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Friday, November 14, 2008

The "Obama Lobby" Revives Democracy

Ann-Marie Luciano Bio

Of all of the successes of the Obama campaign -- significant demographic gains by young voters, Latinos and suburban voters, unparalleled fundraising, massive GOTV efforts -- one of the most far-reaching in effect may be Obama's mobilization of a true grass-roots movement. There has never been a time in history that a candidate has been able to mobilize so many voters: there are 10 million names on Obama's email list and 3.1 million donors. Although this base of support certainly will be significant for the Democrats in 2010 and 2012, the real news story is what this means for the health of our democracy.

The media has already speculated over the past week about how the future Obama administration can use this massive base to support the administration's agenda. When it comes time to rolling out the administration's health care plan, for example, in one simple email Obama can call on his millions of supporters to contact their Senators and congressional representatives to ask them to support the proposal or to contact their neighbors and friends to try to get their support.

With the adrenaline of the election now over, there are thousands of Obama supporters who are already looking for new opportunities to continue to support the administration. There are many anecdotes I could share demonstrating this. For example, yesterday I received an email from which was sent to Obama supporters across the country asking us to host a house party at our homes next week in order to discuss how we can work together going forward. This morning I spoke with a gas station attendant who is so fired up from the campaign that he plans to start calling his congressman to advocate for a change in policy on the bailout. The trans formative potential of this colossal grass-roots movement is immeasurable.

Think about it - the current political system is controlled by those who pay for it: lobbyists. Because lobbyist money was needed to fund airtime and other big-ticket campaign items, many politicians were happy to introduce legislation that was literally written by lobbying firms in return for their financial support. With his Internet-savvy campaign and the rejection of lobbyists, Obama was able to reach many voters directly - without the filter or cost of the media - just through email alerts, YouTube videos and voter-organized house parties. Now that he has this wide base of support at his fingertips, it will be interesting to see whether our political system returns to its core roots of representation by the people.

The millions of Obama supporters across the country - what I'll call an "Obama lobby" -- may really become the most influential advocacy force in this next political cycle. The Obama lobby has the potential to wield their power beyond the halls of Congress by actively participating in Obama's new programs, such as a volunteer service program. Imagine if Obama called on his supporters to donate food to homeless shelters, or books to schools, or their time to those in need? Although it sounds idyllic, the possibilities are really endless. I guess all of this grass-roots stuff is what you get when you elect a former community organizer. Who has the last laugh now?


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