Loading icon

An Open Letter to Organizing for America

Opinion | February 10, 2010

Organizing for America (OFA), an outgrowth of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, is an advocacy group dedicated to advancing the president’s agenda. Seth Rau (A’12), an intern for Martha Coakley’s Senate campaign, examines the flaws in her campaign with an eye toward learning from this election’s mistakes so that they are not repeated in the mid-term elections.

Dear Organizing for America,

One year ago we celebrated the inauguration of a new president in Barack Obama. I stood in the frigid cold in the silver section at the top of the National Mall as hope and optimism rained down on our country. The president, however, struck a cautious tone on that fateful January day, which served as an appropriate beginning to his first year in the Oval Office.

That tone was more than deserved because our nation did not have the best year in 2009, and the beginning to 2010 has not been much better. What most concerned me was the victory of Scott Brown over Martha Coakley this month in the Massachusetts Senate Special Election. While OFA eventually turned out to support the Massachusetts attorney general, it was done far too late and ineffectively. I interned on Martha’s primary campaign and did some consulting work for the general campaign, so I got to see the problems firsthand. Let me lay out our problems now so that we can learn from them to better support candidates that share our president’s vision in November’s midterm elections.

First, OFA must integrate itself into the campaigns of all Democrats running for Senate, and in competitive House races across the nation. Once our party settles on a nominee, OFA should instantly start sending staff members into the campaigns. This process would allow OFA to be directly coordinated with each campaign to make the integration more natural. Otherwise, we would have the problem of having to separate campaign structures, as occurred in the final days of the Coakley campaign in which the OFA people reported to each other and the Coakley people to their original bosses. As a result of the lack of communication, the Get Out the Vote effort missed essential groups of people, which made a Coakley victory impossible. These mistakes cannot happen again, or there is no way President Obama will have congressional support to carry out his agenda.

I hope our supporters understand what is at stake in the coming November election. This defeat here in Massachusetts has already cost us a shot at real health care reform, and we need to move on to even more essential parts of our agenda. We must focus on creating new jobs first. If the economy does not improve, then nothing really matters because Americans put their checkbooks before all else. The stimulus plan was a good start, but we need to keep continuing to create all types of jobs, especially eco-friendly ones; we could be a global leader in this crucial emerging field in the coming decades. Our future depends on pushing these aspects of the agenda, or else our “change” election in 2008 will achieve nothing.

We have plenty of ways to move ahead with our agenda to separate ourselves from the Republicans and the emerging populist Tea Party, especially by capturing the anger of the moment to push towards our goals. The recent ruling by the Supreme Court to allow all types of corporate funding into political campaigns gives us a large opening. We should take a stand on this issue by prohibiting corporate funding for Democratic candidates. While this ban on corporate funding would somewhat hurt our party financially, this can differentiate Democrats from Republicans and the Tea Party. Rejecting corporate funding would fit perfectly in line with President Obama’s campaign themes and governing philosophy.

Lastly, we need to recapture the spirit and the urgency of 2008. We still have majorities in both the House and the Senate, which will allow us to pass some legislation despite Republican objections. There is no need to pursue a far-left policy, but some center-left reforms aimed at improving the economy will hopefully energize our base. The last days of the Massachusetts Senate race proved that we could mobilize ourselves to working toward a common goal. We can continue this fundraising and organizing effort for the next nine months and beyond. If we stick to this plan, 2010 will not be another 1994, and Obama will have a far better second year in office than his first.

Sincerely,

Seth Rau