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The first email.
On May 17, I received an email from MoveOn.org signed by Ben Bradzel, Matt and Eli (Pariser) inviting me to a “trial” house party to begin creation of a “positive agenda” for 2006. The house party was the very next day, May 18. According to the email, the “positive agenda” to be created had to come “from the grass roots.” While the email suggested that we could decide on anything that we liked (“The sky’s the limit.”), it named three possible elements in the “positive agenda”: “universal health care” (not specified as single-payer), “clean energy,” “publicly financed elections.” (Remember these three.) Later in the email it was made clear that there should be 3 points to the new agenda.”
It was striking to me that there was no mention of the war on Iraq or Iran in this email–striking but not surprising in light of MoveOn’s long-standing failure to call for immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Moreover, at the end of the missive the reasons for developing the “positive agenda” was made clear. Not only were MoveOn members asking for it, but the MoveOn bosses considered it crucial to “getting people to the polls” and “winning in November” which meant that “Democrats” would “gain seats in November. There was no question about whether the Democrats deserved to win seats in November. This was a goal slipped into the “p.s.” of the email to be taken as a given. We were also told in passing that the “conversation” at the house party would be “guided,” which meant directed by a script which as we shall see also failed to mention the war.
The second email.
I was curious but unable to attend that “trial” house party, but the following week the real thing emerged. The next week on May 22 another email appeared, announcing a series of nationwide house parties on May 24. I decided to go. But I was disappointed that once again there was no mention of the war in the email. So I decided to call a staff contact that we were given. She was young, enthusiastic and dedicated but inexperienced. I asked her why there was no mention of the war. I pointed out that a clear and ever growing majority of voters were for that. And I informed her that Karl Rove essentially conceded that the war was Bush’s Achilles heel. So if MoveOn wanted to defeat the Bushies, why not raise the war? Silence came over her. She then said, as if recalling something, that opposition to the war was “negative” and we had to have a “positive” agenda. I asked whether “Bring all the troops home now. Peace now.” would amount to a “positive agenda.” Silence. She did call the national office for me, but they had nothing to say in response.
At the house party itself, there were but a handful of people, less than ten, smaller than previous MoveOn events and this in Cambridge, Mass. We were given a list of “positive goals” to decide upon, but the war was not mentioned. I piped up at once, asking why not. Most people had not seemed to consider that the war was missing from the list of possible agenda items, so taken were they with thoughts of national health care and a clean environment. We agreed to add the war to our agenda, and when we took the final vote on our positive agenda, the results were as follows. “Bring the troops home from Iraq in 2006” was number one by a wide margin. “Develop alternative energy sources for everyone” and “Decent medical care for everyone” were number two and three, respectively.
The third email.
On May 30 came another email, giving the top 10 choices from the house parties from which 3 were to be chosen by an online ballot. Again there was no mention of Iraq. The choices were “the top 10 most popular ideas from last week’s house parties.” Apparently other house parties did not think to bring up Iraq, because it was not offered as an alternative, or else the MoveOn bosses did feel inclined to include it. Of course MoveOn is far from transparent, so we cannot know. What we do know is that the number one issue on the minds of Americans did not emerge in the top 10! Quite amazing! (The 10 “most popular” choices were: “A living wage for all; Global leadership through diplomacy: Verifiable, accurate elections; High quality education for all; Balanced federal budget; Health care for all, Publicly funded elections; Preserve our natural resources; Energy independence: clean, renewable sources; Restored constitutional rights”. The second of these is noteworthy, “verifiable, accurate elections”; MoveOn would do well to take careful note of this.)
The final email.
Finally, the results of all this emerged in the last email on June 1 in which “the whole MoveOn.org Political Action team” triumphantly announced the top 3! And the winners were: “Health care for all. Energy independence through clean, renewable sources. Democracy restored.” Damned close to the three suggested at the outset in the very first email – before any voting at all – as you remember from the first paragraph above: “universal health care” “clean energy,” “publicly financed elections.” The MoveOn bosses turned out to be remarkable seers.
In this final email MoveOn said that this agenda was chosen by “more than 100,000 people in local house parties and then online.” But in a previous email the MoveOn bosses claimed only 10,000 in attendance for the house parties so most of the voting was done on line when the final 10 choices “on the ballot” excluded Iraq and the online voters were in no position to add it in. The ballot choices were fixed. More than that, its base is catching on to MoveOn. It is pretty pathetic for an organization of 3 million members (as claimed in the email of June 1) to get only 100,000 votes online. That is less than 4% of the members voting! And 100,000 hits on a well-financed and established web site is no big deal.
How did the MoveOn bosses engineer this? It is unclear. Did they simply exclude results like those of our house party? Did they actually falsify the voting? Or did they simply exclude choices with their “guided conversations,” restricted choices and demands for the members to be “positive.” We cannot know, for MoveOn is as opaque as the higher reaches of its parent organization, the Democratic Party. But we do know that the MoveOn bosses are not to be trusted. They are one element in a wider strategy of the Dem establishment and its accessories to sabotage and cripple the antiwar movement.
JOHN WALSH keeps up with MoveOn in an attempt to bring the war to the forefront of its agenda and in an increasingly deseperate hope that something will change there. He can be reached at John.Endwar @gmail.com