Sunday, February 14, 2010

Why I Refuse to take the OFA Volunteer Pledge

It's no secret on this blog that I was (and am) an enthusiastic Obama supporter and that I find many of the political tactics and gamesmanship techniques of the GOP to be scandalously hypocritical and corrosive.

But in the last two weeks I've received several e-mails from OFA (Obama For America) asking me to pledge volunteers hours to campaign or work for candidates who come out in favor of Health Care Reform.

The argument goes like this...the Republicans are spreading all sorts of dirty tricks and misinformation about those who come out in favor of Health Care Reform. True enough. Blue dog democrats are afraid that this will be a polarizing issue that may be used against them in elections. Therefore, if there is a groundswell of support from people saying, "Do this, and I'll promise to work for your re-election" that might embolden scared or worried Dems to do the right thing.

Um...sorry, but shouldn't it be the other way around? I vote for people who actually do what they say they will do. Do the right thing, even in the face of opposition, and I'll work for you. Don't tell me that if I pledge to work for you, you'll do the right thing.

One fundamental issue I have with the pledge drive is that it implies that if the volunteer pledges fall short, the Congressmen and Congresswomen are somehow justified in not voting for health care. This basically acknowledges what everyone already thinks: that the driving principle is always and only my own relection. Politics as usual, anyone?

I have a question about the Obama White House. Forget the Republicans, can it get tough with its own party? In issues like Lieberman's chairmanship, the Obama administration has sure looked to me like it is more concerned with preserving a coalition than actually using the coalition to advance an agenda. The GOP knows that and thus continues to patiently play the politics of obstruction--who cares if that means playing chicken with the economy or hurts those they claim to represent? But here's the thing, the moderate Dems know it too, and it is human nature to take the path of least resistance. Where's the upside of taking an unpopular position if I know that my own party isn't really going to push back at me if I refuse to do so?

Hey, OFA, you want me to work for you, then fight. Don't tell me you'll fight if I promise to have your back. I worked for you already. I canvassed in the last election. I got the word out, I offered my time for voter registration and to take people to the polls. And Obama carried North Carolina by the slimmest of margins. If you are a coach or a leader, then sometimes the biggest enemy is not the opposing team but the starter who sits on the bench and says "I refuse to play because you are drawing up a play for Tony Kukoc." If there are Dems that are worried about being unpopular by coming out for health care, don't try to appease them by asking me to work hard for them (and thereby give positive reinforcement to negative behavior), say instead: "Fine. Try winning the election without party support. We'll back a primary challenger who is willing to vote for Health Care reform." Worst case scenario, that splits the vote and a Republican wins, eating into the meaningless (because unused) majority. Best case scenario, you have a candidate who is not a weasel and, maybe, one I am willing to volunteer for.


Kenneth R. Morefield said...

The e-mail:
Kenneth --

In just the last 3 days, OFA volunteers like you have pledged an incredible 4,000,000 (and counting!) hours to support members of Congress and candidates who fight for real health reform.

We can prove to Congress that health reform is good policy and good politics, but we need to go as big as possible. So today we're setting a new goal: 5 million hours pledged.

If we hit it, the country will know. We'll be running an ad with the final tally in USA Today, the nation's largest newspaper. And to make sure your voice is heard where it matters most, we'll run radio ads in critical states and districts, featuring local voters announcing the pledge total from their area.

Your hours will make a huge difference wherever you live, and there's many different ways to get involved. Can you help us hit 5 million hours by pledging today?

Beginning soon, we'll talk to voters state-by-state, district-by-district, about why it's important to stand with those who fight for progress and reform -- and reject those who stand with big insurers to protect a status quo that is devastating our economy, families, and businesses.

Thanks for making it happen,


P.S. -- My email from earlier in the week explaining how our "You fight, we'll fight" program works is below.

---------------Original Message---------------
From: Mitch Stewart,
Subject: You fight, we'll fight

Friend --

As we head into an election year, the new strategy for killing reform is claiming that members of Congress who vote for it will suffer at the polls.

For months, our opponents have spread lies about reform to scare voters away. But the simple truth about what reform would actually do -- save jobs, guarantee all Americans affordable, stable coverage, and significantly reduce the deficit -- is something most Americans strongly support.

The question is, come November, will the voters know the facts?

OFA supporters have asked for a way to show every member of Congress that if they fight for reform now, we'll back them up this election season.

That's why we're launching "You fight, we'll fight" -- a volunteer pledge bank where you can commit your time to back up candidates and officials who fight hard for health reform.

We're shooting for 1,000,000 hours pledged to spread the word to fellow voters. And if we get there, we'll publish the total hours pledged in USA Today, so there will be no doubt that health reform is both good policy and good politics.

Can you pledge right away?

Doug said...

Very well stated, Ken, I couldn't agree with you more. We have a very timid majority who are acting as if they have to placate the Right and shy away from the promises of change that gave them that majority in the first place. As you say, show some spine and vision and gumption, and maybe I'll support you. If not, who cares if you lose your seat? It won't make any difference.

"Where's the upside of taking an unpopular position if I know that my own party isn't really going to push back at me if I refuse to do so?"

The sad truth is that health care reform is not an unpopular position in this country no matter how many raving fundamentalists want to go on TV and act like it is. Every poll reports that a wide majority of Americans want a public option, for example.

Laura Morefield said...

i'm adding my two cents a bit late...but you're right on with this post, Ken.

I find the Democratic Party to be disfunctional and Obama has the opportunity to change that by being bold.

And sometimes pragmatism is boldness...but always feels like too much compromise.