Inside job

Yes, political change has to come from the outside as well as from the inside. But then why disband OFA rather than keeping it in the field?

I agree with Andrew Sullivan both about the increasing silliness in the right-wing echo chamber and about the appropriateness of Obama’s response to the “inside” quote:

But there’s a deeper question here. If Obama believes – as is certainly the case – that change needs to happen from the outside as well as the inside, why oh why did he fold OFA into the DNC after his election and disband its army of field organizers, rather than keeping it in being? There was no reason to let the Tea Party movement go unanswered through the first Obama Congress and the 2010 elections. Obama’s bargaining position with Congressional Democrats as well as Republicans would have been infinitely stronger if he’d had his own political organization still in the field.

I suspect that the decision reflected Obama’s basic Whiggery – not entirely consistent with his Hamiltonianism – and his Constitutional conservatism. A President with his own independent nationwide political organization would have been an innovation, and would have shifted the balance between Executive and Legislative branches in a way that would have appalled the Framers (again, other than Hamilton).

But I continue to believe that it was a huge opportunity lost, and one that cannot now be retrieved.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

7 thoughts on “Inside job”

  1. OFA is very much alive and independent, at least in western North Carolina. I’m not active in the group, but it meets regularly here, and is vigorously active in support of Obama. It is very much separate from the Democratic Party, although they use our facilities on occasion (but mostly not).

  2. Simpler explanation: Obama cannot abide discussion & dissent [from his opinions and decisions]. This was clearly on display in the early stages of the 2008 campaign, before he was the front runner and still had to respond to questions from the floor. Not surprising in a person with the ego necessary to run for Pres, but at odds with his marketing and the marketing of OFA (which didn’t work in the field the way Plouffe thought it worked; maybe Obama suspected that).


    Imagine the fate of anyone who criticizes Bowles or Peter G. Peterson to Obama’s face…

  3. I’d say it reflects Obama’s political conservatism. He is well to the right of his activists, and did not want them to force him to move to his own left. I think he is finally beginning to realize that he needs his left wing to implement his own moderate-conservative agenda, even if it causes him to lose a bit of policy control. He’s certainly appealing more strongly to his activists in his reelection campaign and like most politicians, takes his campaign promises seriously.

    But I might be wrong about this.

  4. Likewise, why replace Howard Dean with Tim Kaine? I think they didn’t know what to do with the energy. In DC for the inauguration, they had a day of service, but then nothing.

  5. What would Fox and Rush and Beck have made of Obama with an ongoing, large, independent political organization out there with his name actually right on it?

    The powers demonstrated, right off the bat, that they were ready, able, and MORE than willing to throw gasoline on the embers of American racism. Obama had to really watch his step.

  6. “…why oh why did he fold OFA into the DNC after his election and disband its army of field organizers…”

    I wondered the same thing, back in the day. But no more. I’m more than a little slow on the uptake. A member in good standing of the 1% doesn’t need an independent organization.

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