I’m one of those who honestly thought Obama for America (later Organizing for America, then Organizing for Action) would be a juggernaut after President Obama was elected in 2008. Never before had a sitting president had such an army of activists directly beholden to him, as opposed to a particular policy, and with direct access to them, which he could exploit on a daily basis to push his policy preferences. During his first term, the organization did its thing in fits and starts, organizing lackluster “house parties” for health care reform and generally finding insufficient ways to channel the magic of the ’08 campaign. The cult of personality never quite translated into an effective army for Obama’s domestic agenda, as envisioned. As it turned out, getting Obama elected is kind of its thing, and it did that very well in 2012.
Post-election, Organizing for America became Organizing for Action, a “social welfare” non-profit in the model of all those Tea Party groups discriminated against by the IRS. The organization in its new incarnation, headed by former Obama campaign manager Jim Messina and running the president’s @barackobama Twitter account, has now been put to use on two domestic priorities of the president—gun control and immigration reform. We know how gun control went.
With prospects of comprehensive immigration reform dependent on the House of Representatives moving a bill, advocates of reform have scattered across the country to put pressure on lawmakers. The results have been mixed, local news reports suggests.
Organizing for Action, the nonprofit policy advocacy arm formed to push President Barack Obama’s agenda, gathered only eight people to rally outside of the Merillville office of Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.) on Monday to push the congressman to support reform. The congressman was not actually in his office at the time.
Visclosky has opposed a pathway to citizenship in the past and voted against the DREAM Act in 2010, according to Project Vote Smart, making him a prime Democratic target for OFA. Visclosky’s office could not be reached for comment about the representative’s current stance on immigration reform.
OFA started its immigration campaign a few months ago with the promise that it could place substantial grassroots pressure behind reform.
The results were better but still underwhelming in other spots— 20 in Tennessee, 25 outside Boehner’s office in Ohio, a dozen in Iowa. A speech by Harry Reid drew hundreds, but I’m not sure we can credit OFA for that. These guys have access to an e-mail list of 13 million and presumably the data to figure out which of them care about this issue. I wonder, as I have from the beginning of this immigration push, if this isn’t yet another symptom of the rather low priority Americans place on immigration reform right now. The Beltway thinks it’s a keen way to spend its time, but it thought the same thing about gun control. On a list of 12 issues, Americans ranked immigration reform lowest on their list of legislative priorities in May, right behind gun control, which just went down dramatically with no visible political price for its opponents in the immediate aftermath. I suppose Republicans might pay a price with some Hispanic voters if the House doesn’t pass something, but Gallup’s data sweetened by OFA’s anecdotal failures doesn’t indicate people are clamoring for this bill. If anything, vocal support and vocal opposition feel much more low key than they did in 2007. Up next, climate change, which also doesn’t make the top 10. Focused like a laser.