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Sign It and Move On

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Chris Hayes has written an interesting, balanced profile of the liberal cyber-group MoveOn, which is about to turn 10. Here's an excerpt:

In many ways MoveOn's relationship to its members looks a lot like a business's relationship to its customers. If a product isn't selling, they take it off the shelves. For activists rooted in an earlier generation of social movements, which tended to prize long, disputatious meetings and the unwieldy process of forming bottom-up consensus, this approach is at best alien, at worst insidious. Customers, after all, aren't part of the creation of the product: they're not running the meetings where new packaging is designed; their input is limited to the final result and expressed through the transaction of purchase. And the role of customer imposes no obligations. You are free to buy or not buy, or in MoveOn's case, sign the petition or not sign the petition. Oscar Wilde once complained that the trouble with socialism was that it took "too many evenings." MoveOn holds out the promise of progressive change without the evenings.

Reihan Salam has some sensible follow-up comments, and Jim Manzi adds that the group is "the Richard Viguerie of the contemporary era"—an especially potent comparison, given Viguerie's mixed legacy.

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  1. Probably the most ineffective PAC ever.

    Clinton was impeached.

    Bush was elected.

    We went to war with Iraq.

    Bush was re-elected.

    Lamont lost.

    The surge escalation happened.

    Etc.

  2. Probably the most ineffective PAC ever.

    That’s one of the arguments you hear in the article, though one of the MoveOnites does come back with a few fights where they may have helped the winning side prevail. I’m inclined to think the group’s long-term significance has more to do with helping to build a self-conscious liberal community than with any particular political issue.

  3. I’m inclined to think the group’s long-term significance has more to do with helping to build a self-conscious liberal community than with any particular political issue.

    They did an excellent job of leveraging liberal anger over impeachment and the “stolen” election into a long-term movement. Libertarian activists should take copious notes.

  4. Libertarian activists should take copious notes.

    To learn what, exactly? That you can be really angry about something, but lose almost every substantive fight?

    I’m assuming, for instance, that Obama is the preferred ‘MoveOn’ candidate. Having said that, what will they actually get from Obama? I have a funny feeling that the real lefties in this country are going to end up as pissed off at Obama as they were with Clinton.

    They’re gonna get welfare reform, NAFTA, Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell, Continued war in Iraq, expanded war in Afghanistan… I could go on.

  5. I still chuckle over the fact that they began by claiming that the Clinton impeachment was so trivial and that we all must “move on” to the real problems facing the country, and then their next campaign was to seek revenge against the Republican congressmen who lead the impeachment. Not exactly “moving on.”

  6. I have a funny feeling that the real lefties in this country are going to end up as pissed off at Obama as they were with Clinton.

    Perhaps the MoveOnites are not “real lefties.”

  7. Perhaps the MoveOnites are not “real lefties.”

    I wonder if they’re pissed about their victory loss on this.

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