Cal State San Bernardino student Torrey Reed was only too happy to oblige when an Obama organizer stopped him on a campus walkway last week and asked him to immediately open his cell phone and tell his senator he supported health care reform.The organizer gave him the number and told him what to expect from the staffer who answered. "It's the first time I've felt like I really had an impact on something," said Reed, 21, of Moreno Valley.
Similar, brief interactions occurred a few hundred thousand times last week as an army of volunteers fanned out across the country to drum up support for President Barack Obama's top political priority.
"I know organizers everywhere are going through the same type of stuff," said Tommy Purvis, 30, San Bernardino County's main organizer for Organizing For America, a national volunteer group advocating for health care reform and other parts of Obama's agenda.
Last week, the OFA orchestrated a national "day of action," visiting college, public parks and even ferry boats to get Obama supporters to call Congress and say they support health care reform. It's that kind of push that the OFA hopes will keep Obama's agenda on track.
A big problem, however, is that there is no single bill to rally around. Moreover, reports The New Republic:
Obama's people had created something both entirely new and entirely old: an Internet version of the top-down political machines built by Richard Daley in Chicago or Boss Tweed in New York. The difference (other than technology) was that this new machine would rely on ideological loyalty, not patronage. And that was a big difference. The old machines survived as top-down organizations because they gave people on the bottom something tangible in return for their participation. By contrast, successful organizations built mainly on shared philosophy tend to be driven by their memberships. Marshall Ganz, the legendary United Farm Workers organizer-turned-Harvard-professor and godfather of the Obama field strategy--he helped orchestrate Camp Obama, a grassroots training program for staff and volunteers--sees the command-and-control nature of OFA as a crucial flaw. "It's much more an instrument of mobilizing the bottom to serve the top than organizing the bottom to participate in shaping the direction of the top," he told me.