As the president-elect staffs the top rungs of his administration, his team is paying close attention to their grass-roots network, urging Obama supporters across the country to hold house parties in an effort to turn activists and volunteers into an effective political organization.
This past weekend, 10,000 house parties were organized on mybarackobama.com, the campaign's social networking Web site. At one of the parties in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, D.C., a group called D.C. Progressives for Obama said it hopes to use the parties to hold the president-elect accountable.
One young attendee, Bill Peard, told the group that this will be particularly important now that Obama is getting ready to govern.
"Up to this point, all of us have been gathering in homes such as this for one purpose — to get one man elected. And now the goal is much more extensive and much more ambiguous in many ways. It was much easier when the goal was finite and tangible and easily defined," he said.
The group agreed that its goal should be to help Obama quickly pass something tangible fast. One attendee, Jennifer Dillon, said health care is her top priority. She said Obama supporters need to have influence on the government if they want their wishes taken seriously.
"The labor unions exert influence. The pharmaceutical companies exert a lot of influence, and we need to be our own independent group that exerts influence," she said.
That's music to the ears of David Plouffe, Obama's low-profile campaign manager, as he tries to figure out exactly what to do with Obama's supporters now that there is no election to win for some time.
"For those of us that have been involved in politics for a long time, it could not be more refreshing. It is kind of your ideal of political utopia," he said. "You've got these millions of people out there knocking on doors, taking ownership of the campaign. I'm not sure any of us thought we'd see it again."
"Now the question is, over the next few years, how impactful can that be in a non-electoral standpoint, you know, because it's not an election?" Plouffe added.
Most winning campaigns simply morph into the national party structure once they're in Washington, D.C., but not this one. Obama will staff the Democratic National Committee with his own people eventually, but Obama for America will continue as a separate political entity that helps Democratic causes but maintains the inclusive, post-partisan aura of the Obama campaign.
The Obama team hopes that will help keep volunteers like Earnest Johnson feeling engaged and empowered.
"I've never seen this level of activism after any presidential election in my lifetime. I have attended two Obama 'Change' meetings already today and have four scheduled for tomorrow," he said.