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.


Anonymous said...

Even less revolutionary is that his budget is based on failed-in-the-past, sure-to-fail- again Keynesian economics (in fairness, W did the same thing.) A revolutionary approach would be to address the issues which led to economic crisis (energy costs and lack of oversight of financial institutions). Of course, then you would actually have to try to find an uncomfortable solution . . .


Anonymous said...

Baby steps work.
Last I heard, via the BBC radio nightly news, the Obama administration has got quite a few irons in the fire right now and all on board are working really hard, one step at a time to bring us a sustainable new economy whilst saving the sinking ship they inherited. Let us not forget, a lot of the problems plugging up the works weren't even visible until September/October 2008. I hope you are sharing your valuable insights with them all.
Just remember if we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem.