MoveOn's plan for a mass movement

Many of you probably got this email from MoveOn. It starts off well, describing the serious trouble America is in and the fact that we can’t depend on Obama or the Dems to set things right.  Calling for a mass movement akin to the civil rights movement seems correct too.    But then they ask for donations.

Do they really need money up front?  Should MoveOn lead the mass movement? Will they work with other groups or go it alone? Would it be better to start a third political party?

There are so many lefty advocacy groups. Each day I get dozens of emails from different groups.

It’s unfortunate that we need to depend on advocacy groups, but given the unreliable record of the Democratic Party, it seems we need alternative means of organizing. I’ve often wondered whether if all the people who are active in advocacy groups instead worked to reform the Democratic Party, we wouldn’t need advocacy groups. Angry conservatives take over the GOP and push it rightwards; angry progressives flee the Dems and join third parties or advocacy groups.

I’m not sure how effective MoveOn has been. Maybe you can’t blame MoveOn for that.  The organization, money, and ruthlessness of the right wing forces arrayed against us are formidable.

For a long time MoveOn worked for the Democratic Party, which then turned around and betrayed MoveOn (e.g., about their Gen. Petraeus ad.) So, I think MoveOn was less effective than they could have been: they should have been more independent from the Democratic Party and should have extracted more concessions for their support.

Another concern is that MoveOn tends to be quite “top-down.” They have stringent rules about when you can hold events and what sorts of events you hold. You have to closely follow their guidelines.   You could say that that’s precisely what the Left needs: more coordination.  But MoveOn’s guidelines  have always felt too constricting to me.

Still, things seem to be going from bad to worse, and MoveOn’s mix of youthful idealism and moderate leftism might be what we need to build a mass movement. Some people would prefer a more radical approach.


— On Mon, 6/20/11, Justin Ruben, MoveOn.org Civic Action <moveon-help@list.moveon.org> wrote:

From: Justin Ruben, MoveOn.org Civic Action <moveon-help@list.moveon.org>
Subject: Hurting
Date: Monday, June 20, 2011, 8:24 AM

We can’t wait for Washington. We  need our own people-powered movement to rebuild the American Dream. It launches in days and comes to homes across America in a few short weeks—if you can help. Can you chip in $45 right away?

Contribute Now

Dear MoveOn member,

America’s in a tough spot right now. So many people are hurting. Yet in Washington and our state capitols, the big debate is about how much more pain to inflict. How many teachers to fire. How many new tax breaks to give the rich.It’s pretty clear by now that we can’t wait for Barack Obama, or the Democrats, to save us. But the one thing that might turn things around is an honest-to-God mass movement—something on the scale of the civil rights movement or the antiwar movement—built around a vision of an economy that works for all of us, not just the top 2%.

So today we’re launching a $1 million fundraising drive for one of the biggest things we’ve ever tried—joining with dozens of other progressive organizations to lift up a new, grassroots movement to rescue the economy and bring the American Dream within reach for all Americans.

I can’t promise you it’ll work. But we have some good ideas and I know you’ll have lots more. And with how bad things are going, we’ve got time to do something really big. Can you chip in to get this off the ground?

Yes, I can donate $45 to help rebuild the American Dream.

Here’s how we’ll start:

  • We can’t will the fight to rebuild the American Dream until we unite around a clear, progressive economic vision. So in July we’ll go from town to town and door to door to engage hundreds of thousands of people in a crowd-sourced process to build that vision from the ground up.
  • Then we need to go out and fight for that that vision—for new programs to create good jobs and rescue homeowners, for strengthening Medicare and Social Security instead of slashing them, for investment in green tech and infrastructure, for making sure corporations and the very rich pay their fair share so we can afford these things.
  • It’ll require every ounce of energy and creativity we all have—so we’ll build an “open source” campaign, with tactics and actions limited only by our imaginations. We’ll use culture, art, direct action and mutual aid—and work simultaneously for change in our own neighborhoods and the national level.
  • We’ll support the leadership of those on the front lines who can make the moral case for change: teachers like those who led the fight in Wisconsin, long-term unemployed folks, students graduating off a cliff without a prayer of finding a good job.

We know we can’t do it alone, so in the last few weeks, we’ve been talking with organizations representing tens of millions of progressives about organizing together under the same banner. There’s a ton of excitement—but we need the resources to get it going.
Can you chip in $45 to help launch this movement?

It’s been said that “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” Well, it’s time to stop waiting. Let’s launch something big enough to turn the country around.

Thanks for all you do.

–Justin, Eli, Tim, Lenore, and the rest of the team



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