Progressives have widely bemoaned Obama's cabinet picks as too conventional and centrist. But Obama himself may be able to implement a more progressive agenda than his can-do cabinet would be inclined to do. If Obama wants to, he can bring some 13 million election supporters to bear on any issue, turning inside-the-Beltway politicking into a replay of the 2008 election.
At least that's what a new study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project suggests, according to an AP story.
The study found that 25% of supporters would work for the new president online and 62% would ask others to support his policies.
If it works the way Obama's top lieutenants plan, the White House would marshal hundreds of thousands of phone calls within hours if it looked as if the president-elect were losing a policy battle. With the click of a keyboard, Obama's aides could ask supporters to flood the phone lines of Congress, making it untenable to ignore the clamor.
Well, it's possible, however unlikely it seems. And Republicans say all this talk about a massive online realignment is way overblown.
"I'm impressed with what Obama did, but did they do anything innovative? No," said Cyrus Krohn, the Republican National Committee's online director. "They did things creatively. It doesn't take a lot to inspire movement and community online," said Krohn, the RNC's top Internet operative. "The notion that we can't catch up, I don't buy that premise because change happens so quickly on the Internet."
The article says Obama has been careful to avoid spamming supporters and targets messages to different groups. As for me, I mostly get requests for more money. But apparently there is targeting like alerting Latinos and that Linda Sanchez would be a co-chairman of Obama's inauguration committee.
If Obama and his allies play this right, they could send phone lines crashing within minutes of a declared protest. Similarly, the instant communication of the Internet and cellular phone text messages could end it just by typing one word: "Stop."
That power gives Obama's online advisers a potentially bigger role than many of his Cabinet picks and major hires in pushing through an agenda. A Cabinet secretary stumping for a new bill has been rendered less powerful than a million e-mails crashing the Capitol; a visit to the Hill from top aides is unmatched to online petitions that clog legislative offices.
I think this is overstated, if not in terms of the populace's power then in their willingness to follow Boss Tweed-like orders and in Obama's willingness to deploy a tyranny-of-the-mob approach to governing. At the same time, it's clear that on tight votes, the voice of the people could prove very important.