If Michael Moore would run for President in 2012, it could be a
game-changer in American political life. For starters, it would likely
shorten the war in Afghanistan by at least six months, and the
American and Afghan lives that would be saved would alone justify the
If Moore announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination now, and followed up that announcement with a vigorous campaign focused on the struggles of rank-and-file Democrats, it would re-mobilize rank-and-file Democratic activists. It's possible that he might even win; but win or lose, the campaign could arrest and reverse the current rightward, pro-corporate trajectory of our national politics, which is the predictable consequence of the failure of Team Obama to deliver on its promises from 2008, which in turn was the predictable consequence of the doomed effort to try to serve two masters: Wall Street and Main Street.
Like few people with his political views, Michael Moore needs no
introduction to the Democratic primary electorate. To most
rank-and-file Democrats, the name Michael Moore stands for a set of
progressive populist ideas: health care for all, workers' rights,
opposition to Wall Street's stranglehold on Washington, closing down
the wars of empire and bringing our troops home.
In 1984 and 1988, the Jesse Jackson campaigns showed what could be
accomplished running a populist, issue-based, movement campaign in the
Democratic primaries and caucuses. In 1984, Jackson got more than 3
million votes, a fifth of the total, and won 5 primaries and caucuses.
In 1988, he got almost 7 million votes and won seven primaries and
four caucuses; at one point, following his victory in the Michigan
caucus, he was ahead in delegates.
Of course, the progressive Jackson campaigns had a particular starting point: their base in the African-American community. But a Michael Moore campaign would also have a starting point: his status as an international progressive populist rock star. The moment that Michael Moore says, "I am a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President in 2012," it's a live proposition. And Moore would have tools for getting out his message -- videos and the internet -- that the Jackson campaign didn't have in 1988.
Like few American progressives of his prominence, Moore has the
ability to connect with and mobilize working-class anger at Washington
and Wall Street.
In the Jackson campaign, picket lines were campaign stops. That's the kind of campaigning that could be happening now. You get out the campaign message, but you also shine a spotlight on local struggles, nationalize them and magnify their power.
In Michael Moore's last movie, there was a long sequence about the struggle of the UE workers in Chicago. Those are the stories around the country that the Moore campaign for President would be telling to a national Democratic audience: Studs Terkel with a video camera and an RSS feed.
A Moore campaign for President announced today could be active in this
Congressional election cycle: campaigning for progressive Democrats in
the 2010 primaries, and thereby mobilizing the national progressive
base in these contests, campaigning for progressive Democrats in the
November election, building its national organization at the same
time. A Moore campaign for President would compete for the endorsement
of every organization of progressive Democrats, including Progressive
Democrats of America, MoveOn, and Democracy for America. A Moore
campaign would compete for the support of labor unions, which would
put the Employee Free Choice Act and fair trade right back at the top
of the national agenda. And a Moore campaign would work to build the
base of the endorsing organizations.
If Obama's advisers knew for certain that they would face an effective
progressive challenge in the 2012 primaries and caucuses, it's likely
that they would start making different political choices immediately,
because everything they fail to accomplish by spring 2012 would be on
the table in the primaries and caucuses: health care for all, putting
America back to work, ending the war in Afghanistan. Most analysts
seem to think that there was a strong correlation between Obama's
announcement of July 2011 as the beginning of U.S. troop withdrawals
from Afghanistan and the 2012 election cycle; but an effective primary
challenge would bring that calculation forward by six months. It's
likely that if Obama's advisers knew they faced a spring 2012 deadline
for showing that the war was ending, they would stop undermining
Afghan efforts to start peace talks. A Moore campaign could save
thousands of American and Afghan lives. In contesting Democratic
primaries and caucuses against Michael Moore, Obama's advisers won't
be able to prevail by deploying mere rhetoric, because now they're in
power, and would have to answer for what they are actually doing.
In many ways, the stage is set perfectly. There will not be a crowded field; if career advancement is your goal, you generally don't run in a primary against a sitting President. When "the Democratic Party is in power" is the ideal time to mount a progressive Democratic challenge, because that's when the inability of Washington Democrats in thrall to Wall Street to deliver on progressive promises is thrown into sharp relief.
And for Michael Moore, I think it's a logical next step. He may be near the limit of what he can accomplish politically by only making movies. It's time to make a new documentary: the documentary of a campaign to rally rank-and-file Democrats to take back America from Wall Street, Wal-mart and the military industry.
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