Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fear and Loathing

The timing of this TNR article about the failure of Organizing For America is a bit odd - considering the 300,000+ phone calls supporting health care reform generated by OFA on October 20. Timing aside, the article is correct that "it isn't a coincidence that, historically, effective grassroots movements have usually come out of losing campaigns, not winning ones." Grassroots politics is a romantic, simplistic, adversarial world of heroes and villains. We all know who the hero is, but who exactly is the enemy? Dick Cheney? Sarah Palin? Congressional Republicans? Insurance companies? OFA has struggled to define its adversary and therefore struggled to define itself. But here's a suggestion: earlier tonight on a conference call with my local OFA director (the only one in the state) I detected real fury in the grassroots about Joe Lieberman's latest shenanigans. I'd guess that Lieberman's (possibly hollow) threat is worth at least five thousand extra constituent calls to Congress from progressive activists, and the real question for me is whether OFA has the savvy to tap into and channel this righteous rage, without unleashing the sort of cannibalism the Republicans are trying to deal with right now in NY-23.