Few supporters are answering President Barack Obama’s call for nationwide house-party gatherings this weekend to build grass-roots support for his economic stimulus plan.
A McClatchy survey of sign-up rosters for a score of cities across the country revealed only 34 committed attendees in Tacoma, Wash., as of midafternoon Friday; in Fort Worth, Texas, only 54, and in Sacramento, Calif., just 78.
“Before the election, we would have had 500 to 800,” said Kim Mack, 46, a Sacramento city-facility manager who’s hosted house parties for political figures and causes since the mid-’90s.
Even in Washington, policy-wonk capital of the nation, only about 500 people had signed up.
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Obama the candidate used house parties to recruit volunteers and raise money with great success, but this is the first time that a president has tried to mold his supporters into a post-election lobbying force.
It promises to be an uphill battle, several supporters said.
“A lot of people, once Obama got elected, thought, ‘Well, we’re done now,’ ” said Cheryl Kopec, 47, an Iraq war veteran who lives in the Fern Hill section of Tacoma. As of Friday afternoon, Kopec had filled only nine of 30 seats for an economic stimulus gathering at the local library.
“I remain interested in the idea of house parties, but only if they result in something,” said Leslie Ries, 41, a University of Maryland ecologist with two infants at home who’d volunteered for Obama but is sitting out house parties. “I mean, do we develop a position paper and send it in or what?”
To be sure, the election is over and the numbers of people engaged in house parties was going to fall somewhat. But the degree of the fall is surprising, especially given the amount of attention that has been paid to the passage of the stimulus package. The “Barack Obama 2.0” campaign was supposed to create a powerful grassroots army that would serve to help the White House push for its agenda and bring recalcitrant Representatives and Senators in line, but thus far, it just has not delivered.
Maybe if the President volunteered to show up at house parties and turn water into wine–or at least into beer–the attendance might improve. It couldn’t hurt to give the plan a shot.