By Collin Roth
It was recently reported that President Barack Obama’s campaign arm, Organizing for America, was assisting Democrats in the Wisconsin recall campaigns. On July 22, Organizing for America State Field Director Michelle Kleppe sent an email to supporters informing them that “in the coming weeks, volunteers will be organizing their networks, working phone banks, and knocking on doors to get the word out about what’s at stake on August 9th.” The introduction of President Barack Obama’s campaign arm into the Wisconsin recall elections understates the profound importance that Wisconsin holds for 2012 battle for the White House.
But this is not the first time that Barack Obama and his political arm have inserted themselves into the Wisconsin budget battles.
Back in February 2010, Organizing for America coordinated some of the very first Madison rallies in response to Governor Walker’s budget repair bill. Dan Grandone, State Director For Organizing for America, issued a press release saying “OFA volunteers are going to fight for our friends with state jobs, our allies in organized labor, and the freedom of all Wisconsinites to organize their communities.” OFA’s involvement in Wisconsin garnered criticism from many prominent politicians including Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner who “urged the president to order the DNC to suspend these tactics” after he accused OFA of spreading “disinformation and confusion in Wisconsin.”
President Obama’s background as a community organizer in Chicago is well documented. So it comes as no surprise that Dan Grandone, the Wisconsin State Director of Organizing for America, spent ten years as a community organizer for the Gamaliel Foundation. The Gamaliel Foundation was founded in Chicago in 1968 utilizing the tactics of Saul Alinksy to organize local church congregations. “Gamaliel” was character in the Bible whom Saul Alinksy considered to be the “the pioneer of community organizing.”
Today, Gamaliel boasts a grassroots network that in “18 U.S. states, South Africa and the United Kingdom.” Gamaliel’s mission is empower local church members “to apply their faith and values to the pursuit of equal opportunity for all, shared abundance, and stronger, more prosperous communities.” Gamaliel’s agenda includes “comprehensive immigration reform,” health care coverage “guaranteed to everyone living in the United States,” “increasing funding for mass transit,” government spending for jobs for people of low-income, and “equitable and inclusionary housing opportunities for all.”
The involvement of Organizing for America in the Wisconsin protests and recall elections is hardly surprising to many. The importance of big-labor to the Democratic Party, the profound influence that AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has with President Obama, and the history of community organizing among Obama and his operatives makes Wisconsin’s budget showdown a perfect proxy war.
As many have so astutely observed, Wisconsin’s political battles are “the opening salvo of the 2012 election season.”