The Decline of Organizing in the Obama Era

I am constantly frustrated by the lack of resources organizations dedicate to political organizing and grassroots communications.  And after reading a recent article in BeyondChron, San Francisco’s Alterntive Online Daily, I realize I’m not alone in feeling that way.

How bad is it?  Consider health care.  According to a 2007 survey by the National Health Council, fewer than 1% of people affected by a chronic disease (e.g. diabetes) are advocates with a patient advocacy organization (e.g. American Diabetes Association).

Rather than organizing millions of patients to speak out, many patient groups dedicate significantly greater resources to political lobbying.  Lobbyists can be instrumental in the success of a political campaign.  But the strength of a patient organization lays in its members.  Without their active involvement, success is extremely difficult.  One need look no further than the once-again failure of health care reform.

Political organizer, author and BeyondChron editor Randy Shaw sees an overall decline in grassroots organizing since President Obama’s election in 2008. “The reasons range from sharply reduced funding for organizers,” Shaw writes, “to complacency after Democrats’ sweeping 2008 victories, to labor unions being forced to focus on protecting current workers…than organizing new members.”

As a result, grassroots organizing is being replaced by ineffective “email campaigns and other short-cuts” with potentially dire consequences for Democrats in the November, 2010 mid term elections.  “Investing in organizing and winning real change for people now is also the best strategy for success in November,” Shaw writes.  I couldn’t agree more.


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