The Obama Presidential Transition continues to be one of the speediest ever -- this bodes well for the new president's ability to decisively govern in these chaotic times. While the team as tried to keep some things -- like the vetting of potential cabinet officers -- close to the vest, in other ways the transition process has been one of the most open and interactive in history. The Obama team is playing it smart, and converting their grassroots machinery from that of a get-out-the-vote operation to policy participation. This also bodes well for the new president's style -- because when it's all said and done, people just want to know they've been heard. Folks want a forum to vent, share ideas, connect -- and even if they are not happy with the end decision they are still much more likely to be supportive simply because they were part of the process. I expect this formidable machine will also soon be aimed at Congress -- in the form of constituent email and phone calls -- as the Obama administration seeks to implement some of its proposals.
Have you been participating in the transition process? I have -- through work via many many meetings, but also personally through the change.gov website. My professional interactions with the team have been productive and useful. The Transition Team clearly wants to hear from constituency groups, and are interested in concrete ideas -- not rhetoric. I have found this to be very refreshing -- I don't have to prove to them there's a (healthcare, economic, housing, crime, education, etc,) crisis -- they know this already. What the team cares about are serious suggestions for righting the ship. These meetings are public, in a sense, because of the Your Seat at the Table feature. Here you can view information submitted to the Transition Team -- they post EVERY document they get, so much so that advocacy organizations are now careful about what they give the team in writing. At the very beginning of the transition process, some stuff that was intended to be confidential -- that details strategy and opposition research, for example -- was posted, much to the senders' chagrin. Still, is there such a thing as too much sunlight? People are adapting, trust me.
The agency review teams are also drawing to a close, and their work has been critically important. The reviews teams are responsible for essentially evaluating the agencies to see what is happening as well as what is NOT happening, including what has been discontinued, shelved, overly politicized, or just plain screwed up beyond all recognition. From the web site:
The Agency Review Teams for the Obama-Biden Transition will complete a thorough review of key departments, agencies and commissions of the United States government, as well as the White House, to provide the President-elect, Vice President-elect, and key advisers with information needed to make strategic policy, budgetary, and personnel decisions prior to the inauguration. The Teams will ensure that senior appointees have the information necessary to complete the confirmation process, lead their departments, and begin implementing signature policy initiatives immediately after they are sworn in.
Impressively, most of the folks on the review teams are volunteers. Highly connected, very experienced, committed volunteers. Many used to work for the federal government before the Bush administration scared away anyone who was even remotely progressive, cared about good government, disagreed with them or, god forbid, were "out" Democrats. Yep, openly blue Democrats were often ousted after witch hunts -- you think it only happened at the Department of Justice? If only that were the case -- these last eight years have seen the most severe, crippling brain drain and loss of institutional memory the federal government has ever experienced, brought to you by Bush/Cheney and their minions. Now, these good people on the agency review teams -- some Democrats, some not, but all part of a Democratic government in exile -- have returned to try to clean up the mind-boggling mess that has been left for Obama and company.
You might already know that the Transition Team has also recently launched a new feature called Open for Questions. Thousands of people responded, asking more than 10,000 questions and voting nearly a million times on questions from others -- dictating which ones people most want the Transition Team to address. Now that the team has answered some of the most popular queries from the last round, the team is up for Round Two. You can ask whatever you like -- and are encouraged to go back to vote on the questions submitted by others. Answers to this latest round of questions will be posted after the New Year.
The Transition Team is also particularly interested in personal stories and feedback about the healthcare system, and ideas for reform in that area. Now through Dec. 31, healthcare discussions are being held throughout the country to help inform the new administration's plan. If you can't make it to one of these healthcare house parties, you can submit your own comments quite easily through the website.
You really should take a gander at the transition web site if you haven't already. You'll be pleasantly surprised -- perhaps even amazed -- at the open, interactive process that's been constructed. I think all this sunlight -- after eight years in the dark, being force fed fertilizer like a mushroom -- will make for a refreshing, productive change. But, it only works if you take part -- and speak your mind!
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