MoveOn Should NOT Take Drastic Efforts to Fight the GOP Health Care Deform


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(1) Bernie and Me and the Near Left’s Big Three (Note: You Can Skip This Section)

(Seriously, if you don’t want a leisurely read you can skip down to section 2.)

I’ve been a supporter (and I think “official member”) of MoveOn since it was “Censure and Move On” back in 1998, when Bill Clinton was facing impending impeachment.  (That’s where the anti-impeachment group’s name came from: censure him and get back to work.)  That year, I spent a month away from teaching college to stay with with my cancer-incapacitated mother.  We closely followed the dramatic (though at the time seemingly pointless) political news in the summer of 1998.  (She, like me and MoveOn, was agin’ it.  “You don’t judge a politician by whether they lie about sex; people do that all the time,” was her attitude.  But she was OK with censuring him, to put the issue to rest.)  MoveOn — espousing that exact platform — went live on September 24, 1998, about a month before she died.

I haven’t always been a particularly active member, but I’ve donated money when I had it, have stayed on their mailing list, and have occasionally taken part their in mail, email, and phone-based lobbying actions for almost two decades.  I’ve watched that organization, like DFA (“Democracy for America,” né “Dean for America”) and PDA (“Progressive Democrats of America”) become a new kind of powerhouse within the Democratic Party.  (I don’t think this is at all official, but I think it’s fair to say that MoveOn, DFA, and PDA are the “Big Three” of what I’ll call the “Near-Left” — that is, groups that inhabit the space between “mainstream liberalism” and formal (some might say doctrinaire, fractious, and sectarian) “socialism.”)  These aren’t the demographic or occupational/labor or single-issue-based interest groups that generally dominate liberal Democratic politics, but purely political/ideological Near-Left groups with a broad range of interests.  But MoveOn, more than the others, has been my ideological “home.”

Unlike the Democratic Party itself, and unlike OFA (“Organizing for America” — initially and then again and then no longer “Obama for America”), I can’t think of a time when any of these groups have fundamentally steered me wrong.  Part of the reason is that these groups tend to be painstakingly “bottom up,” almost to a fault.  (Occupy Wall Street was even more “bottom up” — and, while I found it powerful and useful, it was highly unwieldy.)

Many seem to have forgotten that these “Big Three” groups were the main reason that Bernie Sanders was at all viable in the 2016 Democratic Presidential primary.  Each of them took the ultimate bottom-up approach of polling their members about whether they should endorse Sanders, Clinton, or no one.  And the shocking and overwhelming wave of support from members — 78.6%, with I think 2/3 required to endorse — was the real trigger to Sanders’s fundraising success.  (I voted yes, of course.)  Hillary had locked up almost all of the politicians and the lion’s share of the unions (most of which made a top-down decision to endorse), as well as women’s groups and the leading environmental groups (also based on top-down decisions) except for Friends of the Earth and newbie Climate Hawks Vote.

If you look at the Wikipedia page listing Bernie’s primary endorsers, you don’t come to a real electoral powerhouse until you get to the last two of the 16 categories: Labor Organizations and Other Organizations.  One former Cabinet-level official (Robert Reich); three former Governors; three U.S. Senators (only one, Oregon’s Jeff Merkley, in office); ten U.S. Representatives (one former); only four then-current Mayors (including Garden Grove’s Bao Nguyen); only 39 of the over 400 DNC members; and so on.  (Plenty of celebrities, artists, and scholars — but they don’t really get out the vote.)  Finally, you get to seven national labor organizations that endorsed him — postal, transit, communications, and longshore workers; nurses and healthcare workers; and electrical radio and machine workers — along with various state and locals chapters.  And then, at last, a miscellaneous category for other “Organizations”:

(OK, now let’s bring back the rest of the readership.)

(2) What MoveOn Decides to Do Matters

Welcome, readers who skipped the shaggy dog story.  Here’s the punchline.

Of the non-Labor national groups that endorsed Bernie Sanders (which are listed right above) that would not be considered (sorry to say this, but …) “fringe,” I think that only MoveOn and DFA had a real chance of moving a lot of people to the polls.  (PDA probably generated a lot of donations, but they are more of a lobbying and action than an election-oriented group.)  That is all a (very) roundabout way of saying this:

When MoveOn polls its members about what to do — with the promise of amping up and devoting its resources to a political activation and lobbying effort — the result really matters.  They have some serious firepower — they had enough to take Bernie Sanders from also-ran to contender.

Well, as you’ll see in the next section, MoveOn is polling its members — between now and 4:59 p.m. Pacific time on Friday — on whether to ramp up a huge effort to take on the “Republicare” Health Reform Plan.  The actual quote is:  “an emergency, all-hands-on-deck push to save the Affordable Care Act” over the next 19 days.  Such an effort, quite seriously, could activate enough people to make the difference between winning and losing.  I don’t know if this vote is “majority rule” or supermajority (as was required to endorse Sanders) to go forward, but I’m taking my role as an elector very seriously.

As of now, I’m leaning towards voting “No.”  Read their message and see if you can figure out why.

(3) Move On’s Pitch on Gearing Up to Fight the GOP’s Health Care Scheme

(This email arrived in my Inbox at 7:12 this evening.  All emphasis is in the original.)

** Official vote re health care **

Dear MoveOn member,

On Monday, Paul Ryan unveiled the Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act—a proposal that tears away health care from tens of millions of Americans while benefitting the wealthiest Americans.

Passing this repeal bill is the GOP’s top legislative priority. But momentum is not on their side. Thanks in part to overwhelming turnout at Town Halls during Resistance Recess, GOP leaders know that the longer the public has to debate this repeal bill, the harder it’ll be to ram it through. So they’re rushing Obamacare repeal to full House and Senate votes in the next 19 days.

Even in the unprecedented context of the Trump era, this rush is nuts. The Congressional Budget Office hasn’t even had a chance to review it, so we don’t know how much it will cost Americans—and members of Congress are being asked to vote before knowing how many of their own constituents will lose health care coverage.

The good news is: Some in the Republican Party are balking. Fueled by visible grassroots resistance to the Trump GOP agenda, the majority of Americans support the ACA.1 And we’ve been wildly successful in delaying health care repeal so far. Republicans had initially aimed for repeal before Trump was even sworn in. The more time passes, the lower the odds of repeal.

All of this means that we may be able to save health care for tens of millions of Americans—and stop the GOP’s top priority in the next 19 days. But it won’t be easy. It’s become clear that MoveOn members will need to play a key leadership role in this fight to win.

No matter what, we will fight to defeat this bill—alongside our other priorities—for as long as it takes. But we need to decide as a community: Should MoveOn launch a massive all-hands-on-deck operation to save health care?

If so, we will pull out all the stops and do every smart, strategic tactic that we can to win.

It means rearranging staff, raising substantial resources, going deep at the state level, finding ways that MoveOn members from coast to coast can help sway on-the-fence lawmakers, flooding key Senators with calls every single day, showing up in person again and again, and more.

Should MoveOn make saving health care reform our top priority for the rest of this month—and launch an emergency, all-hands-on-deck effort to save the Affordable Care Act?

Yes, MoveOn should mount an emergency, all-hands-on-deck effort to save health care reform over the next 19 days.

No, MoveOn shouldn’t do that (and tell us why.)

Note: Your vote must be received by 7:59am E.T. on Friday, March 10 to be counted. Only your first click will be recorded, so please take care in making your choice.

MoveOn has already been fighting this repeal for months. Our actions outside Senate offices, which began in December—and our flood of calls and other actions—helped stall Republican plans to have a repeal bill on Trump’s desk on Day 1.

Our continued pressure, weekly actions, constant calls, hard hitting videos, and most recently hundreds of events over Resistance Recess have driven wedges into the fractures among Republicans on repeal while shoring up Democrats. Republicans have already missed their own deadline for repeal multiple times in part because of the work of MoveOn members.

That’s why they are panicking. If MoveOn were to go all in, here’s what that would look like:

  • Making this our top campaign for the next 19 days—and focusing our members’ grassroots energy at this issue to confront members of Congress in their home districts and at hearings in DC.
  • Investing in a series of ads with the health care stories of constituents whose lives and livelihoods were saved by the ACA, and earning media coverage for those stories in members’ of Congress home states and districts.
  • Doubling the number of calls that key members of Congress are getting at home and in DC—to leave no doubt how their constituents feel about this repeal bill.
  • Rolling out media grabbing tactics and visuals, focused on the regular Americans who will lose out and the billionaires and corporations who will win under this bill, to drive headlines in national and local press.
  • Showing up at key congressional offices across America. During the recent Resistance Recess, so many MoveOn members (including perhaps you!) made many Republicans think twice about repeal. Now, we must keep at it until they vote, by showing up in person.
  • Pressuring Republican governors who support Medicaid expansion to make their voices heard in Washington. Because when Republican governors speak out, Republican lawmakers listen.
  • Making it clear to vulnerable Republicans that if they vote for repeal, they will lose their seats. That starts with investing in Jon Ossoff’s upcoming special election in Georgia—the first referendum on taking health care away from millions of Americans.
  • Raising emergency funds to cover our unexpected expenses.
  • And more. This is just the beginning; we’ll leverage the creativity of MoveOn members and MoveOn staff to come up with new ideas every day.

Should MoveOn make saving health care reform its top priority, and launch an emergency, all-hands-on-deck push to save the Affordable Care Act?

Yes, MoveOn should mount an emergency, all-hands-on-deck effort to save health care reform over the next 19 days.

No, MoveOn shouldn’t do that (and tell us why.)

Note: Your vote must be received by 7:59am E.T. on Friday, March 10 to be counted. Only your first click will be recorded, so please take care in making your choice.

To be clear, MoveOn will fight the Republican effort to take away health care no matter what. And no matter what we do, we could still lose. But we believe a massive, all-hands-on-deck push gives us our best chance to win, and that there is a path to victory, if we make extra investments now.

MoveOn is its members—we consult our members for key strategic decisions in a variety of ways, and make sure our work is always member-centered. Launching this large of an effort, after a brutal election—and with so many competing priorities at the same time—isn’t necessarily an easy choice.

Which is why it’s important for MoveOn members to decide if we should go all-in: Should MoveOn make saving health care reform its top priority, and launch an emergency, all-hands-on-deck push to save the Affordable Care Act over the next 19 days?

Yes, MoveOn should mount an emergency, all-hands-on-deck effort to save health care reform over the next 19 days.

No, MoveOn shouldn’t do that (and tell us why.)

Note: Your vote must be received by 7:59am E.T. on Friday, March 10 to be counted. Only your first click will be recorded, so please take care in making your choice.

Thanks for all you do.

–Ben, Emma, Justin, Manny, and the rest of the team

Source:

1. “Support for 2010 health care law reaches new high,” Pew Research Center, February 23, 2017
http://act.moveon.org/go/8812?t=8&akid=179375.5287020.IyA887

(There’s a little bit more to the message, but I’m saving it for the end.)

(4) Do You See What’s Wrong With MoveOn’s Pitch?

The problem with MoveOn’s plan is subtle, but I think that you’ll be able to see it when I point it out.

Ready?  I’m going to print it in very light blue:

NOTHING

ABSOLUTELY NOTHING

In case you can’t read it, the answer is “nothing.”  There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING wrong with MoveOn’s plan itself!  It’s a sound plan.  They have — like Bernie had — a demonstrated track record of being able to reach the sorts of energetic activists who will empty their pockets and clear their schedules to accomplish something big.

The problem is that it’s MoveOn’s plan — and much of the Democratic Party establishment still doesn’t forgive MoveOn and DFA and PDA and some others for endorsing Bernie Sanders against Hillary Clinton.  THEY have a problem with MoveOn’s plan because it’s MoveOn — and it’s on the wrong side of the intraparty struggle (that they say shouldn’t exist because the activists should capitulate. )  THEY don’t recognize the importance of broad-range interest groups in activating people that they can’t reach, because of their own inwardly-gazing bubble-enclosed myopia.

THEY would be happy to see MoveOn spend its money and its members time on a pitched battle to save Obamacare.  (Obamacare was not, incidentally, a plan that most MoveOn members especially cherished  — except for the Community Health Care expansion amendment that supposedly “do-nothing” Senator Bernie Sanders got attached to the final bill) — but considered to be as decent a first step as we could get past the Business Democrats.)  Then, after MoveOn’s efforts, THEY would be happy to take credit for the win.

This is — I think intentionally — discouraging to “Near Left” activists … who won’t keep on putting up with it.  So I’d like to see MoveOn members vote NO! on this proposal until and unless more people from the center of the party, who want to free-ride on MoveOn’s accomplishments, step up and decide to join us lefties in supporting MoveOn!

Imagine if, in a first vote, MoveOn members demurred unless the Establishment got on board!  There could be a second vote — but imagine the reaction among the more serious thinkers in the party’s center to MoveOn saying “You know what?  You’re going to have to convince us rather than taking us for granted.”

Establishment Democrats want MoveOn’s powerful grassroots efforts in this fight?  PAY FOR THEM!  Suck it up and pay your dues to bolster the activist infrastructure that helps our party succeed — just like you demand that people suck it up and pay for the party establishment superstructure that you cherish.

You don’t like MoveOn?  Perfect.  Get out your wallet.  I don’t like the DNC — but I have to support it.  Your turn now.

But I’ll be reasonable about this.  Here’s my deal:

If I get notified of at least $950 from at least nine other people — whom I recognize as not likely MoveOn members, but will join the group and to send them contributions, then I’ll vote “yes” and I’ll kick in to make it an even $1000.  If not, then I’ll vote “no” and send a link to this piece along with my explanation:

Enough free-riding from the centrists, MoveOn!  You have enough other priorities to pursue; don’t ride to the rescue here on behalf of ingrates who despise you and your activism.  If they value what you do, let them show it in the only way they seem to understand: the coin of Coin!

I hope that they care enough about saving Obamacare to support people in a cause and with an approach that they do not like.  This is going up at 7:00 a.m. Thursday and I plan to vote as early as 4:00 p.m. on Friday — so you have 33 hours to decide whether to join and donate.  I’ll publish the names of those NEW members who contribute and will publicly give them my thanks, no matter who they are and no matter how I feel about them.

(5) Denouement

I mentioned that there was more to the letter; I’m leaving out the donation links because they might be keyed to my original email, but I’m grabbing one from their web site that people can use.  Here it is:

Want to support our work? The MoveOn community will work every moment, day by day and year by year, to resist Trump’s agenda, contain the damage, defeat hate with love, and begin the process of swinging the nation’s pendulum back toward sanity, decency, and the kind of future that we must never give up on. And to do it we need your ongoing support, now more than ever. Will you stand with us?

Great question: WILL you?

Donation Link for MoveOn Civic Action (which sent the above email.)

Donation Link for MoveOn Political Action Committee (if you’re hard core.  Either one counts towards the $950.)


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose worker's rights and government accountability attorney, residing in northwest Brea. General Counsel of CATER, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, a non-partisan group of people sick of local corruption. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Occasionally runs for office to challenge some nasty incumbent who would otherwise run unopposed. (Someday he might pick a fight with the intent to win rather than just dent someone. You'll know it when you see it.) He got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012 and in 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. A family member co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)