Managing Alone: Barack Obama, Organizing for Action, and Policy Advocacy in the Digital Era

59 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2014

See all articles by Sidney M. Milkis

Sidney M. Milkis

University of Virginia - Government & Foreign Affairs

John York

University of Virginia

Date Written: August 22, 2014

Abstract

Since Franklin Roosevelt – and the consolidation of the modern executive – presidential candidates, especially of the Democratic Party, have depended on interest groups and social movement leaders to mobilize their constituencies and illustrate how the general narrative of the campaign would affect their programmatic ambitions. What distinguishes Barack Obama is that his original presidential campaign transformed into a movement of its own; eschewing the Democrats’ traditional reliance on organized labor and other constituency organizations to mobilize the party faithful, Obama and his political strategists built a powerful, centralized grassroots organization. Born as Obama for America during the 2008 campaign, “OFA” was renamed Organizing for America and ensconced in the Democratic National Committee during Obama’s first term, where it served as the “grassroots arm” of the party. After 2012, it was spun off as a nonprofit social-welfare entity called “Organizing for Action” dedicated to advocating for Obama’s second term objectives: immigration reform, efforts to fight climate change, gun safety legislation, and the implementation of health reform in the face of continuing intense opposition. Making use of several personal interviews, a wealth of primary documents and data on spending and mobilization tactics, we examine how effectively Obama’s paradigm shifting organization has enabled him to meet the challenges of modern presidential leadership in a fractious polity. More broadly, the paper considers how this digital age grassroots effort has been influenced by, and in turn has contributed to recent developments in American politics.

Keywords: political parties, social movements, the presidency, Organizing for Action

Suggested Citation

Milkis, Sidney M. and York, John, Managing Alone: Barack Obama, Organizing for Action, and Policy Advocacy in the Digital Era (August 22, 2014). APSA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2485297 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2485297

Sidney M. Milkis

University of Virginia - Government & Foreign Affairs ( email )

United States

John York (Contact Author)

University of Virginia ( email )

1400 University Ave
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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