Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Some Obama Supporters Outraged Over FISA

From The Nation: "Barack Obama tapped his sizeable grassroots network on Saturday, coordinating over 4,000 "Unite for Change" meetups across the country through the campaign's social networking portal, MyBo. At the same time, however, other supporters worked furiously over the weekend to organize a new MyBo campaign to protest and pressure Obama. Many activists are outraged by the Senator's recent announcement that he will back a controversial bill to grant the Executive more spying powers and immunize telephone companies accused of illegal surveillance. Both efforts demonstrate how Obama's national network, which broke fundraising records and turned the first term Senator into an unlikely presidential nominee, can respond to top-down edicts and spring into action for self-organized protests.

Since launching last week, the protest group, "Senator Obama Please Vote NO on Telecom Immunity – Get FISA Right," swelled to one of the ten largest campaign groups on Sunday. (FISA is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which the Democratic Congress is poised to amend under White House pressure.) It is the largest group of its kind on MyBo, which focuses on local networking, official campaign events, and constituency groups like "Women for Obama." It looks like the group grew through the Obama network, with a few web mentions on liberal sites such as OpenLeft and TPM, and it urges Obama to reject the "politics of fear" and lead Democrats to oppose the White House bill. Blogger Mike Stark says the effort demonstrates the kind of civic engagement and "open government" that Obama espouses, even if it delivers the "sting of social networking" pushback during a tight campaign.

One Democratic Internet consultant predicted that Obama's reaction could reveal his commitment to meaningful engagement with supporters. "How Obama responds will tell us a great deal about both his willingness to listen to input from his supporters and what influence the MyBarackObama community has on the campaign itself," said the operative, who wished to remain anonymous while working on another campaign. "In the meantime, this is a huge opportunity for Obama's supporters to organize around an issue, not just the candidate, and take action beyond using their credit card."

There's no way to know whether the criticism resonates with the hardcore activists who gathered at Saturday's official events. The 4,000 meetups, which drew guests from MyBo and local networks offline, generated overwhelming interest. Though barely covered by the mainstream media, the gatherings suggest another edge for Obama's Internet organizing."