Some Obama supporters have truly entered a state that is referred to in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV) as "Bat-shit Crazy."
At the normally sane Hullabaloo we get this from D-Day:
He's building a new Democratic infrastructure, regimenting it under his brand, and enlisting new technologies and more sophisticated voter contacting techniques to turn it from a normal GOTV effort into a lasting movement. The short-term goal is to increase voter turnout by such a degree that Republicans will wither in November, not just from a swamp of cash but a flood of numbers. The long-term goal is to subvert the traditional structures of the Democratic Party since the early 1990s, subvert the nascent structures that the progressive movement has been building since the late 1990s, and build a parallel structure, under his brand, that will become the new power center in American politics. This is tremendous news.
However, despite his calls that change always occurs from the bottom up, these structures are very much being created and controlled from the top down. In a laudable piece by Matt Stoller, and not just because he quotes me, he discusses how Obama is consolidating the elements of the party and streamlining the message.
Obama has created a number of significant infrastructure pieces through his campaign, displacing traditional groups the way he promised he would by signaling the end of the old politics of division and partisanship.
Voter Registration: Obama has launched a 50 state registration drive [...] I have heard from several sources that the Obama campaign is sending out signals to donors, specifically at last weekend's Democracy Alliance convention, to stop giving to outside groups, including America Votes. The campaign also circulated negative press reports about Women's Voices Women's Vote, implying voter suppression.
Obama Organizing Fellows: These are unpaid positions, and they will be used to do field organizing, message, and helping to "continue to build the movement". This is pure leadership development, though it continues the class-based diminution of talent by refusing to pay, a problem outlined in Crashing the Gates.
Money: MyBarackObama.com: With 1.5 million donors, this campaign has blown away anything we've ever seen in terms of grassroots fundraising. The technology is all centralized, so Obama knows the name, address, giving patterns, and occupation of every donor out there, as well as social networking information, like who the best raisers are. He has bypassed Actblue, and will probably end up building in a Congressional slate feature to further party build while keeping control of the data.
One email from Moveon to their full list can bring in between $100k to $1M for a candidate, with $1M being the very top end of the range. With one good email to his list, in a few months, Obama will probably be able to bring in $1-3M for a Senate candidate under attack or split that among several. 10-20% of the money going to Senate candidates this cycle might come from Barack Obama's internet operation. Stunning.
Field: MyBarackObama.com (MyBO): MyBarackObama.com is the cornerstone of the campaign, and it will have between 10-15 million opt-in members by election day. This group can be used for lobbying on legislation, GOTV, and donations. It's a cross between Moveon.org and the DNC, and with the White House, it can transform progressive politics and further amplify the power of the Presidency. As coordinated campaigns pick up, and the top of the ticket brings coattails, organizing power is going to further flow to the Obama campaign.
Message and Politics: MyBarackObama.com: Obama used youtube to push back on Reverend Wright, something he will continue to do to move beyond sound bite politics. He has a good press shop and a way to push message out to the web. The campaign has also, despite thousands of interviews with a huge number of outlets, refused to have Obama interact on progressive blogs. The Fox News situation, where Obama went on Fox News and mismanaged communications, drew criticism from Moveon because taking down Fox News has been a key strategic goal of that organization; nevertheless, the group supported him because of overwhelming adulation from their membership.
This is a far different strategy than the McCain campaign, who, though he hates blogs, talks to them, or the Clinton campaign, who invites them on her calls. This is NOT a criticism, by the way, it's obviously worked as a strategy to centralize messaging power around the Obama shop while neutering a potentially off-message rowdy group. That has its downsides, which I'll get into, but it is a strategy.
I'm also told, though I can't confirm, that Obama campaign has also subtly encouraged donors to not fund groups like VoteVets and Progressive Media. These groups fall under the 'same old Washington politics' which he wants to avoid, a partisan gunslinging contest he explicitly advocates against.
Stoller continues that the progressive structures built around opposition to Bush and partisan combat are outdated, in Obama's view, or at least not the perception he wants to carry across. Obama's bet is to mass such a large group that nobody could possibly compete with him in a left-right matchup from either side, and so he offers the options of "unite or die," to borrow the phrase from the John Adams miniseries. These are smart, new structures and a coordinated message to a degree that the Democratic Party hasn't seen. He's reinventing the Party and training a new generation of leaders, and leveraging technology in a way that will pay dividends for decades. Forget the "he can't win X subgroup" nonsense; what's at work here is so much bigger.
There are a lot of positives to this. The old leadership of the Party has become ossified, and Obama's takeover is an extension of the Dean movement, only on less explicitly ideological terms. To strip a Lanny Davis and a Terry McAuliffe of their power is frankly a welcome development. The figures in an Obama Administration will likely be core figures within the party for the next 20 years.
It doesn't sound like Obama is "building a new Democratic infrastructure," it sounds like he's building his own party. The "Obama Party"
No specific policies, no specific interest groups, just Obama. D-Day is in favor of it, because he favors "washing away of the Clintonite strain at the top of the party." He assumes that all this centralizing of power won't really happen. Really D-Day?
Obama wants to sweep away every competing power within the Democratic Party, leaving him holding the reins. I find that very disturbing. A literal cult of personality.
Let's not forget the legacy of George W. Bush. Do we really want to hand the current apparatus of government to another would-be dictator?
I'll let Percy Bysshe Shelley have the last word:
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.