Seamans: Obama’s internet infantry

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(HOST) During the presidential campaign, Barak Obama assembled an impressive grassroots organization, and commentator Bill Seamans says it’s about to be employed again – this time to push for the passage of Obama’s budget.

(SEAMANS) If you hear a knock on your door or the bell rings this Saturday, you might be a target for President Barack Obama’s Internet Infantry which has been called out of its barracks and is on the march again.  After its presidential election victory Obama’s legion is now being turned out to urge Congress to pass his three-and-a-half trillion dollar – that’s with a "T" – three-and-a-half trillion dollar budget.

The Obamites have a thirteen-million-person e-mail list they collected during the run up to the election that is now being kept by a group called Organizing for America which is under the Democratic National Committee umbrella.  By waking up this dormant massive campaign apparatus to fight for his budget, Obama is launching another innovative political use of the Internet which is a conduit to his army of volunteers – it is an unprecedented strategy, as the Washington Post said, to transfer the grassroots energy built up during the campaign to an effort to sway Congress.  It’s a so-called community canvass to bring the budget debate down from the lofty halls of Congress to the people on Main Street – an attempt to make the jargon of our lawmakers and of the pundits understandable to us ordinary mortals who have been so overwhelmed by such a load of financial statistics that their meaning is virtually incomprehensible.

So this week, Organizing for America has been sending out a barrage of e-mails urging Obamites to recreate their disciplined campaign organization.  But the transition will not be easy.  As noted by the Washington Post, volunteering to help turn out the vote in a critical battleground state is one thing – but knocking on doors this Saturday to urge your friends and neighbors to sign a pledge to press their Congress persons to support Obama’s budget is entirely different – that it’s harder to inspire action on policy issues than it is for a campaign.

Thus, as the pundits say, it remains to be seen whether Obama’s  volunteers will apply the same surge of enthusiasm created by the exciting campaign to the more mundane task of trying to force a budget through Congress.  Beyond that speculation, however, political experts are taking another look at how Obama’s forces took advantage of the new age of electronic politics before the Republicans did.  Their e-mail initiative inspired a tsunami of small donations that grew to a huge campaign fund that won critical regional elections.

Whether Obama’s Internet Infantry will generate enough favorable public opinion to help persuade Congress to support his budget will be a significant test of how effectively a recall of Obama’s 13-million-name campaign e-mail list could be used to fight other legislative battles.

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