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Tilting at Windmills

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December 29, 2008

SYNCHRONICITY.... The Politico's Andie Collier had an interesting item about MoveOn.org over the weekend, noting that the group asked its membership to identity its top four priorities for the organization. The priorities were member-generated, and would help dictate MoveOn's future.

What they chose: universal health care; economic recovery and job creation; building a green economy/stopping climate change; and end the war in Iraq.

What they didn't: holding the Bush administration accountable; fighting for gay rights and LGBT equality; and reforming campaigns and elections.

MoveOn Executive Director Eli Pariser says that this happy alignment with Barack Obama's agenda -- and fortuitous absence of conflict with same -- comes in part because "the people he's listening to and the people we're listening to are the same people."

But it also may be a sign that MoveOn's members want to move ahead -- and that they're willing to make some ideological sacrifices in exchange for real progress.

Pariser's right that this is all very beneficial for the left -- that the agenda embraced by progressive activists and a progressive president is practically identical will likely benefit both.

But it's more than just a "fortuitous" accident, and it goes beyond Obama and activists listening to the same people. My hunch is that MoveOn members picked those four priorities precisely because Obama has convinced them that this is what the country needs most.

I was thinking along the same lines as Yglesias: "He's the most admired man in America and particularly among the MoveOn [members] who supported him back in the primaries he's very very admired. There are probably things Obama could do to alienate his base, but there's also a great deal he can do to induce that base to align their ideas with him. Especially about something gentle like the question of priorities, he has an enormous ability to get people to see things his way."

Steve Benen 1:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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As I've said before, the biggest hurdle Obama sill face is the Democrats in Congress. It wasn't the Republicans by themselves who worked to dismantle regulations, sabotage health care reform and undermine the Constitution. A lot a Democrats actively supported those things.

As soon as the campaign contributions (bribes) start rolling in, the Democrats in Congress will be back at it. Oh sure, there will be bills passed to "reform" the finance industries and health care. But the changes that pass will be superficial and won't address the very real, very well-entrenched problems. And the economic stimulus package that passes will be so loaded with pork that the final cost will be closer to $2 trillion.

The only way that we will see real change is if the first item on the agenda is to have public financing for all national campaigns.

Posted by: SteveT on December 29, 2008 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

It's very encouraging that MoveOn members focused on the immediate threats facing every person at this moment. If the economy fails, if the planetary environment spins out of control, then everyone suffers and many, many die. Get those under control and other good things will follow, but those must happen first or nothing else will matter.

Good job, MoveOn.

Posted by: Curmudgeon on December 29, 2008 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

I voted on there priorities as a MoveOn member. You seem to want to make this into something that it isn't. Do I want to see ALL those goals you mentioned accomplished? Of course I do. But when you are asked to PRIORITIZE you have to decide what is your most important issue. With a husband who has a pre-existing medical condition and knowing what I know about how healthcare is killing this country it was an easy choice for my number one goal.

Don't make it out to be marking in lock-step with Obama. That neither true nor fair.

Posted by: JoyousMN on December 29, 2008 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

If one of the issues was fighting for racial equality as opposed to gay rights, I wonder if everyone would be content that it wasn't a priority. I kind of doubt it.
I guess it's okay to make certain groups continue wait for their civil rights.

Posted by: whatever on December 29, 2008 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

And the economic stimulus package that passes will be so loaded with pork that the final cost will be closer to $2 trillion. - Steve T

Actually, that's not how pork works. They don't add money to bills for special projects. They pass a budget or appropriation bill, and then use "earmarks" to tell the executive branch how to spend it, rather than let the exec branch decide. Obama could avert this by including the Appropriations committees' members in on the decision process.

Eli Pariser says that this happy alignment...

It may have just been the wording of the questionaire, but Obama has never said he was for universal healthcare. I wish he would, but SteveT is right that much of the change here will merely be superficial.

Posted by: Danp on December 29, 2008 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is going to be different from Bush for sure, but he will disappoint a lot of us in his quest for the elusive bipartisanship and dialog.

I will be happy if his policies do nothing more than stabilize the free falling 401Ks and IRAs. I do not expect much more from him, but if his economic policies do not avert a disaster, nothing else will matter.

Posted by: gregor on December 29, 2008 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

JoyousMN makes the right point here. It's not that all of these goals aren't important, it was the "pick four most important" major goals that determines the answers.

I could, without a huge effort, compile a list of fifty major policy efforts that need to be followed, almost agency by agency, that I would lump under the category of competent facts-based government to roll back the ideology and kleptocracy of the Bush years, but that wasn't a choice.

Posted by: Aeolus on December 29, 2008 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

If the Bush administration IS NOT HELD ACCOUNTABLE for their disregard of our Constitution and the rule of law, WTF is the point of the continuing existence of a nation called the United States of America?

If the Bush criminal enterprise is not held accountable, then future presidents will not have any boundaries for their criminal disregard of the laws and our constitution!

Making a green future and stopping global climate change is critical to the future of our planet! After that, which is of necessity a priority, without a government with Constitutional and legal boundaries, the rest of the list are meaningless! They will continue to be subverted to the ability of the rich & powerful to buy our politicans.

There was a time in the United States where we could say with confidence that "we have the best politicians that money can buy". Now we can only say that "we have politicians that money can buy".

Posted by: AngryOldVet on December 29, 2008 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

civil rights for LGBT didn't rate at least equal to a green economy (i'm not even sure what that means)?!

so apparently moveon's base has taken up obama's new rallying cry: "get in the back of the bus, suckers, there's plenty of room!"

even liberals are conservative these days!

Posted by: Personal Failure on December 29, 2008 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Those are the items MoveOn SAYS it's going to focus on.

We're ready here in the trenches to go full bore for the Fairness Doctrine, right guys?

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on December 29, 2008 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK


I wish you would notice when The Politico is being trolly. Their whole point was to claim a power for Obama that doesn't exist (which came first with these priorities the Obama chicken or the popular egg?) and the fact that the article snidely tries to inflame the gay rights issue. When asked to prioritize, it isn't an either/or issue. Note that torture or warrantless surveillance aren't on that list- does MoveOn not care about those? Perhaps because the economy is going to crater and people are losing their jobs and health care those items have moved down the list.

The Politico sucks and they need to be called on their sucking at ever moment.

Posted by: Pinko Punko on December 29, 2008 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

What's that you say? MOVEON continues to have its head up Obama's (blessed be his name) butt?

Who could have guessed???

Posted by: fred t on December 29, 2008 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Politico's "logic" is stunning. If 'A' therefore 'B' - no need to print any rational explanation.

A more accurate conclusion might be: We picked 4 SURVIVAL issues, because our country and our planet are so f***ed up that we might have to wait a while to clean up the mess. The ship of state is a mess but we're adrift. We need new fuel, a healthy crew, and our troops returned from a failed adventure in empire that seems to have benefited only China and India.

- Also when you ask a small minority LGBTQ (8%) to vote on their rights with a 'straight' majority (92%), it's not likely their issues will get the most votes. Did Politico do the math....?

Posted by: Dan B on December 29, 2008 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

Dear fred t: ..................................

Posted by: st john on December 29, 2008 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

I disagree, Steve. I voted in this poll and voted for things that concern my family's wellbeing. I will be out of a job in May, so health care (in lieu of $800 a month COBRA) and a new job are top of the line for me.

I would argue I am not following Obama, and neither are most who participated. He is following us!

Posted by: Connie on December 29, 2008 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Alas, in another example of MoveOn's agenda matching Mr. Obama's, there is no mention of ending the War on Drugs.

Though perhaps that could be subsumed under "economic recovery and job creation".

Posted by: Midwest Product on December 29, 2008 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

In terms of an organization setting up an agenda, I suppose it's ok, Gotta prioritize, right? After all, one of the major criticisms about Dems in general is that we can't prioritize - every issue is THE most important issue and every problem must be solved NOW, and as a result, noting ever gets solved.

But the implication here is that the issues that didn't enter the "top 4" aren't of concern to moveon members. And that's oh-so-much bullsh*t.

Affordable health care (as opposed to "Universal" health care) will hopefully be handled quickly. Rumor is left-leaning think tanks have been working on concepts for bills that can be introduced as soon as Obama's in office. And this is such an inflammatory subject, with so many people in dire need of health care from every state red OR blue, any senator who stands in its way will do so at his or her own peril. This is a solitary issue that could insure or destroy a career.

Obama has already talked about some of what he's prepared to do to right the economy, a lot of which involves the creation of green jobs, so that's a two-fer.

And if all goes according to plan, we'll be out of Iraq within 2 years (fingers crossed and all of that, here's hoping we don't devolve back to Friedman units)

Which means that the issues that moveon members supposedly (according to Politico) don't give a rat's ass about will not be given short shrift.

Posted by: slappy magoo on December 29, 2008 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with angryoldvet. Bush and his gang of criminals need to be brought to justice otherwise we're basically saying anything goes and it's to be forgotten in the name of expediency.

Posted by: Gandalf on December 29, 2008 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

I suppose we'll have to rely on another country to prosecute Bush and Cheney for war crimes since the rule of law is apparently on the back burner.

Posted by: doubtful on December 29, 2008 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe the Bush Admin was so devious, they figured if they screwed up the economy, world peace, the environment and health care enough, rule of law wouldn't make the MoveOn top 4 list.

Posted by: Danp on December 29, 2008 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

The poll itself is ridiculous. All eight of those things are very important. Gay rights are not less important than universal health care, and economic recovery is not more important than reforming elections. I'm not willing to sacrifice any issue or any group of people.

The Obama Administration will, and will have to, do more than four things at once. They will need to work simultaneously all all eight of these things plus dozens of others, and they will need to do it fast, and not only because there are multiple emergencies right now. The present combination of popularity, crisis, and Republican weakness won't last long.

Posted by: Mark on December 29, 2008 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

The do-list is pragmatic and essential. I believe that those were my choices too, although I don't like seeing crooks go unpunished and a group of citizens left without equal rights. I'm willing to put aside my right to marry my partner (possibly for the third time!) for some time intead to save lives and possibly the planet. For the mean time I suggest hurling shoes at BushCo daily.

Anyone insinuating Obama has some monopoly on common sense is a fool being led by the results and an insult to the rest of us. Pariser's group put together a short list but you don't have to have a "pH degree" to figure out the priorities there. Moveon.spam is pretty much what I refer to them as these days.

Posted by: The Galloping Trollop on December 29, 2008 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

So, we're to be a rogue nation of unmitigated war crimes, felons too big to fail and freedom and justice for some.

Posted by: exomike on December 29, 2008 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Like several others here I, too, call BS on Poo-litico. I voted in the MoveOn poll and my priorities were the same ones which came up among the majority of others who voted. Not because they're aligned with Obama's priorities -- like someone above has said, Obama's not "into" universal *healthcare*, only into universal *insurance*. An I say "raspberry to that". And not because I don't care about other goals.

But... What the hell good will equal rights do to gays if they -- along with the rest of us -- don't have access to a doctor when they get sick or don't have decent air to breathe? Ditto accountability. I'd love to see the Shrub and the Deadeye Dick in the slammer but I'd enjoy it more if I weren't sick or jobless or using the last remnants of the Earth's viability knowing that my grandchildren's lives will be worse *all around*, on every front.

So yeah, when I was asked for *priorities*, healthcare, "green" and jobs were mine.

Posted by: exlibra on December 29, 2008 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

How about getting the fucking Constitution back? Are these tools entirely copacetic with their 2 1/2 human rights?

Posted by: 3rdthings1st on December 29, 2008 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

Add my voice to the chorus who wants all of the items on the list including Bush accountability accomplished. The top 4 closely matched my vote on the MoveOn poll but it doesn't mean we should stop at 4.

Posted by: Registeredguest on December 29, 2008 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

If we don't fix the economy and stabilize jobs, NO ONE will be employed -- gay, straight, transgendered, nobody!

Posted by: Charity on December 29, 2008 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

I voted in this project, and for most of the goals that won. I did so because they are necessary to make our nation workable, to get people stabilized and able to function, to start shifting the economy to allow it to survive in the future. The other goals have their appeal, but the foundations are urgent priorities.

Posted by: Neil B ☺ on December 29, 2008 at 8:01 PM | PERMALINK

I agree about prosecuting Bush and Co for their flagrant disregard of our Constitution, as an absolute lesson for the upcoming Bush wanna-bees right behind him.

But as far as prioritizing the rest of the issues, I don't think we should.

Yes, fix the US economy because when we are destabilized, the global economy is destabilized.
Go green, work on equal rights, change health care, shut down the war...do it all. all these issues are critical because of the lack of due attention they have not received for many years.

Politics isn't linear. It doesn't have to be. This nation has a plethora of federal agencies, and actual experts in their fields, and those well-thought-out Obama cabinet selectees. We are a nation full of intelligent and knowledgeable people just aching to get America turned toward positive solutions and Obama should and is calling on them in this time of critical need to address as many issues as possible as soon as possible.

We shouldn't prioritize issues, we should just get to work on them. Solutions will come but will they come in prioritized order? I doubt it. The degree of difficulty will determine the length of time to a solution, not the priority of the issue.

Instead of numbering for the sake of numbering, let's support and work on the issues closest to our own hearts down here at the local level, because on things like civil rights and going green, local is where the real change takes place.

Its time to be active participants of the changes we want to see in America and lend our voices and our hands at our level to the vast work Obama will be doing at his.

Because every issue is important...to someone.

Posted by: Zli on December 29, 2008 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

I voted in this poll, and the top 4 collective choices were also my personal choices. MoveOn had said that they would choose the top 3 based on everyone voting for 4, but the top 4 were tallied so close that they went with all 4 of them.

Politico is doing its usual stirring of the pot and searching for controversies. Yes, I would have liked to include LGBT equality in my top tier, but I didn't feel like this was the year for it. So as a Tracy Chapman song asks, "If not now, then when?" And I have friends who are asking that same question right now. I hope that we can tackle the issues that MoveOn members selected--tackle them in a holistic manner--not as separate issues, but together. The top issues seem like they will be solved more effectively as a unit, and I think that a lot of others who voted in the poll agree. This doesn't mean we want to shove our gay friends to the back of the bus. And many of us will also be involved with other organizations that are focused on LGBT issues (Human Rights Watch).

The real question is: What is MoveOn now that Obama has been elected? MoveOn has survived 10 years because of its ability to adapt. And right now, the focus seems to be on the economy--this includes health care. But keep in mind that LGBT rights were listed as an option, not "the preservation of the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman who get married in a church and vow to raise their multitudes of children to be God-fearing Regent University grads." This tells me more about MoveOn members' general values than the top 4 goals for 2009.

Posted by: Cindy McCant on December 29, 2008 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

It stands to reason that MoveOn's agenda would be the same as Obama's. Those of us who were not Obama supporters left MoveOn months ago.


Posted by: BAC on December 30, 2008 at 2:02 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not a MoveOn member and didn't vote in the survey. In fact, I've been a Republican for coming up on 31 years. But I had two thoughts:

First, why top four priorities? Why not three, five or one?

Second, if we do nothing else in the way of holding the Bush administration accountable for its crimes, we must punish those officials responsible for war crimes. If we don't, Nuremberg becomes a joke and we just guarandamntee it'll happen again only worse.

Posted by: Lex on December 30, 2008 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK



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