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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Meyerson: Messina Mocks OFA’s Beliefs

Harold Meyerson’s Washington Post column, “Messina’s misguided embrace of Cameron raises questions” makes important points about the Obama’s campaign manager and current chairman of organizing for America helping out Britain’s Tory Prime Minister’s reelection campaign.
“Messina works for pro-immigrant and anti-austerity causes on this side of the Atlantic and for anti-immigrant and pro-austerity causes on the other,” explains Meyerson. He acknowledges that other political consultants have done election work abroad.

Some consultants maintain a level of ideological consistency in their globe-trotting: Pollster Stan Greenberg, for instance, has worked for Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, the Labor Party’s Tony Blair and the German Social Democrats’ Gerhard Schroeder. Others consultants are less picky. Douglas Schoen polled for both Clinton and Silvio Berlusconi. (Whatever consistency that may reveal isn’t ideological.)

But Messina’s work for Cameron takes political fickleness to another level, argues Meyerson:

So why make an issue of Messina’s meandering? Isn’t it just illustrative of the proclivity of some consultants for high-dollar candidates?
There are two reasons why it’s more disquieting than the normal scramble for more clients. First, Messina isn’t just a consultant; he is also the chairman of Organizing for Action, which describes itself on its Web site as an “organization established to support President Obama in achieving enactment of the national agenda Americans voted for on Election Day 2012.” The site touts the necessity of investing public dollars in infrastructure and highlights the efforts of volunteers across the country to win passage of immigration reform. If Organizing for Action’s members had any say in the matter, they almost surely wouldn’t approve of the group’s chairman going to work for Britain’s anti-immigrant, anti-public investment prime minister. Indeed, if they had any say in the matter, they might ask Messina to choose between Obama’s agenda and Cameron’s. If he opted to keep working for Cameron, they might just opt for a less-conflicted leader. But as the structural continuation of Obama for America, the president’s official reelection campaign, Organizing for Action is no more controlled by its members than any other electoral campaign organization is controlled by its volunteers. If the organization’s leader spends part of his time opposing the president’s agenda in a land much like our own, there’s nothing the members can do about it.
The other disquieting aspect of Messina’s misalliance is that it reflects an emerging set of political beliefs among some younger Democratic Party leaders who have grown close to Wall Street, Silicon Valley or both — as Messina did while bringing both big money and technological wizardry to Obama’s reelection campaign. This umpteenth iteration of the New Democrats believes in such socially liberal causes as gay marriage but is skeptical of unions and appalled at economic populism. At times, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel exemplifies this breed of Democrat, but the group’s true poster child is Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who defended Wall Street during the 2012 controversy over Bain Capital’s plant closings (“stop attacking private equity,” he said on “Meet The Press”) and who has actually had a high-tech start-up personally bestowed on him by his Silicon Valley fans.
For Democrats such as these, Cameron’s Tories, in their support for gay marriage, their opposition to labor (and Labor) and their defense of big banks against the European Union’s efforts to regulate them, may look surprisingly simpatico. These synergies probably seem less apparent to the many thousands of Obama volunteers still active in Organizing for Action, but what do they matter? They can’t even keep their chairman from crossing the Atlantic to mock their beliefs.

You couldn’t blame OFA’s members for thinking that Jim Messina really, really needs to resign – or be fired — as head of OFA and let someone run it who actually believes in the organization’s goals and mission.

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