Obama Prepares for Permanent Campaign

If there’s one thing most Americans agree on, it’s that presidential campaigns just aren’t long enough! If you’re one of the millions who agree, you’ll be thrilled to hear that the Obama campaign didn’t end on election day, and won’t end with the inaugural. Instead, the president-elect has decided to maintain a ‘permanent grassroots movement:’

OFA 2.0, which is the initiative’s working title (adapted from Obama for America, the campaign committee), is still taking form: Funding is undecided, specifics are scarce and focus will be shaped in part by this weekend’s house parties.

“No structural decisions have been made… it is an open dialogue,” said campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt. “The campaign has assembled a team of organizers from battleground states to work with our volunteers and allies on the next steps for the organization.”

The idea, apparently, is to provide paid support for communities organizing not just around Obama’s legislative agenda but also around state and local initiatives. Its vision is no less than a “national, grassroots-driven renewal of civic engagement,” according to an account that a California Obama organizer posted to his blog…

“President-elect Obama was clear throughout the campaign that elected officials in Washington alone aren’t going to bring change, and whether it’s by working to expand the Democratic majority or building grassroots support for the administration’s agenda, the power to bring the change we need lies in the hands of Americans who are engaging their communities.”

At the very least, this ought to send a signal to Republicans that they can’t sit back and wait for disenchantment with Obama to slow his agenda and bring voters back to the GOP. Obama’s shock troops will certainly be putting pressure on Senate moderates for example, to enact controversial elements of Obama’s agenda. Conservatives will need to get engaged and stay engaged if they hope to affect the debate.

The silver lining is that this effort ought to earn Obama enemies in the Democratic rank and file, as well. Congressional Democrats are already angry that Obama is sitting on a pile of unspent campaign cash rather than sharing it with other Democrats in debt. The ‘permanent grassroots campaign’ will constitute a long-term drain on donor money available to Democrats in tough races — this year, next year, and beyond. Further, Obama’s shock troops are likely to be disproportionately composed of hard-core liberals. If they get engaged to push Congress to support Obama, that pressure is likely to fall on moderate Democrats as much as it is on moderate Republicans. The Heath Shulers and Ben Nelsons of the world aren’t likely to appreciate it when Obama supporters attack them for being too moderate.