The incoming Obama administration is set to undertake a major expansion of the White House communications operation, according to the Washington Post. It will provide the administration a vehicle to reach out directly to the formidable grassroots organization the campaign built over the course of the last two years.
The idea is that an Obama White House would be able to bypass the mainstream media and energize the grassroots to push its message. This is, of course, all in theory. And it all sounds great, but what if the process of governing starts to get in the way? Or the grassroots become disenchanted with the Obama White House and begin to turn on him?Given all the talk, on this blog and others, about how Obama’s grassroots could help usher in a new golden-age of Democracy, I’d point out a little-noticed comment this past week from Obama strategist Anita Dunn. She was notably non-committal on how large a role the grassroots will play.
Speaking at the annual conference of the International Association of Political Consultants, Dunn said while the administration will find ways to keep the grassroots involved, “we are still in the beginning phases of figuring out what’s next,” she said. “They’re going to find vehicles to continue to be engaged in public life. What kind of vehicle we have, we haven’t determined yet.”
Dunn’s comments did come this past Friday, before the report of President-elect Obama’s expansion of White House communications. But the point is that the knee-jerk reaction of some D.C. insiders may be to pour cold water on the notion that the grassroots will have as much say as it wants in an Obama administration.
And it’s not necessarily because they don’t want the grassroots engaged in the governing process. It seems to reflect a legitimate uncertainty about how this sort of engagement translates to what can be a less-than-open process of governing in this country.
It is one thing to change the way presidential campaigns are run, but it’s quite another to really change the ways of Washington. So, call me a pessimist, but I will believe all of this when I actually see it.
Shane D’Aprile is web editor at Politics magazine. firstname.lastname@example.org