It wasn't until 10 days before the election, after OFA finally woke up to Coakley's cratering poll numbers, that the group sent out an urgent appeal to members, asking them to help turn out Massachusetts voters from phone banks across the country. But after having been sidelined by the White House for most of its first year, OFA discovered that most of its 13 million supporters had tuned out. Only 45,000 members responded to the last-minute call to arms.
In the final week, volunteers organized 1,000 phone banks and placed more than 2.3 million calls to Massachusetts. OFA also scrambled to place 50 staffers in the state to gin up a door-knocking operation. But it was too late: In a race decided by 110,000 votes, 850,000 of those who voted for Obama in Massachusetts failed to turn out for Coakley. "The relationship-building process we did with Obama for America," concedes Stewart, "is not something you can manufacture in three weeks."
In the wake of Coakley's loss, I saw triumphalism online--bloggers are smarter than Dem leaders!--and tweeted that if the Netroots wanted to be in the game it had missed an opportunity to prove itself in MASEN. A number of folks on Twitter, Facebook and blogs took issue with my remark, saying it wasn't their fault, there was nothing they could do, some bloggers did phonebanking, etc. Yeah, that's a compelling argument for us to be in charge.
If the Netroots is indeed a great force--I have always acknowledged we have some real assets and potentials--why didn't we self-organized a larger response to the need in MASEN, especially when OFA dropped the ball? Shouldn't there have been more phonebanking earlier in the process? Shouldn't there have been caravans to MA from at least neighboring states like we saw for marriage equality in NH and ME?
OFA didn't mobilize until it was too late. Same with us Netroots, who shouldn't need top-down marching orders from what is essentially a mainstream political vehicle that has a grassroots paint job. Grassroots is about doing it ourselves, not waiting for leadership.
We learned at Obama Camp (training to be Deputy Field Organizers aka Glorified Volunteers With A Fancy Title) that on average a dozen doors knocked translate into one (1) vote for your candidate. Canvassing those 850k Obama voters would have thus netted over 70k for Coakley, turning the election for her. Imagine if instead of impotently stomping our feet on blogs and opining about how Obama and the Dems were failures, the Netroots--notably A-list bloggers, MoveOn and DFA, who have large platforms and mailing lists--had actively filled the void left by the "leadership".
Mind you, I'm not blaming us for the lost Magical 60th Senate Vote That Still Never Seems To Help The Majority Pass Shit. I'm simply suggesting that we cannot lay claim to being a New Awesome Force For Change and expect a seat at the table when we haven't really done all that much to change things. Yes, there's been a lot of furious online activity--fundraising, petitions, one-off e-mail campaigns, virtual phonebanking, blogging about strategy--but we've yet to translate that into tangible offline action and anything more than background noise the powers-that-be cannot hear over lobbyists' voices in close proximity.
Fear not, Netroots! We still have an opportunity to do some good for HCR.
MyBarackObama.com has reached out a bit to ask us to pledge our support to Members of Congress who "fight for reform". I know from where President Obama sits that means "vote for the Frankenstein bill so we can declare 'Mission Accomplished' and move on," but that doesn't mean we have to limit ourselves to his political myopia.
I suggest we pledge our support to incumbents and challengers who will stand for HR676, and persistently tell the President and Congress that we will settle for nothing less. We should also phonebank and canvass to get our fellow citizens on board with real reform and mobilize them to apply more pressure for single-payer. And, of course, I'd love to see some direct action but let's cross these bridges first.
So how about it, DFA, MoveOn, and A-listers? How about it, Netroots? Think we can get our collective asses in gear? Think of all the fun self-congratulating and navel gazing we can do after we win...