TIME, Marshall Ganz, Barack Obama, and 2012.

(Fair warning: while the original H/T is via RCP, there are a lot of links to Left-publications and sites in this post.  This was essentially unavoidable)

It was the funniest thing: I was flipping through this Michael Scherer article on the resumption of the Obama 2012 campaign (short version: “Getting re-elected is hard!”  Particularly when the Democrats have to run on an actual record, instead of the record that they breezily assured people was waiting just over the electoral horizon*), when I came across this passage:


Some on the left have argued that the President dropped the ball by failing to keep his network of supporters engaged and by following his transformational campaign with a transactional governing style. “Fighting to make something happen is different than sitting back and trying to mediate something,” says Marshall Ganz, a supporter turned critic of Obama, who teaches at Harvard. “People can’t organize around that.”

I don’t know why that triggered something in my head; it just seemed a bit… off, somehow. Maybe it was because whoever this Ganz guy was, it was enough to make David Axelrod bristle in the next paragraph. Which means that Scherer must have gotten that Ganz quote first. Which meant that Marshall Ganz may have been important.

So I decided to look Marshall Ganz up.

So, who is Marshall Ganz? Why, he’s a supporter turned critic (all bolding mine).

“Supporter” apparently means something rather comprehensive in Times-speak:

Ganz, 65, has no official role in the Obama campaign. But when key Obama organizers run into a problem, they look to Ganz, who teaches organizing and leadership at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. When the Obama campaign held a series of “Camp Obama” training sessions around the country last summer, Ganz was brought in to hold two-day discussions of personal narrative and leadership. – “Famed organizer sees history in the making,” LA Times, June 2008.


“I think what was recovered in this campaign is the sense of what leadership is, and what the role of the technology is, so that you get the best out of both,” says Marshall Ganz, a public policy lecturer at Harvard who designed the field-organizer and volunteer training system used by the Obama campaign. “The Dean campaign understood how to use the internet for the fund-raising, but not for the organizing.” – “Obama’s Secret Weapons: Internet, Databases and Psychology,” Wired, October 2008.

More important for the present moment, Ganz was the architect of Barack Obama’s grassroots organizing juggernaut. He played a central role in the “Camp Obama” training sessions–three-day intensive workshops attended by something like 23,000 local organizers–and his teachings on the theory and practice of community organizing were widely influential on the campaign’s local efforts. – “Marshall Ganz on the Future of the Obama Movement,” techPresident, November 2008.

As would “Critic:”

…the Obama team put the whole thing to sleep, except for a late-breaking attempt to rally support for healthcare reform. Volunteers were exiled to the confines of the Democratic National Committee. “Fighting for the president’s agenda” meant doing as you were told, sending redundant e-mails to legislators and responding to ubiquitous pleas for money. Even the touted call for citizen “input” into governance consisted mainly of e-mails, mass conference calls and the occasional summoning of “real people” to legitimize White House events. – “How Obama lost his voice, and how he can get it back,” Marshall Ganz, LA Times, November 2010.


Returning to his kitchen table after a brief quest amid the clutter for his eyedrops, Ganz surveys what’s left of candidate Obama’s promise to deliver a cleaner, more uplifting style of politics. After winning in November 2008, Obama and his inner circle wanted to control the terms of the debate rather than be pushed from below by a chaotic, empowered, activist community. – “A Conversation with Marshall Ganz,” The Nation, February 2011.

Can it be done? Marshall Ganz is doubtful. He is the organising guru who trained Obama’s 2008 staff in building its formidable grass-roots network. He laments that the network has been left to languish. “That mobilisation was ready to be put to work on a policy agenda but it never happened,” he says. “To come around now and say, ‘We’re going to rebuild it’ . . . That’s very challenging.” – “Obama’s Road to 2012,” New Statesman, May 2011.

So, let me sum this up.  Time, while doing an article on the Obama administration/campaign’s plan to start up again its grassroots organization from 2008, completely forgets to mention that the man who designed and troubleshooted their grassroots training program is not only not involved in the 2012 efforts: he is on the record as openly saying that the Obama campaign has abandoned the core principles that supposedly informed and energized those 2008 efforts, and that he is pessimistic that the Obama campaign can restart the mechanism again.  Nowhere is it examined why Obama’s people no longer work with Marshall Ganz, either.  And last, but not least: here’s David Axelrod’s fairly snotty response to Ganz’s observation that Time quoted.


Those are the types of things that people with lifetime tenure like to say,” remarks Axelrod. “What we have tried to do is effect change in the real world, in a difficult environment.”

You’d never, ever know from that quote that in 2008 Ganz was one of those guys in the real world.  Or that Axelrod and Ganz worked together for two years.

Moe Lane (crosspost)

PS: Marshall Ganz is, by the way, still a True Believer.  That’s probably the saddest thing about this: he’s pretty plaintive about the way that the Revolution turned out.  Then again, nobody ever likes to think that he or she might have been rather cynically used

*Mind you, Scherer would probably rather gnaw off his own leg than put it that way.


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