Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Jackboots for Obama

I received a vaguely creepy email a few days ago from one Jeremy Bird of Organizing for America, asking me to apply for a summer grassroots training program that "aims to put boots on the ground and help foster a new generation of leaders."

Participants will undergo an "intensive training program", the email cryptically went on, be assigned to a specific community, and recruit volunteers who will be organized "street by street, (to) knock on what it takes to support the President's agenda." (kind of sounds like the U.S. Military Academy's summer "Beast Barracks"  weeks of hellish, intensive training in the trenches, huh?)

"It takes hard work to build a movement around a cause," Bird added.  He didn't explain what the "cause" was, but we may safely assume it is the continued reign of Barack Obama.

It is baffling that Obama, who has sold himself out to corporations and filled his cabinet with Wall Street insiders, would even dream of again enlisting volunteers to knock on doors for him.  It worked out so well in 2008, because he was able to fool so many people into working the phones, parting with their hard-earned money $25 at a time, and believing his message of change.

This latest outreach to common "folks" smacks of an attempt to resurrect, or reinvent, an Obama Personality Cult.  The tone is decidedly militaristic - be a soldier for the cause, boots on the ground - although there is no mention of wearing a uniform of any kind.

The rewards of the job presumably include the off-chance of an actual meeting, someday, with the president. According to the email:

"Summer organizer Paras Patel had an unforgettable experience - meeting President Obama at an event in Detroit. 'He shook my hand and told me he was proud of me and appreciated the work I was doing.... Meeting the president was definitely a surprise and something I will never forget!' " 

The email concluded, "Successful movements have always been built and grown by ordinary people who take responsibility for organizing their fellow citizens to make their voices heard. We're looking for folks who are willing to work hard to support the President's agenda and lay new groundwork to carry this movement forward for years to come."

(there's that creepy "folks" word again....derived from the German fulka (people's army) and volk, with a German nationalistic context.  Beware of politicians using this word - they use it in an overfamiliar, condescending way to draw you in to their little cozy webs.)

Incidentally, there is no indication of any actual salary involved in marching for Obama, nor are we told why a sitting president is in need of a so-called movement, nor what agenda we are supposed to be supporting.  Are we expected to knock on people's doors and enthuse about the two-year pay freeze for federal employees? Are we supposed to propagandize for the continued spying on ordinary American citizens?  Do they honestly expect volunteers to approach strangers and cheerfully talk about the race for the top, Winning the Future, why we had to extend Bush tax cuts for the wealthy?  Are they willing to supply their unpaid lackeys with Kevlar vests and security details? 

I am afraid the Obama Army will be about as welcome at the front doors of America as the Jehovah's Witnesses. 


jerry, of eye on washington said...

You are correct. Obama used thousands of union workers, and students to go door to door and work in his offices, yet has turned his back on them now that he is president.

He was a liar and a fake. He opened his hand to the oligarchs and Reichwing Republicans, while stepping away from those that worked for him.

He deserves nothing from Democrats any longer. He has brought in Immelt from GE to basically run his fundraising that will likely bring in $1B from the upper 1% of the economic food chain.

He is the Manchurian President for sure.

Anne Lavoie said...

Maybe Herr Obama is trying to co-opt any revolutionary youth movement here in America. Or maybe he's organizing his opposition forces to the movement that will inevitably come.

We should not underestimate this shrewd, charming, charismatic manipulator. He shut out the voice of his supporters as soon as he got elected, and then proceeded to work backroom deals with the corporations, behind Congress' back.

I will stop now while I am still able to be civil in my description of him!


Draft Spitzer said...

Karen, honey, I could tell stories about OFA that would scare the bejeezus out of you.
Been there, done that. Or, perhaps: "Been there, was DONE by that."
So much of my time. Not a little of my money. And a Pres who doesn't even have the decency to apologize for failing to explain to the ffolkes (there's that 'vord' again) that the public option had traditionally been a GOP idea, promoted by Teddy Roosevelt and later Nixon.. It was thereby not only bipartisan, but nowhere near the dreaded 'socialism' that he allowed it to be described as by the right.
Burned more than once by the Pres. Not going in for a second time.

Kate Madison said...

Oh yes, Jeremy Bird! I got an email from him too, Karen. That guy really gets around. I responded to him, very politely I must say, and told him I could not be of help or monetary assistance to "Change We Can Believe In" this time around, but I could make a few suggestions on who Jeremy might turn to.

First of all, I told him to contact Lloyd Blankfein, who I am sure still has many friends who would pony up. And, for sure, Larry Summers Tim Geithner, Austan Goolsbee and Peter Orszag will gather a few $$ from their past and present Wall Street buddies. I did mention a few other names, but no need to go on and on.

Wanting to be fair and balanced, I also told Jeremy a few people NOT to contact. For starters, I said he should forget trying to get aid and assistance from any progressive volunteers and organizers in the 2008 campaign. They are no longer feeling friendly, in fact most are feeling "had!" Also, quite a few have lost jobs, and have the time but not the inclination.

I thanked Jeremy for thinking of me, asked him to take me off the OFA list, send me no further emails and to have a joyful life. I signed myself:

Kate Madison
Sanctimonious Purist

Draft Spitzer said...

Dear Kate,
The only way you'll get a response on any email from OFA is to do what I did. And you won't get the response you desire...

You might recall that everyone on the OFA California mailing lists were sent, in August 2009, an email "invitation" to go to Senator Dianne Feinstein's office to discuss with her office the importance of the public option. Basic advocacy work, and not an unreasonable request of volunteers, IMO.

We were permitted to make an "appointment" with Feinstein's office for any time of the day, any day during the following week, through the OFA website.

Feinstein's offices, which hadn't been informed of OFA's "strategy", were totally unprepared. I believe "La Feinstein" was not even in California that week. I showed up on Monday for the 11:00 appointment. So did a small crowd of others, who were stuffed into the lobby, because there was no way that Feinstein's staff would invite us upstairs to their office without having been notified first.

Hour after hour, for an entire week, small - and then larger - crowds of public option supporters gathered in the lobby of Feinstein's office. After hearing the heart-rending health-care-related plaints from everyone who'd shown up for the 11:00 a.m. Monday appointment, I decided to stick around for the entire week in order to collect every single name and email I could.

Why was I allowed to do this as an unknown volunteer? Because OFA hadn't sent any staffers to oversee and help coordinate the "event" they'd created. And just what were OFA staffers busy doing that week? That, my dear, is just one of the many punchlines to this particular story, which I'll spare you from hearing tonight.

It is perhaps worth noting that I ended up with an email list of 1,200 Obama supporters who came to the San Francisco office of DiFi. But there had been over 1,500 supporters who showed up - I just didn't have enough hands and clipboards to get everyone's email. Many of these attendees were prominent members of the community who had been (note past tense) generous donors. Physicians, university professors, small business owners, et cetera.

It was a valuable list to OFA. And needless to say, OFA wanted the list.

And that was the beginning of some very interesting late-night phone calls from a particularly ambitious and tenacious young OFA staffer...

(It was also the beginning of a good deal of advocacy work I coordinated on behalf of the public option, including getting Professor William H. Dow to speak on behalf of the public option at a seminar I organized at UC Berkeley. Dow had served as a senior economic advisor for the George W. Bush administration. I thought it was quite a hat trick to get a Republican to support the public option at a time when it was being described as "socialist.")

Noteworthy that OFA had no interest in putting on educational seminars themselves. Noteworthy that at the time we were asked to go to DiFi's by OFA, Obama had already cut a backroom deal with PhRMA and major insurers to kill the public option.

For the record, I don't want to disparage anyone still working with OFA. They're GREAT. My issues are with the organization's "management" - or lack thereof. Of course, I have the same issues with the actual administration's non-management style.

There have been all sorts of articles on the collapse of OFA. It will be interesting to see how the organization fares throughout the 2012 campaign. But I can honestly say that, given everything I learned, I won't be working with them.


Robijn Hornstra said...

The only Grass Roots movement worth spending time on is our own. I mean we, concerned Americans, should promote our own causes and not rely on DC-bureaucrats backed by big money. That is why your blog and others like it are so important. No rants but honest opinions supported by facts and logic.


turnipseed said...

I was "recruited" by an OFA staffer to work for "the party" during the mid term elections. In order to get me to agree to phone bank, he had to (or at least he pretended to) agree with me that while all wasn't well in Progressiveland, we must all hold our noses and work for the party in order to avoid a tea party takeover. So I did it. My house party consisted of fifteen furious Democrats who put my little recruiter firmly in his place.

This guy was being paid, even; and he could barely muster up the courage to keep calling me. Each plea for assistance would begin with, "I know you're not happy with everything the President has done.....but,....". Most of the people I called over and over were from Union lists, and they all agreed to support Democrats--and what is the thanks they get now?
Has Obama had a word to say since one brief, lukewarm statement a week ago?

Oh, yeah, I live in Wisconsin--and this Frau is DONE with OFA!

Anonymous said...

Took my name off their e-mail list many months ago. Is there any move at all to put up a Progressive for President within the democratic party? I've worked on independent campaigns before and know they don't work because of many things within this system of ours. Corporate consolidated mega media has a great deal to do with it. We need a candidate to put out there? I don't know if there is one to be trusted? that could get elected.

Anne Lavoie said...


This is a bit off-topic, and in reference to a news piece about a military Psy-Ops campaign against some Senators, but has anyone wondered if the military ran a Psy-Ops campaign on Obama?

I am thinking in particular of his torturous 4-month review of Afghanistan before he decided on the surge. I mean, with his oversized ego, he would be an easy target for this kind of operation.


Anonymous said...

Could you overreact any more? Good grief. As a liberal, why can I understand that to win another election he has to become a centrist who can bring in the independents. Face it, only 20% of Americans are liberals. I hate that fact, but a fact it still is.

He cannot vote or act the way we want him to 100% of the time. I guess letting openly gays into the military, or equal pay for women, the health care bill, those things don't count, right?

He is right about many liberals; they ignore what he has done and freak out when he doesn't do exactly what they want. Well guess what, we have to compromise. Get over it. I have. It's the real world we live in so stop whining already. Obama's a lot better than Romney, who if you keep up this petulant attitude and other liberals do as well, Romney will be our next president. Then America will truly be SOL.

Anne Lavoie said...

To Anonymous at 9:09pm

You might think that Obama is bringing in Independents because you are a liberal, but as an Independent who previously supported Obama with money and votes, I can assure you he is not likely to retain any of us, and certainly not gain any new votes from Independents who did not vote for him the first time.

Obama is not a Centrist, he is a Corporatist. There is a big difference. A Centrist would be able to balance the needs of business with the needs of the poor, unemployed, and the working class. His focus, however, has been on meeting the needs of corporations.

And big effing deal that Obama is now our first Gay President (ala Clinton being the first Black). He only switched sides when the court cases were going against his policies for DADT and DOMA. He is a shifty dude - he swings both ways, in case you haven't noticed. And that holds true for most issues.

And lastly, your comment about overreacting, whining, freaking out, and petulance sounds like you might be sitting pretty comfortably in your world and are heavily invested in the status quo. I can assure you, however, that the real world is pretty bad for a lot of people and some of us care deeply about that but Obama has shown through his actions that he does not. Pandering to the rich for his own re-election is his gig.


Draft Spitzer said...

To anonymous on 2/26 at 9:09 pm: I can understand why you didn't use your real name.
First, claiming that Obama is "a lot better than Romney" is nonsense. Except for the melanin, they're essentially the same platter, TO THE EXTENT that even O's "signature" achievement - the bailout of PhRMA and insurers, which you refer to as "health care," is little more than Romneycare.
I'll also point out that on many of the so-called necessary compromises, like killing the public option, the majority was actually on OUR side, but O caved anyway.
Karen, I respectfully request that if anonymous commenters insist on using terms like petulant and whining when referring to others who post here, they should be scrubbed. I got quite enough of that from OFA.