Flashback to March, 2009: the White House unveils an unprecedented effort. Rather than allowing President Obama's campaign organization to hibernate for four years, the DNC turns Obama for America into Organizing for America - a permanent campaign that will push aggressively for enactment of the Obama agenda.
The Obama administration and the Democratic National Committee opened a new chapter Saturday in their ambitious project to convert the energy from last year's campaign into a force for legislative reform on health care, climate change, education and taxes.
More than 1,200 groups from Maine to Hawaii spent the day gathering signatures in support of Obama's economic plan, the first step in building what the White House hopes will be a standing political army ready to do battle.
Seeking to create a grass-roots force on a scale never seen before, Obama called the volunteers into action in a video message reminiscent of the 2008 contest. In defense of his budget, under attack from many quarters, he asked his supporters to go "block by block and door by door."
In his Saturday radio address, Obama called his budget "an economic blueprint for our future." He said, "I didn't come here to pass on our problems to the next president or the next generation. I came here to solve them."
The idea of deploying a grass-roots army for legislative purposes is untested. Unlike a political campaign, where ballots are simple, if blunt, instruments that produce winners and losers on a fixed date, a policy campaign is amorphous.
"If successful, it would have revolutionary implications for American politics," said Ross K. Baker, a Rutgers University political science professor who counts himself among skeptics. "You can generate an enormous amount of support for an individual personality. It's much harder to do that for a piece of legislation..."
One hope is that local media will expand the message's reach by reporting on the canvassing drives. To spread the word, former campaign manager David Plouffe and OFA Director Mitch Stewart e-mailed 13 million people on the 2008 campaign list and asked for help.
So in March, 2009, the 'army' assembled by President Obama to push for big government liberalism counted 13 million people in its ranks. And President Obama's campaign team was sett to mobilize them to push the president's agenda. The verdict on this effort was rendered by hundreds of townhalls and millions of angry phone calls. Opponents of big government were far better organized and far more motivated than were its supporters. So in a matter of months, we saw a new effort to organize the supporters or more taxes and spending:
Furious at the tempest over the Tea Party -- the scattershot citizen uprising against big government and wild spending -- Annabel Park did what any American does when she feels her voice has been drowned out: She squeezed her anger into a Facebook status update.
let's start a coffee party . . . smoothie party. red bull party. anything but tea. geez. ooh how about cappuccino party? that would really piss 'em off bec it sounds elitist . . . let's get together and drink cappuccino and have real political dialogue with substance and compassion.
Friends replied, and more friends replied. So last month, in her Silver Spring apartment, Park started a fan page called "Join the Coffee Party Movement." Within weeks, her inbox and page wall were swamped by thousands of comments from strangers in diverse locales, such as the oil fields of west Texas and the suburbs of Chicago.
I have been searching for a place of refuge like this for a long while. . . . It is not Us against the Govt. It is democracy vs corporatocracy . . . I just can't believe that the Tea Party speaks for all patriotic Americans. . . . Just sent suggestions to 50 friends . . . I think it's time we start a chapter right here in Tucson . . .
The snowballing response made her the de facto coordinator of Coffee Party USA, with goals far loftier than its oopsy-daisy origin: promote civility and inclusiveness in political discourse, engage the government not as an enemy but as the collective will of the people, push leaders to enact the progressive change for which 52.9 percent of the country voted in 2008.
The New York Times, Huffington Post, CBS News, the Washington Post, liberals blogs - all told us that the Coffee Party would be the counterbalance to the Tea Party. They said that this movement in support of progressive change would be the next big thing. But despite fawning treatment from the media, the Coffee Party seems to have fizzled.
So now it's time for something new -- 'One Nation:'
If imitation is the highest form of flattery, the "tea party" movement must be honored.
In an effort to replicate the tea party's success, 170 liberal and civil rights groups are forming a coalition that they hope will match the movement's political energy and influence. They promise to "counter the tea party narrative" and help the progressive movement find its voice again after 18 months of floundering.
The large-scale attempt at liberal unity, dubbed "One Nation," will try to revive themes that energized the progressive grassroots two years ago. In a repurposing of Barack Obama's old campaign slogan, organizers are demanding "all the change" they voted for -- a poke at the White House.
What are the odds this proves more successful than the previous efforts?
The advocates of big government are desperately trying to convince themselves that what they need is better organization. They look at declining poll numbers, job losses, a growing deficit, looming tax increases, a dispirited base, angry independents, and energized opposition, and conclude that they needed better committee structures. They won't admit to themselves that their extreme agenda destroyed their 'army.' The energized progressives and pro-Obama independents are pretty much gone now - destroyed by the failures of a White House that sees every problem as an excuse to push for more government.
Here's a hint to 'One Nation:' you can't squeeze blood from a stone. If you want to win supporters, first try to convince liberals in Washington to make an effort to appear competent. And while you're at it, try to convince them that not every initiative demands more taxpayer money. Until you distance yourself from an agenda that's radioactive, your efforts will fall short.