NEW FILM TELLS UNREPORTED STORY OF OBAMA’S ELECTION
IF YOU WANT TO PROD OBAMA TO DO THE RIGHT THING, MASTER THE ORGANIZING TECHNIQUES HE USED TO WIN ELECTION
By Danny Schechter
Director, Barack Obama, People’s President
The election of Barack Obama may be long over but the campaign for change is still underway. For the first time in American history, a president is using the techniques he deployed in running for office in pushing for deeper change. Those who want him to go even further might want to master the approach he used.
It is no surprise that this significant political development is barely being covered in a media that loves to punditize, poll public opinion, and debate policy options in a top-down way. (Some like Fox are even trying to become community organizers) Yet by “covering” politics in this way, our mass media is missing the most innovative bottom-up grassrooots effort in recent memory.
I know about this because as a journalist and filmmaker, I set out to document just how Obama won the election. That story, told in the film Barack Obama, People’s President (slated for DVD release this month by ChoiceMedia.net) documents the online and on the ground techniques that were used to win the highest office in the land.
The President is now using those same techniques, built around an impressive thirteen million-name email list to keep his organizers and supporters involved in backing his legislative agenda. This is the biggest mass lobbying effort of all time.
While his principal campaign advisor David Axelrod joined the White House staff at a high level, his campaign manager David Plouffe set about converting a campaign apparatus into a legislative army. As MoveOn.Org advisor David Fenton explains in our film, “It’s an institutionalized mass level automated technological community organizing that has never existed before and it is very, very powerful force.”
They have transformed the campaign website, BarackObama.com into Organizing for America. It encourages visitors to call Congress to support the President’s budget. And like the campaign, it sends out emails, text messages and uses social networking technologies. It organizes volunteers to canvass door like they did in the campaign. The first time out, they garnered nearly a quarter million signatures.
Andrew Rasiej of the personal Democracy Forum elaborates:
“He knows who is giving him money, who’s voted for him. He can now reach out to these people and ask them to help him to pass his legislative agenda. Those same people can call their congressmen and say we’ll support you for reelection if you vote for Obama’s legislation. We will give you money if you support Obama’s legislation. It’s a very powerful group that is actually the most powerful grassroots organization ever built in American history.”
The film People’s President shows how all of this—including the campaign’s use of Meet-up technologies including how FaceBook. My Space and twittering were used as organizing tools by the campaign.
Rasiej cites the ongoing potential:
“It’s a citizens lobby! And not only can Obama as president go over the heads of congress to speak to the American public, he can go now between their legs and go underneath Congress to the American public and the American public can do the same back and that’s created a new power structure in the American politics, where the citizens can actually participate and not rely on the old (abstract) system of lobbyists, special interests and only those who have money.”
There is also the possibility, as political theorist Benjamin Barber told us, the young people who backed Obama can use these same techniques and web platforms to challenge him to stay on track: