You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Has Obama's Organizing Machine Flopped Already?

Barack Obama's organizing machine was supposed to do more than get him elected president. Once in office, it was supposed to help him enact his agenda, by generating the same sort of grassroots pressure it did during the campaign.

But the first attempt at unleashing the Obama organizing machine doesn't seem to have made much difference, according to the Washington Post:

in its first big test, the group dubbed Organizing for America (OFA) had little obvious impact on the debate over President Obama's budget, which passed Congress on Thursday with no Republican support and a splintering of votes among conservative Democrats. The capstone of the campaign was the delivery of 214,000 signatures to Capitol Hill, which swayed few, if any, members of Congress, according to legislative aides from both parties. 

I'm perfectly willing to believe that's the case and, more broadly, I'm perfectly willing to believe that organizing on behalf of the Obama agenda won't be as successful as organizing on behalf of the Obama candidacy was.

Still, I'm not ready to write off the political potential for Obama's machine just yet.

The budget doesn't make for a great rallying cry, since it's just a set of guidelines for how Congress can spend money--and a non-binding set of guidelines at that. Who's going to knock on doors and make phone calls on behalf of a financial document? By contrast, passions should run higher when the issue is whether to make health care a right, to save the planet from global warming, or to accomplish some other lofty goal.

Am I guilty of wishful thinking on this? Quite possibly. But that doens't mean I'm wrong.

--Jonathan Cohn