Or maybe the better question is, “Where is the line?”
The latest use of the massive Obama for America database is an e-mail missive from Organizing for America, the Democratic National Committee project established last month that serves as the post-campaign extension of the Obama marketing machine.
The promise of the Obama presidency is open dialogue in determining federal policies. However, the Organizing for America message is, to some, more propagandistic than democratic. As Democrats cross their fingers that the economic recovery bill passes the Senate, they’re also concerned it passes muster with the American people.
“It’s not enough for this bill to simply pass Congress. Americans need to know how it will affect their lives — they need to know that help is on the way and that this administration is investing in economic growth and stability,” notes the e-mail, signed by the President. The goal of the effort is to get people to host “Economic Recovery House Meetings” over the weekend to view a video about the legislation. Beforehand, recipients are urged to submit a question about how it will affect their communities that could be answered in the video — not exactly conversational.
“You can help restore confidence in our economy by making sure your friends, family, and neighbors understand how the recovery plan will impact your community.”
An earlier house party-related effort from Obama’s transition team asked people to host house parties to discuss healthcare. In theory, that is supposed to help inform how the administration approaches healthcare reform.
Some aren’t thrilled with the approach taken in the latest e-mail. “The organization is openly and proudly propagandistic,” wrote influential democratic consultant Zephyr Teachout on TechPresident. Teachout argues Organizing for America will fail because it is “not oppositional, conflict-driven, and not likely to pick out particular targets to be won over–all things that are likely to engage people. It will fail because it is from OFA, not from Obama.”
Yet, the e-mail is signed by the President and has a clear political mission. I’d expect some will have problems with this blurring of political campaigning and use of the presidential bully pulpit. Although the question of who will own the database has been answered, a lot of things need to be defined when it comes to how it can be employed. Is using that database to promote a bill that had zero Republican support in the House too much like campaigning, especially when the President signs it?
Maybe I’m off on this one, but it seems that in this case — with the President signing an arguably propagandistic e-mail in support of legislation — the DNC “project” is acting more like a proxy for Obama for America than serving as the separate entity it’s supposed to be. The Obama administration isn’t supposed to be using its campaign database, which is why the DNC set up Organizing for America in the first place, right?