Posts Tagged ‘Organization for America’

Pondering the GOP’s Future: New Ideas or SOS?

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Dan vs. Dan: Our old friend Dan Scsickelephanthnur has been doing some serious wool gathering on the question of whether any of the three Republican contenders for governor have the political mettle, not just to win election, but to redefine the GOP in the process.

Mere hacks that we are, Calbuzz isn’t fully certain that we follow all the nuanced twists and turns of the baroquely reasoned argument made by Schnur, a former partisan turned neutral academic, who now reigns as the director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

As best we understand his latest dispatch over at Flashreport, however, Schnur seems to posit that the current, sorry spectacle of a teabag-besotted  Republican party means that it’s time for the GOP to rethink the ideological framework that’s sustained it since Ronald Reagan’s first term.


While it has become fairly predictable for Republican politicians to wrap themselves in the flag of Reagan, the pessimism that currently infects our body politic does present the same type of psychological challenge that the Gipper confronted in his first successful presidential campaign . . .

We are currently witnessing the stirrings of a similar internal debate within the Republican party to that which the Democrats fought throughout the 1970s and ’80s . . . No credible voice is making the case that Republicans should abandon Reagan’s economic principles . . . (but) perhaps there is an argument to be made that those priorities must also be updated, in order to deal with the challenges of an era in which the economic centerpiece of the country has moved from Detroit to Silicon Valley.

Perhaps there is, but we’ll never know because Schnur doesn’t make it.

Instead he quickly steps back from the ledge of suggesting to Republicans, on the most influential Republican web site in California, that perhaps they should, just maybe, take a second look at the whole tax-cuts-and-deregulation-will-fix-everything-in-a-jiffy, Heaven’s Gate groupthink that afflicts them.

Putting aside the short shrift that he pays to the inconvenient fact that Republicans have held the White House for 12 of the 21 years since Reagan left office, Schnur’s hasty retreat from his own, intriguing ergo ipso facto is a disappointment. Wafting in a tepid bath of yes-we-can kumbaya, he treads water in concluding with the hope that someone in the Republican field – anyone! – might come up with a fresh idea to save the GOP,  if not the Republic itself:


[Campbell, Poizner and Whitman] may be better positioned than any Republican politicians in the country to lead this next stage of ideological evolution. If one of them is able to do so, he or she will not only provide the tools to fix California’s economy, but its embattled psyche as well.

Or not.

For our money, Schnur’s magical thinking melts away before the force majeure of the fact-based argument, made by us and other right-thinking people, that California’s crackpot state political structure effectively prohibits the rational and effective exercise of governance. That view was stated most recently, and most emphatically, by California’s other boy genius named Dan —  Walters of the Bee Minus.

waltersA notion in the minds of a few pundits, including yours truly, a couple of decades ago — that California was becoming functionally ungovernable, its politics severed from social and economic reality — has since become conventional wisdom. And it will dominate this election year in the nation’s most populous and arguably most troubled state . . .

One of the four [current candidates] will almost certainly become California’s governor a year hence and begin what will more than likely be a doomed governorship.

Declaring the state’s next leader an utter failure 11 months before the election is held -– now that’s punditry we can believe in.

Feel free to use Pay Pal: We’re hardly the first to reach for the Enalapril whenever another of those astonishingly condescending e-blasts shows up from Obama’s Organization for America, purring on about how we’ve all worked so hard together to put special interests on the run and could you please send another $5 to the DNC?

Way back last year, lefty blogger Markos Moulitsas offered a minor gem of a rant, aptly called “Idiocy,” that got to the nut of the annoying treacliness of  these fake-sincere messages:

Obama spent all year enabling Max Baucus and Olympia Snowe, and he thinks we’re supposed to get excited about whatever end result we’re about to get, so much so that we’re going to fork over money?…In fact, this is insulting, betraying a lack of understanding of just how pissed the base is at this so-called reform.

hopelessWe’ve taken a couple of whacks, here and here, at analyzing why once-enthusiastic Obama supporters feel so betrayed by his late-blooming Clintonian corporatism (corporate Clintonism?), but Micah Sifry over at techpresident pretty much nails it in “The Obama Disconnect: What happens when myth meets reality.”

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.


“People are frustrated because we have done our part,” one frustrated Florida Obama activist told the Politico. “We put these people in the position to make change and they’re not doing it.”Scholars may decide that his team’s failure to devote more attention to reinventing the bully pulpit in the digital age, and to carrying over more of the campaign’s grassroots energy, may turn out to be pivotal to evaluations of Obama’s success, or failure, as president. Calbuzz sez check it out.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Tila Tequila channels Jackie Kennedy.

The First Real People to Lobby DiFi on Health Care

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

barneyBy Cliff Barney
Special to Calbuzz

Five of us rolled up I-280 in a little PT Cruiser, en route to lobby Sen. Dianne Feinstein on behalf of a public option in the new health care bill.

A few days earlier, Feinstein had said on CNN she was dubious about Obama’s health plan – which includes a public option, a kind of Medicare for anyone – because it looked too expensive and the president didn’t seem to have the votes for it. Loyal Democratic activists, we were upset at the senator’s remarks, and wanted some indication that Democrats – all of them – are willing to fight for a meaningful health care bill.

feinsteinThe notion of taking our complaints to Feinstein, whom we know carries a lot of weight among centrist Democrats, was Harvey Dosik’s idea: “Call her up,” Harvey suggested. “Let’s go visit her next time she’s in town.”

Dosik is a Santa Cruz businessman with a knack for political fund-raising; last year he bundled, almost dollar by dollar, $35,000 from local sources, sending it to Obama and to three Democratic U.S. Senate candidates in close races (all of whom won). For our lobbying venture, he also recruited Chris Finnie, live-wire member of the California Democratic Central Committee and recent candidate for party chair; with our wives, Morgan English and Carolyn McCall, we set to schedule a meeting with the senator.

We didn’t get one, of course, since however loyal and active, we remain five bozos from the Santa Cruz mountains and beaches. But we did connect with Feinstein’s San Francisco office and arranged an interview with her staff.

So one recent morning, we sat in an elegant conference room on the twenty-fourth floor of One Post Street talking with Christine Epres, a local representative who described herself as part of “the eyes and ears of the Senator,” and said she was ready to listen.

To our astonishment, she told us were the first citizen group that had visited the office to talk about the health bill.

We began to make our case. Chris Finnie fired an opening salvo by sliding across the table a stack of 156 sheets bearing the names of more than 42,000 Feinstein constituents who supported a public option in the health plan. They had been collected by Democracy for America, the organization founded by Howard Dean to promote his 50-state strategy for grassroots democracy.

I cited Wall Street Journal/NBC and New York Times/CBS polls that showed more than 70 percent of citizens supporting a public option in the health bill. Harvey zeroed in on the cost of profit to health care purchasers – it is “overhead between me and my doctor,” he said. Morgan urged Estes to relay the strong message that private insurance was not doing the job. Carolyn called Feinstein’s vote for or against the public option as important as her vote to support the Iraq war, a vote Feinstein has since said she regrets. The implication was that we hoped the senator didn’t blow it this time, too.

Estes acknowledged that the senator had not yet announced a position on the Obama health plan. In fact, her only public statement on the public option (or what seems to be a public option, though it’s hard to tell from the text) had been a masterpiece of balance; she supported, she said “moving toward either a non-profit model of medical insurance or to one where premium costs can be controlled, either through competition in a public or cooperative model or through a regulated authority.”

“We want her to take a position,” Harvey told Estes, adding that we feared the Senate would water down the public option into locally based insurance cooperatives that would not be able to bargain powerfully because they would be too small.

The meeting lasted at least an hour; Estes took notes and was responsive to our point of view. In the end, we asked her what we could do that had the best chance of reaching the Senator’s ear.

“You know,” she said, “the best thing would be to send us stories about the difficulties people have with private insurance.”

Sometimes we don’t hear what is said to us the first time, or even the first few times. Earlier, we’d been dismayed when the Obamista at Organization for America, the president’s national grassroots operation, had advised rounding up individual tales of woe about the inefficiencies and even cruelties of private insurance, the better to win the hearts of Republicans and sway doubtful Democrats. It didn’t seem like a great strategy, although for weeks the group had been posting examples at http://stories.barackobama.com/healthcare.

Now we were getting the same advice from a completely different quarter. Perhaps it’s time to listen. Sen. Feinstein is famously fond of real-life anecdotes that illustrate a political position. So we, the first citizen group in the Bay Area to lobby her on public option, suggest we give her what she asks for.

Carolyn had a scary story of her own, and immediately sent it, along with nearly a thousand other stories from the same zip code in OFA’s database, to:

Christine Epres
Office of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein
One Post Street
San Francisco CA 94104
415-393-0710 (fax)

Perhaps these and others can express people’s needs in a way that resonates in Congress.