Prioritizing the Movement Over the Party

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Prioritizing the Movement Over the Party

In my book, The Uprising, I wrote an entire chapter about the state of the antiwar movement, and the chapter included a look at Moveon.org. The chapter examined an organization that had - at the time - become a reflexive appendage of the Democratic Party (as opposed to a more movement-based organization focused on progressivism). I experienced a bit of backlash from Moveon partisans for the book, but that was to be expected. Talk about a taboo subject - in this case, the problem of movement-branded organizations becoming megaphones for anyone with a D behind their name - and you are bound to get people pissed.  

I consider a lot of the Moveon.org leadership friends, I think they are solid progressives, and my book's chapter was meant as an honest look at both the success and failure of the organization. And I didn't enjoy writing the part about the book that explored Moveon's behavior in early 2007 - specifically, when the organization backed off pressuring congressional Democrats to take a strong position on ending the war. That's why I was thrilled to read this dispatch in the Huffington Post today - it suggests a positive shift:

"A group of progressive operatives from MoveOn and labor circles have teamed with a prominent Internet pioneer to try to give [progressive congressional candidates] the final push they need...The organization will be the first of its kind exclusively to focus on electing progressive Democrats in congressional elections...

The group's first forays are likely to be in the Illinois district vacated by Rahm Emanuel, who left to become Obama's chief of staff. Green says the group is in talks with a progressive labor lawyer, Tom Geoghegan, in that district. Another potential target: the California district emptied by Hilda Solis, who's been tapped to be labor secretary...

The organization will be dedicated to finding progressive candidates who might have an outside shot at winning and "take them under our wing," in Green's words. The group's name -- the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, or the P-triple-C -- is a reference to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which financially backs Democratic candidates it thinks have a shot to win but does not prioritize progressive Democrats over conservative Democrats. The DCCC has had a patchy relationship with the liberal blogosphere, which charges it with relying too heavily on old-school expensive Democratic consultants and not being willing to take chances on progressive candidates.

This is terrific news, and the news about PCCC's talks with Tom Geoghegan (the newest Better Democrats candidate) is fantastic. As I wrote earlier today, Geoghegan is one of the greatest living movement progressives in America and has a terrific shot at winning the March 3 special election in Illinois to replace Rahm Emanuel (donate to Tom's campaign here).

Moveon's Adam Green, a cofounder of PCCC, says the new organization "won't focus its energy on unseating conservative Democrats" and "instead, it will prioritize competitive open-seat primaries and help general election candidates." That's probably smart strategy at the outset - especially the part about competitive open-seat primaries. Those are largely unexploited but fertile grounds for progressive politics.

Find out more about PCCC here. As I said, I'm thrilled about this announcement - it suggests that Moveon.org and other movement-branded organizations are getting out of the business of simply shilling for any and all Democrats - a business that may help strengthen a party, but can weaken the chance for progressive policy results (and after all, that's what we're all in this for, right?).

Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying movement and partisan goals aren't often the same. They are. But in recently attacking "the left" and in backing all sorts of conservative policies (the Iraq War, financial deregulation, free trade, etc.) Democratic Party leaders have themselves explained why movement and party are not 100% synonymous. That means we need as many grassroots organizations taking this post-election moment to get (back) into the business of reshaping the Democratic Party and building a principles-based progressive movement. The news about PCCC shows that is happening.  

David Sirota

David Sirota is a best-selling author whose new book "Back to Our Future" is now available. He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and is a contributing writer at Salon.com. E-mail him at ds@davidsirota.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at www.davidsirota.com.

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