President Obama and David Plouffe, his 2008 political strategist, joined a national conference call last week with Organizing for Action (OFA) volunteers. OFA is the non-partisan 501(c)4 issue advocacy organization that formed after the 2012 Obama campaign. It is the community organizing group that has been advocating for many of the key issues of President Obama’s agenda. The purpose of the call was to reassure OFA volunteers following the dramatic election losses. The President told the volunteers to take off a week or so, but no more. He urged them to stay involved and re-engage as quickly as possible on the issues they are most passionate in pursuing. He also said something that suggests he may have changed his future plans due to the election results.
Had Clinton been elected, former President Obama would probably have tried to keep a low profile as she became the head of the party and primary spokesperson. Valerie Jarret, one of his key advisors, said in May the President would withdraw from the political spotlight and return to being a regular citizen after leaving office. However, on the call, the President suggested he won’t just be fading away.
The President urged OFA to, “stay involved locally. Continue to be engaged with OFA around issues… And if you do those things, I promise you that next year Michelle and I are going to be right there with you, and the clouds are going to start parting and the sun is going to come back out, and we’re going to be busy, involved in the amazing stuff that we’ve been doing all these years before.”
That doesn’t sound like a leader that’s about to fold his tent and go into hibernation. It certainly gave OFA members hope that he will be back to lead the charge after he leaves office.
On the call both President Obama and Plouffe expressed their surprise at the election results. Plouffe apologized for the polling errors. In a New York Times piece Plouffe was more specific.
“My confidence was not partisan spin,” he said. “It was based on public data, voting history and some sense of the Clinton campaign’s own models. I played with various state scenarios, and even in the most generous outcomes, could not get Donald J. Trump to 270 electoral votes.”
Both the President and Plouffe specifically recognized Iowa in launching the President’s election by winning the Iowa caucuses in 2008. They pointed to that win as evidence of the power of local organizing. Plouffe’s history in Iowa goes back prior to 2008. He began his political career working on Senator Tom Harkin’s 1990 reelection campaign in Iowa. He was the State Field Director in Harkin’s 1992 presidential bid as well.
Many of the OFA folks in Iowa and nationally have been involved in campaigns separately from their OFA work. Now that the campaigns have ended the President suggested other non-partisan groups will need their help in promoting their specific agendas. He didn’t specifically mention any of these groups but local OFA chapters know who he’s referencing. For example: Immigrant rights groups are getting ready for the new administration’s possible deportation efforts.
The issues that OFA have championed at the local level are Obamacare, climate change, immigration reform, gun safety, standing with women, expanding equality and economic opportunity. Because OFA is non-partisan, they can work with other non-partisan social welfare groups that push for these same issues. OFA has been a powerful voice that does the heavy lifting at the local level to promote many of the President’s initiatives. For example, since 2012 the Iowa OFA group focused on assisting other groups in signing up folks for Obamacare. The local Des Moines OFA chapter held their first event since the election at the Iowa State Capitol on Sunday.
The national conference call ended with this rallying cry to action. “OFA is here and we’re not backing down. Now is the time for some organizing. Take the time you need — feel all of the feelings — and once you’ve had some time to rest and recover, let us know – we’ve got much work to do.”
OFA members are encouraged that President Obama and Michelle will be by their side when he becomes a private citizen.
by Rick Smith