The interesting thing about the conference so far is the message: if only we organize, we can change what the public thinks and with the public behind us make the President and Congress do what we want.
This was epitomized by a “debate” between Darcy Burner and Deepak Bhargava, where they both agreed that the key to progressive change is organzing: get the public behind us, and change can be made to happen. FDR wouldn’t have been FDR without the movement behind him. LBJ wouldn’t have been behind civil rights without the movement. And so on.
What the evidence, though?
70% of the public supported the public option. Calls against TARP ran from 100:1 to 1200:1. Obama through the public option under the bus, and whipped hard for TARP, which would not have passed without him.
The evidence that Obama will respond to pressure to do things he really doesn’t want to do (ie. progressive things) is minimal.
Now that’s not to say there’s no reason to pressure him. Really serious pressure, like the gay lobby pushed on him where they cut off donations, heckled him everywhere, and chained themselves to the White House fence. Note, however, that this wsasn’t about public opinion, this was about making Obama miserable.
Now, the unions are sending messages through Democratic primaries. Almost every serious Democratic primary challenge this year has been backed by union muscle and money. So, whatever is being said here (and CAF is a union proxy), the unions have put a message across Obama’s bow. Nor is the mood here happy with Obama, the assumption now is that he’s either too spineless to do the right thing, or that he doesn’t want to to do the right thing.
Still, the type of pressure Obama responds too isn’t public opinion, it is when you embarrass him and cost him money that he responds. Mind you, gays didn’t get everything, but they got something.
Pain. Obama responds to pain. You can’t ask nicely, because he won’t listen unless y9u’re hurting him.