Monday, January 4, 2010

Obama's Grass Roots

Whatever happened to President Obama's grass-roots supporters? Weren't they supposed to be transforming politics? That's what Micah F. Shifry wonders at

The answer is not what he wanted. The grass roots were never more than a means of ascent for the Obama campaign, to be used in the primaries and for fundraising, but not to be encouraged as an independent force in politics. Now that Obama's president the grass roots are nothing more than a nuisance, making it difficult for Obama to pivot towards the center.

Which means, of course that the wonders of the Obama grass roots were all along a media mirage. And what else could they be? The Obama phenomenon was always a personal campaign. The Obama grass roots mobilized to elect Obama. They were inspired from the top down by his vaporous agenda of hope and change, youthfulness and energy that was intended to contrast with the tired administration of Bush and its reincarnation in the aged John McCain.

But Obama was always an establishment candidate, never an insurgent. Remember? He came to national attention when he was invited to give a speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004.

If you want a true insurgency, look no further than the Tea Party movement. It came out of nowhere, unbidden and unattached to any candidate.

In fact the Tea Party movement dramatizes the utter fatuity of the "community organizer" notion so popular on the left. The Tea Party is real people organizing themselves at the grass roots and reaching out to find others out there doing the same thing. It is messy and contentious. Nobody knows whether it will fold into the Republican Party or split the conservative vote by trying to organize as a third party.

The "community organizer" concept is a top-down wheeze of the left. It imagines communities of the oppressed waiting around to be organized by left-wing cadres and fashioned into a force for progressive politics. Think astroturf.

The point is, of course, that the Tea Party people are middle-class voters that are capable of self-organizing. They have the can-do skills and the middle-class culture that amazed Tocqueville back in the 1830s. Americans have always formed associations when they wanted to achieve a community purpose. The Obama grass roots are just unorganized liberals that were energized by the charisma of Obama and the Obama campaign to help Obama get elected.

If the Obama people did organize their grass roots into a political force, the new organization would probably do more harm than good. The problem that liberals have is that they are really different from the average moderate or independent and, as Rush Limbaugh says, they have to keep that quiet. The natural home of most independents is probably in the Republican Party. They can only be enticed into voting for Democrats if they are fed up with the Republicans and if you present them with a candidate that looks like a conservative.

Right now independents and moderates are finding out that voting for a moderate Democrat doesn't mean that you get moderate policies. When the chips are down those nice moderate Democrats vote the Pelosi or the Reid line. Voting for a Democrat, any Democrat, means voting for liberal policies.

Why would the Obama people try to flood the streets with energized liberals? When you are trying to persuade the American people that your liberal policies are really moderate, you want to keep your liberal grass roots quiet. They might let the cat out of the bag.

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