Moveon's Explanation on Lee Amendment Raises Crucial Questions About Its "Progressive" Leadership

  • Bob Fertik's picture
    Bob Fertik
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In our Moveon poll, 96% of you said "Moveon should truthfully explain why it undermined the Barbara Lee Amendment for a fully-funded withdrawal from Iraq."

Farhad Manjoo of Salon.com got a shocking answer from Moveon's Eli Pariser - even though they knew Moveon's members would support it, they refused to promote it!

What precipitated the recent scuffle between MoveOn and its former allies was an e-mail that Pariser sent to MoveOn's members on Sunday, March 18, asking them to help guide the group's position on the war debate in Congress. As Salon's Michael Scherer has noted, the e-mail read like a push poll; Pariser described Pelosi's plan and Bush's opposition to it, and made only cursory mention of progressives' concerns. He did not describe plans floated by members of the House's Out of Iraq Caucus that would have funded a quick withdrawal from Iraq. "Should we support or oppose the Democrats' plan?" Pariser asked in the e-mail. Slightly more than a hundred thousand MoveOn members voted in the poll. The vast majority -- 84.6 percent -- sided with "the Democrats."

"It reads like a Soviet ballot," says John Stauber, the founder of the Center for Media & Democracy, whose harsh indictment of MoveOn's survey has been a hot item on lefty blogs this week. If Pariser had more thoroughly educated members about all of the positions in the debate, many would have voted against the Pelosi plan, Stauber says. More important, MoveOn could have helped the chances of an amendment by Reps. Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters and Lynn Woolsey, leaders of the Out of Iraq Caucus, that called for withdrawal of all troops by the end of 2007. "They could have put out an alert to 3.2 million people across the country and said, 'If you do anything tomorrow, get up and call your representatives and tell them to support the Lee Amendment,'" insists CodePink's Gael Murphy. "They've got millions of dollars. If they put their money toward stopping this war, we'd have a lot more leadership in the Democratic Congress toward stopping this war." But MoveOn didn't stump for the Lee plan, and it died in committee.

Pariser defends his e-mail. He says that the group already knew that its members would have supported Barbara Lee's plan, but whatever MoveOn did, it would never have passed. What MoveOn didn't know was what its members thought about the Pelosi plan. "The choice that we needed to make as an organization was, Do we support this thing [the Pelosi plan] or not?" Pariser says. "And so I think the e-mail was a very fair presentation of the choice that was actually in front of the organization."

It's perfectly true that Barbara Lee's amendment for a "fully-funded withdrawal" was unlikely to get 218 votes this week.

But how can that possibly be a valid reason for taking that option "off the table" for its 3.2 million members?

If Moveon had let its members support Lee's amendment - as Democrats.com and all the other truly anti-war groups did - there would have been overwhelming grassroots pressure on the Democratic leadership (Pelosi, Hoyer, Emanuel et al) to allow a floor vote on the Lee Amendment.

Even if the Lee Amendment had failed, it would have sent a crucial message - that 50 or 80 or 120 Members of Congress (including a couple of Republicans) want to end the war in 2007 - not 2008 (Pelosi) or 2009 (Clinton) or 2999 (Bush and the Republican Party).

And the votes for the Lee Amendment would also have sent the message that Congress should use its full "power of the purse" to enforce its deadline - rather than rely on Bush to falsely certify fungible "benchmarks" as the Pelosi bill does.

Getting Congress to vote on firm withdrawal dates and mechanisms is crucial even if those votes fail. Each vote sets down a "marker" for each Member of Congress and allows their constituents (remember those??) to lobby them to change their position to support a quicker withdrawal. And if that lobbying fails, it allows their constituents to find a candidate to run against them - including in a primary if the war supporter is a Democrat.

Now there are many cynics in the blogosphere who believe Members of Congress cannot be persuaded by their constituents. The simple answer to them is bulls**t. House members come up for election every two years. The 2006 election proved that the majority of Americans wanted to get out of Iraq as soon as possible. With each passing day, the out-of-Iraq majority grows, which makes it harder with each passing day for incumbents to let Bush prolong his war.

So if we don't have 218 votes today, that doesn't mean we won't have 218 votes in a month - or two months - or three - if we keep building public pressure to get out of Iraq now. That's exactly what grassroots movements are for!

But Moveon deliberately abandoned the anti-war movement and thereby helped Pelosi quietly kill the Lee Amendment in the dark of night in the Rules Committee. That will make it much harder to pressure Congress - both Republicans and Democrats - to vote to bring our troops home.

Was Moveon simply unaware of the importance of the Lee Amendment vote in the anti-war lobbying strategy? Or did Moveon deliberately choose to undermine our strategy in order to protect pro-war Democrats from the wrath of their anti-war constituents?

I have no idea - but Moveon needs to answer this question honestly if progressive are going to continue to have confidence in Moveon's leadership.

Eli?

Update 1: I just received an email from Moveon's Nita Chaudhary praising my Congressman with the title "Rep. Crowley does the right thing on Iraq"

We're one step closer in the fight to end the war. Today the Iraq Accountability Act passed Congress. For the first time, Congress passed a real deadline to end the war--by fall of 2008. Your representative, Congressman Joseph Crowley voted right and helped make that happen.

This was a very hard vote for members of Congress. But Rep. Crowley supported Speaker Pelosi in her strategy to wind down this war. Can you write him a quick note to say 'thanks' for bringing us one step closer and to keep up the fight until all our troops are home?

Would New Democrat Vice Chair Joe Crowley (a close ally of right-leaning Steny Hoyer) have voted for the Lee Amendment? I doubt it, even though his poor and working-class Bronx/Queens constituents are overwhelmingly anti-war. If he had voted against the Lee Amendment, local anti-war activists could have increased our pressure on him. Instead, Moveon wants us to say "thanks" for a "very hard vote" that wasn't the least bit hard for a Democrat in an anti-war district - which describes nearly all 233 Democrats.

Given the speed with which this email arrived in my in-box, it's hard to imagine Moveon didn't begin this battle with a plan to win the good graces of right-leaning Democrats like Crowley - rather than strengthen the Out Of Iraq Caucus led by Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters, and Lynn Woolsey.

Comments

hey

  • sonicyouth's picture
    sonicyouth
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Here's the point, plain and simple. Had Lee's legislation actually been allowed to be introduced and given floor time, Pelosi would have been forced to allow the Republican's blank check to get floor time. Here's what would have happened: Lee would get 40...maybe 50 votes and be defeated. The Republican legislation would have gotten every R to support it AND the Blue Dog D's, allowing it to pass and the President to have a blank check. That's the fact, Jack. I find it incredibly ironic that Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters and others are criticizing MoveOn for selling out the antiwar movement when they did nothing to support or help Lt. Ehren Watada who refused to serve in the war that they rail against. Total BS hipocricy. If MoveOn doesn't lead the way you want them to, you know what? Become a leader and stop bitching.

The Rules Committee

  • Bob Fertik's picture
    Bob Fertik
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would have decided which amendments to accept and reject.

Progressive Democrats control the Rules Committee so they could easily have approved the Lee Amendment and rejected a Republican amendment.

That may not be fair but that's exactly how the House works.

As Senate Environment chair Barbara Boxer told former Environment Chair James Inhofe when he tried to prevent Gore from answering Inhofe's questions, "Elections have consequences." To emphasize her point, Boxer waved her gavel as she said it.

Bob F, I'm really surprised that Inhofe didn't have a ...

stroke when Boxer told him he wasn't in control any more. The look on his face was priceless. Then when she reminded him that elections count...and waved her gavel...he crumpled.

Boxer made him speechless, quite an accomplishment for anyone dealing with Inhofe.

A mind once expanded can never return to its original dimensions.

Anne Hathaway: 1556-1623

The greatest derangement of the mind is to believe in something because one wishes it to be so.

Louis Pasteur

Oh....tee hee

I'm gonna have to try to catch a replay of that somewhere.  A speechless Inhofe just sends shivers up my spine!  It was funny to listen but I didn't get to see Inhofe's face when Boxer told him that he 'doesn't do this' anymore.

 

Conservative. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from a Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others

~Ambrose Bierce, 1842-1914, American Author, Editor, Journalist.

Lootie, the full quote is over at Bartcop...you might want...

visit before you go off. Good cartoons today by the way.

A mind once expanded can never return to its original dimensions.

Anne Hathaway: 1556-1623

The greatest derangement of the mind is to believe in something because one wishes it to be so.

Louis Pasteur

Haven't read there

in a while.  I seem to have time for lots of things, just not ALL things.  I have a few minutes so I think I shall enjoy reading a bit of the Bart...thanks for reminding me. 

 

Conservative. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from a Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others

~Ambrose Bierce, 1842-1914, American Author, Editor, Journalist.

Lootie, you can see the

  • Bill Harding's picture
    Bill Harding
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Lootie, you can see the YouTube version here:

http://www.democrats.com/Boxer-Smacks-Down-Wingnut-Inhofe

 

Thanks, Bill

I love that one, but I'd love to see another one with the 'I just been hit by a FULL sack' look on Inhofe's face while she's waving the gavel. 

Conservative. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from a Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others

~Ambrose Bierce, 1842-1914, American Author, Editor, Journalist.

"Become a leader and stop

  • Bill Harding's picture
    Bill Harding
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"Become a leader and stop bitching?" That's a strange comment coming from an "Independent."

Vote Republican: the party

  • wiseoldgranny's picture
    wiseoldgranny
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Vote Republican: the party of deception, corruption, devastation, torture and oppression.

I've had it with Lee, Woolsey ect.

If you have ever belonged to a union, you know that solidarity is the only way to get things done.

Almost all Dems, want out of Iraq. Four years ago!

Then, when we are winning our battles (of course, not as fast as we would like),  Dem majority in the house, not enough majority in the senate, bill after bill, passed, but not through the senate, not enough votes, the far , foolish left, helps the repubs.

When the dems work and work to get a reasonable bill that starts making the pres look bad, and could have caused more repubs to pull away from bush. What do the peaceniks do? They won't back their leadership. Now, the repubs, can rightly say, the dems have no plan, they are too divided.

They passed that bill with a "narrow majority". The dems don't believe in their own plan. Why should we?

They are right. The American people gave them a mandate. It was not, to stop funding the war. It was to change directions and get out as soon as possible. Look at the polls. However, bush would have been the one not funding the troops, if he vetoed.

Now the dems, not only have to fight the repubs and the liebermans, they, now, have to fight their own party. Sad I'm so disappointed in those 14 dissenting dems. There were only two defections in the pro-war party, and 14 in the anti-war party, with an anti-war bill. 

The 'stop the war' caucaus are citing that , this bill gives bush, 'wiggle room'.

Well, a bill that, for sure, won't pass, gives him another blank check.

I hope he sends a 'thank you card' to the 14 dems that defected.
_________________
YOU CAN BOMB THE WORLD TO PIECES BUT YOU CANNOT BOMB THE WORLD INTO PEACE...
AUTHOR UNKNOWN BUT VERY WISE

Ever hear of company unions?

  • Mutternich's picture
    Mutternich
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"If you have ever belonged to a union, you know that solidarity is the only way to get things done."

 

Solidarity with your fellow workers is fine. What MoveOn promotes is solidarity with the bosses.