Monday, March 16, 2009

Obama and Citizen Advocacy

I read another glowing Washington Post article (Obama Turns to his E-mail List) today breathlessly touting the amazing work of the Obama Administration in developing a grassroots army to help sell its budget.

Don't get me wrong. I admire the Organizing for America approach and everything they're doing to get citizens more engaged in the process of governing the country. And their use of representative democracy to further their message by helping people on the e-mail list connect directly with members of Congress certainly makes sense.

But I have to say, and this may be blasphemy, what's so amazing about this approach? Sure, I haven't seen it used in this particular way before (executive branch using grassroots advocacy techniques to influence the legislature) but the general process is something nonprofits have used for decades (or perhaps centuries, I'm not that old).

Perhaps I don't get it, but what's so "revolutionary" about:

"A new online tool, to be unveiled this week on the DNC/OFA Web site, will help constituents find their congressional representatives' contact information so they can call the lawmakers' offices to voice approval of the proposal "

There are about 20 different sites that do that now, among them, and

Let's all just remember that grassroots advocacy is almost the world's oldest profession. Nonprofits and even, gasp, those community organizers have been there and done that when it comes to engaging citizens in the political process. What will set this effort apart is not simply the fact that it's being tried, but rather the actual change that is generated as a result. I look forward to hearing more about results, not just the fact that e-mails are being sent to a large list.