In response to Hurricane Gustav, Barack Obama has pledged to use his vast e-mail network and newly constructed national political organization to tap supporters who can lend a hand in some way. In this, for the first time, I see the possibility of a truly revolutionary change in American politics. Imagine a President Obama pointing his charges toward this problem or that, from emergency responses to selected volunteerism efforts to pressing recalcitrant congressmen wavering on key votes. Imagine the Obama Army bringing pressure to bear in cities and states for various reform goals and, say, environmental measures or even just things like book drives connected to education funding debates. It could advance the social-networked Facebook approach to politics beyond fundraising to an elevated form of activism.
Obama is a moderate incrementalist – the notion peddled by right-wing nutjobs that he is a left-wing radical is nonsense; likewise the left-wing will be sorely disappointed should Obama become president – so he would be cautious in using his network in such a way. But as an Obama skeptic, I can say the possibilities raised by his Gustav response represent the kind of grassroots movement that so far is reflected more in his rhetoric than his reality.
Here is the letter the Obama campaign just sent out to its supporters, which asks for donations to the Red Cross:
Today, the thoughts and prayers of all Americans are with those in the path of Hurricane Gustav – and many of you are asking what you can do to help.
We do not yet know what the impact of Hurricane Gustav will be, and we hope with all our hearts that the damage will not be as great as it was three years ago.
But we know there will be damage, and there is something you can do right now.
Your financial support will strengthen organizations like the American Red Cross that are evacuating Gulf Coast residents and planning to help communities get back on their feet.
Make a donation to support the American Red Cross today.
At times like this, it is our compassion and resilience that define who we are as a nation.
Please give whatever you can afford, even $10, to make sure the American Red Cross has the resources to help those in the path of this storm:
Thank you for your generosity, and I hope you will join Michelle and me in praying for the safety of those in the path of the storm and the first responders who are doing all they can to ensure the safety of their communities.