After Obama finished his State of the Union address, he picked up the phone. The President got on a call with supporters on behalf of Organizing for Action (OFA), his new nonprofit, which inherited the grassroots scaffolding that the 2012 campaign built. As in his address, Obama spoke of community and hinted at congressional heel dragging. He also talked about hashtags.
OFA staffers, including former campaign manager Jim Messina, repeated keywords from the State of the Union address: climate change, gun violence, immigration reform, jobs, jobs, jobs. Messina addressed listeners as Obama’s “grassroots army,” calling on them to demand that Congress act on the President’s plans.
Executive director Jon Carson promised that the OFA team would continue to train volunteers to deliver Obama’s message across backyard fences. He especially emphasized the importance of reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, which was deliberate foreshadowing. That battle is moving from the Senate to the House, where Republicans resisted reauthorization last year. If the GOP fails to reauthorize the act again, it will become a battering ram for Democrats seeking to divorce conservatives from the female vote in the midterm elections.
Obama then made a brief, conversational cameo. “This is not just about me,” he said. “This is about us.” He warned of Tuesday night’s conversations — and by implicit extension, his speech — becoming empty words. He said the 2012 win came with responsibility to follow through on ideas, and that in some instances, following through would mean prodding Congress to get with their program. He also plugged #jobsnow, as his staff did after him. It was a reminder on this historic night that Obama is the first President, but presumably not the last, who will have valued hashtags as political currency.
Tuesday’s speech was preceded by pundits wondering when the second-term President would become a lame duck. It’s February. He’s got some time. But the postspeech call underscored the difficultly in building momentum going forward. The election was a clear goal. And while the Obama army may be willing, the to-do list is now diverse and rather long.