Obama for America Says: Stay Home and Shop!

Joe Macaré

I hadn’t intended to start a regular series of blog posts regarding clueless, tone deaf emails from Obama for America campaign. But then I didn’t expect that, just under two weeks after Jim Messina’s Hey guys, remember Grant Park, by which I definitely don’t mean remember where Obama’s former chief of staff had almost 300 peaceful protesters arrested?” classic, National Finance Director Rufus Gifford would have provided such a doozy. The email, archived here, has the subject line Gear up for 2012 this holiday season” and begins [bolding in original]:Friend — It’s hard to believe that 2011 is already wrapping up — and I haven’t even started thinking about my holiday shopping. I’ve got some good news — the campaign just stocked up on a ton of new gear for the fight ahead, and they make perfect gifts. And right now, you can get 15 percent off your order of $10 or more by using this coupon codeJust in general, it’s pretty uninspiring that the best the campaign can do at this point is attempt to ship some merchandise by offering a 15 percent discount. But it’s the specific wording of yesterday’s email that really takes the cake [bolding mine]:
In the store, you’ll find great gifts — from Joe Biden can holders to 2012 fleeces — so you and your friends and family can show that you stand with the President right now and for the critical months ahead. The best part? You won’t have to fight the crowds, or even leave home.Yes, you read that right. On the exact same day when tens of thousands of Americans took to the streets, risking possible arrest and/​or police violence, in order to protest economic inequality and the corporate dominance of the American political system, Obama for America sent out an email reassuring the president’s presumed supporters that they can play a vital part in the democratic process without even needing to leave home. By purchasing Joe Biden can holders.” If this isn’t monumentally news-blind bad timing, then it may well represent something even more troubling: What kind of political engagement the political class thinks the 99% should, and shouldn’t, be engaged in. Many commentators have already pointed out the physicality and boldness of the Occupy movement, and the welcome change this makes. As In These Times’ Mike Elk tweeted early in October: “#occupywallstreet marks the death of MoveOn passive point & click activism. Thank God!” It’s as if Gifford was directly responding to this. An end to passive point and click activism? Thousands of people taking to the streets, putting their bodies at risk from the winter elements and over-militarized, over-aggressive law enforcement, many of them willing to engage in direct action and civil disobedience? Don’t these people realize they can just stay home and buy Obama-branded products over the internet? You won’t have to fight the crowds, or be vilified by most of the establishment media and in all likelihood your own city’s mayor! As Kirsten Boyd Johnson puts it at Wonkette:At least these emails aren’t even bothering to ask anyone to hand over their last few dollars as contributions in support of “hope” or “change” anymore. It’s just “buy our stuff, to give as gifts, so we can keep our jobs.”Think about this the next time you hear someone claiming that the Occupy movement is unrealistic, that it’s all just a lark in a park and that the protesters should be doing something more pragmatic that engages with the existing political process: The Obama campaign’s idea of doing something pragmatic and engaging is buying Joe Biden can holders. Audacious.
Joe Macaré is a writer, editor and development and communications professional, originally hailing from the UK and now residing in Chicago. His writing has appeared at In These Times, TruthOut, AlterNet, Dazed and Confused, The Times, Plan B and Stylus. He has appeared on WBEZ radio and Chicago Newsroom to discuss his extensive coverage of the Occupy Chicago movement.
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