Where is Obama’s army?
As the healthcare debate was accelerating this summer, the president sent an e-mail message to his followers, saying, “This is the moment our movement was built for.” But so far, Obama’s forces have failed to seize that moment. Governing turns out to be a lot harder than campaigning.
Even more frustrating to the White House, opponents of healthcare reform are utilizing many of the same tools and tactics, from blast e-mails to viral videos, that Obama employed so effectively last year.
The Internet is most powerful as an organizing instrument when it engages and energizes people behind a clear message and a well-defined goal. Last year, Obama’s mantra was “change,” and his goal was an electoral victory. This year, his opponents are the ones with a one-word slogan – “no” – and a sharply focused cause: Stop the president.
Team Obama came out of the election with 13 million e-mail addresses and an enormous reservoir of goodwill. The political operation was renamed Organizing for America and housed at the Democratic National Committee, where it remains a huge potential asset. But Obama’s first seven months in office have revealed the problems and limits of transforming a campaign apparatus into a legislative engine.