No matter what anyone thought of Barack Obama as a candidate, his campaign organization impressed everyone with both its fundraising and GOTV power. After his election, the campaign transformed into the DNC affiliate Organizing for America and dedicated itself to drumming up support for Obama’s policies and for the Democrats who linked themselves to them. After the passage of Porkulus, though, OFA slowly disappeared off the radar screens except for their incessant e-mails asking for money.
Time Magazine wondered what happened, and they discovered that OFA has almost disintegrated — even with a large amount of cash from the White House:
What happened to Barack Obama’s once vaunted political machine? The outfit that put upwards of 8 million volunteers on the street in 2008 — known as Organizing for America — is a ghost of its former self. Its staff has shrunk from 6,000 to 300, and its donors are depressed: receipts are a fraction of what they were in 2008. Virtually no one in politics believes it will turn many contests this fall. “There’s no chance that OFA is going to have the slightest impact on the midterms,” says Charlie Cook, who tracks congressional races.
Neglect is to blame. After Obama was elected, his political aides ignored the army he had created until it eventually disappeared. No one was in charge; decisions were often deferred but rarely made. By the time they realized they needed more troops, says longtime consultant Joe Trippi, “their supporters had taken a vacation from politics.”
Neglect is part of it, but not a complete explanation. The driving force behind OFA and Obama’s campaign has been the Left, and they’re no longer enthused or engaged. Obama promised them an end to the Iraq War and Guantanamo Bay’s terrorist detention center, and instead Obama gave them Bush’s SOFA withdrawal plan and an absolute punt on Gitmo. The Left thought they would get the public option in ObamaCare, the stalking horse for a nationalized, single-payer health care system, but instead got a watered-down version of their dream.
And Time’s Jay Newton-Small negates his her own neglect meme by noting that OFA got a $30 million windfall from the Democratic Party under pressure from the White House. Where did the money go?
Several tell Time that OFA boss David Plouffe, who ran Obama’s 2008 campaign, is using the cash to rebuild an army for 2012 under the cover of boosting turnout in 2010. OFA is putting staff into such states as Virginia, North Carolina and Arizona, which have few close statewide races this fall but which are all prime targets in an Obama re-election campaign. “This is totally about 2012,” Cook says.
In other words, OFA is a lot like Obamanomics. It promises to boost fortunes in the short term, but really uses the money for Obama’s own personal purposes. Maybe OFA has lost 95% of its staff because they’ve seen this kind of Hope and Change up close — and don’t want to associate themselves with it again.
Update: Jay Newton-Small is a woman, not a man; my apologies for the pronoun error.