Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Internet and Community Organizing Are Two Way Dialogues

Dialogue ..should be reserved for the culminating moments, and regarded as the spray into which great wave of narrative breaks in curving towards the watcher on the shore.

Edith Wharton, 1862-1937, The Writing of Fiction

Obama gained the presidency largely through a brilliant campaign featuring two strategies: the adroit use of the Internet and lessons learned from community organizing. Now these techniques are being used against him in the culminating moments of the health care debate.

Obama is Our First Internet President

As I observed in a chapter “Obama’s E-Based Health Reform Push” in Obama, Doctors, and Health Reform,.

"Barack Obama is our first Internet President, which is altogether without precedent. The President uses the Web to issue a daily report and to mobilize wider political support. That e-tools help his agenda is evident. For Obama, Internet politics is good. For all of us that fact has to be understood. Obama Internet supporters helped get him where he is today and elevated him above the ordinary political fray. For Obama the Internet was the little Engine that could. Say about Obama’s Internet strategy what you will. Say that it’s shows the mark of remarkable political skill. Say that it smacks of George Orwell’s Big Brother. Say that it brings all media under one giant cover. Say what you will: The Internet is now routine grist for the political and health care mill."

But Now He Protests Too Much

And as Katherine Kersten, a Minnesota Tribune column wrote in “Left Protests Too Much about the Town Halls, on August 22,

"It's odd to hear Democrats denounce grass-roots organizing as sinister. Their allies wrote the book on "netroots," and groups such as the Association of Community Organizations for

Reform Now (ACORN) and helped put Obama and friends over the top in the 2008 elections. These organizations have eye-popping budgets and Washington offices, while town hall protesters pass on e-mails to their neighbors
from their kitchens after work.

The greatest irony, of course, is that Barack Obama -- our health care reformer-in-chief -- rose to America's highest office by using skills he mastered as a "community organizer."

Obama has written and taught about community organizing, and he has served on foundation boards that support it. Announcing his presidential bid, he said the "best education" he had received was not at Columbia University or Harvard Law School, but in Chicago.

When Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate, Michelle Obama told a reporter, "Barack is not a politician first and foremost. He's a community activist exploring the viability of politics to make change."

And He Counterattacks Too Late

As the American public’s support of Obama’s health care reform plummets in the polls (it’s now under 50% in most polls), it should come as no surprise that he and his followers in Organizing for America (OFA) are desperately turning to their cache of 13 million e-mails gathered during the presidential campaign and to his previous army of volunteers, to organize 12,000 local rallies, and to raise $10 million in a TV, lobbying, and Internet counter-offensive.

Obama himself has responded by blasting the “lies about government take-overs,” "bearing false witness," “willful misrepresentiations and outright distortions,” and “outrageous myths” about death squads, government funds for abortions and illegal immigrants, and “keeping your doctor and your health plan”

As the Obama team remobilizes, it seems not to recognize that its vast health care overhaul in this vast nation with its vast regional subcultures is unpopular with the vast mainstream and may be vastly unworkable. As my father once remarked to me, "Son, don't start vast projects with half-vast ideas."

And It May Signal the Death of a Salesman

Obama's message of righteous indignation isn’t selling well, As Fred Barnes, of the Weekly Standard reports in “Death of a Salesman: The More Obama Talks, the Lower his Approval Rating Drops,"

"In mid-August, after more weeks of barnstorming for his health care program, his approval rating remained in the low 50s. Only Bill Clinton among recent presidents had a lower approval after seven months in office."

"For Obama, there's still worse news. Not only has he lost ground, but public support for his health care proposal has collapsed to the point that a majority of Americans prefer no reform at all to his plan. And the more he stumps for it, the less support it attracts. Rather than a peripheral phenomenon, the noisy opposition in congressional town hall meetings turns out to be a reflection of the deep national suspicion of Obamacare.
"Health care is the big one for Obama, his signature program, the one that's most far-reaching and politically important. It's the real test of Obama. If he can't persuade the country to back it--and so far he's failed miserably--then he's not the spellbinding speaker or the master politician he's been cracked up to be."

What’s Wrong

Seven months into his presidency, Obama is coming across as condescending, angry, accusatory, arrogant, and defensive.

As his health plan falters, one day he’s blasting health insurers, the next blaspheming doctors, the next accusing distracters of spreading false notions about his plan. He's suffering from overexposure. Obama had four prime time press conferences in his first six months. George W. Bush had four in eight years. FDR, who actually was a great communicator, delivered fireside chats on radio every five or six months."

The problem may not be that Obama talks too much about big ideas, but that people are paying close attention to details and that they are furious their Congressional representatives haven't even bothered to read the bill, and they are reacting by adopting the tactics of internet mobilizing and community organizing they learned from the Master.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with you Interent has combined the whole world into one network..... so it's doing the job organizing....


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