Updated at 10:10 am EDT, Sept. 10
Among all the usual advocates whom President Barack Obama has rallied in support of his bid for military action against Syria, the one most conspicuous by its virtual absence is the organization committed to supporting his second-term agenda:
Organizing for Action, the group spun off from Obama’s successful 2012 re-election campaign, Organizing for America.
It’s little wonder that a group that made its name by organizing young Americans and turning them out to vote has taken a pass on staking a position on this one for a president who has acknowledged: “I was elected to end wars, not start them.”
The Pew Research Center poll which today reported on “surging” public opposition to an air strike against Syria found that sentiment opposing military action had grown from 49 percent a week ago to 64 percent through this past weekend among those 18 to 29 years of age.
With the president’s overall job approval rating slipping again into the negative territory — with 49 percent of the surveyed public disapproving of his job performance and 44 percent approving — Obama still was holding firm among that younger crowd: 52 percent voicing job approval, 35 percent disapproval, virtually the same finding as the week before: 52-37.
“You know, our polling operations are pretty good, you know, I tend to have a pretty good sense of what current popular opinion is,” Obama said Friday in Russia, acknowledging that he faces a “heavy lift” in convincing a skeptical, war-weary public of the need for action in Syria.
Online, OFA has weighed in sparsely, and mainly as a point of reference.
Yesterday, relaying Hillary Clinton’s words from the White House:
For more information on Syria, read former Secretary of State Clinton’s remarks at the White House today: http://t.co/WnoqWyeGFZ
— OFA (@OFA) September 9, 2013
On Sept. 6, relaying Samantha Power’s words:
— OFA (@OFA) September 6, 2013
OFA is independent now, a non-profit separate from the White House. Yet its polling operations, and political instincts, are “pretty good” too.
MoveOn.org, the group built around opposition to the war in Iraq, which Obama also opposed before his election to the Senate, recently came out three-to-one against a strike against Syria.
There is nothing to be gained, for the president, in alienating Obama’s best base.
NBC News late last week first published an excerpt from a transcript of an OFA conference call with Jon Carson’s explanation:
“Since the president’s announcement on Saturday (that he would seek congressional approval of military action) we’ve definitely heard from our volunteers on this issue and glad to hear more feedback right now. The first thing I’d say is that it’s been pretty universal from folks that they are very glad he is taking this issue to Congress. We’ve certainly heard from all sides of this including people who are just looking for more information on the subject.”
“What I definitely want you all to know is that OFA supports President Obama and the agenda that Americans voted for on November 6 but we don’t always actively organize around every issue and the debate in Congress over the Syria vote is not one that OFA is planning on organizing around.”
Since Aug. 21, the day the Syrian government is accused of deploying chemical weapons outside Damascus, the voluminous Twitter traffic from OFA has mentioned a lot of things, but only Obama’s agenda for Syria a few times:
That day, the messaging was all about immigration and gun safety:
— OFA (@OFA) August 21, 2013
The next day, it was education:
“What we need is to build on the cornerstones of what it means to be middle class in America.”—President Obama #MakeCollegeAffordable
— OFA (@OFA) August 22, 2013
Then on to the minimum wage and “Obamacare.”
And the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
“Change does not come from Washington, but to Washington.” —President Obama #MLKDream50
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 28, 2013
On the question of holding Syria accountable for its violation of international “norms,” as Obama is seeking, however, there is no changing of Washington minds coming from Organizing for Action.