The Permanent Campaign Gets Creepy

Imagine that the President of the United States is sending personal representatives to the homes of private citizens and asking them to sign a “pledge of support” for his Administration’s policies.  Imagine that those representatives are asking citizens for their names and e-mail addresses so that the “post-election” organization set up by the president can follow up with them; perhaps taking the addresses of those who refuse to sign. Imagine what the reaction of the online left would be to such activity.  Cries of “Fascism!” “Police state!” and “Voter intimidation!” would ring out from the online left in opposition to the Republican Administration’s tactic.

Now imagine that the president doing this is not a Republican, but is President Barack Obama.

President Obama’s appearance on “The Tonight Show”…was only a small part of the president’s so-called permanent campaign. A bigger move comes Saturday, when Obama will ask 13 million people on his campaign e-mail list to go door-to-door to raise support for his agenda.

The Pledge Project Canvass is an unprecedented effort by a president to reach beyond Congress and tap grassroots supporters for help. Volunteers recruited online by Obama’s Organizing for America, a post-election group, will ask citizens to sign a pledge in support of the president’s policies on energy, health care and education.

Those who pledge will be asked for their e-mail addresses so the Obama-ites can keep in touch.

“This is just the beginning for us,” said Jeremy Bird, deputy national director of Organizing for America, in an online video to Obama supporters this week.

During the 2004 campaign, attendees at Bush/Cheney events were asked to sign a form endorsing President Bush for reelection.  The forms were an attempt by the Republican Party to keep Democratic operatives from infiltrating campaign events and disrupting the campaign’s message.  Democrats and the Kerry/Edwards campaign derided Republicans for requiring the forms, saying that it was an effort to shield the president from difficult questions.

But the Bush/Cheney election campaign’s actions were positively mild compared to this effort by the sitting Obama Administration.  Privacy advocates should be screaming from the rafters about the prospect of a quasi-official representative of the government asking citizens to sign a pledge of support.  Voting rights groups should be fretting about government intimidation of the electorate.  But no.  Instead, we get election experts marveling at the community organizing skills of the new Big Brother president.

“What Obama is doing is a very new approach,” said Lawrence Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota.

That approach began during the campaign, when Obama tapped into an array of social networking tools on sites such as Facebook and Twitter to rally voters and raise funds. This weekend’s effort is the next logical step, Bird said in an interview.

“This is taking that online social networking and moving it to offline social networking,” he said.

And where are our friends in the left blogosphere on this?  Surely, they did not approve of President Bush’s endorsement entry requirement from 2004.  Do they now align themselves with the idea of a sitting administration asking citizens to pledge their loyalty to one man’s policies?  Do they approve of jack-booted, clipboard-wielding, presidentially-authorized canvassers fanning out across the country collecting signatures and taking names?  Markos?  Josh?  Arianna?  Anybody?

The linked article tries to compare President Obama’s efforts to those of other presidents to drum up support for their initiatives.  Those efforts have all involved the president himself embarking on a publicity tour.  Obama has done that, too.  But no president has ever launched a signature pledge drive utilizing an army of volunteers tied to his official campaign organization outside of a reelection campaign.

However shrewd and revolutionary it may be from an organizing standpoint, the government is not, and ought not be a community organizing group. It’s creepy.  Campainging is what Obama does best, however.  We are likely to see many more pledge drives like this one, and equally likely to hear absolutely nothing about it from the media and the left.

Cross posted at Mark on the Right.