But the early indications are that, despite feisty e-mails and tough talk, Obama is again choosing private negotiations with Congressional leaders over public pressure on legislators. The most important indicator is that the president has not taken the one step that really matters: asking his millions of supporters to deluge their local members of Congress with demands that they pass the president’s policy agenda.

Obama tiptoed in that direction in 2009 before being promptly shut down by furious Democratic leaders. But soon after this year’s election, his campaign suggested it would turn history’s most powerful online political machine toward policy: “People want to be involved in supporting the president’s agenda in the next four years,” said campaign manager Jim Messina. …

But the only action the campaign has asked of supporters on the issue of the moment — the taxing and spending negotiations consuming Washington — is easy and nonconfrontational. The campaign e-mailed supporters a graphic outlining Obama’s plan to end the Bush tax cuts only for the wealthiest Americans, and to cut some spending. The only demand: “Share … and spread the word on Facebook and Twitter.”

The alternative is technically little harder. Obama has many of his supporters’ home addresses and the zip codes of more; advocacy groups large and small constantly send e-mails naming the local congressman and asking supporters to call. This is the path Obama has chosen not to follow.