The Long Peace Movement: The Silence of MoveOn
by Tom Hayden [first in a series]
The Nation.com - May 26, 2009
The most powerful grassroots organization of the peace
movement, MoveOn, remains silent as the American wars
When he met with Obama in February, Jason Ruben,
executive director of MoveOn, told the president it was
"the moment to go big," then indicated that MoveOn
would not oppose the $94 billion war supplemental
request, nor the 21,000 additional troops to
the mounting number of Predator attacks.
What was MoveOn's explanation for abandoning the peace
movement in a meeting with a president the peace
movement was key to electing? According to Ruben and
MoveOn, it was the preference of its millions of
members, as ascertained by house meetings and polls.
The evidence, however, is otherwise. Last December 17,
48.3 percent of MoveOn members listed "end the war in
economic recovery and job creation (62.1 percent) and
building a green economy/stopping climate change (49.6
percent--only 1.5 percent above
moment when most Americans believed the
top goals which members could vote on.
Then on May 22 MoveOn surveyed its members once again,
listing ten possible campaigns for the organization.
"Keep up the pressure to the end the war in
listed ninth among the options.
list of options.
Nor was Guantnamo nor the administration's torture
policies. ("Investigate the Bush Administration" was
the first option.)
MoveOn is supposed to be an Internet version of
participatory democracy, but the organization's
decision-making structure apparently assures that the
membership is voiceless on the question of these long wars.
What if they included an option like "demanding a
diplomatic settlement and opposing a quagmire in
on military spending to civilian spending on food,
medicine and schools?"
This is no small matter. MoveOn has collected a
privately held list of 5 million names, most of them
strong peace advocates. The organization's membership
contributed an unprecedented $180 million for the
federal election cycle in 2004-2006. Those resources,
now squelched or sequestered, mean that the most vital
organization in the American peace movement is missing in action.
What to do? There is no point raving and ranting
against MoveOn. The only path is in organizing a
dialogue with the membership, over the Internet, and
having faith that their voices will turn the
organization to oppose these escalating occupations.
The same approach is necessary towards other vital
organs of the peace movement including rank-and-file
Democrat activists and the post-election Obama
organization (Organizing for
persistent, bottom-up campaign to renew the peace
movement as a powerful force in civil society.
This is not a simple matter of an organizational
oligarchy manipulating its membership, although the
avoidance by MoveOn's leadership is a troubling sign.
There is genuine confusion over
has averted attention away from the battlefront. Many
who voted for Obama understandably will give him the
benefit of the doubt, for now.
Silence sends a message. The de facto MoveOn support
for the $94 billion war supplemental reverberates up
the ladder of power. Feeling no pressure, Congressional
leadership has abdicated its critical oversight
function over the expanding wars, not even allowing
members to vote for a December report on possible exit
strategies. In the end, a gutsy sixty voted against HR
2346 on May 14, but many defected to vote for the war
spending, including Neil Abercrombie, Jerry Nadler,
David Obey, Xavier Becerra, Lois Capps, Maurice
Hinchey, Jesse Jackson, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Patrick
Kennedy, Charles Rangel, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Loretta
Sanchez, Rosa De Lauro, Bennie Thompson, Jerry
McNerney, Robert Wexler and Henry Waxman. (Bill
Delahunt, Linda Sanchez and Pete Stark were not recorded.)
If there were significant pressures from networks like
MoveOn in their Congressional districts, the opposition
vote might have approached 85.
Appropriations chair David Obey in essence granted
Obama a one-year pass to show results in
If the war appears to be a quagmire by then, he
claimed, the Democrats will become more critical.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered the same message;
according to the
won't be any more war supplementals, so my message to
my members is, this is it." Pelosi's words were
carefully parsed, saying that the White House would not
be allowed another supplemental form of appropriation,
which is different from an actual pledge to oppose war funding.
This one-year pass means that the grassroots peace
movement has a few months to light a fire and reawaken
pressure from below on the Congress and president. In
the meantime, here are some predictions for the coming year:
forces by 2011? At this point, the pace is slowing, and
the deadline being somewhat extended, under pressure
from US commanders on the ground. Sunnis are
threatening to resume their insurgency if the al-Maliki
regime fails to incorporate them into the political and
security structures. The president insists however,
that he is only making adjustments to a timetable that
is on track. Prognosis: Precarious.
the quagmire or become a successful surge against the
Taliban by next year? Another 21,000 troops and
advisers are on their way to the battlefield. Civilian
casualties are mounting, causing the besieged Karzai
government to complain. Preventive detention of Afghans
will only expand. US deaths, now over 600, are sure to
increase this summer. Taliban may hold out and redeploy
in order to stretch US forces thin. Prognosis:
Escalation into quagmire.
Afghanistan into Pakistan's tribal areas, where the
counterinsurgency. Public opinion is being inflamed
American war in
* Global: The
combat troops to fight in
Europe or elsewhere, causing pressure to increase for a
non-military negotiated solution. Prognosis: Obama
still popular, US still isolated.
* Budget priorities:
will deeply threaten the administration's ability to
succeed on the domestic front with stimulus spending,
healthcare, education and alternative energy.
Prognosis: false hope for "guns and butter" all over
Tom Hayden is the author of The Other Side (1966, with
Staughton Lynd), The Love of Possession Is a Disease
With Them (1972), Ending the War in
Writings for a Democratic Society: The Tom Hayden
Senator Tom Hayden, the Nation Institute's Carey
McWilliams Fellow, has played an active role in
American politics and history for over three decades,
beginning with the student, civil rights and antiwar
movements of the 1960s.
Hayden was elected to the
in 1982, where he served for ten years in the Assembly
before being elected to the State Senate in 1992, where
he served eight years.