As President Obama seeks to use Organizing for Action (OFA) to build support for comprehensive immigration reform and other progressive issues, he has met resistance from “watchdog” groups unhappy over OFA’s funding strategy. Ignoring the millions in anonymous donations spent by conservatives to forward their agenda, groups like Common Cause, Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center are urging the President to “shut down” the progressive mobilizing group. The kind way of describing their position is to say that such “good government” critics ignore or deny political reality. But it may be more accurate to say that these groups’ stance highlights their disconnection from the real problems faced by millions of undocumented immigrants and working people, and their lack of any real base in the progressive community.

The media has had a field day with the “good government” group attacks on Organizing for Action, as it gives the appearance that people who share progressive values oppose a group designed to foster progressive change. But I don’t hear any immigrant rights groups, labor unions, or progressive activist groups calling on the President to unilaterally disarm in the face of massive right-wing spending, and critics of OFA have virtually no base among those fighting each day for greater social justice.

The Two Wrongs ≠ A Right Theory


According to Common Cause President
(and former Congressmember) Bob Edgar, “Whether it’s Nixon selling ambassador posts, Clinton selling a night in the Lincoln Bedroom, or Bush selling black-tie dinners at the White House, selling access to the presidency is just plain wrong and courts corruption. President Obama should put an end to this unsavory practice, not perpetuate it.”

Right. Nixon selling Ambassador posts and Bush appearing at million-dollar fundraisers in order to make their donors even wealthier is the same as Obama raising money for grassroots mobilizing for immigration reform, tougher gun restrictions, extending unemployment benefits, and increased funding for education, housing and public infrastructure.

It’s sad to see how disconnected from political reality and the needs of millions of Americans these Beltway elite “good government” types have become. Especially Bob Edgar, who served in Congress with distinction.

To these elites, only the process matters, not the results. They do not care that Organizing for Action increases the chances that strong comprehensive immigration reform is enacted; they do not want such a result if “contaminated” by what they see as a “dirty” process.

Tell that to a child whose father faces deportation absent comprehensive reform. Or to the parents of children kept out of Head Start due to the sequester, or the public employee in Wisconsin who saw Koch brothers money take away their collective bargaining rights.

By their attacks on funding for progressive advocacy, these interests should be renamed “bad government” groups because the inevitable outcome of their advocacy is to give the billionaire boys club a clear field.

Thank goodness the President and his team are ignoring these high-minded critics, whose attacks on OFA have been predictably joined by Karl Rove’s super PAC American Crossroads. Rove and his backers know that politics is not a game played by Marquis de Queensbury rules, it involves people’s lives.

Rove and his cronies must be getting a great laugh at how the media legitimizes these high-minded groups with no base among people of color, labor unions, or nearly all of the Democratic Party. These groups have historically been funded not by people at the grassroots but by wealthy, overwhelmingly white donors; they reflect an elitist attitude toward politics that is as disconnected from the interests of most Americans as the Republican agenda that OFA is opposing.

Randy Shaw is the author of The Activist’s Handbook and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century