During 2007 and 2008, and Obama campaign sent out around one thousand action alerts. Time and time again, Obama supporters were encouraged to donate, register voters, talk to neighbors, hold house parties, knock on doors, phonebank and vote early. Millions responded, including over four million campaign donors, and even more people taking some sort of action for the campaign. Barack Obama's calls to action were regular, convincing, and clear. Millions answered.
Both during the election and afterward, there were regular implications that these same supporters would be called upon to act after the election, as well. In a post-election survey sent out to Obama activists, "pass legislation through grass-roots efforts" was one of the four activities supporters were asked to rank. During the campaign, Obama regularly spoke of change "from the bottom up," and made it clear that such change did not end with the election.
Given all of this, I feel compelled to ask: what does President Obama want his supporters to do now?
Should we be making calls Republican members of Congress, asking them to pass the stimulus bill?
Should we be calling Democrats in Congress, asking them to compromise more with Republicans?
Should we be pushing for right-wingers like Mitt Romney or Jim Cooper to become the new HHS Secretary, as the Village clearly desires?
Should we be holding cocktail parties and / or dinners with Republicans in our neighborhoods, as President Obama himself is doing?
Should we be shopping more?
Should we be conserving energy--and, if so, how?
Should we be buying American?
What, exactly, does President Obama want his supporters to be doing? Even though millions are still willing to take action on his behalf, the calls to action have gone completely silent.
There is a major leadership vacuum right now. For the past two years, there was a consistent implication that Obama's grassroots network would play some sort of role in helping President Obama govern. So far, however, they have played no role whatsoever, and been asked to play none. This is even though the Senate is about to vote on a stimulus package that is supposedly designed to help the American people get out of an economic free fall.
What does President Obama want his supporters to do? For that matter, what does President Obama want the American people to do? We are in the midst of a major crisis right now, and shown time and time again that we are willing to take action to help remedy the problem. Millions, tens of millions, of people feel incredibly frustrated, trapped even, and are unsure what to do next. While they are ready to act, someone needs to make the ask. Right now, the person to make the ask is President Obama, but he isn't doing it. What does President Obama want us to do? The silence is deafening.