Thursday, December 30, 2010

OFA’s Top Five Game Changers

We’ve been saying it all week as we’ve looked back on a year full of historic achievement: none of what was accomplished in 2010 would have been possible without the dedicated work of Organizing for America supporters. Let’s take a more in-depth look at just how OFA volunteers, who fight for change in all 50 states and in all 435 congressional districts, have made a specific impact on some of 2010’s most game-changing moments.

Health reform
Getting the Affordable Care Act to President Obama’s desk was no easy task. Generations of Presidents, members of Congress, and advocates had tried and failed to fix the American health care system. This attempt might not have been any different, had it not been for the support of nearly 3.5 million everyday Americans who made their voices heard in the halls of Congress. In the final 10 days of an 11-month battle for reform, OFA supporters made nearly 500,000 calls to members of Congress, wrote 324,000 letters to Congress, and hosted nearly 1,200 local events in support of health reform. And on March 23, President Obama’s signature made the Affordable Care Act the law of the land—joined by the co-signatures of more than 1.1 million OFA supporters who had stood alongside the President every step of the way.

Wall Street reform
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, signed into law by President Obama on July 21, represented the most sweeping financial reforms since the aftermath of the Great Depression and the strongest consumer protections in history. And with the nation’s financial lobbyists fighting tooth and nail to protect the big banks and corporate interests, passage was anything but assured. Enter OFA supporters, who stood up to the special interests—and many in Congress—on behalf of American consumers. The phone calls made, the letters written, and the conversations that took place on behalf of Wall Street reform brought about strong legislation that will empower the American people and help prevent another devastating financial crisis.

Vote 2010
In 2010, Organizing for America launched the most ambitious grassroots campaign ever for a midterm election year. In six months, Democrats reached out to more than 80 million voters nationwide—at front doors and over the phone. They organized nearly 37,000 events across the country, including canvasses and phone banks, in their own neighborhoods. In the final weekend before the election, they filled more than 200,000 volunteer shifts at 2,839 get-out-the-vote locations. And the work didn’t stop on Election Day. On November 2, a dedicated band of volunteers on the West Coast woke up at 4 a.m. to start making calls to the East Coast, urging voters to get to the voting booth—and likewise, folks on the East Coast stayed on the phones until the last polls closed in Alaska and Hawaii. And despite a tough electoral environment, we had our successes. OFA’s unprecedented Vote 2010 efforts helped make the difference for dozens of candidates, and it laid a strong groundwork for the fights ahead.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal
As a candidate for President, then-Senator Obama made a promise—“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the discriminatory policy preventing gay men and women from serving openly in the military, would end under his watch as commander-in-chief. It was a pledge that an army of supporters was ready to help him keep. OFA supporters flooded congressional offices with phone calls, wrote letters to the editor of their local newspapers, and added their names to a petition to end DADT. Our volunteers delivered more than 600,000 of these signatures to Senator Susan Collins of Maine, Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, and Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois. In the end, all three of these Republican senators voted for repeal, and on December 22, President Obama signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 into law.

There is still more work to do to provide a path to citizenship for undocumented youth willing to pursue a college education or military service, but OFA has been among the most active in the fight to pass the DREAM Act—gathering on Capitol Hill, making phone calls, writing letters, and signing petitions as part of a major push to move Republican senators who blocked the bill. This legislation has been a priority for President Obama since his days in the U.S. Senate, and he and Democrats in Congress remain committed to making this DREAM a reality. So although the fight on behalf of undocumented youth will continue into the next session of Congress, you can expect more game-changing organizing from OFA supporters in 2011.

by Elizabeth Chan -
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