Wednesday, May 25, 2005

MoveOn, Step Off

I got an email yesterday from one of the innumerable chummy apparatchiks at MoveOn.org, under the epically misleading title 'The power grab has failed!' A quick reccy revealed that this referred to Monday night's Senate deal to ward off the 'nuclear option', which MoveOn had the titanium cojones to refer to as 'a real victory'. As opposed, of course, to the flesh-meltingly humiliating, craven capitulation it actually was.

Vocabulary quails before the task of expressing how much I hate MoveOn. There simply aren't the words. I remember vividly the early days, in the wake of 9/11, when it gained prominence with the wholly admirable and genuinely progressive goal of aggregating grassroots pressure to stop the US bombing the living shit out of Afghanistan. It was a good thing then, and I was proud to be a member. The velocity with which it has since turned into a Democratic Party vacuum-cleaner-cum-cheerleading-squad is positively whiplash-generating. MoveOn exists to siphon genuinely progressive energy and outrage (not to mention cash) out of the population and channel it safely, harmlessly into the sump of the DNC. MoveOn is the shepherd that nudges all the outlying lefty sheep back into the Democratic fold with ringing exhortations to action and progress and fighting the good fight.

MoveOn is despicable, because it embodies the despicable compromise politics with which the American liberal so-called left has been selling out its base for decades. All down the line, they swallow the opposition's agenda whole and define their efforts with reference to it. With much of their grassroots cred based on their anti-war stance, in January 2003 they were still lobbying with Win Without War to 'let the inspections work'. A year later they'd thrown their full weight behind John Kerry, a candidate who not only voted for the war but unapologetically supported it throughout his campaign. Their voter fund raised over $10 million to develop ads supporting the Democratic presidential campaign. While constantly beating the drum about grassroots action and the power of ordinary individuals to effect change, their real function has consistently been to corral left-liberal opinion and money behind whatever was the Democratic convenience-position du jour. They could not be more disingenuous and manipulative of the 'ordinary people' they purport to champion.

This so-called 'deal' is a perfect case in point. Let's be very clear about this: what the Democrats 'achieved' in making this deal was, in exchange for unequivocally surrendering on the nominations they were fighting against in the first place, the right to retain the filibuster as long as they agree not to use it. We're not so dim as to be taken in by the fluff about 'extraordinary circumstances,' are we?

Look at MoveOn's characterization of the deal: 'With 7 Republicans pledging to oppose Frist's scheme as long as the Democrats stick to the standard for filibusters they've used all along — only using them in extraordinary circumstances — the "nuclear option" is dead unless Republicans break their word. And if that happens we will be in a much stronger position to stop them.' The standard they've used all along? Would that be the same standard that compelled them to threaten to filibuster these very same nominations they've now bellied up to? Curious, and in fact logically untenable. Either they haven't been employing the 'extraordinary circumstances' standard all along, or they've decided to abandon it now. Was the Owen nomination an 'extraordinary circumstance' for the past four years they've been loudly fighting it, but now suddenly rendered ordinary and unfilibusterworthy? Or is it just not quite extraordinary enough to be worth sacrificing the, let us be clear, empty abstract notion of the right to filibuster?

They have surrendered every last claim to power. The nuclear option's been defeated 'unless the Republicans break their word'? Mm, yeah, that's security. They'd never do that. But fear not, because 'if that happens we will be in a much stronger position to stop them.' Uh, how exactly? With a mighty Senatorial chorus of 'Hey, no backsies'? Disgraceful. Shameful. Craven.

And the worst part is how they try to coopt us into buying the rightwing agenda along with them. Not content with selling out themselves, they desperately need us to sell out along with them. MoveOn's email quotes 'powerful far-right leader James Dobson' saying 'This Senate agreement represents a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats', and goes on to add, oh so wry, 'For once, we agree with Mr. Dobson.'

Yes you do, and that's exactly the problem. Dobson knows, and in your hearts you know, that this deal was no such thing. The fact that you're cynically trying to sell your constituency that arrant load of transparent bullshit is the clearest possible evidence of your utter bankruptcy and unworthiness to call yourselves representatives of progressive Americans. MoveOn, I abominate you and cast you into outer darkness. Will the real American left please stand up?

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