Why I’m not organizing for America

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As a former Obama campaign staffer, I’ve been asked repeatedly to get on board with Organizing for America [OFA], the successor to the original—and amazingly effective–OFA [Obama for America] that helped get the President elected and issued my campaign paycheck.  I have yet to participate.

A recent article in Rolling Stone reveals the back story of what happened to OFA, on the national level, and it’s very disheartening. But even before reading that piece, I had already backed away from OFA.  Here’s why:

  1. They asked me to campaign for “health care reform” when there wasn’t anything to campaign for. OFA’ers were supposed join phone banks urging constituents to call their Congressional reps and tell them to support “the President’s program.” As the President, back then in 2008, hadn’t specified what he wanted, I wondered what I would say to those people on the phone.
  2. OFA seemed like a propaganda machine for the President. OK, I know: As a paid campaign worker, I had already drunk the Kool-Aid. But during the campaign, I thought I knew what I was working toward and what the message was. In this new phase, I needed to see exactly what this President was about, before I blindly pushed this vague thing called his health care “plan.”
  3. While I was supposed to be campaigning for health care reform, President Obama was cutting a deal with drug manufacturers, the hospital industry and health insurance companies.  Later, the public option was deep-sixed in the frantic quest for 60 votes in the Senate. I wasn’t even sure I supported the plan that OFA wanted me to push. I’m still getting urgent appeals from OFA, even though health-reform—whatever that means—appears to be dropping like a stone off the A-List of political priorities.
  4. OFA morphed from a grassroots organization into a subsidiary of the Democratic National Committee. That’s not change, that’s business as usual. Shame on you, David Plouffe.
  5. Every communication I receive from OFA asks for money. I don’t donate to the Democratic National Committee—they’ve screwed things up enough without my support.

I know I’m taking a risk in saying these things. I hope my campaign buddies will understand. I still have hope. But I suspect that I’m not the only Obama-phile who is annoyed by the direction that OFA has taken. I’d like to hear from others. Are you out there?

Gloria Shur Bilchik Gloria Shur Bilchik (628 Posts)

Gloria Shur Bilchik is a freelance writer and community volunteer in St. Louis, Missouri. She is the editor of Occasional Planet. She views the preservation of democratic values and progressive programs as vital to making the US a humane, livable place for her children and grandchildren.


  • juley2901

    Hey, you’re not the only one disenchanted with OFA. There are a lot of us out here.

  • juley2901

    Hey, you’re not the only one disenchanted with OFA. There are a lot of us out here.

  • Carol W

    I’m out here.

    I am not so much annoyed at the direction OFA has taken as its lack of direction. OFA still hasn’t figured out what it wants to be when it grows up, or how to get there. Very frustrating.

  • Carol W

    I’m out here.

    I am not so much annoyed at the direction OFA has taken as its lack of direction. OFA still hasn’t figured out what it wants to be when it grows up, or how to get there. Very frustrating.

  • kathy517

    I agree with your points. As a campaign field organizer I felt that we did really important work. After the campaign I waited and waited and waited for OFA to do SOMETHING! I knew it was important to keep that momentum going with former staff and volunteers. I live in Missouri and it took them nearly a year to do no more than ask for money and phone volunteers.

    Additionally, I have an issue with the underlying requirements for OFA staffers. Acquiring young people to staff OFA is a good thing. Getting young people involved in the political process is important. However, OFA doesn’t fully understand that with youth comes inexperience and inexperience creates time consuming and costly missteps. Us older folks can contribute our life experiences in positive ways and certainly have the energy to see the job through! We did it for the campaign we can do it again.

  • kathy517

    I agree with your points. As a campaign field organizer I felt that we did really important work. After the campaign I waited and waited and waited for OFA to do SOMETHING! I knew it was important to keep that momentum going with former staff and volunteers. I live in Missouri and it took them nearly a year to do no more than ask for money and phone volunteers.

    Additionally, I have an issue with the underlying requirements for OFA staffers. Acquiring young people to staff OFA is a good thing. Getting young people involved in the political process is important. However, OFA doesn’t fully understand that with youth comes inexperience and inexperience creates time consuming and costly missteps. Us older folks can contribute our life experiences in positive ways and certainly have the energy to see the job through! We did it for the campaign we can do it again.

  • Gloria Shur Bilchik

    Thanks for the affirmation, Kathy. I’d like to think that OFA has learned from its missteps, but it doesn’t look that way.

  • Gloria Shur Bilchik

    Thanks for the affirmation, Kathy. I’d like to think that OFA has learned from its missteps, but it doesn’t look that way.

  • eileen evans

    I dunno about the usual assumptions about youth and inexperience. OFA’s youthful organizers bring energy and multi-dimensional problem solving skills. They haven’t lived long enough to develop the savvy to produce results in spite of the inadequacies of their managers that can come over time. That may be an asset; there’s a transparency that the specious know how to exclude.
    Remember, field organizers aren’t the ones who develop strategies, administrative practices or scripts. The ‘manager’ in me is stunned by practices guaranteed to produce employee burnout and volunteer alienation. Whatever became of the “Statewide Plan” that was supposed to be a product of all those listening tours some of us attended?
    Without the leadership of a Howard Dean, O.F.A. will only be a ‘eunuch’ in the D.N.C. The change we all voted for would have a better chance to succeed if O.F.A. was part of D.F.A. instead.

  • eileen evans

    I dunno about the usual assumptions about youth and inexperience. OFA’s youthful organizers bring energy and multi-dimensional problem solving skills. They haven’t lived long enough to develop the savvy to produce results in spite of the inadequacies of their managers that can come over time. That may be an asset; there’s a transparency that the specious know how to exclude.
    Remember, field organizers aren’t the ones who develop strategies, administrative practices or scripts. The ‘manager’ in me is stunned by practices guaranteed to produce employee burnout and volunteer alienation. Whatever became of the “Statewide Plan” that was supposed to be a product of all those listening tours some of us attended?
    Without the leadership of a Howard Dean, O.F.A. will only be a ‘eunuch’ in the D.N.C. The change we all voted for would have a better chance to succeed if O.F.A. was part of D.F.A. instead.

  • robinkf

    Count me in the disenchanted group too. I’m getting emails every day with request for money, money, and more money as well as very partisan statements designed to create nothing but anger and negative feelings.

  • robinkf

    Count me in the disenchanted group too. I’m getting emails every day with request for money, money, and more money as well as very partisan statements designed to create nothing but anger and negative feelings.

  • Bob From District 9

    Yep. I agree with most of that.

    The only other point to make is, no matter how disappointed you are, Obama is still the best candidate.

    As I have long said, I didn’t support Obama because he was the best possible candidate, but the best candidate in the election.

    Or, as Biden said, the other choice is not the Almighty, but the alternative.