How Obama lost his voice, and how he can get it back

Not much has changed in the Obama White House since Marshall Ganz wrote this opinion piece 14 months ago.  It is worth reading a concise and exemplary critique even at this late stage.  When the DNC calls, have a few things to say to them….

November 03, 2010|By Marshall Ganz

Barack Obama went from being a transformational leader in the campaign to a transactional one as president. It didn’t work, and he must reverse course.

President Obama entered office wrapped in a mantle of moral leadership. His call for change was rooted in values that had long been eclipsed in our public life: a sense of mutual responsibility, commitment to equality and belief in inclusive diversity. Those values inspired a new generation of voters, restored faith to the cynical and created a national movement.

Now, 18 months and an “enthusiasm gap” later, the nation’s major challenges remain largely unmet, and a discredited conservative movement has reinvented itself in a more virulent form.

LA Times  Nov 3, 2011

for more from Ganz see this Feb 2011 interview in The Nation

President Obama, Ganz says ruefully, seems to be “afraid of people getting out of control.” He needed the organizing base in 2008, but he and his inner circle were quick to dismantle it after the election. Yes, Ganz concedes, they kept Organizing for America, with its access to the vast volunteer databases, alive; but they made a conscious decision to neuter it, so as to placate legislators who were worried about the independent power base it could give Obama. Following a meeting of key members of the transition team, they placed it under the control of the Democratic National Committee. It became, if you like, something of a house pet. Yes, President Obama proposed, and continues to propose, many good policies; but, the community organizing guru concludes, the fire, the passion and the moral clarity were left out of his postelection rhetoric.

Returning to his kitchen table after a brief quest amid the clutter for his eyedrops, Ganz surveys what’s left of candidate Obama’s promise to deliver a cleaner, more uplifting style of politics. After winning in November 2008, Obama and his inner circle wanted to control the terms of the debate rather than be pushed from below by a chaotic, empowered, activist community. They wanted to shift Obama’s leadership style, Ganz believes, from the transformational aura of his candidacy to something different; they wanted him to be a transactional leader, a maker of deals, a compromiser in chief.

“He’s not a bad man,” Ganz says of the president. “His policy intent is not bad. But you don’t have the opportunity to change history every day. The Obama campaign excited the whole world. It created an opportunity to build capacity and do real movement-building.”