Hope Without Power is Bad Community Organizing - Obama

Obama is calling for hope, but failing to talk about power and is failing to be an organizer. The goal of community organizing is for the organizer to help people realize that they have power, to help them organize around their grievances, and for the people to lead.

A community organizer would reform the Democratic party. Obama is taking it over from the top. There is a network of hundreds, possibly thousands, of grassroots groups of Democrats - however they lack influence over party decisions. They are used to implement party policy (to elect Obama), rather than to choose the canidates and policies.

Grassroots party members are unable to do things like propose a single payer health care policy, withdrawal from Iraq, or a green jobs and clean energy policy - because these matters are all subsumed to choosing a canidate. You choose to support a canidate, and they set the policy at the convention. There is a serious lack of policy discussion within the Democratic party, this was especially obvious with Obama and Clinton as they had only very minor differences in their positions.

By contrast, in Canada, where political party membership is defined more narrowly (you have to pay to join and sign a card), party activists can propose resolutions and these issues are debated. Generally the party is in the hands of a ruling faction, but you can get serious debates. For instance, several years ago the social-democrat NDP came very close to a serious reform that called for increased participatory democracy, working closely with social movements, and redefining itself as a new political party.

Obama is using people for their money. He has recieved over $200 million of donations from over 2 million people, but at the most democratic his foreign policy is set by a group of 300 advisors (and other policies are probably set by far fewer people).

Obama is using people for their energy. He'll be mobilizing hundreds of thousands (perhaps a million) volunteers to turn out the vote for himself.

A community organizer would create a grassroots network that would train people to work for social change. You'd be training tens of thousands of people using the Midwest Academy or some other strategic campaign planning model. This network would persist past any election date. It would empower people to counter-act the influence of corporations, which is essential as IF Obama gets elected, and IF he chooses to implement a slightly liberal agenda, he will face massive opposition in Congress from corporate lobbyists. Power in the United States is highly concentrated, and even if you had a real liberal president (eg. not Obama) or a more leftist one like Nader, you'd have a very hard time implementing anything without tackling the rest of the power structure.

Training Trainers

I heard from a friend that Obama is putting some of the organizers through the Midwest Academy style of training, which is good. I wish I knew the details (numbers of people, type of training, whether the training was modified to make it very electoral focussed instead of being people power focussed, and what if any post-election plan did they have to build national support for a liberal agenda and to get it through Congress.)

In the Democratic campaign,

In the Democratic campaign, power is concentrated in the campaign staff and in networks of pro-Democratic organizations like the "527" organizations that were prominent in the 2004 election. Then, America Coming Together raised $137 million dollars (see: http://www.fec.gov/press/press2007/20070829act.shtml).

You can see how 527s are impacting the 2008 election

Instead of building a grassroots campaign with participatory democracy. The Democrats *hire* their organizers and make decisions from the top. This makes fundraising, and the party's subservience to corporate/elite interests, more critical to its success than it would be if they had a grassroots/more volunteer campaign.