Posted on March 21, 2009

Obama Planning Massive Online Campaign To Rally Support

During his campaign, President Barack Obama amassed over 13 million e-mail addresses of supporters. The campaign is over, but the power of Obama’s database is still very much with us. And Obama plans to use that power to mount a massive grassroots campaign to rally support for his political agenda.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Obama intends to ask his 13 million e-enthusiasts to go door-to-door to solicit pledges of support. Those recruited will, in turn, themselves be entered into the database.

The Pledge Project Canvass is an unprecedented effort by a president to reach beyond Congress and tap grassroots supporters for help. Volunteers recruited online by Obama’s Organizing for America, a post-election group, will ask citizens to sign a pledge in support of the president’s policies on energy, health care and education.

Those who pledge will be asked for their e-mail addresses so the Obama-ites can keep in touch.

As the Chronicle further notes, direct appeals from a president to the citizenry asking them to pressure congress and other politicians for support are relatively unusual, but by no means unprecedented. Franklin D. Roosevelt used radio addresses (which he called “fireside chats”) to rally support for the New Deal. Ronald Reagan used television addresses to urge voters to press for lower taxes. Bill and Hillary Clinton traveled across the U.S. asking voters to support their health care agenda. And once in office, George W. Bush campaigned for Social Security reform.

Obama, however, is the first president to use his campaign database to continue to keep in touch with his constituents, and to use them as a power base from which he can exert pressure on Congress to fall in line with his agenda.

We’re drawing two conclusions from this new development:

  1. A new era of “permanent campaigning” has begun. It is hard to imagine that future presidents, once elected, will go back to the mode of mothballing their supporter lists for four years.
  2. Those who ignore point (1) do so at their peril. While Republicans no longer have the “bully pulpit” of the presidency from which to preach, they had better use their own formidable databases to rally opposition to Obama’s fiscal and other excesses; otherwise, they’re going to lose the e-battle by default.

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