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Posts tagged MoveOn

And around we go…

At almost this exact time last year, I wrote this in response to a petitioning campaign by MoveOn.org over proposed cuts to government grants to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Don’t get me wrong. I like PBS and NPR is just about all the radio I ever listen to. The issue here isn’t whether they should face a funding crisis or not; I hope that they don’t. Rather, it’s what you should do in the face of that funding crisis. MoveOn just invested an incredible amount of time, money, and energy into mobilizing a bunch of Progressives to whine about it in Congress and beg for the money back. Meanwhile, instead of signing an online petition, calling my Representative, and e-mailing my friends and colleagues to get them to shake the change cup with me, I shut up and put down a pledge of $10 / month to Detroit Public Television.

Now, if 1,091,509 people in MoveOn’s orbit had done what I did, instead of what they did, then by my calculations PBS and NPR would have $130,981,080 more money for programming in the upcoming year. More importantly, they’d have that $131 million no matter what Congress and the Senate decided to do.

You might claim that not everyone who gets MoveOn e-mails will put down a pledge, but a lot more people will put down a zero-cost signature. You might think that MoveOn just can’t command that kind of money. Well, that strikes me as making excuses: we are talking about the group that just threw tens or hundreds of millions of dollars (depending on the as-yet unreleased budget data for their 501(c)(4) branch) down the tubes for electable John Kerry just last year. But fundraising is tricky, and maybe they wouldn’t make as much as they might hope. But think it about it this way: when you give money directly to people doing good work, the economics of failing to meet your goals are different. Lobbying is, more or less, an all-or-nothing game, with very few chances for gains on the margin. Names on a petition may or may not make a difference; but if they don’t make a difference (and, frankly, it doesn’t look like they made much of one here) then the names and pious hopes that NPR and PBS got out of the campaign aren’t worth the electrons that they’re printed on. But if you don’t hit your targets in direct support, the contributions you did get are money in the bank, no matter what. If only half as many people pledged as signed the petition, well, then PBS and NPR would have $65,490,540 that they didn’t have before. If the average contribution was $30 instead of a $10 / month pledge, they’d would have $32,745,270. Maybe that will save Big Bird and maybe it won’t; but even if it doesn’t it’s a darn sight better and more secure than the nothing that failed petitioning campaigns produce.

There’s a general principles here worth mentioning; it’s a principle the Left used to care about. It’s called direct action, and the longer the Progressive wing of the Left keeps ignoring it — the longer that they spend throwing time and organizing effort down the tubes to beg the government to support the institutions that they like — the longer we are all going to be losers.

— GT 2005-06-25: Shut up and put up

image: a hamster runs on its wheel

Above: Mister Buckles is saving public broadcasting!

Hey, guess what showed up in my inbox last week? Quick! Everybody make a massive public outcry!

From: Noah T. Winer, MoveOn.org Civic Action
To: Charles Johnson
Date: 6/8/2006
Subject: Save NPR and PBS (again)

Everyone expected House Republicans to give up efforts to kill NPR and PBS after a massive public outcry stopped them last year. But they’ve just voted to eliminate funding for NPR and PBS–unbelievably, starting with programs like Sesame Street.

Public broadcasting would lose nearly a quarter of its federal funding this year. Even worse, all funding would be eliminated in two years–threatening one of the last remaining sources of watchdog journalism.

Sign the petition telling Congress to save NPR and PBS again this year …

Here’s what Winer was referring to:

Health research, school aid and social services for the poor would bear budget cuts under a bill approved by a House panel Wednesday. … The House Appropriations Labor-HHS Subcommittee approved the bill by a 9-7 party-line vote Wednesday …. The panel’s action also rekindles a battle fought last year over the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The bill would cut by 5 percent previously appropriated funds for the budget year beginning Oct. 1 and eliminate subsidies for educational programs and technological upgrades. The bill also fails to provide future-year funding for public television as is the typical practice.

— Andrew Taylor, The Guardian (2006-06-16): House Panel Cuts Health Research Budget

Four days later, Winer was ecstatic to report:

From: Noah T. Winer, MoveOn.org Civic Action
To: Charles Johnson
Date: 6/12/2006
Subject: Save NPR and PBS (again)

Dear Charles,

I just wanted to share some very cool news with you.

Over the last couple of days, over 300,000 people (including 80,000 who are totally new to MoveOn) have signed on to our petition to save NPR and PBS. That brings the total number of signers to over 1,400,000–making this not only our largest petition ever, but one of the largest petitions anyone’s done.

But the next vote in Congress will be as soon as tomorrow. To stop Congress’ budget cuts, we need to go even bigger: we’re aiming for 1.5 million of us to sign on by tomorrow. Can you join us by adding your name to the petition to protect NPR and PBS? It just takes a minute, but it’ll make a real impact.

The real impact that this made was to send over 1,400,000 copies of the following note to members of Congress:

TO: Your senators and representative
FROM: (Your Name and Email)
SUBJECT: Save NPR and PBS

Dear senators and representative,

(Your personal note)

Congress must save NPR, PBS, and local public stations. We trust them for in-depth news and educational children’s programming. It’s money well spent.

This strong show of public outrage produced the following real impact on June 13:

WASHINGTON — The House Appropriations Committee voted Tuesday to restore $20 million of proposed cuts in federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides money to local public television and radio stations.

The Bush administration originally proposed to cut about 37% of the federal funding for public broadcasting, and a subcommittee last week proposed a cut of $115 million, or 23%.

A net cut of $95 million, if passed by the House and the Senate, would go into effect Oct. 1. It would result in the elimination of some educational programming, including Ready to Learn, a literacy program, and Ready to Teach, an online resource for teachers, according to a National Public Radio spokesman.

Los Angeles Times (2006-06-14): Smaller Bite Sought Out of Corporation for Public Broadcasting

WASHINGTON (Hollywood Reporter) – The House Appropriations Committee voted on Tuesday to slash funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and refused to fund the service for 2009.

— Brooks Boliek, Reuters (2006-06-14): House panel votes to slash public broadcast funds

Meanwhile, I shut the fuck up and made an annual contribution to my local PBS station at the $40 membership level. If those 1.4 million people in the MoveOn orbit had done what I did, instead of what they did, public broadcasters would now have over $56,000,000 to put in the bank, no matter what Congressional Republicans say or do or think about it. The time, energy, and money wasted on throwing 1.4 million nearly identical notes about money well spent managed to salvage a bit more than a third of that in reductions to the budget cuts, and it leaves PBS and NPR at the mercy of next year’s round of government budgeting. (Oh, but don’t you worry–when that happens I’m sure that MoveOn will mount another massive public outcry to save PBS and NPR again, again.)

We can do this ourselves, so quit begging. Shut up and put up.

Shut up and put up

I’m usually not one to be too picky about labels — depending on the dialectical context and the aspect of my politics that I want to emphasize at the moment, they can accurately be described as Leftist, a libertarian, free marketeer, socialist, anarchist, democratic, republican, individualist, mutualist, populist, radical, feminist, et cetera. But there is one thing that I just refuse to call myself anymore. I am not a Progressive, God damn it, and no matter how much I may like some individual people who call themselves that, and no matter how much I may sympathize with a broad cluster of their personal concerns and subcultural values, I just will not call myself one for love or money.

Why not? Well, there are some specific historical reasons having to do with what the folks calling themselves Progressives in the early 20th century actually were like and what they actually did. But there are also some contemporary reasons, too. Look at the prominent political figures and organizations calling themselves Progressive, and the kind of politics that they endorse when they have their Progressive hats on. You are now looking at a bunch of losers. Sometimes they’re noble losers, and sometimes they are silly milksop losers, but losers they remain, and you may as well go around calling yourself pudd’nhead for all the grace and dignity that the mantle of Progressivism confers.

An example: here is the latest series of e-mails I’ve received from MoveOn. Quick! Everybody wring your hands!

From: Noah T. Winer, MoveOn.org
To: Charles Johnson
Date: Tue., 14 Jun 2005

A House panel has voted to eliminate all public funding for NPR and PBS, starting with Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow, and other commercial-free children’s shows. If approved, this would be the most severe cut in the history of public broadcasting, threatening to pull the plug on Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch.

Sign the petition telling Congress to save NPR and PBS:

If we can reach 250,000 signatures by the end of the week, we’ll put Congress on notice. After you sign the petition, please pass this message along to any friends, neighbors or co-workers who count on NPR and PBS.

And:

From: Noah T. Winer, MoveOn.org
To: Charles Johnson
Date: Wed., 15 Jun 2005

In less than a day, we’ve blown past our goal–more than 300,000 of us have signed the petition to save NPR and PBS from losing public funding. This is huge, but we need your help.

Tomorrow, the House Appropriations Committee will decide whether to approve these severe cuts to NPR and PBS. We can stop the cuts–and save public TV and radio–with a strong show of public outrage. We’ll report to the committee members on our petition before they vote.

Can you help us reach 400,000 signers by the end of the day?

And then, when the effort to stop the committee vote failed:

From: Noah T. Winer, MoveOn.org
To: Charles Johnson
Date: Wed., 17 Jun 2005

Yesterday, a House committee slashed half of the federal funding for NPR and PBS, specifically targeting popular children’s shows like Sesame Street and Postcards from Buster. These cuts will decimate local stations and undermine quality news reporting. This is nothing less than an effort to kill off NPR and PBS.

But people like you are fighting back, making the petition to save NPR and PBS one of the most popular we’ve ever seen–750,000 signers to date! Already, the public outcry has delayed the effort to eliminate funding entirely, but we must fight to restore full funding at once. The House will vote on these massive cuts to NPR and PBS as soon as Tuesday, and representatives are making up their minds right now.

Make sure Rep. Dingell doesn’t take away the programs you love. Call him today at:

Congressman John Dingell
Phone: 202-225-4071

And then:

From: Noah T. Winer, MoveOn.org
To: Charles Johnson
Date: Wed., 20 Jun 2005

In the next few days, the House of Representatives will vote on whether to slash funding for NPR and PBS. And tomorrow, before Congress votes, we’ll present stacks and stacks of printed petitions and public comments to save public broadcasting. We’ll be joined by members of Congress and the public TV and radio staff fighting for survival.

Over 817,000 people have signed the petition so far–simply incredible. But we want to present 1 million signatures to the press tomorrow, and we can do it with your help. In all our years of online organizing, we’ve never heard of one million Americans signing a petition in a week, but we’re within striking distance now.

Help us reach 1 million signers by the end of the day. Sign the petition at: …

The stakes are high: some of the best programs on the air are at risk. After you sign, please send this message on to your friends and colleagues–it’ll take all of us pushing together to get to the 1 million mark.

If the House passes these massive cuts, we’ll fight to restore the funding when the Senate takes up public broadcasting. But even if we stop the House cuts, we’ll need to make sure Senate Republicans don’t try the same thing.

Together, we can stop the House from slashing NPR and PBS in the federal budget. Can you help us hit 1 million signers today?

MoveOn’s online petition campaign had exceeded their goal of one million petitioners. In fact, they’d reached 1,091,509 last I looked.

And, the last I heard, they managed to get the programming funding restored, but the House voted for another $105 million of government funding to be eliminated from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s budget anyway:

After a storm of protest from supporters of public television and radio, the House voted overwhelmingly Thursday to restore $100 million in programming money to next year’s Corporation for Public Broadcasting budget. The CPB is the private agency that disburses funds to the Public Broadcasting System, National Public Radio and their member stations.

At the same, however, $105 million in funding, including $23 million for children’s programming and educational outreach, was eliminated. The fight over that money will now move to the Senate, which has traditionally been a strong backer of PBS and NPR.

San Jose Mercury-News 2005-06-24: House restores public TV funding, but fight continues

image: a hamster runs on its wheel

Above: Mister Buckles saves public broadcasting.

If you want to know why Progressives keep losing all the time, then here it is:

If we can reach 250,000 signatures by the end of the week, we’ll put Congress on notice. …

We can stop the cuts–and save public TV and radio–with a strong show of public outrage.

But people like you are fighting back, making the petition to save NPR and PBS one of the most popular we’ve ever seen …

Make sure Rep. Dingell doesn’t take away the programs you love. Call him today

And tomorrow, before Congress votes, we’ll present stacks and stacks of printed petitions and public comments to save public broadcasting. …

What this has accomplished, so far, is that it’s sent 1,091,509 copies of the following e-mail to members of Congress:

TO: Your senators and representative
FROM: (Your Name and Email)
SUBJECT: Save NPR and PBS

Dear senators and representative,

(Your personal note)

Congress must save NPR, PBS and local public stations. We trust them for in-depth news and educational children’s programming. It’s money well spent.

Don’t get me wrong. I like PBS and NPR is just about all the radio I ever listen to. The issue here isn’t whether they should face a funding crisis or not; I hope that they don’t. Rather, it’s what you should do in the face of that funding crisis. MoveOn just invested an incredible amount of time, money, and energy into mobilizing a bunch of Progressives to whine about it in Congress and beg for the money back. Meanwhile, instead of signing an online petition, calling my Representative, and e-mailing my friends and colleagues to get them to shake the change cup with me, I shut up and put down a pledge of $10 / month to Detroit Public Television.

Now, if 1,091,509 people in MoveOn’s orbit had done what I did, instead of what they did, then by my calculations PBS and NPR would have $130,981,080 more money for programming in the upcoming year. More importantly, they’d have that $131 million no matter what Congress and the Senate decided to do.

You might claim that not everyone who gets MoveOn e-mails will put down a pledge, but a lot more people will put down a zero-cost signature. You might think that MoveOn just can’t command that kind of money. Well, that strikes me as making excuses: we are talking about the group that just threw tens or hundreds of millions of dollars (depending on the as-yet unreleased budget data for their 501(c)(4) branch) down the tubes for electable John Kerry just last year. But fundraising is tricky, and maybe they wouldn’t make as much as they might hope. But think it about it this way: when you give money directly to people doing good work, the economics of failing to meet your goals are different. Lobbying is, more or less, an all-or-nothing game, with very few chances for gains on the margin. Names on a petition may or may not make a difference; but if they don’t make a difference (and, frankly, it doesn’t look like they made much of one here) then the names and pious hopes that NPR and PBS got out of the campaign aren’t worth the electrons that they’re printed on. But if you don’t hit your targets in direct support, the contributions you did get are money in the bank, no matter what. If only half as many people pledged as signed the petition, well, then PBS and NPR would have $65,490,540 that they didn’t have before. If the average contribution was $30 instead of a $10 / month pledge, they’d would have $32,745,270. Maybe that will save Big Bird and maybe it won’t; but even if it doesn’t it’s a darn sight better and more secure than the nothing that failed petitioning campaigns produce.

There’s a general principles here worth mentioning; it’s a principle the Left used to care about. It’s called direct action, and the longer the Progressive wing of the Left keeps ignoring it — the longer that they spend throwing time and organizing effort down the tubes to beg the government to support the institutions that they like — the longer we are all going to be losers.

We can do this ourselves, so quit begging. Shut up and put up.

The Day After Tomorrow

First of all, John Kerry is a douchebag, but I’m voting for him anyway.

Yes, I know he’s a statist, and a lame-o weak-kneed liberal to boot. Yes, I know that he voted for the authorization of force against Iraq, and that he hasn’t announced any plans to do what any rational and sane person should realize it’s time to do–withdraw immediately and completely. Yes, I know that the process I’m going to be participating in tomorrow has no legitimate authority whatsoever no matter who I vote for–and that strategically, replacing one creepy-looking imperial Executive with another slightly less mad one is no means to long-term change. That sucks, but it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter, because voting is a legitimate form of self-defense and I live in a swing state where a handful of votes may determine whether 17 electoral votes go towards throwing George W. Bush out of the White House or propping up four more years of the same.

Yes, most of the reasons I have for voting for Kerry are purely negative ones. He’s bad on the war, sure–but not nearly as bad as its big fat liar of an architect. Yeah, he’s an unreconstructed statist with a bad record on civil liberties–but not nearly as bad as George W. Bush, who has presided over the largest increase in State bureaucracy and spending since the Great Society, and who believes himself accountable to none save God alone. Sure, his campaign has treated feminists like crap, but, Jesus, it’s not like a second Bush administration is going to bode well for the success of feminist activism. And all of this is important. Given that Kerry is not even worse than Bush (and he’s not), one of the single most important reasons to take the time to get out and vote for Kerry tomorrow (if you’re in a swing state, as I am) is that after everything he’s done, George W. Bush must be thrown out of office. If he’s not punished after all of this, then that means one more blow to the fragile bulwarks remaining for justice and freedom in this country. We have precious few opportunities to pull back the reins on galloping Caesarism, and tomorrow is one of them; there’s no excuse, if you have the chance, not to pull as hard as you can.

And there are a couple of positive reasons to vote for Kerry. First, nearly all of his faults are faults that Bush shares or exceeds. But he is good on abortion; he won’t continue the present gang’s war for control over women’s bodies. Don’t think abortion’s very important? Well, you should; if you don’t think that the right of women–also known as “the majority of the population”–to control their own internal organs, or the use of systematic State violence against women to tread on that right, is a really big deal, well, you had better check your premises. And secondly, Kerry is bad on almost everything else–but a possibility for making things better exists under a Kerry administration that will continue to be vanishingly small in an entrenched, contemptuously secretive, smugly self-satisfied second Bush adminisration.

All that said, we need to remember, as it comes down to the wire, that tomorrow is not the Battle of Armageddon. The world will go on whoever wins, and we will need to figure out what we are going to do–because we are going to face some pretty hefty challenges whether Kerry or Bush is partying at the end of the night (or whether both of them are biting their nails waiting on further legal developments).

So I know what I’m going to be doing tomorrow–voting and then volunteering to go door to door for a few hours before I turn in. And I figure you know what you are going to be doing, too. But here’s the question: what are we going to be doing the day after tomorrow? Come November 3, what can we do that will move things forward whether it’s Bush or Kerry we’re going to have to be dealing with?

For my part, I don’t know entirely, and I’m interested in hearing what y’all think. (Comment away!) But I do know one thing for sure.

I sure am tired of following these assholes.

I’m tired of the two-party duopoly, and I’m tired of incumbents. pinning my hopes on blockheads like Kerry and I’m tired of listening to know-it-all professional blowhards speculate about the color of Kerry’s socks and its impact on undecided Soccer Moms. I know that we are going to need to keep organizing and take the fight to them no matter who wins, but I can’t take federal representative politics much longer and I can’t say that the prospects for meaningful, long-term change through picking between these guys look tremendously bright.

Yeah, Deaniac grassroots politics would help. Sure, we could use instant runoff voting and term limits and lowered ballot access requirements. Fine, I’ll put in my two cents’ worth in favor of building independent parties. I don’t dispute that that would help things a bit. But the more that I think about it the more I think that we (address this to my Libertarian comrades or my Leftist comrades or my Anarchist comrades, whichever you prefer) ought to re-think how we are trying to get things done when we’re working undercover in The System. Because I, for one, am about at the end of my rope.

I’m sure that Kennedy and the rest of the No Treason! crew will take this as as good an opportunity as any to argue that building movements is a dead-end game. I don’t buy that, yet, for a lot of reasons–I suspect that a rigid distinction between volunteer politics and businesses involves some confusions about the nature of the market in a free society, and I have a lot more faith in ordinary people and the historical record of people’s movements. For the time being, at least, I’m more than willing to sign on for political organizing, activism, and evangelism–even working in the belly of the beast, if need be, to help give people some space to breathe and a chance to defend themselves. But not the way we’ve been doing it.

When I go to the polls tomorrow, I won’t just have the chance to pick some idiot or another for federal races. I’ll also have the chance to vote directly on whether or not a number of proposals will be made law. I can do this because Michigan has voter initiatives; and when I vote on an initiative I don’t have to worry about spoilers, parties, trade-offs between candidates, or anything of the sort. It’s a simple up or down and I can make my choices on each issue on the ballot independently–rather than trying to figure out which dude will line up with more of my choices on the whole than the other (and whether that dude can get elected or whether I should vote for someone who’s a bit worse but in a position to win, and…).

Nearly half of the states in this country empower you and I to gather signatures and put laws straight on the ballot without having to lobby legislators or roll logs or hope the least-worst major candidate might consider making a speech about it sometime. Most of us who have been paying attention to voter initiatives have been spending our time fighting them–with good reason, when the initiatives being put out are idiotic stuff such as Amendment 2 in Michigan or Measure 36 in Oregon. But why are we letting these assholes make all the first strikes? We’ve been building a vast network of interlinked volunteers with a do-it-yourself political ethic, from the upsurge of the antiwar movement to United for Peace and Justice to MoveOn and the Dean campaign. So come November 3, how about we start putting those resources to work in the 20-odd states with voter initiatives? (And while we’re at it, bringing them to bear on the state legislature in states that don’t yet have voter initiatives.)

My suggestion would be to focus on campaigns that clearly put the case to the people that the government needs to get its hands out of the till and take its boots from off our necks. Medical marijuana ballot initiatives are a good start–they’ve been extremely popular where introduced and when they win (which they often do) that means one more state in which the federal drug goons have to either get mired down in extremely unpopular campaigns or else just give up. That should be expanded to an effort to roll back the racist War on Drugs more broadly. And here are some other ideas to ponder:

  • Initiatives to curtail corporate welfare–say, for example, abolishing corporate hand-out programs or restricting the power of state and local governments to use eminent domain for corporate development.

  • Death penalty moratorium bills

  • Ending taxes that disproportionately burden people living in poverty–for example, rolling back sales tax on food and other necessities.

  • Resisting the federal warfare State–by passing bills requiring the state government to refuse to comply with the PATRIOT Act, any future draft, or whatever other national security assault on our rights you’d like to single out.

  • Some resources for making it easier when we do have to deal with the party hacks–term limits, recall statutes, lowered ballot access restrictions, instant runoff voting, ….

All of these are simple, practical, incremental changes that would do some good, allow for coalition-building between Leftists, libertarians, and (sometimes, I suppose) small-government conservatives too. We have the resources to mount big door-to-door campaigns, with volunteers and with money raised from supporters; we have the resources to do some real good over the next four years whoever is in office. Better yet, we could start actually talking with each other like rational human beings about issues and whether or not some particular law should be made, instead of dickering over who looks more Presidential and whether Hordak or Smiley Face came off as more of a mindless hack in the latest tete-a-tete.

So, in that spirit, I’m resolving to pitch myself into grassroots politics come November 3. Real grassroots politics–not browbeating the grassroots into supporting some least-worst candidate’s politics, but rather writing letters to the editor, working more with local political organizations. And I’m going to start looking for, and talking about, and acting on, getting some voter initiatives that will make a real move forward on the ballot. I’m tired of following the idiots in the suits; it’s time to take the resources that we’ve got and take our case to the people.

Further reading

What’s to muddy?

According to Salon, some Democratic Party media flacks are wringing their hands over ads from MoveOn, the Media Fund, and others. The fear? No centralized command-and-control. Thus, they worry, Liberal group ads may muddy Kerry message:

Liberal interest groups are running television ads meant to hurt President Bush and, in effect, help Democratic rival John Kerry. But some media strategists say such efforts could backfire by muddying Kerry’s message of the moment with the electorate.

Interest groups can’t legally coordinate advertising with political campaigns. That means their ads could address different issues than Kerry’s commercials, be nastier than his advisers prefer, clutter the airwaves, stray from obvious themes — the economy and national security — or politicize issues Kerry would rather leave alone.

[N.B.: issues Kerry would rather leave alone is short for the warEd.]

If I were Kerry’s folks, I’d be up nights worrying about this, said Bill Carrick, a veteran Democratic media consultant.

Personally, if I were Kerry’s folks, I’d be up nights worrying about the logically prior question: doesn’t Kerry need to have a message before anyone could count as muddying it?

The Internet and the Resistance to War on Iraq Grassfire

This Sunday I watched a very long and depressing line of speakers from the United States Bureau of Making Shit Up. James Woolsey (former head of the CIA and freelance war-hawk) speculated wildly and baselessly about possible connections between Iraq and al-Qaeda. An anonymous terrorism expert moved beyond baseless allegation into nothing more than vague insinuations–he was particularly a fan of the claim that the Beltway sniper is actually an al-Qaeda operative, in spite of the complete lack of any basis whatsoever for asserting this to be probable, let alone true. Bill Kristol then got on and talked for a while about the need to bomb the world and starve North Korea, and practically accusing Tom Daschle of treason for daring to question the President’s authoritarian and secretive attitude towards Congress and the American people on foreign policy issues.

Well, OK. I expect this shit from Fox News. But while they drone on, an astounding grassfire movement against the war is welling up. The latest development is something that should get the attention of every Right-wing Bomb the World Republican, every spineless amoral Democrat, and the few progressives and genuine Lefties that remain in DC. Over the past week, MoveOn PAC‘s Reward the Heroes drive has raised over 1 million dollars for the campaigns of Congresspeople and Senators who opposed the President’s resolution for war against Iraq. Over $1,000,000 in a week! And we’re not talking about Republican or DLC-style contributions from millionaires here. We’re talking about over 37,000 individual contributions. An average of about $27 per contribution (I gave two contributions of $25, personally). If the DC cognoscenti start taking notice, this could be a very big deal. Money talks in DC, and right now, the people are screaming at the top of their lungs.

Of course, this campaign–like all campaigns–has its limitations. Among them:

  • It’s depressing that this action will talk much louder than the hundreds of thousands of calls, letters, and e-mails against war on Iraq that were sent out over the past several weeks. The pre-eminence of PAC money-laundering in politics is not a trend that I really want to see strengthened, although I’m willing to work to get through to Congress by pretty much any just means necessary right now.

  • The campaign is primarily focusing on funnelling money to support incumbent Democrats who voted against the war. With the exception of that lying goat Paul Wellstone, I don’t have any objection to supporting those who have taken a stand against war. But I’d also like to see a lot more invested in getting new blood into Congress, not just giving established Lefty Democrats a political sinecure.

  • Maintaining a Congress which is independent of the grip of the far Right is important, but we have to do a lot more than that to keep the country from going to hell in a handbasket. Slowing the bleeding will only do so much.

  • MoveOn, for all of its virtues in moving Internet activism out into the offline world, makes no particular efforts to reach out to people other than those who can receive their e-mail alerts or access their website.

Again, the power of the Internet as an organizing medium is simply astounding, and we have to take very seriously how we are going to make the best use of it. The MoveOn PAC campaign is one very important way to put a lot of energy into grassroots campaigns, but we have to see this as only the start, and improve from here.

So what do we need to do?

  • We need to follow up this campaign with more campaigns that move beyond online voting and make concrete actions. Contributing to campaigns where necessary, I guess, but also building up funding reserves for other purposes–organizing spaces, grassroots organizing (including workplace unionizing), and all the other infrastructure of a successful, anti-vanguardist resistance to the Right-wing Powers that Be. MoveOn PAC’s campaign is a brilliant example of a dynamic, exciting, creative way of standing up against the flow in DC and making them listen. Let’s come up with more ideas.

  • We also need to talk about ways to allow online campaigns to reach out to people who don’t spend a lot of time on the Internet–people who tend to be older, poorer, racial minorities, etc. The Right doesn’t care: every CEO and arm-chair warhawk columnist has e-mail, Web access, and all the money the Right-wing foundations have to offer. But we have to work with people, not just dollars, and we have to think about building a mass movement. Otherwise, as Martin Striz pointed out in this space:

    Unfortunately, this nascent form of democratic political transformation is only relevant to those who have an Internet connection, and the unfortunate divide between the haves and have-nots will continue to plague us.

    So what can we do to pull that off? Well, simply focusing on campaigns that move offline and into the world of street protests, organizing spaces, letters to the editor, and other things in the meatspace will help. But let’s start thinking about other ways to convert Internet organizing into a galvanizing force for everyone. I don’t have many more ideas than anyone else on this–I’ve lobbied for printable posters and flyers to be available from all websites that advertise an offline political event, and I think that working on developing phone trees that spread from online to offline contacts would also be a really cool idea. But I’m a neophyte like everyone else and I’m really interested in hearing some creative ideas about where we can go from here.

In the meantime, toss a few bucks to the [MoveOn PAC][] Reward the Heroes campaign, and help make our voice heard in support of pro-peace candidates.

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