THE BLOG

400 Former Obama Staffers: Don't Demobilize the Troops Before the Battle With the Insurance Industry

10/22/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The first day of President Obama's administration, he made a promise to his former campaign staff at a party honoring their work:

"I promise you if everybody in this hall is willing to keep doing what you guys did over the last two years, then I am optimistic about America. I may make some mistakes, but you'll set me right," he said.

Over 400 former staffers have answered the call of the president to "set him right" demanding a strong public option.

In the past few days, these staffers, along with 24,000 volunteers and 39,000 donors from across the country, have added their names to the petition at YesWeStillCan.org. I've even talked with several current White House staffers disappointed in the president who said they would love to sign but feared losing their jobs. It has become clear in my dozens of conversations with former Obama staffers and volunteers that the President's supporters have lost the desire to fight for the president if he drops the public option. They are beginning to lose hope.

Our message to the president is clear: Don't demobilize your troops before the big battle with the insurance industry. You need us in order to beat their army of lobbyists.

I recently spoke with a former Obama staffer, currently working for Organizing for America, who said she is likely to quit, followed by her volunteers, should the President drop the public option.

Another former Obama staffer emailed me to say: "I'm volunteering now with Organizing for America, in Philadelphia, knocking myself out yet again, but I don't think I'll be able to do it again if the President doesn't fight for a strong public option."

As Cenk Uygur pointed out on his show, The Young Turks, what Washington insiders fail to realize is that while Democrats might not lose the votes of Obama's supporters by dropping the public option, they will lose their energy to fight for the President. With the tough battles ahead, the president will need his foot soldiers.

Our strategy for winning is quite simply to out-organize our opponent. It's how we won during the campaign. the Presidents needs his organizers and activists to do this now, just like he needed them during the campaign.

We have shown that we can beat powerful interests in the past. During the campaign, we beat two of the establishment's strongest political machines -- Hillary Clinton and John McCain. We did it in taking back the town halls after teabaggers threatened to sabotage them in the early part of August. We did it when we were able to get 51 senators on record saying they support the public option. We persuaded 77% of the American public to support the public option.

Don't give up now when the costs are so high and victory is so close in sight.

Last summer, at a training session for several hundred of Obama's field organizers, I said that the young organizers coming out of the Obama campaign were going to shape politics in the same way the organizers that who came out of the Civil Right's Freedom Summer did. I thought that we would come to dominate politics in much the same way that the veterans of the Civil Rights Movement have dominated progressive politics for the last forty years. Our ability to organize 400 former Obama staffers, 24,000 Obama volunteers, and 39,000 Obama donors in only a few days shows that our power is very real.

However, my generation, will turn away from politics if the first leader they truly believed in did nothing more than whatever every other politician does -- not live up to their promises. Mr. President, you could squander an entire generation of political activists.

We are here to do as we promised. We are here to set you right.

By dropping the public option you are not just demobilizing the troops for this fight, but potentially for the upcoming battles against powerful lobbyists. Without the troops out in the field advocating with the same enthusiasm and vigor that they did during the campaign, you will be forced to compromise with the powerful corporate interests on important issues after important issue. That downward spiral is not the type of change we can believe in.

Furthermore, Mr. President, we were community organizers during the campaign and know these communities best. In order to inspire them and the legions of activists needed to pass health care reform, you have to show the courage to lead by taking on the powerful health insurance industry in demanding a strong public option.

We can win but we have to fight.

Mr. President, we are fired up and ready to go!

We just need you to lead.

If you haven't already sign this YesWeStillCan.org petition and pass it on to your friends.

Also, feel free to email me (at mikeelk@boldprogressives.org) if you are a former staffer and interested in ways you can help organize other staffers to help set the President right, as we promised him we would. Thank you to all to the hundreds of people that have already emailed me, I appreciate your encouragement very much.