Today, President Obama is doing something no sitting U.S. President has done before. He is using his massive network of grass-roots supporters, which has been undergoing a reboot since Election Day, to go between the legs of Members of Congress and generate pressure from below on them to pass health care reform. Today is a big test of Organizing for America (OFA), Obama's political arm at the Democratic National Committee. OFA's leaders are calling on its supporters to generate a massive wave of phone calls to Congressional offices and district offices -- 100,000 or more in one day. They've got a barometer up showing more than
1,100 2,468 calls so far. (It jumped 1,300 in the 15 minutes since I started writing this post.) Will they succeed? And will the calls sway any wavering Members?
On the first question, a few fresh data points. First, OFA now has paid staffers in nearly all fifty states -- Wyoming and Oklahoma being the last on the list. Since early June, when OFA began organizing in earnest around health care, it has amassed a quarter-million individual donations. Assuming an average of $30 per donation, that's a healthy war-chest. Its state staffers have been busy doing trainings with community activists and neighborhood team leaders. And the organization got its supporters into about 450 congressional town hall meetings in August.
While not nearly as robust as the Obama campaign organization, it's fair to say that OFA is now a new kind of political muscle, one that has troops in every state and, to some degree, a networked base that has the potential to influence what the leadership wants it to do. For example, in addition to continuing to use the myBO platform, OFA has been setting up state level Twitter lists and Facebook groups. But questions still remain among grassroots volunteers about how much this is still a top-down message machine, as opposed to a new kind of movement organization.
We'll save those questions for another day. Right now, here's the picture of what's going on today -- more than 1,000 local phone-banking meetings.
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