The Muzzling of Obama’s Army

When Barack Obama entered office in January 2009, he had an incredible array of resources at his disposal: 13 million e-mail supporters, 4 million donors, 2.5 million activists connected through the My.BarackObama social network and a phenomenal $18 million left in the bank.

Even Republican strategists were staggered. “This would be the greatest political organization ever put together, if it works,” said Ed Rollins, who was to Ronald Reagan what Plouffe is to Obama. “No one’s ever had these kinds of resources.”

A mere twelve months later, the Obama nation is no more.  Instead of fiercely advocating in support of the agenda of the President they helped elect, the Obama army of advocates has been muzzled.  Instead, it has been overshadowed by the more vocal, visible and effective Tea Bag Nation.

But according to political reporter Tim Dickinson, it didn’t have to be that way.

In the February 18 edition of Rolling Stone, Dickinson describes the Democrat’s fatal mistake: Moving the entire Obama for America operation into the Democratic National Committee.  As an arm of the DNC, this guaranteed that no grassroots action would be taken against Democratic elected officials that failed to support the President’s agenda.

So despite a 255-178 majority in the House, and a 60-40 majority in the Senate Democrats have been unable to deliver on many of Obama’s key priorities.  Wavering Democrats, not gross Republican antipathy, is Obama’s real problem with Congress.

But just as bad, says techPresident cofounder Micah Sifry, was that Obama’s grass-roots network effectively went dark for two months after Election Day, failing to engage activists eager for their new marching orders. “The movement moment,” he says, “was lost.”

The blame, insiders say, rests squarely with Plouffe. Moving the Obama for America organization into the arms of the DNC “was totally Plouffe’s thing,” a top member of the president’s inner circle recalls of the transition planning. “It really was David.”

Plouffe has since reentered the service of the White House to help Democrats with the upcoming midterm elections.  But it just might be a case of too little, too late.

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