Last night I posted a blog suggesting that Obama supporters who are angry about his about-face on the upcoming FISA legislation should take the money they would have given Obama this month and give it instead to Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), who is carrying on the fight that Obama walked away from. Apparently the idea struck a chord. The Feingold campaign told me at midday that money was pouring in. Campaign manager George Aldrich was reluctant to give out precise numbers, but reported that the morning's donations were "not a little blip but a massive spike" up from the norm.
That's a big chunk of change that should have gone to Obama. Predictably, this infuriated many Obama supporters, but those of us who redirected our donations to Fiengold are Obama supporters too. My interest is not to derail Obama's campaign from within, but to keep a place at the table for his activist base now that the chairs are being reshuffled to accommodate the heavy hitters of national American politics. This is the point in presidential campaigns where activists usually get sent to the kitchen to eat with the staff. But maybe with this new tool we have in the Internet, we can hold on to our seat in the dining room.
Sending money to Feingold instead of Obama the week of the FISA vote is a reasonable and powerful step to take. Remember the election is in November and this is only July. We have months in which to give Obama more money. We are not so tightly boxed in that we cannot make this statement on behalf of the Constitution now. Most important of all, I think Obama's chances are better if he sticks to the principles that got him this far. As far as I am concerned, I am still working on his campaign right now.
However, figuring out how to use the Internet in an honest and effective is a tricky business, as other recent events highlighted. For example, membership in the protest group on MyBo jumped several thousand and is now at about 22,500. Many opposed to the protest suggest these numbers are artificially inflated by Republican "trolls." But you can check the profile of each member of the protest group, and see when they joined MyBo, what activities they have done for the campaign, and what comments and blogs they have written. The more than 18,000 who joined before today appeared to be for the most part exactly who they claim to be: the activist core of the Obama campaign. But the overwhelming proportion of today's joiners are new MyBo and have not made any profile. These might be Obama supporters who joined MyBo to voice their protest over the FISA cave-in, or they might be a Karl Rove operation. There really isn't any way to know.
Meanwhile a statement from a group called PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) appeared, purporting to use the principled stands which Obama supporter-critics are taking to launch an effort to revive the Clinton campaign. Everything about this group, their rhetoric, and their Web site suggests that this may indeed be a Republican troll operation. At any rate, their statements are so outrageous as to discredit them, no matter who they are or what motivations they have.
(For example, one Web site associated with PUMA is No Quarter. The site, which rabidly attacks Obama and promotes Clinton with articles such as "White Like Us?", identifies its contact person as Larry C. Johnson, who "works with US military commands in scripting terrorism exercises, briefs on terrorist trends, and conducts undercover investigations on counterfeiting, smuggling and money laundering."
Some commenters have even suggested that I myself am not a real person but a nefarious Republican trick. Well folks, I live and breathe. If you want to know me better, check out my most recent book, People's Movements, People's Press: The Journalism of Social Justice Movements, or my Web site.
Others suggested that I was never an Obama supporter to begin with, and demanded links to document the contrary. No problem. * Super Tuesday Leaves New Political Map (my first "Why I Support Obama" post) * Think Big: Democrats and (Young) Evangelicals (I actually support Obama's outreach to young evangelicals) * Obama in Florida: Hooray for Substance! (I liked his outreach to Cuban Americans just as much.)
Some commenters complained that donating to Senator Feingold's campaign was a bad idea since he is not up for reelection this year. I thought that was a good thing, since the relatively inactive campaign would be able to easily distinguish whatever protest money arrived this week from its typical income stream which is probably close to nothing. However, if you want to give your July Obama money to a more urgent Feingold project, you can donate to his PAC, the Progressive Patriots Fund, which is raising money now to train organizers who will fan out across the country to work on key races this fall.
In a clear indication that our protests are reaching their intended destination, Senator Obama himself addressed his critics today at a campaign event in Georgia.
At a town-hall style event, Senator Obama said his protesting supporters "haven't apparently been listening" to him... "You're not going to agree with me on 100 percent of what I think, but don't assume that if I don't agree with you on something that it must be because I'm doing that politically," he said. "I may just disagree with you."
It is nice to seem him respond, but sadly, like his response of a couple of days ago, his reply helps nothing. We have been listening.
December 17, 2007: "Senator Obama unequivocally opposes giving retroactive immunity to telecommunications... Senator Obama supports a filibuster of this bill, and strongly urges others to do the same."
Just before Super Tuesday: I am proud to stand with Senator Dodd, Senator Feingold and a grassroots movement of Americans who are refusing to let President Bush put protections for special interests ahead of our security and our liberty. There is no reason why telephone companies should be given blanket immunity to cover violations of the rights of the American people -- we must reaffirm that no one in this country is above the law.
I am not sure which part of these statements Senator Obama thought we misunderstood.
I don't expect to agree with Obama on every issue and I don't. I also believe that politicians should be allowed to change their minds. In fact, as they learn more and hear from more people, it is a problem if their views don't change and grow. But the only significant change regarding the FISA vote is this: during the Wisconsin primary it was politically convenient for Obama to support the filibuster, and it is less convenient now. That is not the sort of change I can believe in.