Obama's Royal Scam and The Iron Fist Of Rahm

Audacity To Hope

Change We Can Believe In

Rule of Law


Freedom From Lobbyists and Special Interests


Harm From Illegal Surveillance

Constitutional Scholar


Predatory Business Practices

Closing Guantanamo

Withdrawing From Iraq and Afghanistan

These are but some of the major buzzwords, issues and concepts Barack
Obama based his candidacy and campaign on to convince the American
electorate to sweep him in to office. Mr. Obama, however, has gone
significantly in the opposite direction on each and every one since
taking office. As Frank
Rich noted
, there is a growing "suspicion that Obama's brilliant
presidential campaign was as hollow as Tiger's public image - a
marketing scam...".

Is there support for this allegation other than anecdotal evidence?
Yes, and Micah
has an excellent piece out detailing the basis:

After all, the image of Barack Obama as
the candidate of "change", community organizer, and "hope-monger" (his
word), was sold intensively during the campaign. Even after the fact, we
were told that his victory represented the empowerment of a bottom-up
movement, powered by millions of small donors, grassroots volunteers,
local field organizers and the internet.
The truth is that Obama was never nearly as free of dependence on big
money donors as the reporting suggested, nor was his movement as
bottom-up or people-centric as his marketing implied. And this is the
big story of 2009, if you ask me, the meta-story of what did, and didn't
happen, in the first year of Obama's administration. The people who
voted for him weren't organized in any kind of new or powerful way, and
the special interests-banks, energy companies, health interests,
car-makers, the military-industrial complex-sat first at the table and
wrote the menu. Myth met reality, and came up wanting.
Should we really surprised that someone with so much early support from
Wall Street and wealthy elites overall might not be inclined to throw
the money-changers out of the temple?
When it came to planning for being in government, it turns out that
Plouffe, along with David Axelrod, was a chief advocate for bringing in
then Rep. Rahm Emanuel as Obama's chief of staff. He writes, using a
baseball analogy: "Rahm was a five-tool political player: a strategist
with deep policy expertise, considerable experience in both the
legislative and executive branches, and a demeanor best described as
relentless." (p. 372) Note that nowhere in that vital skill-set is any
sense of how to work with the largest volunteer base any presidential
campaign has developed in history. Rahm Emanuel came up in politics the
old-fashioned way; organizing and empowering ordinary people are the
least of his skills.

It is an extremely interesting piece by
, and I recommend a read of the entirety. For those that have
not read David Plouffe's book on the campaign, The Audacity To Win,
or one of the other long form reports of the Obama 2008 campaign, Sifry
lays open the hollowness of Obama's "grass roots". Use em and lose em
appears to have been the Obama modus operandi. The American
people were desperate for something to latch onto, and Obama and Plouffe
gave them a slickly tailored package.

As Digby
, this line by Sifry really sums it up:

Now, there is a new enthusiasm gap, but
it's no longer in Obama's favor. That's because you can't order
volunteers to do anything-you have to motivate them, and Obama's
compromises to almost every powers-that-be are tremendously

I think that is exactly right, and the needle in much of the activist
base is moving from "demotivated" to downright demoralized and
antagonistic. Yet Obama and his administration, notably Rahm Emanuel,
indignantly continue to poke sticks in the eyes of the activist base and
boast about it; and it is not from necessity, it is from design and

Quite frankly, the seeds of this should have been seen coming. I
have never forgotten the shudders I felt when I read two interrelated
articles by Matt
and David
discussing how, heading into the 2008 general election, Obama
was not just benefitting from, but devouring and commandeering broad
swaths of Democratic base activist groups and their power, and actively
working to marginalize and cripple those that didn't assimilate into his

From Stoller:

This isn't a criticism; again, Obama
made his bet that the country isn't into ideological combat and wants a
politics of unity and hope, and he has won at internally. In terms of
the 'Iron Law of Institutions', the Obama campaign is masterful. From
top to bottom, they have destroyed their opponents within the party,
stolen out from under them their base, and persuaded a whole set of
individuals from blog readers to people in the pews to ignore
intermediaries and believe in Barack as a pure vessel of change.
All I'll add is that it's time to think through the consequences of a
party where there is a new chief with massive amounts of power. I've
been in the wilderness all my political life, as have most of us. The
Clintonistas haven't, and they know what it's like to be part of the
inside crew. We have a leader, and he's not a partisan and he can now
end fractious intraparty fights with a word and/or a nod. His opinion
really matters in a way that even Nancy Pelosi's just did not. He has
control of the party apparatus, the grassroots, the money, and the
messaging environment. He is also, and this is fundamental, someone
that millions of people believe in as a moral force. When you disagree
with Obama, you are saying to these people 'your favorite band sucks'.

And DDay:

There's nothing shadowy about this -
it's an extension of what the Obama campaign has been doing since he
entered the race. 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.

Stoller and DDay, although both seemed to have a nagging question or
two, both thought that the gathering "Obama Nation" was a good thing and
that once he took office the immense consolidated power and
organization would, in fact, as Obama was jawing, be used to end the age
old grip of corporate money and influence and propel good new and
different policies into action. This pie in the sky was directly defied
by passages in their own articles though. Not only was Obama
consolidating Democratic power to serve only him from the top down, he
was taking out people and groups that didn't step in to his line.


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
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.
The campaign has also, despite thousands of interviews with a huge
number of outlets, refused to have Obama interact on progressive blogs.
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.


But wresting away ALL the power and
consolidating it is I think a misunderstanding of how inside and outside
groups can be mutually reinforcing and part of a more vibrant cultural
and political movement, and how the culture is moving toward more
decentralized, more viral, looser networks to organize. Obama's
movement, based on unity and hope, is working because politics is of the
moment, a fad, Paris Hilton. To sustain that, you must institutionalize
engagement, civic participation, awareness and action, even in a
non-horse race year, as a necessary facet of citizenship. And there's no
reason to shut down reinforcing progressive structures that can keep it
fun and interesting and vital.

Shutting down Democratic and progressive structures that do not toe
his line is exactly what Obama and his right hand man, Rahm Emanuel,
have done since the election. As Stoller and DDay noted, they actually
started even before the election and accelerated after it. The deal was
sealed when, immediately after the election, Obama chose the iron fist
of DLC strongman Rahm Emanuel to lead his administration, immediately
dumped Howard Dean and began shuttering
Dean's wildly successful fifty state apparatus.

There was only one reason to do that, and it was not to germinate a
new grass roots policy force; it was to consolidate power and kill off
any other voices and/or authority within the party. As Micah Sifry
demonstrated, consolidation and exclusion were always a part of the
Obama plan. Almost more disconcerting than Obama's singular cornering
of all the power and movement is his refusal to use it to propel new
policies. Not even on healthcare did Obama even attempt to truly
energize and mobilize the vaunted Obama network, preferring instead to
leave it up to the lobbyists, in the bag Congressmen like Ben Nelson and
Joe Lieberman and corporate interests.

This is exactly what has made the progressive campaign and voice of
Jane Hamsher, Cenk Uygur, Firedoglake and other awakening progressive
movements so critical. It is crystal clear the Obama Presidency is less
than it was advertised to be; the only route to correction is through
power and action; assertion of independent power is the only thing they
will respect and acknowledge. The change will not come through old
school Washington politicians beholden to corrupt financial
institutions, the insurance lobby and corporate interests. Politicians
like Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel.

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