State Dem leaders livid at Obama organizing group OFA
Leaked emails from a Democratic Party listserv account reveal the anger of local and state Democrat leaders at the relaunching of President Obama’s activist group, Organizing for Action (OFA). Many Democrats around the country believe that the group siphons money and people from state parties, which directly led to the party losing more than 1,000 state legislative seats during the Obama years.
The nonprofit, which functions as a sort of parallel-Democratic National Committee, was founded to mobilize Democratic voters and supporters in defense of President Obama’s, and the Democratic Party’s, agenda. Instead, the organization has drawn the intense ire, both public and private, of grassroots organizers and state parties that are convinced that OFA inadvertently helped decimate Democrats at the state and local level, while Republicans cemented historic levels of power and Donald J. Trump actually became leader of the free world.
These intra-party tensions aren’t going away, especially now that OFA “relaunched” itself last week to protect the Affordable Care Act, boost turnout at congressional town halls, and train grassroots organizers gearing up for the Trump era.
This is some GRADE A Bulls**t right here,” Stephen Handwerk, executive director of the Louisiana Democratic Party, wrote in a private Democratic-listserv email obtained by The Daily Beast. Handwerk was reacting to news of OFA’s post-election retooling, which was shared “without comment” to the group of state-level Dems by Crystal Kay Perkins, executive director for Texas Democrats.
“It also to me seems TONE DEAF – we have lost over 1,000 seats in the past 8 years… all because of this crap,” Handwerk continued. “Let’s get through the next two weeks – but then we gotta figure this out and keep the pressure on. WOW.”
Others on the thread shared these sentiments.
“Yes, it sure is,” Katie Mae Simpson, executive director for the Maine Democratic Party, replied. “OFA showed up in Maine, organized a press conference on saving [Obamacare], with one of our Dem legislative leaders speaking, all without ever mentioning that they were in state and organizing. They hired someone I know, which is somewhat helpful, but my god, they don’t have a very good alliance-building process.”
Such grievances, though expressed privately, are nothing new among state Democratic Party leadership.
“[With] all due respect to President Obama, OFA was created as a shadow party because Obama operatives had no faith in state parties,” Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb told Politico last week.
“I love and adore everything about President Obama except for OFA,” South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison (who is also running to chair the Democratic National Committee) said at a recent DNC “future forum,” according to The Washington Post.
The friction between the regular Democratic Party and OFA was predictable. OFA, despite promises from President Obama and OFA’s backers, never functioned as anything except Obama’s private organizing army. Any coordination with the DNC or local state parties happened only when the political interests of the president dovetailed with those of the local party infrastructure. Otherwise, OFA monopolized fundraising and hiring political operatives at the expense of the party.
That President Obama didn’t care about down-ballot Democrats is obvious. Republicans, with the help of the Tea Party, slaughtered the Democrats at the state and local levels. The party has all but disappeared from many areas, and Democrats will spend the better part of the next decade just getting back to where they were in 2008.
OFA proved adept at backing Obama’s agenda, putting pressure on Washington Democrats to pass the president’s program. But they were a disaster for Democrats beyond the Beltway, as huge GOP gains at the state level show.
Shame on you Obama!