Sarah Wheaton at the New York Times touches on an important question about the early verdict on the Obama campaign/administration’s effort to convert election supporters into policy activists.
Since Mr. Obama took office, a major question
has been whether his netroots base could be repurposed to help promote
his policy agenda, so observers are already looking for signs of
success or failure in the house meetings. Frank Greve of McClatchy,
using online sign-up lists, determines that “few supporters” are
responding. But the Democratic Party is pushing back, noting that the
online rosters are not representative of actual turnout (The Atlantic’s
agrees), and a Democratic official said the party is expecting tens of
thousands of people to attend a meeting. The party also noted that a
call for questions about the stimulus — Gov. Tim Kaine, the Democratic
National Committee’s new chairman, answered a fraction of them — yielded 30,000 queries.
A significant hurdle to overcome will be the fact that a not insignificant portion of Obama’s electoral supporters simply wanted major change. Others were more interested in being part of making history by helping to elect the first black President. There was certainly no unifying policy viewpoint that pulled most of them together.
Now the Obama campaign has a massive list of supporters and donors with disparate motivations and desires. It is likely that not all of them support the stimulus package currently on the table, and it is even more likely that support for future policy battles will steadily erode as details emerge and divergent viewpoints resurface.
Nevertheless, Obama has an important resource and even partial success could translate into legislative victories in Washington, DC. But the jury is far from reaching a conclusion.