Former President Barack Obama is no longer pushing his agenda from the White House, but he is still in charge of the nationwide network of volunteers who helped get him elected and are now setting their sights on November’s midterm election.
Born in 2008, Obama for America (OFA) morphed into Organizing for America so it could legally have access to 13,000 email addresses amassed during two presidential campaigns.
The newly minted OFA was under the Democratic Party umbrella, which is allowed to use the emails, with staff remaining in OFA’s Chicago office, but a new one opened in D.C.
OFA’s goal, according to the New York Times, reveals Obama had no intention of sailing off into the sunset when he moved out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
It was about “transforming the YouTubing-Facebooking-texting-Twittering grassroots organization that put Mr. Obama in the White House into an instrument of government. That is something that Mr. Obama, who began his career as a community organizer, told aides was a top priority, even before he was elected.”
The other goal was to use Obama’s army of left-wing volunteers to pressure elected officials to promote the president’s legislative agenda.
Fast forward to 15 months into the Donald Trump presidency and the looming midterm elections.
Now, the OFA folks are not far from Obama’s D.C. office, where the phone rings or email pings seeking his approval for every move.
And the mission has also shifted from leaning on lawmakers to getting leftwing candidates elected.
Through an existing partnership with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, OFA will also work in nine states to campaign for ballot initiatives and Democrats running for governor and state legislature positions. The group is pushing for greater Democratic control over redistricting ahead of the 2020 Census.
OFA spokesman Jesse Lehrich said that the effort will be largely handled by volunteers in the districts. OFA staff in the Chicago office will be redirected to advising those volunteers. The target districts were chosen because they’re in areas where OFA already has an established presence, and where they feel that they’ll be able to elevate races that aren’t all in the top tier of swing districts drawing huge national money.
Decisions were made by OFA staff, but with advance notice to Obama’s personal staff in Washington, which was asked to weigh in with any objections.
“OFA has always made issue-focused organizing the centerpiece of our work, fighting to increase access to affordable health care, foster economic fairness, combat climate change, and more,” Lehrich said in Politico’s report. We’re expanding our programming to include electoral activity because the current dynamic in Washington threatens to reverse progress on all of those issues — and to do so against the will of the majority of the American people.”
According to an OFA statement, the network is “prioritizing 27 districts whose representatives have consistently advanced the interests of the wealthy and the well-connected at the expense of hard-working families. OFA volunteer teams will organize in each district to amplify support on the ground for candidates who will actually fight for their constituents.”
“Change requires more than righteous anger. It requires a program and it requires organizing.”
Politico published the states and districts on OFA’s midterm election “hit list.”
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