New Info about Organizing for America and its Plans

By Al Giordano


Today marks 15 of the 1,461 days in President Obama's term (at least the first one) and it's kinda funny how The Children's Table, which purports to be on the political left, whines in harmony with its counterparts on the right wing that Obama hasn't done enough to please them. Republican leaders huddled late last week with such disgraced ex-office holders as Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich to pound their spoons on the table: "Republicans wrapped up their retreat Friday by signaling they are losing patience with President Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress." (Hat tip to DKos editor SusanG for that gem.)

Joining the GOP in the toy tea-cup caserolazo yesterday was another voice, echoing the GOP impatience: "What, exactly, does President Obama want his supporters to be doing? Even though millions are still willing to take action on his behalf, the calls to action have gone completely silent." It wasn't a Republican that penned those words, but, rather, our colleague Chris Bowers at OpenLeft, who added, "What does President Obama want his supporters to do? For that matter, what does President Obama want the American people to do? We are in the midst of a major crisis right now... The silence is deafening."

That diatribe came, amazingly, only one day after Bowers and another 13 million on the Obama email list had already received a personal appeal from POTUS pointing very clearly to what he wanted supporters to do. Obama wrote:

Join thousands of people across the country by hosting or attending an Economic Recovery House Meeting this weekend. 

He can't be much clearer than that. And, as you can see, the sentence contained an easy link to click to facilitate the doing of it.

The email blast also offered something to do even for folks that won't be able to attend this upcoming weekend's house meetings in (so far) more than 2,300 homes:

Governor Tim Kaine has agreed to record a video outlining the recovery plan and answering questions about what it means for your community. You can submit your questions online and then invite your friends, family, and neighbors to watch the video with you at an Economic Recovery House Meeting... If you can't host or attend an Economic Recovery House Meeting, you can still submit your questions for Governor Kaine and then share the video with your friends and family this weekend. Learn more here:

How that is supposedly "deafening silence" beats me, but to each his own set of ear-plugs, I guess.

The suggestion that Organizing for America can simply pick up where the electoral campaign left off would only come from those who have little experience themselves organizing (or that confuse their "activism" as somehow being on the same high playing field as organizing). One of the first things an organizer does when forming a new project is prepare the core team or teams in each area or front to know the mission and organize others to carry it out. That takes a lot more than an email blast.

One of the ways that an effective organizer succeeds is, when forming those core teams, he and she set up a series of small bite-sized tests to find out which volunteers really are ready and committed to carry out the mission and to simultaneously weed out those that suffer from the "flake factor" (those who say they'll be involved but in the end, for whatever reason or none at all, aren't there to do the lifting when time comes). That's a technique that all the thousands of trained organizers from the 2008 campaign know very well.

After the November election, the campaign Field Organizers (known as FOs) were instructed to tag the Democratic National Committee's voter file (known as "VoteBuilder") to indicate which people on that mega-list were "Super Volunteers" (SVs) and "Team Leaders" (TLs, the mostly unpaid volunteers that excelled at staff level work coordinating volunteer teams on the local level). (Folks like Sean Quinn of 538 - who today becomes the first blogger in the White House press corps - and I got to know many of these pretty amazing folks last autumn while reporting the organizing from the ground level in key states.)

Last night, those many SVs and TLs were invited on a conference call with Organizing for America directors David Plouffe, Jeremy Bird and Mitchell Stewart - MVPs all from the November earthquake - and no small number of Field Hands were in on that call. The SVs and TLs are the people that have been asked to host the economic recovery house meetings this coming weekend. That's the first test. Those that do, will then be given another task, and after various tasks are complied with, Organizing for America will have its core organizing network together for the next steps. In other words, if you or someone you know was asked to host or help organize such an event, but doesn't do it, you or he or she probably won't be asked to carry out the next task. That's basic Organizing 101. It's how organizers build an effective chain of command, without weak links, for the future.

Stewart (who directed the Iowa caucuses and Virginia general election campaign among other responsibilities last year) and Bird (who directed the South Carolina primary and the Ohio general election campaign), along with Plouffe, then gave various scoops to the SVs and TLs on the line:

1. Training: there will be constant training for the staff and volunteers to keep everyone abreast of issues and tactics of OFA 2.0.

2) Feedback: OFA 2.0 will always be volunteer-led and they will have constant avenues for feedback on effectiveness of stategy and tactics, this will include conference calls at least once monthly for volunteers.

Stewart told everyone that if they stayed on the line after the call was over they could leave a voice message and give any suggestions they might have about OFA 2.0.

So, while some activists or bloggers flail about not knowing "what Obama wants us to do," that's only because they're not paying attention or involving themselves in the organizing of it.

(Organizing for America is also working out some technical bugs, as various organizers scheduled to be part of last night's conference call weren't able to get on it.)

The Field has learned of other plans that Organizing for America has in store:

1. A new website: Similar to MyBO, which will be a complete online support system to compliment the bricks-and-mortar organization.

2. A new voter file: The veteran field organizers and data entry volunteers are very excited about this. "Votebuilder was really great," notes one, "but it had some real limitations."

3. New methods of grassroots fundraising: "This is obviously going to be an expensive endeavour," one source tells The Field, "and they're looking to get creative."

4. New "Fellows" programs: Expect another big intern and training push for this upcoming summer.

As in 2008, when a favorite motto among field organizers was "we're building the plane as we're flying it," Organizing for America will be a very big beast to keep in the air, and that will naturally - as organizers know - take some trial and error and experimentation and time to get it well oiled and soaring. So while Republicans and some activist bloggers sing in harmony their shared theme song of "we're losing patience with Obama" (the same exact people did it throughout the primaries and the general election campaign, they're as predictable and slow as tree sap), they're missing the big story again: How stuff gets organized to make massive change possible.

Meanwhile, more "silence" came rolling into 13 million email boxes today, including that video atop this page:

Al --

Last night, President Obama recorded a series of national network and cable news interviews about the urgent need for an economic recovery plan.

Watch the video and share it with your friends and family

...President Obama discussed why we need an immediate effort to create millions of jobs while investing in long-term challenges like energy and health care.

He called for swift investment in job creation while continuing to assist those who are out of work, without health insurance, or in danger of losing their homes.

The Economic Recovery plan passed the House of Representatives, and the Senate is preparing to vote on it very soon. The final version can and will be improved. But the President's core plan will positively affect families and communities all across the country.

You can help make sure the American people have all the facts so they can support this crucial effort to boost our struggling economy.

The President is leading. Help is on the way.

Lend your voice by sharing this video with everyone you know. Then sign up to join thousands of people across the country who are organizing Economic Recovery House Meetings this weekend:

Thank you for staying involved,


David Plouffe
Campaign Manager
Obama for America 

And those that don't get it, or aren't inspired by it to roll up their sleeves and participate, well... they're precisely the ones that are failing the first round of tests and are in effect screening themselves out of the coming vanguard: that will be, once again, the field organizers, the super volunteers and the team leaders.

And the organizers know from their own very recent experience that that is exactly how it should be in order to maximize the speed, mobility, accountability and effectiveness of each team in order to make big things happen.


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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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