by Paul Sperry, The Burning Platform:
If you believe recent media accounts, the former Democratic president has suddenly transcended the political fray. It’s as if a newly “Zen-like” Barack Obama is content to just write his memoir and let Donald Trump and Republicans write the next chapter of history.
In a cover story asking “Where is Barack Obama? for example, New York magazine concluded that the 44th president has “virtually disappeared”from the political scene and is sitting idly by as his legacy is dismantled piece by piece. From an exclusive interview, the periodical concluded Obama was “modeling his political engagement out of office after George W. Bush’s” — that is, staying out of the rough-and-tumble of politics, maintaining distance from his former office and resigning himself to be an elder statesman fading into the sunset.
Don’t buy it.
Obama is doing far more to shape the political landscape than is visible. In fact, for an ex-prez, he’s taking an unusually active role in politics, including helping radical protest groups fight Trump and his policies and devising a scheme to flip the GOP majority in the House and permanently turn red seats blue.
From his sprawling DC office not far from the White House, where he oversees a full-time staff of 20, Obama has held regular meetings with Democratic lawmakers, as well as DNC chief Tom Perez, whom he personally helped install to run the Democratic Party. Obama has also met with his attorney general, Eric Holder, to craft a strategy to redraw congressional district maps in Democrats’ favor, according to Politico. Holder now runs the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which Obama helped his old friend launch.
Obama, who maintains a home in Chicago, originally said he only planned to stay in Washington temporarily, until his youngest daughter, Sasha, now 17, finished high school there. But the family is clearly putting down deeper roots. They recently bought their DC rental home and erected a massive security wall around the property, which includes offices, and are installing a swimming pool.
While it may be true Obama does not want to engage directly in Washington politics, including personally protesting Trump’s policies, he is using a political-organizing group he founded to do that for him.
That nonprofit — Organizing for Action — is not exactly a household name. But it is no less than the organizing and training hub of the anti-Trump resistance.
Most recently, OFA helped stage rallies across the country against the administration’s border policies, which it has decried as “cruel and inhumane.” OFA describes itself as a “nonpartisan grass-roots-driven organization,” but it clearly has a pro-Obama agenda. In fact, it’s run almost entirely by alums from Obama’s campaign and White House, including Jon Carson and Jim Messina, who co-chair the group, and Katie Hogan, who serves as its executive director, according to recent tax filings by the nonprofit.
Though Obama has no official or legal role in OFA, he features the group along with his foundation on his post-presidency Web site and rallies its foot soldiers, who wear blue T-shirts with big white “OFA” letters, in conference calls. After Trump won, for example, he phoned to “fire up” Carson and his team and told them not to worry, that they would “cook up all kinds” of strategies to reclaim the agenda, according to a Nov. 14, 2016, White House transcript of his OFA conference call. More recently, Obama sent an e-mail to “OFA supporters” urging them to “keep going in 2018,” because “there’s simply too much at stake this year.” Obama has tweeted from OFA’s account before and after leaving the White House, and while he was in the White House, he let OFA control his Twitter account, according to The Atlantic.
Earlier this year, moreover, he met with Hogan to discuss how the group can flex its muscles during the midterm campaign to help Democrats recapture the House, according to The New York Times. To that end, OFA plans to train and deploy organizers in 27 Republican-held congressional districts, many with heavy Latino populations, that could be key to a Democratic takeover of the House. With offices in DC and Chicago, OFA has already trained more than 40,000 leftist agitators in person or by webinar, according to tax records.
Behind the scenes, he really may be coordinating the resistance
“We’ve seen grassroots organizing make a big difference this past year, it will again in November,” Hogan recently tweeted.
Meanwhile, OFA has formally partnered with one of the angriest resistance groups, Indivisible Project, which has been criticized for using overly aggressive protest tactics against Republicans at town-hall meetings. Indivisible plans to deploy OFA-trained agitators to storm Republican districts during the Fourth of July recess, starting this weekend, to shout down “Trump’s racist policies,” according to its Web site.
OFA brings in between $6 million and $14 million in donations a year, and is funded in part by Democracy Alliance, which is connected to the radical group that dispatched agitators to march outside Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s Virginia town house, blaring an audiotape of crying immigrant children and chanting “No justice, no sleep!” The group, CREDO Action, also held signs calling Nielsen a “child snatcher” and shouted, “You’re a modern-day Nazi!’
With the help of 40 full-time staffers, OFA trains volunteers in the hard-core tactics popularized by the late Chicago radical Saul Alinsky, including smearing and intimidating opponents and mobilizing angry mobs to convey the appearance of a mass movement that enjoys a good deal of public support.
Alinsky trainers schooled Obama in these same tactics when he was an organizer in South Side Chicago.
Meanwhile, Hogan and OFA have partnered with Obama and Holder’s gerrymandering project to manufacture future Democrat victories.
Republicans are so alarmed by Obama’s permanent presence and political interference they are raising money from donors based on these fears, warning in a recent fund-raising newsletter about “his scheme to interfere in the 2018 midterms,” according to a June 22 e-mail from House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.
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