against our Blue Dog here in order to free Obama to take a more radical stance, but I now doubt that Obama wants to be free. He wants to triangulate, and the Blue Dogs are his friends. So the big selling point (for most people) is gone.

  2. I still think that one has to work in coalition a lot of the time. Certainly I'm glad that Kos et al is more into primary challenges these days, but I don't think that people are best off disengaging from the national Dems.

    But if they want support in anything more than a pro forma sense, they have to give reasons. What are those reasons? I really didn't see anything in the DNC materials that wasn't "you unquestioningly support Obama -- so support him more, now."

    I tried putting this up as a Daily Kos diary, and comments are running a good deal more towards "if you don't want to, then don't volunteer" and defenses of the compromises on the stimulus bill as necessary.

  3. Oh, I also posting this at the DNC's community blog here. It spent a day or so as the highest-ranked community blog post. Admittedly this was because the DNC's "diary" blogs are nearly unused, and I rated it a 5, but still. No volunteers showing up to make any kind of DNC response is a sign that this is a "you send the checks, we do something with them" operation.