As President Barack Obama delivered the State of the Union address, activists involved in his new non-profit advocacy group, Organizing for Action, gathered in local meetings around the country to watch and cheer him on. The new 501(c)4 organization, which is an offshoot of his re-election campaign, aims to support the president’s policies and to project the power of the White House beyond Washington into local communities and media.
I joined a gathering in southern California, which rented out a local pub and tuned in on the big screen. The buildup to the event was almost as interesting as the event itself. I received several email invitations to join a State of the Union-watching party; once I had accepted, I received two confirmation emails with detailed directions, plus a personal phone call the day before the address just to make sure I knew where to find the event.
When I arrived, a small crowd had already gathered. The sign-in sheet was not simply a record of attendance; instead, organizers asked guests to sign up for one or more issue campaigns: “gun violence,” immigration reform, and the president’s budget plan. People were quite friendly, and unmistakably liberal; one discussion debated whether it was the military or the police that had pushed LA cop-killer Christopher Dorner over the edge.