Activation is harder than flipping a switch

Bloomberg reports that the first big post-election test of the Obama Campaign’s 13 million-strong activist list may expose confusion and dissension in the ranks.  The grassroots activists who responded well to the broad, simple messages of “hope, change, and Obama” are, like the rest of us, a little intimidated by more involved themes like “mandated private insurance, public health plan options, and pre-existing conditions.”

And even more important, not everyone agrees on what a new health plan should look like.  There are likely many left-wing Obama supporters among the 13 million strong that feel a nationalized, socialized, single-payer system works best for everyone.  They may also feel alienated by the big business support for health care reform – pharmaceutical companies, insurance providers, unions, and other big-money operations smell lots of public dollars, so of course they love the idea of a system where the government hands them over a cut of  taxpayer money.

It’s always easier to build a large list based on broad ideas than to engage individuals on specific policy ideas, so don’t expect a swarm of voters to march on Washington DC with banners demanding a public-private cooperative and comprehensive health care system.  But Obamacare may not need all that help.  I expect the real mobilization will be in certain targeted Cognressional districts in Virginia, North Carolina, and other areas where Republicans hold a seats in district won by Obama in 2008, or in historically Republican districts held by Blue Dog Democrats.

The list may be 13 million, but politics is local.  It may only take 1300 well-placed phone calls to change a Congressman’s vote.

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