Over the last four years, Republicans have consistently made two jokes about Pres. Obama that lost all humor on election night, 2012:
1. Barack Obama is the Campaigner-in-Chief
2. The only real job Barack Obama has ever had was as a community organizer. What does a community organizer even do?
Here’s why they aren’t funny anymore. First, it’s true that Barack Obama never stopped campaigning, and it was effective. Obama continually went around raising money for his campaign apparatus, which literally never stopped campaigning. For four years, Barack Obama largely retained the ground game operation that he built during the 2008 primaries. He never stopped paying the staffers in his campaign offices around the country, and they never stopped engaging voters and carrying his message to them.
Contrast that with the GOP. First, John McCain and the GOP never assembled anything that even remotely rivaled the president’s ground game structure in ’08. Once McCain lost, the ground effort that he did have was basically shuttered and discarded. For the next two and half years, the Obama campaign machine worked completely uncontested by any GOP efforts in every area of the nation that Pres. Obama knew he would have to win to be re-elected. Many of these areas were in the inner cities of major population centers, like Cincinnati and Cleveland in Ohio, where the GOP probably hasn’t had any kind of concerted ground effort in a century. When Mitt Romney prepared to run again in the 2012 primaries, he revved the engines back up on the mostly dormant ground machine he had assembled in 2008. Romney’s ground game was mostly comprised of what consultants had pieced together for a primary run, not a presidential one, and it largely ignored places where Republicans don’t win. Like McCain’s operation, it was not nearly as good as the president’s, and could not have hoped to make up the ground that the president’s team had already spent the money to cover during his presidential term. It was comprised mostly of volunteers that donated their free time, while the president used paid personnel who made it their full-time job to canvass for the president. You need only look at the breakdown of the election night results to see the return Obama received on his investment.
That brings us to the second joke, what does a community organizer do? They do exactly what Barack Obama did on the ground to win two presidential elections. Obama cut his teeth in politics going door to door engaging people, listening to them, understanding what they wanted from a politician, and knowing how to tell them what they wanted to hear. In this sense, Barack Obama may actually have more experience in retail politics than Bill Clinton, the master of retail politics. It’s no irony that both men worked with ACORN early in their careers.
Pres. Obama developed his community organizing skills in Chicago, working for the nastiest, most ruthless, most corrupt political machine in the nation. Anyone who’s ever lived in the inner-city of Chicago will likely tell you that community outreach programs, like ACORN, are constantly working in poor neighborhoods. They aren’t entirely evil either. They help feed the poor, they help give clothes to the homeless, they help fix up churches and children’s’ playgrounds. They organize communities to band together and help each other, but they do not do so simply out of benevolence. They do it to earn people’s trust as well, and that comes in handy when it’s time to start talking to these people about who they should vote for.
It’s pretty simple really, when government provides the funding for these community organizations, and these community organizations come in and help make life a little easier, they’ve now become the friendly neighborhood arm of the government. If Republicans were elected, however, that funding may stop, and then the friendly neighborhood arm of the government might go away, as will the other forms of government help that the people in these neighborhoods have come to depend on. If you were these people, who would you vote for? The same message that Barack Obama perfected working with the poor, largely black and hispanic population in the roughest neighborhoods of Chicago is the same message that he’s now used to get elected President of the United States twice. Vote for us, and government will help you and give you things, vote for the other guys, and they’ll take it all away and leave you to die. It’s reminiscent of an old-time mafia shakedown. Obama literally didn’t even bother to take the propagandist portions of his Chicago message out of his national message, accusing Republicans of wanting dirty air and water, old people to go without health care, disabled kids to fend for themselves, and so on. The saddest part is, it actually worked. A majority of the population would now rather have the security of government hand-outs than even think about the possibility of going without them. The truth is that most of the people who receive food stamps and other government assistance can’t survive without them in this terrible economy, which is guaranteed to stay a relatively bad economy for the foreseeable future, you know, until at least after the next election.
Soon, the people who have been working for the Obama Victory Fund since 2008 will see the header on their paycheck change to the Democratic National Committee, when they inherit Obama’s campaign machine. What Barack Obama did was take the machine politics of Chicago, and nationalize it through community organization, even in places where such a system didn’t previously exist. President Obama has laid the groundwork for every democratic stronghold in the nation to truly become the 21st century Tammany Halls, and there’s nothing funny about that.