[Marxism] Obama Campaign Network vis-a-vis the Democratic Party

Joaquin Bustelo jbustelo at gmail.com
Thu Dec 11 16:12:46 MST 2008

Sukla writes, "The campaign network was of course never autonomous of Obama
even if it rather vaguely but (arguably) spiritedly responded to certain
positive aspirations as captured in the call for Change linked to Hope. 

"But it was definitely autonomous of the Democratic Party machinery as such.

"Now there is an yet unrealised threat to put an end to that autonomy."

I think this reflects a misunderstanding about the nature/structure of U.S.
political parties. They are not large hierarchical structures reaching
deeply into the population. At the "base" level they're a series of partly
interlocking, partly overlapping circles or cliques, without much structure
and often these cliques are rooted in non-party civic or charitable
groupings, or in law firms, businesses and even professional associations.
And not 1 in 100 voters participate in those.

Obama's campaign structure was autonomous from party bodies as such. That is
true of ALL U.S. campaign committees. They're formally independent
organizations that respond, not to the party, but the candidate. But don't
imagine this is a mere formality. It is the honest truth. Obama's campaign
was arguably, if not a different animal, at least a very distinctive breed,
NOT by being autonomous, but because it was much more massive, several times
over, in terms of the numbers of people who formally affiliated with it in
some form or fashion, the numbers of contributors, the numbers of
volunteers, and the somewhat greater latitude local offices enjoyed. It is
typical that such a much broader organization could not be so strictly
controlled and generally Obama's organization showed an ability to adapt. 

But as for "the party machine" itself, at its core level of the bourgeoisie
and wannabes, and upper p-b layers, it is all informal networking -- usually
with some established base at its core, like a business or church or civic
association. Or just a good base of support among voters in a given area or

Established bourgeois political figures at a city or state levels cohere
their own networks around them. They may have started out with some powerful
law firm or civic group, but branch out from there, and their office becomes
the center of a network. 

Traditionally, though, Presidents do not operate in this fashion, but rather
take control over the party's national institutions as soon as they win the
nomination, appointing the chair of the National Committee and other
officers, and largely letting others --usually protégés-- take over their
local, statewide or regional base.

The one peculiarity we may be seeing here in the Obama case is the Obama
"brand" being maintained as a distinct pole of attraction separate from the
national Democratic Party. But I hesitate to make more of this at this stage
than a "peculiarity."


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