President Barack Obama tapped his massive email list to organize support for the economic stimulus on Friday, the first attempt by Obama's aides to formally rally his campaign supporters behind the new President's legislative agenda.
"The President's plan passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday," writes Mitch Stewart, who was recently appointed director of Organizing for America, in the new email to Obama supporters. "To avoid the usual partisan games" and actually pass the bill, he argues, citizens need to get active, host "economic recovery house meetings" and show "neighbors and friends" what the plan "means for their community."
OFA's house meeting portal includes a talking points PDF -- "paid for by OFA, a project of the Democratic National Committee" -- and an interactive map projecting the economic impact of the plan on every state, based on an analysis by Moody's chief economist Mark Zandi, who has previously advised Sen. John McCain. The plan would save or create about four million jobs across the country, according to that projection, by the end of 2010.
To see the biggest impact of this effort, however, you have to read between the lines of Stewart's email. There is no direct reference to pressuring members of Congress or criticizing opponents of the plan. Operatives are signaling that "the goal is not to get these supporters to lobby their elected officials." This week, in fact, former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe took to the New York Times to declare that OFA "is not a 'call or e-mail your member of Congress' organization."
OFA is not formally lobbing or publicly bullying Congress, and for a range of political and legal reasons, that will probably be the framework through 2012. But let's be real. Obama's aides are unleashing a grassroots organizing operation, targeting citizens with localized advocacy to pass a single piece of legislation on a tight schedule. That is pressure on Congress to pass a law, sparked by the Chief Executive but executed by the people. If Obama supporters respond, it should help shore up support for the stimulus in regions that Obama dominated in November.
UPDATE: Zephyr Teachout, the former Dean Internet aide, web analyst and law professor, has an excellent piece predicting that these kind of OFA efforts will fail -- and arguing that's good for Obama supporters and citizens alike.