A friend asked whether Organizing for America–the effort to transform the Obama campaign’s guerilla forces into something more closely resembling a traditional standing army–would provide volunteers with policy input or would leave them as mere foot soldiers.
The Nonprofiteer thinks another question comes first, which is whether the political arena is even the appropriate context for using the campaign’s stored-up energy, or whether–you guessed it–that energy belongs in the voluntary sector more broadly defined. In other words, are we trying to sustain the kind of communal feeling that goes into a barn-raising–localized, personal, concrete, time-limited–or the kind that goes into planning the Boston Tea Party?
In its phrase “the personal is political,” the women’s movement encapsulated the notion that time spent on barn- (and consciousness-) raisings wasn’t wasted but instead was the necessary precondition for making real change. While any politician would do what the Obama campaign is doing with an e-mail list of 13 million, the Nonprofiteer remains free to wonder whether immediate rabble-rousing constitutes putting the cart before the horse, and whether in fact a solid year of barn-raising wouldn’t ultimately produce a political army far stronger than any attracted by the aura of The Permanent Campaign.