In an unusually aggressive move, Organizing for America announced Wednesday that it is mobilizing its volunteer army to confront the 32 Republican legislators who voted against health care reform — despite representing districts that voted for Obama.
The pressure campaign is designed "to remind these members that voters in their districts voted for change last year," explain OFA officials, "and urge them to reconsider their position when the House votes again on a final bill later this year."
The program calls on OFA activists to visit the district offices of their members. OFA officials say the effort will begin "as early as" Thursday and continue through next week. At the height of the presidential campaign, OFA’s supporter list topped 13 million, making it the largest political network of its kind.
OFA Director Mitch Stewart describes the effort as the more confrontational side of bipartisan promise in the Obama era.
"The message was clear in these districts: Americans want change, and they expect their Representatives to work with President Obama and reach across the aisle to help deliver it," he said. Last weekend’s GOP opposition to health care reform shows that these members are standing "with the insurance companies and right wing pundits to put politics above doing the right thing," he added.
That’s unusually sharp language from OFA, which has prioritized positive lobbying appeals and "thank you" messages to Congress thus far. (OFA’s homepage currently features fireworks and splashy invitations to "thank your member of Congress," which is the topline message for people who don’t live in one of the 32 districts.) For some time, there has been rumbling among Obama supporters and the political digeratti about OFA holding back too much, and asking supporters to take "actions" that were purely symbolic.
Back in May, actually, I argued that OFA should be more aggressive, more willing to target Republicans by geography, and more careful with soliciting symbolism:
…asking millions of Obama’s strongest supporters to simply sign petitions, regardless of their location, ambition and ability, is surely redundant and probably wasteful. Take an activist in a Democratic House district in a Blue state — why should she be pressuring Congress if her representatives are already backing Obama’s plan? (If anything, those members would be willing to go further towards single-payer.) A blanket national petition drive is redundant for many supporters, and it fails to target people in the areas where more visible pressure is desperately needed.
Imagine, for example, if OFA specifically rallied its Republican and independent voters in the  G.O.P. districts that Obama won last year — areas that endorsed his platform but are still represented by Republican incumbents. Imagine a Pennsylvania-focused campaign to make health care a bigger issue for Arlen Specter…
Still a good idea, I think, and in politics, timing can be everything.
The entire OFA email text for these targeted districts is below.
A little over a year ago, the congressional district you live in voted to send Barack Obama to the White House and Rep. to Congress. The message was clear: Rep. ‘s constituents want change, and expect Rep. to work with President Obama and reach across the aisle to help deliver it.
Last weekend, Rep. was called upon to do just that, in the historic vote on health reform. The vote offered a clear choice: Support a bill which draws upon ideas from both parties to guarantee ‘s district residents secure, affordable health coverage without adding a cent to the deficit, or stand with the insurance companies and right wing pundits to put politics above doing the right thing and stand in the way of history. Unfortunately, Rep. made the wrong choice.
Insurance company lobbyists are constantly visiting congressional offices in Washington, and Rep. may be starting to forget the voters back home. There’s one last upcoming vote in the House of Representatives before health reform can become law, so there’s still time to remind Rep. what your district wants by arranging a visit of your own.
Can you stop by Rep. ‘s local office, in ? You can use our simple tool to find the office closest to you, and sign up for a time in the next few days to drop by and let someone on Rep. ‘s staff know that you are counting on Rep. to support health reform in the final vote.Drop by a local office
(If our records are incorrect, and you don’t live in ‘s district, click here to update your address.)
Your voice is especially powerful in a district like yours where the voters support President Obama and want reform. Rep. must understand that caving to the well-heeled lobbyists in D.C. has consequences at the ballot box back home. And if Rep. stands up, reaches out, and supports the change district residents need, the voters will see that, too.
If you’ve never visited a local congressional office before, don’t worry. No experience is necessary — we’ll give you all the materials you’ll need to prepare. This is not about confrontation — it’s simply about expressing your opinion and being heard.
Over 65,000 fellow OFA supporters made office visits like this last August, and we know they can make a tremendous impact. While insurance company lobbyists can swarm the offices in D.C., back in the district ordinary citizens have the loudest voice. When folks like you take the time to show up in person, tell your story, and ask for change, elected officials take notice.
There’s still time for Rep. to decide where to stand before the final vote, but not much.
Please sign up for an office visit in , and pass this on to your neighbors so they can join you:
Democracy is not a spectator sport. And, right now, we need you in the game.
Thanks for making it happen,
Mitch StewartDirectorOrganizing for America
P.S. — Please note: our online tool will help you find and plan a time to go to the office, but it can’t automatically contact Rep. ‘s staff or let them know you’re coming. You don’t need an official appointment to stop by your representative’s office and voice your opinion, but if you want to set one up you must call ahead or contact them separately.