About grass-roots campaigns, Obama is two-thirds right. Time and energy are essential, but if people have those to spare, then you already have your grass-roots campaign, so what's money got to do with it? It would seem that the President is a strong believer in "astroturf" in the new political sense of the term. From his perspective, a grass-roots campaign is something that paid organizers enter a community to instigate, which is why the DNC needs so much money. The truth of the matter, of course, is that Obama wants a grass-roots Democratic campaign. As he writes, "To get folks believing in what America can be, we need to show them a real vision ... and we need to prove that Democrats can achieve it [ellipsis in original]."
Speaking for Bipolarchy, the President insists that "to build on our successes and prevent destructive steps backward, we need strong Democratic representation at all levels of government." As ever, the only alternative to Democratic rule a Democrat can imagine is Republican rule, and Obama has already portrayed that as a certain disaster. Earlier in the letter, he claims that GOP "folks ... believe it's ok if we slash education funding and fall further behind our competitors in math and science," and "think we can skip out on investing in clean energy, falling behind our global competitors in new markets and jobs producing renewable energy." However you feel about Republicans, this is dishonest insofar as Republicans don't want the U.S. to "fall further behind our competitors," even if that proves to be the consequence of their policies. This sort of scare rhetoric is inevitable, of course, but Obama really seems to need our money not to fight Republicans, but to fight what he perceives as our own demoralized apathy.
You see, I believe that our biggest adversaries in the elections ahead are not our political opponents. Our biggest obstacle to victory is the very real frustration felt by people who are tired of the politics of Washington. And I can't blame them. Hardworking people who are struggling just to pay the bills are rightfully angered when they see politicians wasting time bickering and playing blame games.
As a prospective small donor to the DNC, I'm invited to overcome this obstacle by making it possible for Democratic candidates to "offer more than slogans and pretty posters." The President wants me to subsidize a grassroots organization campaign in which "Democratic candidates need to get out and talk to people face to face....Voters deserve candidates who will look soberly at the challenges in front of us, and offer not only solutions to continue America along the road to recovery, but solutions that will restore the middle class with good jobs at good wages and benefits, with the prospects of a brighter future [etc., etc.]."
With my help, Obama promises, "Democrats will run face-to-face campaigns that remind people that they are voting for their children's schools, their parents' Social Security and their planet's health," among other things. Of course, there's a potential problem. If Americans are really frustrated by anything going on in Washington, it's partisanship, but Obama proposes nothing other than a partisan "face-to-face" campaign that will inevitably become a "blame game," in which all bickering is Republicans' fault. Democrats may need the kind of campaign the President writes about, and he's probably right that it'll take a lot of money, but an actual grass-roots campaign needs not so much, and it really needs me more than my money. Arguably, there are real grass-roots campaigns incubating in Occupations across the country -- and the last thing those probably need are Democrats getting in their faces. The object of a real grass-roots campaign, I presume, is to create our own vision, and prove to ourselves that we can achieve it, or at least that we can stick to it. If Americans can manage that, they shouldn't need to pay Democrats to do it for them.