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 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 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:

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

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 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.

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